Participants of the new Napa City Ghosts & Legends Walking Tour can be found strolling around downtown on any given Saturday night. Some are there for the history, some for the paranormal and some for both.
During the tour, participants are led through a portion of downtown Napa starting at the steps of the old Napa Courthouse. Throughout the evening, historical stories are told, touching upon everything from the last public execution in California, to tales of Napa’s old Chinatown and the area’s Native American history.
Owner Ellen MacFarlane said the tour, which launched in late March, was sold out opening weekend, and has been doing equally as well since.
Along with Napa City Ghosts & Legends Walking Tour, MacFarlane also heads a team called North Bay RIP (Research and Investigations of the Paranormal). In total, she has more than 20 years in paranormal investigation experience.
The tour equally centers on history and the paranormal. MacFarlane, a self-taught historian, said she has spent countless hours researching in the Napa Valley Library and talking to the Napa County Historical Society.
Devin Sisk, MacFarlane’s business partner and owner of Benicia Ghost Walk, said they didn’t want to simply tell stories you could read in a book.
“Ellen is really good at finding little nuggets of history that people have forgotten about. As an investigator in the paranormal we’re constantly looking for reasons why certain things have happened,” said Sisk. “She comes up with these great stories… then we add the flair of mixing it in with the entities that we run into.”
Sisk said the tour is perfect for those who are curious about the paranormal. “What we were going for is kind of giving an appetizer’s taste of the paranormal,” said Sisk. “Giving people two hours of what it feels like to be a paranormal investigator.”
Sisk said the tour is very interactive; each person on the tour is able to ask questions and use traditional paranormal investigating devices.
The K-II meter is used to signal an increase in electromagnetic energy, the substance ghosts are thought to be made of, said MacFarlane.
During the tour, participants are instructed to shout, “hit!” whenever the five bulbs on their handheld K-II meters light up from green to yellow, orange and red. Some paranormal investigators believe the reaction of the lights indicate a possible spiritual presence.
MacFarlane, said K-II meters were originally made for electricians to find electricity in walls.
“Our belief system is that ghosts are also energy,” said MacFarlane. She said spiritual hits only spike the lights unlike electrical hits where the bulbs are lit up and stay solid.
Other instruments used during the tour are dowsing rods and Mel-Meters. Dowsing rods are used in paranormal investigations to communicate with the spiritual world via “yes or no” questions while Mel-Meters detects electromagnetic fields and fluctuations in temperatures.
While other investigators have attended the tour, and even brought their own equipment, MacFarlane said the tour is mostly geared tourists and locals.
“[Locals] are loving it, and I’ll tell you why, we’re not talking about wine,” said MacFarlane. “They’re seeing downtown again. They’re walking around, they’re learning history about their own town and they’re really getting into it.”
There is an optional cocktail portion at the end of the tour at Napkins restaurant. Many participants take this time to talk about personal experiences and to ask any questions they might have concerning the paranormal.
Napkins hosts a tour-themed cocktail for the tour, including drinks inspired by the walk itself. Two of the cocktails are the Ghost Hunter Cocktail and the Downtown Zombie. MacFarlane is working on a colorful layered drink inspired by the K-II meter as well.
Regarding plans for the future, MacFarlane said she’s working on adding three more tours- one in the Oxbow area, in the red-light district and even expanding into Yountville or St. Helena.
“My main focus is to grow the tour as big as I can and to share as much history as I can,” said MacFarlane.
“Our motto is, ‘Come for the wine, stay for the spirits’… we infuse a lot of humor in our tour, not making fun of anything but making sure people feel good and lighthearted.”
The tour, which can also be booked for private parties, runs twice every Saturday night, with an early tour starting at 7 p.m. and a late tour at 9:45 p.m. General tickets are $25 and reservations are required, though MacFarlane said discounts can be found on websites such as Amazon Local and Groupon.