Issue 24Travel

Travel: Haunted Spaces

Bodie, Gym

By Noel Daniel

We know Halloween is on a Monday—so we’re recommending that you make the weekend before Halloween count this year. We’ve planned out a three-day road trip through the Mother Lode region to get you in the mood for the scariest day of the year. Make sure to take plenty of pictures to show your coworkers to get them in the Halloween spirit, too.

Gunn House Hotel
286 S Washington St., Sonora
209-532-3421 |

Start your three-day trip into terror at the Gunn House Hotel, said to be the most haunted hotel in Sonora. This 1850s former county hospital and boarding house comes with a dark and troubled past, and in Room #011, guests staying the night have awoken to find an unseen entity rearranging the furniture.

Things will fall from shelves, lights go on and off, and doors will refuse to open, as though someone’s pulling from the other side. Someone who isn’t exactly around anymore. On one occasion, a husband of a repeat guest found himself thrown out of bed and tossed around the room. And, would you believe it, they still wanted to come back! If you really want to see a ghost, check out Room #012, where there have been reports of a ghostly image standing at the foot of the bed.

But don’t let the ghosts scare you away—the Gunn House Hotel is an exceptional place to stay. Decorated in period antiques and in close proximity to historic downtown Sonora, the Gunn House Hotel has plenty of glamor to make up for the ghosts.

Murphys Hotel Bar/ Mercer Caverns
457 Main St., Murphys
209-728-3444 |
1665 Sheep Ranch Rd., Murphys
209-728-2101 |

The next morning, make your way to Murphys, an old gold mining town with plenty of its traditional charms—and dark history—still intact. Stop by the antique Murphys Hotel bar, which still looks as it did in 1856, and chance seeing the full-bodied apparition of Black Bart on the second-floor hallway. When you have your fill of food and drink, check out Mercer Caverns—a collection of annals that echo with emptiness and mystery. Perhaps some of the ghosts you’ve picked up in your travels will choose the dark below the earth to confront you.

Preston Castle
900 Palm Dr., Ione | 209-256-3623

One of the spookiest stops on our list, Preston Castle has been visited by both Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. And they’ll be having an event this Halloween—the Haunted House walkthrough. It’s not a historical tour, instead focusing on the various hauntings throughout Preston Castle. This year’s will be the biggest yet, with all new areas of the Castle open to the public.

Preston Castle was formerly Preston School of Industry, a school for wayward boys for 66 years. There have been countless incidents throughout Preston’s dark history: like the brutal unsolved murder of Anna Corbin on Feb. 23 1950, former head housekeeper at Preston Castle. There were also suspicious reports of wards dying due to illnesses, being killed by guards, or even wards being killed by other wards.

St. George Hotel
16104 Main St., Volcano
209-296-4458 |

This Volcano hotel is haunted to its bones. Two ghosts in particular are said to have been seen around St. George Hotel: a young girl dressed in white and a dapper gentleman who walks around with a cane. There’s been anything from voices, footsteps, and strange creaking noises to inspire thoughts about the supernatural.

Lights come on and off, beds unmake themselves, and one patron in particular swears she felt a presence in her room as her husband slept—as if something was walking immediately behind her, even when she could see nothing there. Are you prepared to sleep in the St. George Hotel? It’s not just haunted—it’s beautiful, too. The grounds are lovely enough for outdoor weddings, receptions, summer teas, and parties of all kinds. Come for the ghosts, stay for the vistas.


Bodie State Historical Park
Hwy 270, Bridgeport
760-647-6445 |

After resting up, it’s time for our final stop—but tread in Bodie with the utmost care. It’s a town with a very real curse. According to the Travel Channel documentary, Beyond Bizarre, “Bodie’s inhabitants were of hardy stock, fiercely possessive of what they had built in this barren desert, and it is said that the long-dead spirits want to ensure that what they left behind remains intact.” So the legend goes, if you remove anything at all from Bodie, you’ll be cursed with a string of terrible luck, from petty misfortune to incredible tragedy. The only way to undo it is to return the stolen item. Some even say that there are ghosts in Bodie who patrol the grounds to chase away thieves. Even the park rangers are no stranger to the curse.

Former visitors will return old nails and other small items removed from the park with mournful notes attached to them that beseech the spirits to forgive them.

Are you scared yet? Or is that excitement? Whatever the case, we hope you enjoy the road trip. Stay safe, don’t get too spooked, and have a Happy Halloween.

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