This was a stealth reconnaissance excursion for HPI (Haunted and Paranormal Investigations International). I was informed by email from an unknown source to check out The Holbrooke Hotel and The Owl Tavern in Grass Valley. I ran it by the President of HPI, Shannon ‘Ms. Macabre’ McCabe. The stories that are being told by people who frequent these establishments, is that both places are haunted. Shan gives me the green light to check it out and that is what I plan to do. But, let me do some researching first and see what I can dig up. This is what I found:
Goldminers dream of striking it rich and boom towns are popping up all over the place. One of those places is Grass Valley. Stephen and Clara Smith were one of the first to invest into the boom town called Grass Valley and built The Golden Gate Saloon. This is known as the oldest, continuously operated saloon west of the Mississippi River. Then in 1862 one of their relatives Charles Smith did some additional building around the saloon and it became the Exchange Hotel, this was a place that you could exchange your gold. Finally in 1879, the hotel was purchased by Ellen and Daniel Holbrooke and a new name was given to the hotel, it became the Holbrooke Hotel. Many famous guests came to this hotel, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, James Garfield, prize fighters ‘Gentleman Jim’ Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Famous authors stopped by like Mark Twain and Bret Harte. Entertainers stayed the night like Lola Montez, Lotta Crabtree and Emma Nevada. Even bad guys like Black Bart have frequented this prestige establishment. The Holbrooke Hotel is a California State Landmark and if you ever visit this hotel, you will understand why.
My research on The Owl Tavern is that it consists of two structures built in 1857 and 1862. The original saloon opened in 1813 as The Bank Exchange Saloon. I will discuss more about this bar as you read on.
Today is March 15, 2008, Saturday and it was time to round up my posse. I don’t like ghosthunting by myself. I brought along ghosthunters-in-training Nancy Towne who has her own online store called Annabelle’s at: stores.ebay.com/Anabelles stores.ebay.com/Anabelles – Sparky Parker and Angel Kesti. Equipment being used are digital cameras, electronic audio voice recorders, Listen Up sound enhancers.
Nancy rode with me up to Grass Valley and we met up with Angel on the freeway headed to Grass Valley, I was wondering who was blowing their horn at me like a madman, I casually look over and it’s Angel waving. Sparky was already waiting for us at the hotel and she brought her cute Chihuahua. The first employee we met was Kelly Sheehan who works the Front Desk. She is a Guest Service Representative. She greets everyone with a smile. She is a new employee, so she really hasn’t experienced anything yet. Kelly has definitely heard the stories though. We get a grand tour of the hotel, it’s quite accomodating for many guests. We meet Renee Smith – housekeeper and she tells me how she will never forget on how she heard the exit door rattling continuously for a long period of time. The exit door is next to Room 9, which is reputed to be very haunted. She allows my investigators and I, to visit the various rooms that were frequented by the famous people who stayed at this hotel. There is a big picture on one wall and the blazing words that Mark Twain slept on this bed! The ambiance of history resonates throughout this hotel. Each room is completely different from any other room. There is the touch of the Old West and Victorian, you feel like you have walked into the past. The decor is exquisite and I can see why ghosts haunt this hotel. Why would anyone want to leave paradise?
We are told that in Room #1, is where a couple on their honeymoon heard the clanging sounds of chains and bangings on the wall. The honeymooner woman placed her hand on the wall and an unseen force pushed her hand to the wall not letting it go for a few good minutes, which really spooked her. In the kitchen, an employee by the name of Denise heard her name called by a unseen woman and later by an unseen man. Kelley Garitty, the chef once was walking downstairs and she was physically pushed from behind, she could feel two hands on her back. She felt they were men’s hands. The push made her fall into the employee in front of her. She has seen an apparition of a woman in a flower dress, 1800s style clothing with a high neck standing over the mixer like she was looking at something. Kelley watched the apparition for about 2 minutes and then it vanished. Then the second time around, she saw the same apparition standing in the corner of the kitchen looking towards the corner and it appeared that the apparition of this woman knew that Kelley was watching her, showing intelligence.
