The activities of ghostly beings can be terrifying -- or at least unnerving -- for the mortal witnesses. There are, however, some spirits whose actions provide entertainment for mortals.
Three Napa County ghost stories illustrate each of these types of supernatural experiences.
The first of this spirited trio frightened the occupants of three units of a Napa area apartment complex. There, an angry entity brought a new meaning to the phrase “night terrors.”
According to the tenants, the malevolent activities began almost immediately after the first occupants moved into the haunted units. Initially, the paranormal activity seemed to be just odd occurrences. Things such as shoes, keys and phones disappeared only to reappear days later in weird places like the toilet tank.
Then, between dusk and dawn, breakable items such as ceramics and glass objects would be inexplicably hurled across rooms. Frequently, dishes and glasses on the kitchen counters would be propelled toward and then smashed against the wall of the adjoining dining rooms.
Simultaneously, the apartments grew intolerably cold, and strange pulsating shadows erratically bounced around the spaces.
But that was not the worst of the paranormal activity. Also at night, or whenever the residents would be in a deep sleep, they would be awakened by a disembodied and evil voice cursing them and telling them to leave or suffer a terrible fate.
At the same time, they told me, they could barely breathe because of a putrid stench that filled the frigid room. This event happened with greater frequency and intensity until they either moved out or performed a space clearing.
According to some of the original tenants who had their apartments cleared by a paranormal specialist, the terror has stopped. Also, the paranormal activity in the one remaining unit that has not been cleared has significantly diminished to a rare and faint but chilling groan.
As for the identity of this paranormal entity, based on what he said during his terrorizing rants, the tenants speculate it is a former owner of the property who is angry about the development of apartments on what was his beloved farm.
The next ghost story, which takes place at an Upvalley residence, is a polar opposite to the malevolent apartment dweller. This beautifully maintained Victorian, located north of downtown St. Helena, provides no outwardly indication of the paranormal activity occurring inside its walls.
The disembodied occupant of this lovely home frequently amuses the residents due to his constant bumbling and fumbling. Over the years, this entertaining spirit has become known as the “Clumsy Old Winemaker.”
According to the residents, they can tell the Winemaker is nearby because a strong scent of fermenting grapes fills the air. Another clue that he is in the house is the sounds of furniture, such as table chairs, abruptly being moved as if someone tripped over its leg or bumped into it. Accompanying these noises is a male voice grumbling, frustrated by the accidental collision.
At other times, sounds emanate from the kitchen as if someone is attempting to prepare a meal, especially breakfast. The homeowners hear utensils hitting the floor, pans sliding over the stove burners and dishes clanking or occasionally crashing and breaking. These sounds are accompanied by the Winemaker’s favorite expletives of “Dag nab it!,” “Frickles!” and “Blast it all!”
One resident said, “It is hard not to laugh at the old Winemaker. He makes a lot of ruckus whenever he tries to do anything. And the harder he tries to succeed, the more he messes up. He also says his favorite phrases with increasing exuberance. It’s like listening to those old slapstick style radio programs. While you feel sorry for the old guy, it is hilarious.
“Oh, by the way," she added, "the kitchen is in perfect order during and following one of his kitchen capers.”
They have grown accustomed to and even welcome the Clumsy Old Winemaker. Although, they only need to be patient hosts on infrequent occasions as this spirit visits only about three to four times a year.
While the mortals sharing the St. Helena residence are amused by their spirited visitor, some Sharpsteen Museum volunteers in Calistoga are intrigued by a fairly recent arrival of some supernatural guests.
“It all started about five, six months ago," Kathy Bazzoli said. “While walking through the Brannan cottage, which is attached to the museum, I noticed some things had been moved in the cottage’s dining room, such as the linen dinner napkins being disheveled. But nothing else was out of place in the rest of the museum.”
Bazzoli continued, “Another volunteer had also noticed this activity. So we started paying closer attention to the security monitor located near the gift shop.
"We began to notice the red activation light on the monitor going on for the cottage and the adjoining room. Those red indicators would light up alternately. But when we would check those spaces, no one was there.
"This would happen even when the volunteer was the only one in the museum.” She added, “Then, when we had to clear out those spaces in preparation for some maintenance work, the activity increased as if the spirits were upset by the disruption.”
“Recently another volunteer tried tracking the ghosts by using a paranormal activity meter app on her phone," Bazzoli said. "At first there was nothing. But eventually little green blips showed up on the screen. They gradually become stronger as the blips turned yellow and red. Supposedly, this indicates a strong paranormal presence.”
Bazzoli said she is not sure "who they are, or were. However, they do seem to be friendly. Plus, I find it all rather interesting.”
These three local supernatural accounts clearly demonstrate the differing types of paranormal activity and encounters. They also are just a small sampling of the many ghost stories of Napa County.