No town can wow you with ghost stories quite like Placerville. Sure, ghosts are everywhere. And I’ve stayed in my share of hotels in this beautiful state that admitted to being haunted. But none has been studied by experts as much as the Cary House. No ghosts have proven their existence to me personally as the Cary House former hotel clerk named Stan.
Stan was a flirt by nature. So running the front desk at the Cary House was a terrific job for him, meeting all the visitors from exotic places, hearing their gold rush stories, and feeling the tingling excitement for success. Unfortunately, Stan flirted with the fiancé of a guest who stabbed him to death on the stairs.
Stan still hangs out in this place he loved, admiring the beautiful women who travel here and occasionally acting a little mischievous. For example, one women checked into her room, locked the door to the hallway, stepped out onto the balcony, and heard the door behind her shut and lock from the inside of the room. She turned around and saw a figure dressed in a clerk’s uniform inside the room waving at her. To get off the balcony, she had to call down to people walking on the sidewalk below to get hotel management to enter the room and unlock the balcony door.
Another time, Stan turned up the volume on the stereo every time the chorus of Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” played for a cute girl at the wine bar. The bartender went to the office to turn the stereo volume down several times. But the volume returned to full blast when the chorus played again. Finally, the bartender yelled, “knock if off, Stan” and the stereo shut off completely and refused to function for several days.
He’s certainly not a mean ghost but likes to make his presence known. As the bartender told me these stories, the dishwasher suddenly started to run. This made the hair on my arms stand to attention! As he continued to tell me other ghost stories, the volume on the stereo went up a bit playing an Irish song. The bartender asked if I had any Irish heritage. I said, “yes” and he shook his head as though it made sense that was all Stan was trying to say.
Other ghost stories are a bit darker but still worth telling for their history. Visitors often request to stay in the most haunted room, 212. Hotel management does not rent that particular room unless requested and the patrons are aware of its dark story. During the gold rush, it became home to a man who traveled from the east coast in search of the common dream to find gold. When he acquired a stash of gold, he sent for his wife and 4 kids who lived with him in room 212 while looking for a home. Unfortunately, the family contracted influenza and the man rushed to Sacramento in search of a doctor who would return with him to treat his family. When he returned unsuccessful, he found his wife and three kids dead while his only remaining child appeared to be struggling to survive. He nursed the child but was unable to work a miracle and the child also passed away. What was all this gold worth without them! The man became so distraught, he hung himself in the room.
Proof that money doesn’t buy happiness, the family is often heard in the room, children chatting, a mother desperately trying to keep her family alive, and wondering if anything can help them. Years later the hotel underwent renovations. To keep up with the times, the owners converted something like 77 rooms that shared a single bathroom per floor to something like 33 rooms that each had a private bathroom. They also renovated the foundation and added a 4th floor. During these renovations they found a cache of gold nuggets and gold dust hidden aside the foundation. They have no idea who it belonged to but it paid for all the renovations.