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Haunted Lodi: Exploring the areas spooky spaces

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Posted: Monday, October 30, 2017 2:00 pm

Is Lodi haunted?

Science says probably not. But plenty of Lodi residents have had creepy experiences in and around the city that just might be chalked up to ghosts.

Creepy coincidences at Cactus Mexican Dining

Talk about Lodi haunts, and Cactus is bound to come up — not just because of their popular stand-up comedy and karaoke nights, but because a few patrons and employees have reported seeing ghosts.

“The ghosts always turn the faucets on,” said bartender Juli Bowden. It’s been a consistent ghostly activity at the Woodbridge restaurant, reported to the News-Sentinel in the past.

Other employees have shared that bottles occasionally fly across the room. They’ve heard knocks, and when answering the door, found no one there — only to hear more knocking as soon as the door is closed again.

“At the end of the karaoke show this one time, a huge black figure — like a big, dark shadow — walked through the upstairs and covered all the lights,” Bowden said.

One of her co-workers has seen the shadow man, too, she said.

Another time, she had locked up the empty restaurant and was leaving with the karaoke DJ when they were both startled.

“We both saw a green flashlight come from the banquet room,” she said.

In February 2010, Sacramento’s Haunted & Paranormal Investigations International visited the restaurant with a class of aspiring ghost hunters. While they found nothing definitive, there were enough strange occurrences that lead investigator Paul Dale Roberts thought more study was warranted.

Science or no science, enough weird happenings have occurred at the restaurant that the employees are convinced.

“Stuff like this happens all the time over here,” Bowden said.

The restaurant is at 18961 N. Lower Sacramento Road, Woodbridge.

Are local ghost towns full of ghosts?

Lodi has survived through the years since its founding to become the thriving wine town it is today. Other towns are not so lucky.

In some towns, the only people left are the dead.

Two of these ghost towns, Elliott and Liberty, are just a short drive from Lodi. If you head north on Highway 99 and take the Liberty Road exit east, the Liberty cemetery is just off the freeway. The Elliott cemetery is a few miles farther east, just before the intersection of Liberty and Elliott roads.

Graves in both cemeteries date back to the 1800s, and the remote locations can be a little eerie, even though both locations are well-maintained.

Being a little creepy and being haunted are two different things, though.

Outside of Galt, the California Haunts Paranormal Investigation Team visited the Hicksville Cemetery, with digital cameras, thermometers, EMF meters, voice recorders and other tools in tow. The team reported seeing strange lights, hearing voices and a flashlight turning off and on in what appeared to be a signal from the other side.

They’ve posted video and voice recordings to their website, www.californiahaunts.org.

So is Hicksville Cemetery haunted? Visit the website — or the cemetery itself — and come to your own conclusions.

The Hicksville, Liberty and Elliott cemeteries allow visitors, but please go during daylight hours only. And be careful with the gravestones. They’re fragile.

Haunted hotels are an eerie options for overnight trips

Quite a few hotels near Lodi count ghostly visitors among their guests.

The Murphys Historic Hotel has hosted luminaries like Mark Twain and Susan B. Anthony, and it also has a regular visitor staff has dubbed Eleanor. The ghostly guest is apparently known for throwing objects in the kitchen and ballroom.

Staff and guests have also seen a “gentleman ghost” called John, and hearing children laugh. The hotel is at 457 Main St., Murphys.

The Hotel Leger in Mokelumne Hill may be home to at least three ghosts — George Leger, the former owner, who was murdered in 1879, along with a crying woman and a playing child.

The hotel, located at 8304 Main St. in Moke Hill, was featured on the Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible.” The episode featured an expert on parapsychology, who investigates the claim.

Or how about the Ryde Hotel in the Delta? Former Lodi Living Editor Sara Jane Pohlman headed out there with the California Haunts team and came back convinced.

The hotel, built in 1927, has a storied history. It played host to movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable, and during the days of Prohibition it housed a speakeasy. It may have once held a bordello, though records are unclear.

