Old/quirky Padre vs. the spiffy/smells-good version? It's a debate with no clear winner, not that that stops downtowners from having the argument anyway. But the updated hotel can now boast the endorsement of perhaps the pre-eminent authority on the Bakersfield landmark, and certainly its most loyal guest: the little girl whose ghost reportedly has roamed the halls for decades.
"She said it was a good thing for us and that she loves how it looks now," said hotel manager Nick Soberano. "We have the seal of approval from the Padre ghost."
Or so says Theresa Caputo, the titular star of the TLC program "Long Island Medium." Caputo was in town last spring to check out viewer claims that Bakersfield is super-popular with supernaturals. Caputo couldn't be reached for comment -- presumably she speaks only to dead newspaper reporters -- but Soberano said the production crew told him the Padre was just one stop on their tour of city haunts. The episode airs at 9 Sunday.
The brassy host -- "she's exactly like she is on TV," Soberano said -- sensed the presence of several spirits, though only one stepped forward when the Long Island mom who sees dead people crooked her acrylic-nailed finger.
"Just that one girl following Jen."
Jen Johnson, Soberano's colleague, apparently has an other-wordly mini-me who shadows the manager on her hotel rounds.
"It doesn't surprise me," Soberano said. "Jen is a good, upbeat person. There's an aura that people want to be around her.
"But it freaked her out a little bit."
Caputo told the Padre staff that "the little girl died a long time ago, in one of the fires here."
Despite her tragic end, the ghost is actually cheerful and chatty, Caputo said, answering all the questions posed by the inquisitive medium. And as with most 6-year-olds, there's a little mischief in her.
"There is a child's handprint in Farmacy (the hotel coffee area), and we don't know where it came from and can't get rid of it," a mystified Soberano said.
Sure enough, a print on a pillar located near the southwest entrance appears to be that of a child. A vigorous (and, admittedly, unsanitary) scrub with a moistened finger failed to wipe the prints clean.
"It's one of our little good luck charms," Soberano said.
And with the outgoing young ghost doing her part to market the hotel she calls home, management is not about to let her down.
"Everybody loves this kind of stuff," Soberano said. "It gives that extra thrill that you might see a ghost."