In the very heart of the Golden State lies the genesis of the famed Gold Rush of the 1850s and a number of haunted California hotels.
In a migration across the country unmatched by any other event, half a million people flooded to California to claim their riches and secure their future.
But while those who were a part of it have long since passed away, it wouldn’t exactly be accurate to suggest they are completely gone.
Many of these buildings are still around, be they brothels, hotels, jails or otherwise.
Some burned down or were otherwise demolished and renovated, but not all that were rebuilt stayed as loyal to their era as did these hotels and inns. Like phoenixes rising from the ashes, some spirits of those who have passed reside still in these old buildings.
Some suggest the ghosts haunting these hotels are trapped, perhaps until some work is finished; some, they believe, just seem to love the places they cared for too much to leave. Then there are the spirits who don’t seem to be aware they’re dead at all.
These historic hotels and bed and breakfasts of Northern California’s Gold Rush era offer something for everyone.
Angry, happy, helpful and malicious ghosts alike wait to test your belief in the supernatural, ready to show you something perhaps you’ve only ever heard of.
Curious? Skeptical? Come see for yourself.
If nothing else, the promise of a wonderful stay awaits you in places dripping with the atmosphere of their time.
There is history in these buildings, you can feel it. If you are still, you just may experience it.
Haunted California Hotels
Cary House Hotel: Placerville, Calif.
Known as the “Jewel of Placerville,” William Cary built the Cary House in this historic gold rush town just east of Sacramento in 1857. The three-story hotel, now an inn, is regarded as one of the area’s most haunted sites.
Night manager Joel has worked at the hotel for five years. He told me with a mix of relief and disappointment that he hasn’t experienced anything himself, aside from the “creepy” feeling he gets in the hallway where he stays three nights a week.
“You probably know all about Stan, though,” he joked, speaking of a famous former desk clerk who haunts this hotel even today.
According to various sources, mostly online, Stan allegedly died of a stabbing at the foot of the stairs after making a pass at the wrong woman.
But beware: Stan has been said to continue his rather rude gestures with living guests today, so no-it probably wasn’t your imagination.
Aside from Stan, Joel reported a robber hid from authorities in the basement for a week or two before he died-but though his body has been removed, his spirit is still there today.
Rooms 214 and 212 are also haunted: in one room, a family died of influenza, and in the other, from a fire.
According to allstays.com, an old horse and wagon operator may be a member of one of those families, haunting Room 212 where he died.
Curious guests are welcome to tour the hotel. Joel says there are no guarantees for a guided tour but plenty of people come in off the street to take a look, so if nothing else, come see what you can experience for yourself.
If you decide to stay and your bravery permits, you may ask to stay in one of the haunted rooms.
Address: 300 Main Street, Placerville, CA 95667
Hotel Leger: Mokelumne Hill, CA
George Leger (pronounced “Luh-zhay”) built Hotel Leger for the large French population settling into the area in 1851.
Just southeast of Sacramento, Mokelumne Hill is best known for this hotel that began as a wooden tent but grew to consist of three separate buildings.
One of these served as the Calaveras County Courthouse and Jail from 1855-1866.
This stone building was the only of the three to survive the fires of 1854, ’65, and ’74.
There are a few different stories of how George died. Some say he was shot, but an old article by The Calaveras Chronicle claims George died after a short bout with an illness. In the end, though, no one really knows.
All they do know is that George is still around.
Places to See and People to Meet in Mokelumne Hill says “The ghost of Leger, who was assassinated in the Hotel in 1879, has been seen in the saloon and in many of the Hotel’s thirteen rooms, which are furnished in period antiques.
Other ghosts in the hotel include the Lady in White in Room 2 and a young boy in Room 3.”
Mike Taylor of the Calaveras Enterprise wrote that someone often walked into Room 7, George’s old room, to find the rocking chair still rocking, as if someone had just gotten up, but the entire floor of the building was empty. No one could have been in that chair.