During the investigation, Pohlman watched as the California Haunts team attempted to make contact with the spirits said to haunt the hotel and help them move on to the afterlife. The team reported a number of supernatural phenomena, some of them extremely emotional.

They also reported helping many of the spirits move on — but who knows? A few may still linger.

Bridging the worlds

There are rumors that the Peltier Road Bridge crossing the Mokelumne River just outside of Lodi is haunted.

Some of those who spread the tale say that two brothers had a falling out, and one killed the other, burying his body alongside the bridge. Sometimes late at night, they say, drivers going over the bridge catch a figure in the headlights, a man holding a shovel.

Another rumor said a woman died there after having her heart broken by her fiance and best friend — the Lady in Green.

Others say the haunting is connected to a nearby UFO sighting that occurred in 1896.

“My son and his friends went out to the Peltier Road Bridge late one night a few years ago to see if the legendary woman ghost would show up,” Lodi resident Chris Piombo said. “My son does not exaggerate, and based on what he said happened out there that night, that ghost is real.”

If you head out to find a ghost at the bridge, be careful of traffic. No need to add another spectral resident to the location.

Lodi’s Chris Piombo shares ghostly run-ins

Chris Piombo, a local coach, runner and former police officer, has shared a few haunted tales with the Lodi News-Sentinel over the years.

This week, he shared a new one. His wife works at an old building in Downtown Lodi, and a not long ago they called in a medium to see if the site was haunted.

“One day a few years ago the very young son of the shop owner asked his mom why there were people crying upstairs,” Piombo said. “She told him she didn’t hear anything. He insisted he heard a little girl crying up on the second floor. That floor is locked and cannot be accessed from their shop.”

At first, the owner ignored it. Maybe her son just had an active imagination. But others reported strange happenings in the shop, too. One of the employees was working late at night when he saw an old man staring at him. Then the old man faded away.

“The shop owner had a local medium and her assistant come to the shop one night a few days before Halloween last year. The medium told them there were 11 spirits in the building,” Piombo said.

The elderly man was identified by the medium as a night watchmen, Piombo said. The medium also identified 10 “working girls” who had once lived at a brothel that occupied the lot until it burned down. The crying little girl seemed to be the daughter of one of the women, who was also trapped in the brothel, the medium told them.

The medium was able to convince most of the spirits to leave, although two women stayed behind, Piombo said.

In 2012, he shared a couple of the spectral encounters he had during his police career in a column for the News-Sentinel:

“Doug Chinn and I worked bike patrol for several years. We saw many Downtown denizens meet an unexpected fate during that time. We also noticed there were plenty of signs those folks were not ready to leave the planet just yet.

“The really weird stuff usually happened late at night when the psychic energy was low. There were the disembodied footsteps in the alleys near Sacramento Street. We’d turn around and find no one there.

“We never located the source of the mysterious high-pitched ‘whale’ sounds that echoed through Downtown in the middle of the night.

“Once in awhile we’d notice weird red, green and yellow lights in the fog up near the railroad trestle north of Turner Road. No, funny guy, the lights did not belong to a train. The spooky thing was the lights disappeared as we rode closer to the bridge. More than once. Everyone knows that stretch of tracks has claimed many lives over the years.

“There was a burned out funeral home on Elm Street near where the Merlot Hall stands today. We would check the decaying building periodically to evict the transients who set up camp there. This required us to navigate through the charred remains of the basement in the dark.

“Once we were standing down there and, even though the room was empty, we both got a chill up our respective spines for no reason. We spun around and bolted for the door. I think Doug actually fell over me as we hit the stairs. We climbed over eachother a couple of times, à la “The Three Stooges,” as we crawled up towards freedom. We emerged into the reassuring sunshine, dusted ourselves off, scrounged for whatever dignity we could find, and rode off, never to speak of what we had just experienced.

“We later learned the basement was where the mortician prepared the bodies for burial.”

And the spirit of a Lodi police officer who passed away just may walk the halls of the Lodi Police Department on Elm Street. He’s been seen after hours by the cleaning staff, Piombo said.

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