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Don’s Ghost
By Casey Unger, MA, LPC
TFC Founder

It was late April of 1975. I was 7 years old and living with my grandmother and great grandmother in an old Victorian home. This fabulous home built in 1872 was on our local tour of homes at the time. My mother was publicity coordinator for the local historical society and she had set up this very successful tour of homes for our town of Calvert, TX. To help bolster publicity that year, my mother had managed to get an actual movie star down to our quaint little town to sign autographs and to function as a “shot in the arm” for the whole event.

This movie star was none other than Don “Red” Barry. Most people have either never heard of or forgotten this Texan who went on to become a star of Republic pictures beginning in the mid 1930’s. His career included roles in Roy Rogers films such as that of the outlaw Jesse James and various other bad guys in many other films. He went on to play Red Rider in a series of 29 westerns based on a comic strip that was put out by Republic Cinema and ran from 1940-1944.

Most people would say that they have never heard of Mr. Barry. However, whether you know it or not, the odds are very good that you have come across something that he was in as you have channel-surfed over TV Land on cable. If you have seen old episodes of Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Perry Mason, Kolchak:The Night Stalker, Little House on the Prairie, or even Charlie’s Angels, to name a few, then chances are you have seen Don Barry in some type of cameo role.

To summarize, Don was a real talented man who did some excellent westerns with a film career encompassing 40+ years. However, as is true for so many bright stars in our Hollywood sky, something was terribly wrong in his personal life. Sadly, Don committed suicide on July 17, 1980 at the age of 70.

Late in April of 1975 during our tour of homes, Don stayed at our home during his brief stint in our little town. As a 7 year old child at the time, I found Don to be very kind and attentive to me. He sat up till late at night in the downstairs den of our home enthusiastically talking to my grandma, great grandma, and me of Hollywood movie sets, movie stars, and life at the epicenter of the golden age of Hollywood western cinema.

We were riveted by his talk of Hollywood till we all realized that we’d lost track of time and it was very late. Don then graciously excused himself to retire to the guest room at the end of the upstairs hall. The upstairs hall was a long one that wrapped around the staircase and that night only nightlights illuminated the corridor. Nonetheless Don insisted that it was enough light for him and proceeded upstairs.

Only a few minutes after retiring to the upstairs Don came back downstairs and into the den where we three still lingered straightening up before retiring to bed. He had a very puzzled look on his face and stared briefly at my grandmother before he finally spoke up and said the following to her, which I will never forget. He told her that she should have just told him that we already had someone staying in his room and he would not have imposed and would have made other accommodations if he had known. At this we all stood around quizzically looking at each other.

My grandmother assured him that we did not have anyone else staying with us. To this Don insisted that we were dead wrong and that he had seen someone wearing a Confederate-like uniform walk into the back guest room (his room) as he ventured down the hall. He went on to state that since there were Civil War re-enactments taking place all over town that weekend and people in Civil War costumes running about all over, he assumed it was one of the actors staying with us.

My grandmother and great grandmother made the decision to immediately call the police and have the house searched for an intruder. Upon searching the house no intruder turned up yet Don remained steadfast that he had clearly seen a figure duck into the back guest room. Don was adamant and even a 7 year old could tell that he was genuinely rattled and had definitely seen something that left him very affected psychologically.

Upon the revelation that there was in fact no “living” intruder, Don and the rest of us grew pale and it was a long night to say the least. While Don went ahead and stayed with us that night in the very room where he had seen the figure go, he was very rattled, to say the least.

We very much enjoyed Mr. Don “Red” Barry’s visit during that bizarre and eventful April of 1975. Forty eight hours later after the tour of homes ended on April 29th and Don left, a good portion of the town was either badly damaged or leveled by a devastating tornado. Then an 11 year old playmate of mine died that same week after he ran away and was tragically killed by a train as he walked down the railroad tracks.

My family followed Don “Red” Barry’s career for the next 5 years with my grandmother periodically and gleefully exclaiming, “Come look honey!! Here’s Don!!” as she watched TV and caught his cameo appearances here and there. Then we sat shocked as we heard of his suicide as his picture flashed on the news the night of July 17, 1980. I will always remember Don as such a nice and kind man. But, we all have our demons and some hide the pain better than others.

Don Barry’s experience was especially important to me as an impressionable youngster because it set the stage for my lifelong interest in the paranormal. At the point of Don’s paranormal experience, we had lived in the house close to 3 years and had experienced many strange things, yet nothing actually seen and validated by a guest, let alone a movie star. This was only the beginning. The next 13 years only got stranger!!

Don "Red" Barry
1910 - 1980
Ride On, Red Rider.