Haunted: Find frightening fun in the Lodi area

Zombie doctor Valerie Wright staggers down the sidewalk during the annual Zombie Walk in Downtown Lodi on Oct. 29, 2010.

You’ve tasted the wine. You’ve been bird-watching at Lodi Lake Park, and snake-watching at the Serpentarium. You’ve sampled delicious food across Lodi.

But now you want something a little more exciting. Maybe even a little ... spooky.

From ghosts to ghouls to little green men, Lodi has an association with the bizarre stretching back to the late 1800s.

“The Lodi area has a rather rich history of paranormal stuff, including a UFO incident in 1896,” said Tom Presler, founder of the annual Zombie Walk and Lodi’s go-to guy when it comes to anything supernatural.

While not all of Lodi’s haunted spots are open to the public, visitors in search of a thrill might find it in a few places.

Is the Hill House haunted?

One spot open to visitors is the Hill House Museum. The historic Queen Anne home gives a glimpse into life in Lodi in the early 1900s — but will it give a glimpse into the spirit world?

Two local paranormal groups tried to find out in March 2011.

“The Hill House in Lodi might have some activity,” Presler said. “We did an investigation there and came up with some stuff that we couldn’t confirm.”

At the time, the groups reported capturing possible voices on a recording device. They also said objects appeared to move in some of the rooms.

Still, in the end, they couldn’t prove the events were definitely caused by ghosts. But visitors can head to the Hill House at 826 S. Church St. in Lodi from 1 to 4 p.m. every Sunday to see if they have a little more luck.

Salsa and spirits

Cactus Mexican Dining may not be haunted, but if not, it’s still the site of a lot of unexplained events. Owner Mia Lane-Gomez has previously told the Lodi News-Sentinel about a stack of paper suddenly catching fire, blender lids going missing, and water faucets turning on by themselves when no one is in the restaurant.

One restaurant employee reported hearing a knock on the door of the banquet room after closing, only to open it and find no one there. When he closed the door, someone immediately knocked again. Later that night, after he turned off the lights, a bottle flew across the room, he said.

A team of paranormal investigators checked out the restaurant in 2010, but found nothing definitive.

Still, if the ghosts are quiet, you can at least enjoy Mexican food and karaoke.

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

An alien encounter

Nowadays, Lodi is best known for its wine and that Creedence Clearwater Revival song. But the city was the site of one of the earliest documented claims of attempted alien abduction in the United States.

In November 1896, a Civil War veteran named Col. H.G. Shaw wrote that and his companion, a man named Camille Spooner, came upon strange visitors near the Woodbridge canal at Lower Sacramento Road and Lodi Avenue.

The 7-foot-tall, slender aliens tried to carry him away, then fled to an airship and disappeared, Shaw wrote at the time. His account was published in the Stockton Evening Mail.

There have been several other reported UFO sightings in Lodi and the surrounding area since.

Not crossing over

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.

Others say the haunting is connected to other crimes.

And some don’t have details at all. They’ve just heard the bridge has a ghost, or they’ve felt a chill as they crossed it.

If you investigate yourself, however, beware — not just of ghosts, but of speedy traffic.

Ghost towns

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

Little towns like Lockeford and Thornton are still hanging on, but 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.

The cemeteries may be visited, but please go during daylight hours only, and be careful with the gravestones. They’re fragile.

Brain drain in Downtown Lodi

If you don’t have luck searching for ghosts and gray-skinned Martians, don’t give up hope. There’s one guarantee to see a supernatural shindig in Lodi, and it’s bound to be thrilling.

Near Halloween every year, dozens of zombies take over Downtown Lodi for the annual Zombie Walk. Organized by Presler’s Zombie Club, the walk regularly features costume contests, selfie opportunities, music and more — including, of course, dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Past walks have also kicked off with special movie screenings at the Stadium 12 Cinemas, located at the corner of Elm and School streets, special effect makeup help, and other fun. For more information, search “Zombie Walk Lodi” on Facebook.

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