By Paisley Kirkpatrick
The Cary House Hotel, built in 1857, still stands in Placerville, CA, and is still a functioning hotel.
This jewel, built when the gold rush town was prospering, still treats its guests to an interesting night’s sleep. During the five years I worked in the Chablis Art Gallery across the street from the hotel, I was able to make friends with the manager who graciously let me take photos inside and out, and meet one of the two most active ghosts. The hotel featured such luxuries as hot and cold running water, a novelty in its time, an elegant grand staircase, and a lobby handcrafted in mahogany and cherry woods.
Echoes from a colorful history linger in the halls of the great place. Early days provided a regular stop for stage lines that brought travelers to the gold country and returning with millions of dollars in bullion for transport to the San Francisco mint. Its wrought-iron trimmed balcony lent a great space for Horace Greely to give a speech and the world-renowned “Hangtown Fry” (oysters and scrambled eggs) was created at the Cary House by request of a miner who had struck it rich in the gold fields.
The ghost I tangled with was Stan. He lives in the lobby of the hotel.
He was the clerk at the check-in counter for many years, and he loves the place so he sticks around. In the beginning of his employment, he checked patrons in and out of the Cary House. He had a great love of liquor, especially brandy and whiskey. When he wasn’t working, he would head down to Rivendell’s Book Store where he could socialize. Back then, the store was a great place to visit with fellow patrons, and to get a drink, especially on cold damp days of winter. Stan would sneak out during his workday when no one was around, grab a drink and hurry back to the hotel.
Stan loved women, but was ignored by them. He was a short, stocky man with reddish brown hair, balding on the top and not what most people would consider a 'ladies man.' Truth be known, he also liked men somewhat. He was not really in demand by either. So, he did his job, was polite until the alcohol took affect, loved gossip and checking people out, and was known to be a bit 'mouthy' and insulting. Apparently he made a pass at a man, and the fellow stabbed him twice, and Stan fell down the stairs to his death.
My encounter with Stan happened the day I wanted to go upstairs by riding on the elevator. The wrought-iron door wouldn’t open. I tried and so did the manager.
It was no big deal as the staircase was grand and fun to walk up to the second and third floors. However, on the way down it worked perfectly. Guess old Stan was so happy to see me leaving that he gladly let me take the ride. Rumors from patrons have said they see their doorknobs turn when they retire for the night. Some believe he checks each room that has a lady guest just to make sure they are safely locked in their rooms. A television show that traveled around the country doing spots on the most haunted buildings did a twenty minute show on the ghosts in residence at Cary House.
Information from “The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts”