Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ghosts Still Haunt the Site of the California Gold Rush

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
I've been enjoying all of the ghosts stories posted this past week. We used to live in a community that is known for its gold rush ghosts. In fact, the art gallery I worked in had its own resident ghosts so I am definitely a believer.
The gallery was housed in a renovated building located in Placerville, California. The building dated back to 1851. Originally it was called the 49er Corner Saloon and to this day a creek runs under the building. My first inclination of a live-in ghost was when I heard heavy footsteps overhead. I wouldn't have thought anything of it except all the tenants who worked above the art gallery were away for Christmas holiday. A man's footsteps walked back and forth; doors slammed. I mentioned this occurrence to my boss. She went upstairs and checked the entire floor. She found nobody. The next year around the Christmas holidays it happened again. Then a few months later, we found one of our wastebaskets missing. There were three gray and one pink left together in the middle of the backroom after we'd emptied them. In the morning, the pink wastebasket was missing and was never found. One of my jobs was to print out tags and tape them on the wall next to each painting. One morning I found all of the tags in the middle of the room on the carpeted floor and several paintings hung crooked on the wall. The final blow was when my boss and another clerk were working behind the counter on one side of the gallery. Across the room, a six-foot tall ceramic vase slammed against the wall hard enough to break into several pieces and the mahogany table that was next to the vase had a leg badly scratched. The ghost had turned violent for the first time. My boss called in a ghost expert and she worked her trade well. The ghost never came back after her visit.
Across the street from the art gallery is The Cary House Hotel, built in 1857. I have used this hotel in several of my books in the Paradise Pines Series. The inside has been kept in the same d├ęcor as it was when it was built. The hotel boasts of having two ghosts. The former television show that explored haunted places in the U.S. spent twenty minutes exposing Stan. I did encounter Stan when I was going upstairs to gather information for my stories. The owners have added an elevator to the hotel and it is kept inside a closet. We tried to open the door but it was stuck. The manager told me Stan wasn't happy about us intruding so we walked up the stairs. On the way down, there was no problem. The door slid open and we got our ride. It is rumored that Stan loved women and possibly the men as well. To this day he checks each doorknob in the hotel to make sure the guests are safely locked inside. He also rides the elevator up and down most of the night. Stan was the clerk in the lobby for many years. He was a short, stocky man with reddish brown hair, balding on the top and not what most people would consider a 'ladies' man. He did his job politely until alcohol took effect, loved gossip, and checking people out of the hotel. Sometimes he was insulting and sarcastic. He apparently made a pass at a man, the man stabbed him twice in anger, and Stan fell down the stairs to his death.
The hotel has many ghost sightings and it draws people to tempt their fate with the ghosts. Several other buildings in town are haunted. One day while I was taking notes in the Hangman's Bar I saw a tall man with a long black coat and tall black hat walk out of the women's bathroom. He reminded me of what Abraham Lincoln looked like. He just dissolved a few feet in front of me. No, I had not been imbibing.
We have moved from the Placerville area so I no longer watch for ghosts. They give the town a sense of the past and a bit of mystery.
Declan Grainger, the hero in my Night Angel story, was the owner of Chaumers Hotel, which I modeled after The Cary House. Chaumers Hotel took on a life of its own, but as far as I know no ghosts live there...yet.
The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts written by Nancy Bradley and Robert Reppert give a great accounting of all the ghosts living in this area. I recommend it to anyone with a ghostly imagination.


  1. I really enjoyed your post, Paisley. Looking forward to reading Night Angel, too. Great cover!

  2. Thank you, Ashley. I do love what my cover artist does with my covers in this series. Your ghost post stirred the memories from my encounters in Placerville. :)

  3. I want to visit Placerville. Must have been a fun place to work--most of the time.

  4. Thank you, Caroline. I hope you get to visit Placerville some time, too. I loved spending time there.


Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West!