Linda Bottjer is not a psychic or paranormal expert. But through her research online and at the local historical society, she has become intimately familiar with the ghosts of Placerville. They are a mischievous lot, known for rearranging furniture and shattering wine glasses.
Bottjer, a former travel writer, created walking ghost tours for Gold Rush Tales California one year ago, and the spooky strolls were an immediate hit.
“Scary sells,” Bottjer says. “People appreciate being scared by something they kind of understand. If you’re scared by the economy, you don’t really understand it. But people can understand a ghost from the long past 1800s.”
The tours are authentic, and Bottjer says every ghost discussed was at one point a living, breathing person in the Gold Rush town.
Jill Barnes’ cafe, Cuppa Coffee & More, is one stop in the hour-long tour. According to Barnes, her coffee shop is home to two young ghosts – Tom and Amy. Both lived in the late 1800s. Legend has it that Tom died of a gunshot wound he received outside the cafe, and that Amy succumbed to a childhood illness in her family’s apartment above the coffee shop.
“We’re proud of our ghosts” Barnes said. “It’s something we enjoy talking to people about.”
Barnes isn’t sure whether it was Tom or Amy who startled a manager by rearranging chairs that she had only minutes before set perfectly in place. “Nobody else was there,” Barnes said. “It was 6:30 a.m.”
The duo has also been known to spit out towels from an automatic towel roller. Tom and Amy hate Top 40, instead preferring Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, and won’t hesitate to switch off music that doesn’t appeal to their tastes.
Stan Levine (1830-1870) is an at times begrudging tenant of the H.Art Lounge, an interactive art lounge and another stop along the tour. Many years ago, Levine worked at the hotel located next door to the lounge.
As the story goes, he was a flirtatious man notorious for pinching attractive women’s behinds. After a new bride was on the receiving end of an uninvited squeeze, her unamused groom stabbed Levine to death.
The ghost of Levine likes to move things around, steal knives and flicker lights on and off, says owner StefaNia Contreras. Most of the time he just likes to have fun, but he does have a temper.
Contreras says a previous bartender told her a story of two women who were wine tasting at the bar and boasting their fearlessness when it came to Levine. “All of the sudden their wine glasses split,” she says. “He will get angry with you.”
But the emphasis is on fun during the Gold Rush Tales ghost tours. The goal is for tourists to enjoy learning about old Hangtown’s storied past.
“Many of us in Placerville embrace that history,” said Barnes. “It adds to the fun and adventure of living in an old mining town.”
The company also offers ghost tours in other nearby Mother Lode towns. For details about Gold Rush Tales’ ghost tours, visit www.goldrushtales.vpweb.com.