The two-lane blacktop meanders back and forth throughout the Sierra Foothills, after old gold mining roads all the way from Grass Valley to Yosemite. On the way, at roadside markers and historic sites, tribute is paid to those intrepid 49'ers who worked the hills and hills, hoping to strike it rich. What the signs don't tell is that a few of those old-timers may still be hangin' on, still walking the halls of the wooden buildings in which they lived.
In order to make a living, Louise was forced to take on borders and even rented out the cellar as a jail. Two prisoners, who spent the night in her cellar before being hung in the front yard, are sometimes seen still roaming the grounds. One was a robber who performed a dance on the scaffold - just before the noose was put around his neck. The other was a school teacher who murdered one of his students and ended up reciting poetry to those who came to watch his execution. Louise died in 1913 and was buried with her husband Robert, in a small public cemetery across the street from their home.
Subsequent residents of Vineyard House reported seeing shimmering apparitions walking in the halls or hearing the rattling of chains at all hours of the night. Eventually, no one wanted to live in the house and it fell into disrepair. In 1956 the house was renovated and turned into a hotel. The cellar jail became a cheerful bar, but that did not stop the hauntings. Occasionally, the rattling of chains could still be heard and one evening, two wine glasses were pushed across the bar by unseen hands. In one of the rooms, a maid saw a freshly made bed become undone, leaving the impression of a body in the sheets; and witness Dave Vanbuskirk saw a doorknob turn with no one on the other side of the door. Later, a San Francisco couple reported seeing three men dressed in Victorian clothes disappear as they ascended a stairway.
In 1974 the hotel was purchased by Frank and Darlene Herrera, who are trying to dispel the rumors of ghosts. However, three years ago, a Sacramento couple ran from the hotel in the middle of the night, saying they heard someone being murdered in the next room. Investigators from the County Sheriff's Department could find nothing out of the ordinary.
If you are traveling down Highway 49 and decide to stop for a bite to eat at Nonno's Italian Restaurant in the Hotel Leger ( 8304 Main St., Mokelumne Hill, CA), be sure to take a good look at the old portrait on the north wall of the dining room. It is a picture of the founder of the century-old hotel, George Leger. George was an aristocratic French immigrant who lived out most of his life in Room 7 of the hotel. Some say he never left his hotel; several people have reported his specter silently gliding through the halls. Others have complained of rowdy laughter and ladies giggling behind the door of Room 7, only to find the room empty. The management has even hung pictures of Victorian pin-up girls in George's room, in deference to his reputation for womanizing.
Manager Ronald Miller says the hotel personnel accept George's presence as a normal part of their jobs. Just a few miles north on Highway 49 lies the Sutter Creek Inn (75 Main St., Sutter Creek, CA. 95685). When Jane Way bought the Inn in 1966, it was already over one-hundred years old, although she had no idea it came with its own ghost. Two weeks after moving in, an apparition appeared in her doorway and said softly:"I will guard your Inn".
Later she identified the soul as State Senator Edward Voorhies, who took ownership of the home in 1880 and lived there with his wife and family for several years. The Inn is still the spectacle of unusual events, like the hidden force that picked up a kitty from a chair and threw it across the room. Or the look in broad daylight of a ghost, who entered the front office and immediately dropped his pants. By all reports, this well-endowed spectral flasher took it with him.