Thursday, October 9, 2008
One of the most popular themes for a Halloween attraction is the haunted house. After all, what would Halloween be without a haunted house or two?? Theatrical haunted house attractions are plentiful around Halloween time, but what about a real haunted house? Such is the case with the house pictured above (the second picture was taken around 1900). Known as the Vineyard House, it's located in the historic town of Coloma, Ca-- home of the famous California Gold Rush. I have always thought it was pretty cool to live near such a historic place, but what I especially loved about it was the Vineyard House. From the time I was quite young, my parents and neighbor kids told stories about the house being haunted, and of course I loved hearing them. The stories fascinated me, and I loved it when my parents would take us to Coloma to have dinner at the house (when it was open as a restaurant and bar), and also to the James Marshall monuments by the river. The history of the house is a very long and tragic one. It is a known fact that Robert and Louisa Chalmers, the original husband and wife, died there, as did numerous others when the basement of the house was later used as a jail. The story goes that Robert came down with syphilus and began to lose his mind and his eyesight. He supposedly claimed that Louisa was trying to poison him, and at some point after things had gotten out of control, she had him chained in the basement, where he eventually died of starvation. Robert is one of the people who is believed to haunt the house, as is his wife, Louisa. After his death, she became desperate for money, and finally allowed the lower part of the house to be used as a jail. According to accounts, there were at least several executions that took place right outside the house as well. One of the owners many years later found very old, wooden coffins underneath the stairs leading to the front door while the house was being renovated.
Over the years, different owners have come and gone and tried to make a go of the place as a restaurant and inn, and many of them had unsettling experiences. The basement, where Robert Chalmers died chained to a wall, was used as the bar, and many strange incidents took place in there. One bartender, while cleaning up late at night, claimed that while he was wiping down one end of the bar, a glass at the far other end slid all the way down the bar towards him all by itself, and stopped right in front of him. Other stories were told by guests who stayed in the upstairs bedrooms. One story was told by a couple who were awakened late at night by the sound of people talking loudly as they walked up the stairs. The husband opened up the door to tell the noisemakers to quiet down, and when he did, he saw three men dressed in Victorian clothing fade before his eyes. Another story was another couple who experienced something that scared them so badly that they packed their things and left in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, they did not share what happened to scare them like that, so I cannot say what it was. If only they had told someone!
Another cool thing about the place is that there is a very old graveyard directly across from the Vineyard House. The Chalmers' family are among the people buried there. There is supposedly the ghost of a lady dressed in black period clothes who has been seen in the cemetery. She is known as the Lady in Black. I always wished I would see or hear something paranormal whenever I was there, but I never did. The house has been a private residence for many years now, but I have heard talk of it being re-opened as a restaurant and bar. I keep hoping there's truth to this rumor. It has such a fascinating history, and there are so many stories told by its owners, its customers, and guests that the place is famous for its hauntings. I once read that it was featured on 'That's Incredible' and also 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not'. I wish I had those episodes. I'd have loved to have seen them. I will always think of how cool it is that I grew up not too far from a real haunted house!