On Oct. 26, I participated in a ghost tour of Main Street, Placerville, led by California Haunts, a paranormal investigation team. To be impartial, I prepared by doing nothing — no watching of ghost hunting on television, no reading of paranormal literature — I ate some spaghetti and met the group downtown in front of Centro’s.
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Placerville already has a ghost tour that runs on Thursday through Saturday evenings at 6:30 and 8 p.m., but this is a new and occasional event for California Haunts, which spends most of their its investigating and attempting to prove or disprove paranormal activity in the Sacramento and Gold Country.
CH founder Charlotte Sanchez-Kosa welcomed tour participants and directed them into one of the two assembled groups. There were about 25 people waiting for the tour to begin as the sun was beginning to set. Each group had its own psychic to accompany it and a tour guide to give the history of downtown. My group was led by medium Sharon Roe from Diamond Springs and Syeira Summers. Some of the people in the group of a dozen were local residents, others from the Bay Area or the surrounding area. Some were first-timers, like me, while others, notably Michelle from Lincoln, were veteran ghost hunters who brought their own equipment.
We started on the north side of Main, stopping first at the Herrick Building, home of the former Hangman’s Tree bar. As Summers gave us the historical background of the Gold Rush and the specific history of each building, Roe put out feelers to test the paranormal waters.
In front of the Herrick Building, there was a frenetic beeping. It came from my left side where Michelle from Lincoln held something that looked like a cell phone. It turned out to be a cell sensor — an electro-magnetic frequency meter used to detect paranormal activity. When electro-magnetic activity is detected, the machine beeps and the meter moves from green to yellow or red. Veteran ghost hunter eyes lit up — the game was on. Roe said the energy at the Herrick Building is so crazy that some psychics won’t walk near the building.
Across the street at the Cary House we don’t enter the building, but Summers tells us about Stanley the lecherous ghostly clerk and Roe tells us about her daughter’s grammar school experience with one of the portraits turning into a skull. Roe has been a working medium for eight years. “I was always very sensitive to other people’s pain and then I realized that I have a gift.”
Another psychic with California Haunts, Sandy Helms, from Shingle Springs said her gift of mediumship runs in the family, with her mother and grandmother.
Michelle from Lincoln is packing a digital voice recorder, a camera, an EMF meter, a thermometer and a “ghost box”—she is completely prepared to document the presence, appearance, sound and temperature of any paranormal apparition. She wants to go inside the buildings and touch the walls.
In the Empire Theater Antiques, we head toward the rear of the building. The two people behind the counter giggle about Leonard, the resident ghost who is picky about what kind of art is hung on the walls. In the right rear corner of the building, the cell sensors send out frantic signals and the meter goes into red — our biggest reaction so far. Cell meters appear in a number of hands. Roe said she felt chills on the back of her head, her personal sign of paranormal activity, and she announced feeling something all around her. Another person felt warmth on the back of her neck, her own signal for the paranormal.
When the beeping accelerated near a glass case with antique toys and small objects, Michelle got down on the floor trying to determine if maybe it is being caused by an electrical current. After the beeping is also noticed in front of two other nearby glass cases, it is determined to be caused by the fluorescent lights in the cases. There are no glass cases with fluorescent lights in the rear corner where the cell meters first activated.
As we progress up the aisleway in Empire, Roe stops near a vintage photograph of a light-haired child. “In the last two years, pictures have begun to talk to me,” said Roe. “This one says intense sadness; maybe the child died.”
Roe also noted a lot of energy coming from a portrait on the wall of Christopher Shampo’s law office as we passed by.
We are allowed inside the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, because Jamie Angi, who works at the chamber on Saturdays, had the keys to let us in. Angi recounted several stories of unexplained phenomenon noted by employees, including pictures coming unscrewed from a concrete wall, footsteps upstairs and the presence of a top-hatted man seen by passers-by when the building is empty.
Summers informed us that this is the reputed location of the second hanging tree. Sanchez-Kosa, who joined us, tells of investigating the chamber building years ago. “The meters went off and on and things got pushed off a table,” she said.
On the second floor, I have my first weird happening of the night. On the way up the second set of stairs, I keep falling to my right, despite putting my feet firmly in the middle of the wide steps. Am I sensing the paranormal or is the building a-tilt?
Michelle’s EMF meter goes crazy at the entrance to the restroom upstairs; even more EMF activity in the men’s restroom, where our medium is taking advantage of the facilities. Michelle feels numb standing by the door and Roe said she feels chills on the back of her head again.
We stopped by Gothic Rose to peer in the window and continue to the Fountain-Tallman Museum, where we’re told the docent said there are no ghosts but plenty of spirits. Finally, we reach the Cozmic Cafe, where everyone is captured by the mine shaft and the creepy little corner alcoves near it. Roe and several others remark on the weird energy in the corner alcove with the little table and photographs are taken. Roe said most of the spirits are upstairs where the music and people are.
“They don’t have any actual energy of their own and they are drawn to gatherings of people where there is a lot of energy they can use without being noticed,” said Roe.
As we continue down Main on the opposite side of the street, Michelle from Lincoln shares the pictures she took at the chamber. While we peer at her pictures, I ask what we’re looking for. “Orbs,” is the succinct answer. Orbs of light, especially colored light, may indicate the presence of a spirit. There are no orbs in the photos, but Michelle isn’t giving up hope.
California Haunts conducts Ghost Tours in other towns in the area such as Downieville and their mission is “proof and truth.” They investigate alleged hauntings and clear out unwanted spirits when found. This tour of Placerville came about because, “We want to share the history of the area and bring some awareness of just how haunted downtown Placerville really is,” said Sanchez-Kosa.
At the end of the tour, the second weird happening of the evening occurred. A silver car was stopped dead in the middle of Main Street across from our group standing in front of Robinson’s Pharmacy. We were listening to Michelle’s story of a paranormal experience she had in the Cary House, but the car was unmoving and we all turned to find out why.
Chucky snarled at us from the passenger window where he was being held up for our notice. His red hair was wild, his little eyes menacing. We made eye contact with Chucky and the silver car silently glided away — the perfect ending to a truly bizarre evening.
For more information about California Haunts and their Ghost Tours, visit the Website at californiahaunts.org.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.