The hotel’s website also mentions “George Leger wandering Room 7, a woman crying for her child in Room 2 [believed to be Leger’s wife Louisa Wilkin, who died in childbirth], and a child playing by the fireplace in Room 3.
A former owner of the Hotel Leger describes seeing smoke and fire in the bar area multiple times, when no fire was present upon closer inspection.”
Owner Jane Canty reported guests leaving in the middle of the night because they’d become so frightened by the activity.
She also said more than one guest has misplaced their keys and, after an exhaustive search, found them in the place they left them originally.
Canty also expressed some hesitance in advertising the hotel as haunted because it is so active-but she didn’t object to this article.
The Hotel Leger is happy and more than willing to offer tours to interested and curious guests. I believe this might be among the few places most will encounter something supernatural.
Address: 8304 Main Street, Mokelumne Hill, CA 95245
The Historic National Hotel: Jamestown, CA
Established in 1859, The Historic National Hotel offers nine antique filled guest rooms, touted as “quaintly Victorian, neat as new pins” by Karen Brown’s California Charming Inns and Itineraries.
There is much history here, and the ghost story originates in a time before the hotel was a hotel at all.
Frank Sullivan, a lucky prospector of the Gold Rush, had a granddaughter named Mary Rose who fell in love with a British soldier.
Frank and his wife strongly disapproved of this relationship and used their influence to have the soldier shipped off to India where he was captured, chained, tortured, and eventually killed.
Mary took this news about as well as anyone would expect-even worse because she was pregnant with his child.
At this time, The Historic National Hotel was the Motherlode Hospital, and Mary checked into Room 7 where she spent the majority of her time alone, speaking to no one.
Something went terribly wrong when Mary went into labor, and neither she nor the baby survived.
Mary was interred and buried across the street, but guests at the hotel swear they hear moaning and see apparitions-one of a man wrapped in chains-in or coming from Room 7, and they think it’s Mary.
Though rumors abound that Room 7 is the most haunted, hotel proprietor Steven Willey asserts Room 7 is no more haunted than the rest of the hotel. “She’s running around all over the place,” he said.
Perhaps the most famous ghost of the National Hotel is 19 year-old Flora, better known as “Flo.” According to history, sheriffs reports, and witness accounts, Flo arrived in Jamestown via a train where she met the man she’d fall deeply in love with and become engaged to.
On December 24, with Flo dressed in white, the couple met for breakfast. Though the details of what happened next never were substantiated, all the stories agree about this: as the couple walked down the street, a gunshot rang and the man fell.
No one was ever caught, let alone prosecuted, for this tragic death.
According to an email sent by Willey, those working in the hotel heard Flo sobbing until New Year’s Eve, when those on the street attested to seeing a floating “‘woman in white’ in an upstairs window…
“Alarmed by Flo’s sudden silence, hotel staff entered her room. Inside they found the young woman…neatly seated in a chair at the open window…
“Cause of death was recorded as heart failure, but those who bore witness to her loss knew that a heart had not failed-it had been broken.”
Thankfully, Flo doesn’t seem to wallow in her misery any longer.
She does like to have a bit of fun with those at the hotel, though. The email tells of guests writing of “doors slamming, lights flickering, and items tossed from suitcases and shelves” in journals supplied by the hotel.
The staff has witnessed unbelievable events of their own: pans falling from shelves, and spoons and ladles “swinging wildly from wall hooks.”
Housekeepers have entered rooms burning with the heat of the heater only to feel a burst of icy air woosh past them as they entered.
Though the hotel doesn’t offer tours, perhaps if you decided to brave a night you could get better acquainted with Flo and see Mary Rose. Might be interesting.
Address: 18153 Main Street, Jamestown, CA 95327
The National Hotel in Jackson: Jackson, CA
Initially called the Louisiana House, the National Hotel in Jackson, CA has been in business since 1863, making it one of the longest-running hotels in California.
Haunted and Paranormal Investigations reports an unseen entity pushed the housekeeper down to the bed in Room 47.
