Wednesday, 12 June 2024

Lake County has its share of ghosts

LAKE COUNTY – The arrival of Halloween brings with it talk of ghosts and spooky stories.

Lake County has, over the years, accumulated its fair share of stories regarding the supernatural.

Here are just a few of the county's more well-known ghost stories.

Middletown: The Stone House hosts a ghost

Hidden Valley Lake's Stone House, built in 1854, is believed to be one of the oldest houses built in Lake County.

And, over the years, it hasn't been left untouched by the supernatural.

Members of the Stone House Historical Society, who helped save the home from demolition in the 1980s, have reported encountering a ghost that smells like camphor, which was used as a liniment.

Camphor, as they eventually dubbed the ghost, would swing lamps, remove Christmas decorations “she” didn't like and, in general, gently make her presence known.

Historical society members told this reporter that a clairvoyant described Camphor to them as a small, stout woman, her hair in a bun, wearing wire-rimmed glasses, and a long calico dress and an apron. The friendly ghost may have been that of a woman who died in the house, but who the clairvoyant said was happy to welcome visitors.

Lakeport: Myrtle returns to the inn

Karan and Hugh Mackey's Lakeport English Inn, built in 1875, is a wonderful place to visit, and it's also reportedly a favorite stopping place for a ghost.

As Karan Mackey told this reporter, she was restoring the inn's main house that sits on Main Street, and while doing so she found a writing primer from the late 19th century that belonged to a girl named Myrtle Hobbs.

Mackey took the book to the Lake County Historical Society, who related that Hobbs lived her whole life in Lake County.

As Mackey added the Sayre House, built in 1898 and located on Forbes, to the inn property, she also began a major restoration of that building. While the house was being lifted up in preparation for a new foundation, Mackey went underneath to look for treasures, and found an envelope with an 1897 date addressed to Hobbs.

Mackey said when strange things have happened around the inn, either lights acting strangely or doors closing with no one around, she and her staff have jokingly attributed it to Myrtle Hobbs.

Lower Lake: The schoolhouse and Mrs. Lee

The Lower Lake Schoolhouse Museum, built in 1877, once housed many schoolchildren, was almost demolished and finally renovated to its present glory.

The 130-year-old building has its own spirit, which is spirit believed to be responsible for the footsteps sometimes heard traveling across the museum's restored Weaver Auditorium.

Museum Curator Linda Lake has reported hearing the ghost, who she calls “Bella,” walking from the auditorium's northeast to southeast corner.

Bella is believed to be Mrs. Isabella Lee. According to Lake, Lee was the wife of a piano tuner who sometimes worked at the schoolhouse, and whose tools are on display there. Isabelle Lee died in 1967.

Jane Weaver, who led the effort to restore the museum, told this reporter in a 2004 interview that a museum worker encountered Bella in October 1995. As the man was walking through the auditorium, he looked toward the piano and saw a music book sitting on the piano close suddenly and fall off the instrument.

The graduation ghost

The following story is written by Marilyn Eachus Johnson and excerpted from Mauldin's "History of Lake County.”

In the good old days, school learning wasn't as easily acquired as it is today, or as lightly taken for granted. What's more, an eighth grade education was an occasion of importance. In Lower Lake's first school house, there were children from a family who had recently migrated from Germany. In Germany, they had been peasants, working the land for a family of the old aristocracy. In their native village, only the priest, the doctor and the burgermeister had been able to read.

One of the dreams of the grandmother of the family had been that all of her children be able to read and write. After coming to live in the United States, she had to a certain extent achieved her ambition. Her children were educated to the point they could read and write, but none of them as yet achieved the dignity of any kind of diploma.

You can imagine her joy when her daughter, who lived in one of the pioneer homes in Lower Lake, sent word that their eldest girl, her granddaughter, was to receive her certificate of graduation from the eighth grade.

Even though the old woman was far from well, she was determined to witness this great event; and so that she would not disgrace her family, she took her best gray shawl and knit a fringed border of black upon it to dress it up.

The idea that the old woman would come to the graduation was debated back and forth by all members of the family. They wanted her to go but she was old and in poor health and travel in those days was trying to even a young person. Nevertheless, she prevailed and set out one morning by stagecoach, her precious shawl tucked inside a suitcase for safekeeping.

It was hot that day, and the graduation exercises were held outside the school grounds in the shade of some big trees. The event was well attended; people sat on makeshift benches while they listened to the speeches. On trestle tables at one side, the boards groaned with homemade pickles, jams, cakes, fried chicken, pies, salads, fancy breads, plain breads, baked hams, and mounds of cold sliced beef.

One of the neighbors, a close friend of the family, was delighted to see them seated to one side with a little white-haired lady in a gray shawl trimmed in black. After the ceremony she went over and said, "Well, I see your mother made it."

The mother of the family shook her head. "No, she didn't. We received word this morning. My mother became very ill when they reached the tollhouse at the top of the mountain, and died there. I haven't told my daughter yet, so as not to ruin the day for her."

"Then who was that little old lady sitting with you?" the neighbor asked.

"I don't know." The woman wiped a tear away. "I don't remember any little old lady, but then, I might not have noticed."

Her friend nodded, accepting the explanation, until three days later, when she attended the funeral of her friend's mother.

There, tucked inside the wooden casket, was the little white-haired lady she had seen at the graduation, wearing a gray shawl trimmed in black fringe.

It was the old European peasant woman, who had been determined no matter what, to witness the eighth grade graduation of her granddaughter.

Lakeport: A not-so-friendly ghost

A story told by Paki Stedwell of her encounter with a ghost in Lakeport is a more frightening tale.

Stedwell and her family moved to Lake County in 1972 and purchased an old Victorian church on North Forbes Street which, in recent years, has been fully restored.

As the family prepared to turn the church into a commercial space – it had been desanctified years before – they began finding out the unusual history of the church, which was finally constructed in 1888 after the building's first two frames burned down. There also was the story of a man who fell while painting the steeple and died.

Working on the building late at night, Stedwell's husband heard footsteps across the ceiling and pounding on the attic wall. Weeks later, the couple was awakened by a crash in the upstairs, but found nothing there.

They started to talk about a ghost, who they called “Elijah.” Other people familiar with the church also shared stories of hearing the spirit pounding in the attic, near the belfry.

Early one Halloween morning, Stedwell – who was staying with her family in the building – was awakened by a loud knock on her bedroom door. The ghost had come downstairs after having been confined to the attic and other upstairs regions.

As she tried to get back to sleep, she happened to look into the living room. “There, shimmering on one of the walls, was a translucent mass of white, undulating slowly and opening and closing its mouth. I must have stared at it, frozen with terror, for fully three or four seconds ... I shut my eyes and shook my head ... When I looked again, Elijah was gone. I decided I definitely did not like him. He was not friendly, all he was trying to do was give me a head of white hair."

Within minutes, Stedwell heard breathing and creaking floorboards outside of her bedroom. She finally jumped up, ran to the door, opened it and yelled, “OK, you, what the hell do you want? Come on, you're such a brave one, show yourself.”

That seemed to do the trick, and the sounds stopped.

A group of psychics Stedwell called on for help located the ghost in the belfry, and said he did of natural causes on the site 150 years earlier, long before the church was constructed.

The psychics also helped Elijah move on to the next world, according to Stedwell's account.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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