My first encounter with a ghost was in 1970. My daughter’s future father, Bob and I, moved from my cottage in San Anselmo up to tiny town of Elk on the wild Mendocino coast. Somehow, Bob knew the son of the owners and he told us we could move into the hotel, fix it up a bit and live there for free. We thought that was a great idea. We drove up to check it out. The front doors were hanging from the hinges, there was a beehive in the toilet upstairs, all the windows in the rooms upstairs were broken, there was no running water or electricity and the place was a total disaster. The floors were pockmarked from the hundreds of logger that had passed through in eons gone by. The view from the sagging porch was breathtaking. So, we moved in. With the help of friends, we quickly had the place habitable. Out back there was a old claw foot bathtub. We dragged it into the “lobby”, filled it with dirt, then went up into the woods, dug up ferns and planted them in the tub. Very posh. We found an old Persian style rug rolled up in one of the back bedrooms. I took that out back and beat it to death, then placed it in the Lobby in front of the old fireplace. Along one wall was a carved bar complete with mirrors. It was polished till it shone and soon the lobby was a grand looking place. The kitchen had an original wood stove and also a 1940’s gas range. One of Bob’s friends worked for PG&E, so he climbed a pole and hooked us up with power. I loved that kitchen. It reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen in her old house in Eureka. But, behind the kitchen were the stairs that went up to the bedrooms. At the landing, there was a hole in the ceiling and that gave me the creeps. Every time I went up those stairs, I’d run. Most of the rooms upstairs didn’t have windows so we sealed them off. There was one room towards the front that we took over for us. I had my big brass bed and oil lamps, old dressers and family portraits. We put doors over the windows. This was in the fall and the nights were getting chilly. Our room was always dark. For practical reasons, we had our bed way back against the far wall, as far from the windows as possible. The wind would howl around that old place and the roar of the ocean was constant.
So, one night, I thought I heard a noise downstairs. Bob took the only flashlight and went down to investigate. I heard him go down the stairs, step by step, and then nothing. Just the wind and the ocean. I sat on the edge of the bed on full alert. The place didn’t lock up very well and when I stayed there alone, I had a shotgun handy, but the shotgun was with Bob so I just sat in the dark, waiting. It was weird, but across the room on the far wall, it began to get light, like someone was shining a light behind me to that wall. “Bob”, I whispered……..no answer. The light got brighter to the point where I could see my own outline on the wall. My mouth dried up and my eyes got huge. “Bob”, I croaked. No answer. As I sat there, I had my hands resting palm down behind me. Suddenly, I felt something start to hold my hand through the blanket. Sort of like we were going to go for a walk. Now I really freaked. I turned to see what was grabbing at me and I saw this brilliant glow in the shape of a person behind me on the wall. At that point, I yanked my hand back and hit the floor running, turned right and raced down the hall. At the end I could see another light and I began screaming for Bob. He came running up the stairs with the flashlight and we ran into each other on the landing. There was a tremendous cold coming down from the hole in the ceiling. He grabbed me to stop my flight, but I tore right by him and raced to the Lobby. He followed me down and I told him in gasping breaths what happened. He said that as he was coming back up the stairs he had seen a light coming out of our room and he was wondering where I got a flashlight. So, he saw it too. At dusk we went out back and watched the bats fly out from the eaves into the evening. I never had another contact but I did always feel there was something there.
So, flash forward to the Riverwood Inn, 1995. Yep. We have a ghost. This was proven to me by a guest who was here a few weeks ago. She had a “Ghost Detector”. Actually, the reason she wanted to stay at the Riverwood was because of our ghost. When I first bought the inn, the owner lived downstairs in an “apartment”, which is now the “band room.” He drank quite a bit and didn’t come out much during the day. He told me there was a ghost, but I just figured he probably saw ghosts all the time. Our first Halloween, and I love Halloween!!! I had my first big party at the Riverwood. Still aglow from managing to buy the place, I climbed the stairs up to the attic, and with music blaring from below, I declared to the ghost that I owned this place, that it was mine and he’d better move over. A chill crept up my back, my knees began to shake and I went right into the “fright and flight” mode, racing down the stairs with my cape flying and witch’s hat askew.
Two weeks later, I was closing up for the night. It was about 2am. As I got out to my car I looked up at the building and saw a light on up in the attic. No one used the attic for anything. There was no reason to have a light on up there. I went back in, unpadlocked the hallway door, climbed the stairs to banquet room, went into the attic and turned off the light. I ran back down the stairs, locked the hallway door again. As I looked up from my car, the light was on again. I went home.
We had a friend who was between houses and marriages so we let him rent a room for a few weeks. He stayed in Room #5. Some people are more receptive than others to spirits, but our ghost was in love with him! Tugging his hair from behind, or holding the door shut when he was trying to open it, only to release it so he would fall back into the room. Another guest thought his wife was in bed with him when she was actually upstairs sipping a margarita. Gary claims to have seen a man with grey hair, floating around the pool room. I did see a big puff of smoke hurl down the hallway once and disappear through the closed door. Lots of guests claim that they hear someone dancing or marching around upstairs in the wee hours. Once we set a ghost trap. We put pool table chalk under a bar stool and placed it in the hallway to see if the stool was moved while whoever marched around up there. No luck.
So, my ghost detecting guest had this application on her phone that could detect “orbs”. While her husband enjoyed his drink in the bar, she and I went up into the attic, down into the rooms, through the hallways, down into the basement. There were orbs everywhere. She also had one that we could talk to and it would respond. Like, “What’s you name”? “Timothy” it replied. We asked it how he died, who he was, all that stuff. Not a lot of it made any sense, but she explained that ghosts are cryptic in their responses and we have to interpret what they mean. She loaded the app on my phone so I could hunt for ghosts too. Her husband told me that all their vacations are arranged around ghost hunting. It’s her hobby. She declared that I definitely had a ghost. She wants to come back with an Ouija Board in the near future and we will have a séance where the most orbs are hanging out. Actually, I don’t know if the ghosts like music, but when Tommy Castro was here my daughter took some photos and everyone had orbs over their heads. Even me! When I die, I want to be cremated in our big fireplace and have some of my ashes scattered over my $22,000 septic system……Will that me me a good ghost or a crappy ghost?