They have also discovered a rather drunk and friendly female in a 1920s orange dress as well as a woman in a blue and white dress who roams the second floor.
Next door to the Bordello Room, an infant died some years ago, and guests have reported occasionally hearing a baby’s cry from that room.
The ghosts of two children also play in rooms 44 and 55, but daytime bartender Lynn Acosta reported in a phone interview that Room 74 on the third floor is the most active.
She also said there are supposed to be about thirty spirits between the second and the third floor alone.
Though the hotel does not offer tours, if you decide to stay you may request a specific room. Be sure to visit the bar, though-weird things have been known to occur there as well.
Address: 2 Water Street, Jackson, CA 95642
The Groveland Hotel at Yosemite National Park: Groveland, CA
Originally a rooming house for management overseeing the Hetch Hetchy Dam project, the Groveland Hotel opened in1827 for prospectors working the gold mine and creek behind the hotel.
One of these prospectors, Lyle, stayed at the Groveland Hotel for fifteen years before he died in his room in 1927.
Lyle is said to have been a man who preferred to keep to himself, and so it comes to no surprise that no one realized he was dead until a few days time when concerned friends investigated.
But Lyle doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave.
Room 15, lovingly referred to today as “Lyle’s Room,” is where-or near where-most activity occurs. Lyle is best known for his distaste for finding women’s cosmetics on his dresser.
If he finds anything of the sort, he tosses them off or throws them into the sink. Lyle is also known for turning lights on and off, and the hotel reports Lyle “often delights in turning the shower water on when no one is looking.”
He’s also known to disappear on occasion-perhaps to visit his girlfriend at the Hotel Charlotte.
Hotel owner Peggy Mosley has said just about everyone at the Groveland has had their own Lyle experience.
If you’re interested, give the hotel a call and request Room 15. Have a bit of fun with Lyle-just don’t be surprised if you leave something on his dresser and come back to find it elsewhere.
Address: 18767 Main Street, Groveland, CA 95321
The Ione Hotel: Ione, CA
Built in the early 1850’s, this antique-filled hotel is home to a nineteenth century saloon and a fine-dining restaurant called the Twisted Fork.
In 1987, the hotel burned to the ground and has been since renovated; the fourteen rooms are situated on the second floor, one of which is the Bridal Suite which touts a mahogany canopy bed and a clawfoot tub.
The hotel has endured many fires, and those fires claimed many lives. Some of those who died in those fires are still around.
The Amador Ledger Dispatch reported on Halloween of 2007 that a reputed “ladies man” named George died in Room 13, and is still in his room today.
A former owner is remembered as seeing lumber floating in the air during the reconstruction after the ’87 fire. When the then-owner asked George to put the wood down, George complied.
In earlier fires, two small children are reported to have died in Room 9. Owner Mahmood Ghani reported guests hearing the sound of children playing when there were no children in the hotel.
The article quotes Ghani as saying “Residents have seen the children playing in the creek out back at night. Recently, one couple was staying in room 9 and found the clear imprint of a child’s hand on the television set. Room 9 is a honeymoon suite and children never stay in it. So that was very strange.”
Current hotel assistant manager Jennifer Collado has worked at the hotel since February of 2008, according to an HPI Chronicles report by Paul Dale Roberts, Collado has had an issue in Room 2, once becoming mysteriously locked in the room for two hours before she finally escaped out the window. Collado also reported seeing a chandelier spinning by itself in Room 4.
Then there is the infamous upside-down black rose in Room 13. In a phone interview with hotel manager Larry McMinn, I learned the black rose is a stain on the wall that will not go away.
They’ve tried rubbing it off, and when that didn’t work, they attempted to paint over it only for the rose to reappear.
It could be interesting to see.
The hotel does offer a chance for visitors to see the rooms, so if this has piqued your curiosity, go see Room 13 yourself. If you’re feeling especially brave, you’re welcome to request to stay in it.
Address: 25 W. Main Street, P.O. Box 757, Ione, CA 95640