Kelley tells me that she came across a little girl apparition that she feels has the name of Elizabeth. When she saw the little girl, a bunch of cans flew off the shelves. Kelley has worked here for awhile, so she has many stories and her last story was that she once came across a weird mist near the sink by the kitchen. There was no reason for the mist to be there, there was no hot running water or anything else that could cause the mist. Finally the mist evaporated as fast as it came.
One thing about the Holbrooke Hotel, you don’t have to stay in one of their rooms to experience the paranormal, the women’s bathroom is haunted downstairs and the Iron Room (storage room that once was a bar) is haunted. Patrons have heard the door slam in the women’s bathroom for no apparent reason. Patrons have seen shadows underneath the doorway in the woman’s bathroom and The Iron Room.
As I was getting down the stories of this hotel, the General Manager shows up. His name is Sean Gilleran. He has been at this establishment for one year. Sean has a superb personality and the hospitality he shows my investigators and I, are exceptional. If you ever visit the Holbrooke Hotel, you will feel like you know Sean and the other employees for a lifetime. I instantly bonded with Sean. Sean personally takes us to various rooms of the hotel and shows us the backyard part of the hotel, where there is another structure with more gorgeous rooms!
Kelly Sheehan and Sean Gilleran tell me that the legend is that one of the managers got into trouble at this hotel and when he passed on, he came back to haunt this hotel. They have heard stories from the patrons that children have been heard playing in the hotel, which sounds to me to be a residual haunting activity. TVs have been known to go off and then go on by themselves in various rooms of the hotel. The deceased manager that may haunt this hotel, is known as Edgar the Ghost. I learn that the Iron Room was once a speakeasy and that Room 14 and 15 were once used as a strongbox, a place to count gambling money.
The bar of this hotel was so popular during Prohibition Days, it actually remained open. Sean gives me a history lesson about a small town up the road called ‘Rough N’ Ready’, named after Teddy Roosevelt. Rough N’ Ready had some political problems during Prohibition and established itself as it’s own country for a period of one month.
While my investigators were wandering all over the hotel trying to pick up EVPs and get some photographic evidence, they came to the pantry and a cord hanging from the wall started moving back and forth on it’s own. The back part of the hotel is called the Purcell House and you must walk through the garden to reach this section of the hotel. The Purcell House has rooms that are named after famous mines, like Sixteen to One, Dutch Flat, Pennsylvania, El Dorado and Del Oro. As I wander around to various rooms, I started thinking how it would be like to stay overnight on a weekend and listen to the live bands that appear in their bar area. I can just imagine the fun evening festivities!
As we closed up this investigation, I had some hungry investigators, so we dined at the Holbrooke Hotel Restaurant. A restaurant that will tease and tantalize your tastebuds with delicacies such as: Prawn Cocktail, Grilled Filet Mignon, Porter Braised Pot Roast, Rigatoni, Seafood Cioppino, Pan Seared Salmon, Pan Seared Halibut, Grilled Swordfish, Steamed Clams, Fried Calamari, Seared Ahi, Roasted Crab Stuffed Mushrooms, Seafood Cioppino, New York Steak and a whole lot more!!! Okay, looking at the menu, I was starving. Then I saw the waiter Joshua Michael Turzak bring out a homemade BLT sandwich with french fries. The crispy bacon smelled great, this is what I wanted to be chased down with some coffee and a Coke. My investigators all ordered tantalizing meals and we ate vigorously, but yet savoring every scrumptious morsel of our lunch. We were already to pay the bill only to learn from our courteous waiter Joshua that it was on the house. Sean took care of our lunch! Wow! What a guy! I would say that Sean is one of the greatest hotel managers West of the Mississippi! Thank you Sean! Joshua was so helpful and polite, I made sure he received a nice tip from all of us! Before we left the restaurant, Sean explains that he has never witnessed anything, but that the children who visit this hotel have seen a little girl phantom and will run to their parents exclaiming they have just seen a ghost!
As we were leaving this historical hotel, I can understand why patrons keep coming back, because of the Old West ambiance, the great hospitality, the friendliness of the hotel staff, the great social atmosphere and the feeling of being home, but yet away from home. What a wonderful place! Yes! I will be back!
