Pros: Plenty of good information, most of these haunt spots are public accessible
Cons: Jargon, repetitive, needs better copyediting, few stories outside of El Dorado County
Psychic Medium Nancy Bradley insists there is a higher concentration of ghosts in California's Gold Country than there are anywhere else in the world. While that claim might be debatable, she and her husband, Robert Reppert, collaborated to prove this point in their book, The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts (The Big Picture), which is actually the revised and expanded third edition of their first book, Ghost Rush Ghosts. While its text tends to be repetitive and the jargon inconsistent with what is currently popular in the paranormal community, it is an intriguing and detailed close-up look at the hauntings of the Golden State's Mother Lode region.
This trade paperback is divided into 18 chapters, most covering the hauntings in a small section of the Mother Lode, including Sutter's Mill, Coloma, highways, Placerville, Diamond Springs, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Jackson, Ione, Mokelumne Hill, Nevada City, Grass Valley, Downieville, and Sacramento. The last few chapters cover a few hauntings in even smaller towns and outlying areas, a map to haunted places, and one about Co-Author Bradley. Also provided in the book are acknowledgments, a preface and introduction. Black & white photos and line art help illustrate some of the stories being told.
One of the better known hauntings this 2005 book documents is that of Placerville's Cary House Hotel, which has earned segments in haunted hotel documentaries on cable television. It first opened in 1857 and Stan was a rascally front desk clerk during the lodging's early days. Although he loved women, he had some bisexual leanings and on doing a reading of the place, Bradley said another man stabbed Stan when the offended thought Stan was making a pass. Locals credit him with poking and touching women in the lobby, but Bradley says the busy phenomena in room 406 are the spirits of previous guests.
Traffic has long since been diverted from Prospector Road to Marshall, which leads to Coloma. The old road still connects with the modern at Lotus and Garden Valley. Built using Chinese labor, Prospector Road is definitely the one ghost hunters prefer to travel. One ghost is known to haunt not just one home, but visits several buildings dotting its sides. One father and son were aghast to find themselves alone in their garage/workshop after breaking down its only door that could only be blockaded from the inside. One cabin on Prospector has hard time keeping occupants because they prefer not to live with an astral who orders them to leave.
Bradley gave reading at the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley after witnesses claimed to have seen a couple of men in historical fashion disappearing at table 15. One keeps a pencil tucked on his ear. Bradley said he worked at the front desk and when it was slow he would pass time by doodling. Current owner Peggy Levine produced one the Holbrooke's early registration books and sure enough, in its bottom margins they found pages and pages of doodles.
One of the most delightful aspects of this book is that most of the haunted sites it covers are accessible to public in some form. For anyone planning a trip to California's Gold Country, more than half the places covered are lodgings.
One of the co-authors is also a gifted medium, giving readers a perspective most true ghost stories books miss. Although many of these cases have been covered elsewhere, Bradley & Reppert provide new information that make it worth reading yet another version of their tales. The story of the Vineyard House, for example, not only has more detail, but is a much more sympathetic perspective of the Chalmers family than those writers who merely rewrite other people's research. Bradley believes Robert Chalmers had Alzheimer's disease and his distraught loved ones were dealing with him the best they knew how.
However, this book also its weaknesses. Bradley & Reppert use different jargon than what is common in the paranormal community today. For instance, in their way of thinking, a ghost is a residual haunting and a spirit is an intelligent one. (For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, a residual haunting is a psychic recording in time. That is where an event constantly replays itself over and over again. Witnesses hear the same sounds, see the same images, and smell the same odors in the same place over and over again. An intelligent haunting is when the astral is fully aware of what is going on around him and will actually interact with the living.) It's rather surprising they overlooked describing grounded and visitation ghosts. (Grounded being intelligent spirits who are bound to a specific place, object, or person, and visiting those who roam freely.) The average person is not going to see much difference between the terms ghost and spirit.
This volume also favors El Dorado County, although California's historic gold country includes several others. There is nothing wrong with that, since that is where the couple lives, but the marketing leads readers to believe this book would encompass more than that. It practically dismisses Jamestown, which is in Tuolumne County, as being part of Gold Country by listing with the outlying areas. The Winchester House, which sees so much coverage, was not worthy of inclusion.
Where this volume really suffers is from a common problem amongst self-published books. It needs a good copyeditor. The writing style becomes irritating at times as it frequently mixes first, second, and third person narrative. Particularly disturbing to the flow of reading was when the authors refer to themselves as third person singular. Since two of them are taking credit, how is the reader to tell which one is telling the story? It has typos a third set of eyes could have caught. It frequently repeats information it already told in a previous chapter, such as the difference between "ghosts" and "spirits" and how spirits aren't usually found in cemeteries. Once is enough.
It's unlikely the percentage of ghosts in the Gold Country is higher than San Francisco, but they are definitely more pronounced. Phenomena in busier environments goes unnoticed or unreported most of the time and the psychic energy of the dead could be confused with the living. Crowds and noise also tend to drive ghosts away. Despite this book's weaknesses, it is still readable and has some solid information and leads for anyone wanting to go ghosthunting. The Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts (The Big Picture) is for anyone who has casual or passionate interest in the paranormal and this region of California. The turbulent stories of the Old West definitely had an aftermath.
More California ghost folklore:
Ghost Hunter's Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area, by Jeff Dwyer
Ghost Stories of California's Gold Rush Country and Yosemite National Park, by Antonio R. Garcez
Ghost Hunting in Mother Lode Country, by Hilber H. Graf
Haunts of San Jose, by David Lee
San Francisco Ghosts, by Mark Lyon
Haunted Houses of California, by Antoinette May
California Ghost Notes, by Randall Reinstedt
Ghost Notes, by Randall Reinstedt
Ghost Stories of California, by Barbara Smith
Ghosts of San Francisco, by Kathryn Vercillo
Ghosts of California