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Ghost Stories: Searching for the spirits of Napa County
Ghost Stories: Searching for the spirits of Napa County

They say in October the veil between the living and spirit worlds shrinks to 2 millimeters. This minuscule separation could explain the numerous local paranormal sightings.

One hot bed of paranormal activity is the beautiful Palmer House in Calistoga. This Second Empire style residence was built circa 1871 for newlyweds Caroline and Augustus Palmer.

Sadly, Caroline died in 1873 at the house of natural causes. The devastated Augustus left for the Cook Islands.

The Palmers, however, reportedly still reside in their Calistoga home. Caroline, dressed in an 1870s gown, appears in the master bedroom. She is known for expressing her opinion regarding the decor, and knocks down the art she doesn’t like from the walls. Augustus, also well dressed, sits in the parlor reading his newspaper.

Another Palmer House ghost is Ruby, a partial apparition. Dressed in a servant’s uniform, Ruby floats from room to room.

Two other partial apparitions are a pair of barefoot boys who laugh and play in the Palmer House front yard. Then these two unidentified boys run down the street about

30 feet before disappearing.

The final Palmer House ghost is simply known as “The Madam.” This buxom female apparition stands at the foot of the stairs with her hands on her hips. With a stern expression on her face, she scrutinizes all who pass by her making even the most confident mortal uneasy.

The Palmer House was a bordello during the 1920s and until the Madam’s death in the 1930s. She fell down the stairs and died at the foot of those stairs where she stood every night to inspect her girls.

The Pioneer Cemetery, a short distance from the Palmer House on Foothill Boulevard is also said to be a lively place for paranormal activity. Supposedly several small groups of ghosts dressed in 1800s attire congregate near their graves — male, female and children visiting with one another.

An exception to these social ghosts is a tall, thin male apparition dressed in a dark suit, stiff white collar and string tie. He also has greasy, long black hair that clings to his long, thin face. When seen, he walks from his grave downhill to Foothill Boulevard and then disappears.

A lynching  and strange lights in St. Helena

Heading down Highway 29 to St. Helena, another unnerving paranormal sighting appears on the south end of the Main Street bridge. It is said that looking over the rail and into the water below at sunset, one can see the reflection of a young man lynched by outraged St. Helena residents.

According to the story, in the late 1800s, this unfortunate young man was in the parlor of a local brothel when a preacher’s son threw a barrage of stones through the parlor window. The young man left the house and fatally shot the preacher’s son.

He was arrested and incarcerated in the local jail to await transfer to the county jail the next morning. That night, however, the guard left his jail-house post — for no apparent reason — and the young man was dragged out of the jail and lynched with a clothesline.

A few miles south of the bridge is the Ink House, now a bed and breakfast in Highway 29 at Whitehall Lane. Built circa 1884 for Theron H. Ink, the Italianate style residence has a unique architectural feature — a rooftop glass observatory.

From this room, it’s said, strange lights emanate. Witnessed from both roadways and neighboring properties, these lights possess odd traits. The illuminations glow in two different colors   — yellow-green and pure white. Those lights also randomly drift around the room and surge sporadically in intensity. This activity’s source and reason are a mystery.

The gentleman ghost of Beaulieu

In the hamlet of Rutherford is the historic, late-1800s Beaulieu Vineyards. Here, many mortals have reported seeing a kindly, white-haired ghost dressed in a double-breasted suit and tie. With unanimous consensus, these witnesses agree the apparition is Georges de Latour.

Another well known architectural icon is the Veterans Home in Yountville. There are two active paranormal sites on this propert: the viewing stand and cemetery.

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Near the stand, some people have heard band music playing and marching orders being called out. However, there have been no ghost sightings at this location.

The cemetery, on the other hand, has its share of apparitions. Most of these ghosts are engaged is military formations and drills. Although, purportedly, one ghost is a wounded soldier apparently in great pain.

Another suffering apparition is found at Trefethen Vineyards on Oak Knoll Road. Sometime during the Prohibition era, a young man accused of being a thief was hung from one of the winery’s massive wood beams. Some people have said they have seen a shadow or faint apparition of the lynched young man. Others have said they’ve witnessed the entire event unfold and not just a hanging shadow.

Napa sightings

Moving into the Napa city limits, the paranormal sites are easily found even when they are not sought out. According to one local woman, she had just gotten into her car, parked in the Second Street garage after attending a meeting at the county offices, when, all of a sudden, a young man with blonde hair and wearing 1950-60s era clothing was sitting next to her. He seemed to be in mid-conversation with someone else when he turned to the woman and said, “We really need to get going!”

At that moment, a second male ghost — just his dark-haired head — popped in and said, “Yes, let’s get out of here!” Then they disappeared!

West of downtown Napa on Foster road is the KVON-KVYN radio station. According to the evening-night crew, this spirit is quite the critic. While it likes to knock on walls, it does demonstrate its displeasure with music selections by knocking stacks of discs off of the console and desks.

There are tales of an even eerier haunting at an old farmhouse out in Browns Valley. Built in the late-1800s, this residence was the site of a gruesome murder. While two versions of the story tell of two different victims, the murderer was the same brutal man. During his trial, he was declared criminally insane and ultimately sentenced to the Napa State Hospital.

Following his release from the institution, the story goes, he returned to the house to live out his life in the attic. Over the years, many people have had encounters with this malevolent spirit. Some have simply just heard him moving around in the attic. While others, who have dared to enter the attic, say they will never forget the experience.

According to their accounts, the attic grows very cold as he moves around with greater agitation from being disturbed. His cold presence almost envelopes the people causing them to shiver and their hair to stand on end. He eventually bumps into them and even knocks them down. One oddity is the scent of lilacs in the attic, which grows stronger with his increasing agitation. It is said a beautiful hedge of lilacs once bordered the property on that fateful spring day in 1901 when he committed his gruesome homicide.

While these stories are a mere sample of local ghost stories one thing is for certain, Napa County produces more than one kind of spirit.

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