831 [tales From The Area Code]
Spooks Among Us: Local buildings harbor a heap of spirits.
Thursday, October 30, 2003
Just as you don''t generally pop into an office meeting and share the personal details of a very successful date, you don''t usually volunteer that you''re seeking contact with the undead. I''ve found that mentioning words like "ghosts" and "haunted" causes men to look at me hard, shake their head, and walk off silently, while the women in the room spring to life and confer as to who has the best spooky tale.
This gender divide is not true in the local world of ghost hunting, however. When I contact Carmel Valley psychic Patrick McAnaney, and nervously ask him to tour purportedly haunted buildings with me, he nonchalantly agrees.
McAnaney informs me that we can conduct our quest on a sunny morning just as easily as a foggy night. "People always ask, don''t we have to meet on the stroke of midnight on Halloween?" McAnaney says drily. "Really, the ghosts don''t care what time of day it is."
I arm myself with ghost stories from local historical writer Randall Reinstedt, who has written books including Incredible Ghosts of old Monterey''s Hotel Del Monte (note foreshadowing here).
While Reinstedt himself has never seen a ghost, he''s collected tales from doctors, priests, policemen--men and women he describes as "super-sharp, honest, dedicated people who have experienced things that they can''t explain."
So this is how I come to find myself, sleep-deprived and caffeine-free on a Wednesday morning, listening to Dave Matthews music blare through the speakers of the Stokes Restaurant and Bar in Monterey, waiting for McAnaney to connect me to the spirit world.
McAnaney has told me that being in a relaxed, drowsy, or even drunken state makes one more likely to see a spirit, so I''ve got two out of three going for me. I wonder if the loud music is annoying to Hattie, the supposed ghost of former Stokes Adobe resident Hattie Gragg, who died in the house in 1948.
McAnaney walks up the restaurant''s large central staircase and pauses. "Warm, warmer," he says. At the top of the stairs we meet owner Kirk Probasco, who says that while he himself hasn''t been spooked, many of his customers and employees have been. Probasco hands me a write-up of the building''s history, including ghost sightings that have occurred there. One item catches my eye: original owner James Stokes hanged himself in the area over the stairs--at the spot where McAnaney had just paused.
I walk over to McAnaney, who is standing in the upstairs dining room, a room Probasco informs us was Hattie''s bedroom.
"There''s no actual ghost here," McAnaney says. "I get an impression of a woman standing at the window, watching what the neighbors are up to, but she''s no longer here.
"A ghost is an actual being, who is a stuck or trapped entity, and a very rare phenomenon," he explains. "Usually what people experience is not really a ghost, but an impression, or a recording--it''s like watching a television show, very different from an actual spirit that can communicate."
It''s a little hard to get excited about something I can''t see, feel, or hear, so we cut our losses and head over to the Naval Postgraduate School. Herrmann Hall, the former Hotel Del Monte luxury resort built by 19th-century railroad magnate Charles Crocker, has so many reported sightings of a "man in gray" that we are appointed an official guide to show us its most common spooky spots.
It''s McAnaney''s first visit to the building. It burnt to the ground twice: once in 1887, just seven years after opening; and then, after being rebuilt, again in 1924. The current building is its third incarnation--this time, it wasn''t built out of wood. In addition to those disastrous fires, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake toppled a brick chimney over the hotel''s bridal suite, killing a pair of newlyweds. Crocker himself died in the hotel in 1888.
We enter the historic ballroom, a room reported to have witnessed service carts steer themselves around the room, cups from parties fly up to the chandeliers above, and a very annoyed older man dressed in a gray suit barking orders to "please keep quiet in my house!"
"It''s rich," McAnaney says, looking around.
"This place might actually have a ghost..." he pauses, and smiles. "He scampers around. He''s an older man. He had stomach cancer--he knew he was going to die. He was very wealthy, and cranky because he couldn''t eat what he wanted. I think he''s here, which is really, really unusual. He cheated a lot of people and he''s afraid to die."
Photo by Brett Wilbur: There''s No Place Like Home: Herrmann Hall, the former Hotel Del Monte, reportedly remains a comfortable hangout for many deceased former guests.
McAnaney''s head jerks backward and rolls around. His eyes are closed behind his glasses. "It''s interesting, he was a little bit afraid of spirits or ghosts himself," he continues. "This is the closest to heaven he''d been, and he was afraid of the afterlife. He thinks people here are a nuisance."
McAnaney looks up. "Okay, I''m ready. Who the hell is it?"
Our guide informs us that the ghost is thought to be the spirit of one of Crocker''s contemporaries, Monterey land baron David Jacks, who sold the property that was later developed into the Del Monte Hotel.
McAnaney doesn''t think so. I urge McAnaney to ask the ghost what his name is. "He''s not here," McAnaney says. "He ran out when we came in."
We head downstairs to the dining area. There, amidst Navy officers eating their tuna on rye, McAnaney spots the man in gray. "He says his name is Charlie," McAnaney reports back. "I think it''s Charles Crocker."
There is a moment of confusion: The man in gray is thin, and Crocker was known to be fat. "Maybe he lost weight when he was ill," volunteers McAnaney''s wife Kate, who has tagged along with us for the day.
We head up to the hotel tower, where the hotel''s bridal suite once was. On the way up, our guide tells us visitors have reported seeing the man in gray wandering about the hotel, desperately asking for help finding the stairs. As they watch, so the reports go, an ethereal staircase appears, and a lady standing at the top, dressed all in white, beckons, then vanishes.