Local legends and lore in Napa County history include ghost stories. So with All Hallows Eve close at hand, it is timely to share a couple examples of reported local paranormal activity: the Menacing Highwayman and Haunted Train Station.
Since the early 1900s, the remote east Napa County road between Berryessa and Knoxville has proven to be heart-stopping for some mortal drivers as they navigated the lonely roadway at night. Experienced only by a handful of people, these victims have all said the ghostly highwayman astride his horse suddenly appeared directly in front of their vehicles.
While the headlights of motorized vehicles cast light beams through the semi-transparent apparitions, both the highwayman and horse emitting an odd greenish glow. Even on the warmest summer night, both apparitions appeared to exhale foggy breath as if it was a cold winter’s night.
Witnesses say the highwayman was attired in dark clothing and boots, which starkly contrasted his tattered, light-colored duster coat. They all said that coat, resembling an old cobweb, gave the appearance of blowing in a strong wind.
When first seen, the highwayman had his head down as if to shelter his face from stiff winds. But then, he quickly lifted his head to stare at his observers with his vacant but menacing eyes.
At the same time his wild-eyed horse became restless, tossing its head. Its bridle jingled and the leather saddle creaked as the horse moved, and highwayman flashed his side-arms and pointed his shotgun. In a split second the ghostly pair charged towards the mortals who reported hearing the horse’s pounding hooves. And just as the highwayman pulled the trigger of his shotgun, the frightening apparitions disappeared, but not before the sounds of bullets fired rang out. Simultaneously, the mortal victims also heard the highwayman’s unearthly laughter.
Another relic from yesteryear’s transportation system eerily continues today. Although not as terrifying as the highwayman, some mortals have been frightened or at least unnerved by the unexplained sounds and activities at the St. Helena Railroad Depot.
The paranormal occurrences at the old train station seem to be echoes from the past. Witnesses have said they had only heard unexplained sounds and but had not seen anything unusual.
The noises usually heard have been the faint clanging of a train bell accompanied by a soft shriek of a conductor’s whistle as if a train was about to depart the station. Occasionally, a flurry of footsteps has been heard at the same time. All of these faint but distinct sounds of hustle and bustle were followed by an odd silence.
Others have said they had heard sounds of shipping goods or luggage being moved about the St. Helena train depot, of dolly wheels thumping along the platform floorboards and a heavy shipping crate being dragged and then dropped into place.
These accounts are just a couple of the many ghost stories of Napa County. I will be telling more on Wednesday Oct. 29 from 6-7 p.m. at the Napa Library. For more information, call 253-4235 or visit NapaLibrary.org. Happy Halloween!