After our trip to Brookdale Lodge, I ran into an advertisement online about a spending a night in Preston Castle in Ione, a boys reformatory / prison of days past near Sacramento. Saturday night, August 16th was not only open, it was a full moon. Oh yeah. And my David, the original skeptic, wants to go? Add a booking into the haunted Ione Hotel on Friday night and I am wondering if I can wait almost two months.
August 15th finally rolls around, and I am packed, ready to go. Actually, I have been packed since Wednesday. Julie D is headed out with us, a British nurse, a good old common sense person.
We are cheerfully checked us into rooms 13 and 7. Perfect numbers, heh? We joke about the extra fees for entertainment, be it the drunks in the bar or the ghosts in the rooms.
The hotel is truly rich in history and polished wood. The main staircase is right out of a Hitchcock movie, while ancient secrets float quietly from the transoms that line the long dark hallways. (It was a dark, dreary night... Listen my children and you shall hear...) Ok, ok. Back to the rooms. Our room, 13, is reportedly one of the most active. While David is making final room arrangements, I scamper up to the room, stand in front of the room, mentally say hello, and put a hand, palm out, within the door frame, close to but not touching the door. Energy. Almost static electricity. We open the door, I take a deep breath and walk in. It is a tiny room, clean, neat, but the air is heavy, uncomfortable, my chest is tight.
In my room, I am preparing to join Julie to go snooping. The room door is open, my hand with the drink is in the doorway as I turn to talk to David relaxing with his book. Julie tugs a gently, "C'mon" on my hand in the doorway. I am listening to David as it dawns on me that he is not looking past me as he would had Julie walked up behind me. I turn to the hallway. No Julie. Cool. I found her unpacking in her room.
Julie retires as I spot two of Ione's finest in the lobby, chatting with the barkeep. I asked for a minute, inquired as to any activity in either the castle or the hotel and got a great story. Officer Jeffrey Arnold was recently in the basement with several others. When they distinctly heard, "Help me!" he immediately searched for the person calling, to no avail. He offers no explanation for the voice, but will admit he is not as devoted a skeptic as he was before that day.
On the cooling back veranda, I take a quiet moment to absorb the spirit of the hotel. Normal, soothing night sounds are interrupted after a few minutes by a brightening of the entire hotel. Very difficult to describe. It wasn't an actual light, it was more like a smile, a perking up, a brightening. I sat for a minute or two trying to place the 'aura' into words. I had an idea and walked back to our room. The clock read 12:03 and I laughed. The haunting hour?
After a heavy and long, undisturbed sleep, cup of fresh coffee in hand, I leave our room quietly with the noisy door closed but not latched to keep from waking David. The hotel is perfectly still and silent. I am on the windless back veranda to await the wakenings of my partners in crime. The veranda door is also left unlatched from a small fear of being locked out and having to appear at the hotel front door in skimpy clothing at this hour. Been there, done that.
The veranda door opens. Fully. I look over, and it closes. I get up, approach the door, and ask, "What's up?" Silence. I head back to my table and coffee. Might as well get another cup since I am up. Going through that door is like walking past someone intentionally ignoring you. Our room is wide open, and there is David on the bed, fast asleep. The bedroom window is open, and if there had been a breeze, it would have only served to shut the door, not open it. A fresh cup and back outside to sit, again, leaving both doors unlatched again. The veranda door creaks and opens a few inches. I look back and it freezes. Repeat. I am reminded of a sneaky, playful child who stops their bad behaviour once you pay attention to them. David has got to see this. Back to the room, and our room is wide open. Again, there is David, sound asleep. I laugh and decide to wait it out on the veranda.
David wakes and joins me, he laughs and says the activity stopped since he was there. We consume most of the coffee when I wandered down to Julie's room to gently tap on her door. A groggy reply. Julie is barely awake. I sit on her bed while she tells me of her night. At five in the morning, she is awaken by a band practising in the saloon. Distinct trumpet. Getting dressed, she leaves her room, peers down the stairs to see a man in a tank top sitting in the lobby. "Do they always do this at this hour?" she asks. He replies, "They will be wrapping it up soon..." Julie returns to her room, back to bed, thankful when they stop playing and focuses on returning to sleep.
Alas, at seven o'clock, music blares out again. A song she knows and likes, but not at this hour. Julie again dresses, but there is no one in the lobby. She pounds on the locked saloon doors, windows, even stomps on the floor of her room to no avail. Suddenly, at the end of the song, the music ceases. Tired and headachy, she returns once more to bed.
Now it is morning and standing on the top landing, we talk to the clerk on duty, Jennifer, who is sweeping the stairs. The manager appears down in the lobby, apologizes repeatedly to Julie and assures her he will talk to the saloon manager. He insists there is no band in the saloon, but Julie is clear about what she heard. Julie describes the man in the lobby at five o'clock but Jennifer, who knows all the locals, is stymied. I remember how the veranda doors were all locked up tight this morning as I went out for my coffee. Julie walks to her room as I remain at the top of the stairs to hear the manager whisper under his breath, "Here we go again..." We check into the haunted room but Julie gets the haunting!
Before we left, I had a chance to talk to Jennifer again, who had several interesting, hair raising stories to share. She was truly confused about who Julie could have seen. Jennifer was on duty all night, in her room quite close to Julie's and never heard a sound. When I asked about door problems, she assured me room 13 is famous for doors opening and closing. Gee.
(This is a shortened version of our weekend. For the full story and pictures please visit http://www.packrat-pro.com/ghost/preston.htm)