As we were walking down the street, it was now time to visit The Owl Tavern, another old west establishment and I met the colorful assistant manager Gary L. McDonough aka Grey Dog! His laughter was contagious and he was delighted to show me around his haunted bar. He has been working here for 6 and 1/2 years. He tells me about George the Ghost. How funny, there is Edgar the Ghost at the Holbrooke Hotel and at The Owl Tavern there is George the Ghost. I only wonder if Edgar and George knew each other when they were both living? In 1847 this bar opened for the goldminers. It was open 24/7. In the back area is where the goldminers played poker. George one day was caught cheating at poker and somebody shot poor ol’ George down. George never left this bar and still haunts this bar. Booth #7 is George’s booth. I met with two employees Trevor Nuttall – Shus Chef and he tells me how he has heard the bar doors swing back and forth in a constant pattern, or how one day a bowl flew off the shelf and jetted into the next room. When the bowl flew off, he said to himself…”I’m out of here!” and left for the night. Bobby McKnight, Chef/Owner has seen with his peripheal vision shadows moving about. His uncle co-owner Michael McKnight has also heard the bar doors swing back and forth on their own accord. One night Mike was tapping his fingers on each table and behind him, he heard the finger tapping of an unseen entity which gave him the willies.
The bar is very elegant. The bar was built from Austrian cherrywood from the 1800s. This cherrywood traveled around Cape Horn to get here. There are pressed decorated tin walls around the bar area. The old time menu shows lobster tails for 99 cents, minced ham/Spanish omelette for 50 cents, pie ala mode 15 cents, tenderloin steak for a whopping $1.75. He also showed me the notorious ladie’s entrance, where ladies would sneak in to visit the gentlemen of the bar. This bar is located at 134 Mill Street, just a block and a half away from the Holbrooke Hotel!
To see pictures of the Holbrooke Hotel and The Owl Tavern, click on the HPI Meetup link here:
While in Grass Valley, my ghosthunting never ends, I received a call from New York from Alexis Farmer aka Allie in New York. She lives in an apartment that is 107 years old. She believes while visiting her mother that owns a home on sacred burial ground, that an entity has followed her to her apartment. She has seen red eyes in the dark. She has scratches on her chest when she awakens in the morning. People that visit her apartment, feel angry when they enter one of the rooms of her apartment. She feels that the entity that is inhabiting her apartment targets only women. She has placed holy water in each room, she has personally blessed this home, she has said prayers and nothing is working. She has placed crosses strategically around the house and later has found the crosses turned upside down. She tells me that she believes in God, but she is a Wiccan. She has witnessed an apparition of an old man in old fashioned clothes and when he appeared, she felt negative energy. One night, she heard a loud boom and something was thrown at her. Then later she heard a strange growling. She admits to once conducting a seance with friends and that all the candles went out on their own. Shannon and I, will be working on this case together to assist Alexis on this haunting activity in some apartment located in New York. It is time to put our Demonologist skills to some good use! Stay tuned.
Oh, one more thing, before I let you go. Shannon McCabe and I, went to Napa to listen to a boring 90 minute time share seminar, only to receive later after saying…no – 100 times over…ahh..what part of ‘no’ don’t you understand? Well, you get the picture…we finally got our gift, 2 airlines tickets to New Orleans for October and 2 nights at a 5 star hotel in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, again for October. Yep! Shan and I will be ghosthunting in New Orleans and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico! Rock & Roll!
To learn more about the Holbrooke Hotel, please visit their website at:
FINDINGS OF THE HOLBROOKE HOTEL AND THE OWL SALOON:
Some photographs taken of various areas of the hotel and the saloon show orb activity.
Nancy has an unusual photograph taken at the hotel, that shows a strange figure in the reflection of the mirror. This photograph needs to be analyzed further to determine, to see if it is substantial.
EVP evidence is pending.
Paul Dale Roberts, HPI Ghostwriter, Ghosthunter
WPRT Paranormal Radio – Content Editor
Email: [email protected]