24 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 26-november 1, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com When he began chronicling Monterey County’s ghost stories, Randy Reinstedt was really just looking for “something to spice up” a history article he was writing about Monterey’s adobes in 1970, he wrote in the introduction to his 2007 book, Ghosts and Mystery Along Old Monterey’s Path of History. Reinstedt was right—his history article got a lot of attention. But such stories have a way of taking on a life of their own, and “ghosts and things that go bump in the night” became a specialty of Reinstedt’s. “Soon after it was published my phone started ringing… and in a sense, it hasn’t stopped since.” Such stories are a contemporary oral history. Observations of the supernatural are passed on again and again, and Reinstedt became a loyal chronicler of such tales, putting them to paper. You can read more about Reinstedt in this issue (see p. 22), and a synopsis of some of the local ghost stories he documented below. These are drawn from a sampling of Reinstedt’s books. Custom House Built in 1827, the Custom House was the first government building in California, built just five years after Mexico won independence from Spanish rule. It was the harborside hub to collect custom fees. Thomas Larkin—the first and only U.S. consul to Mexico, from 1844-46—expanded the building to its current two-story footprint. The building operated as a custom collections point until 1868, and after that, became a private residence. And that’s where the stories of ghosts begin. According to Resinstedt’s account, a family of five reported a black cat that would appear and disappear at will. They also heard unexplainable sounds, like coughing and rattling. At one point, they found their infant—still too young to crawl—located outside of the basket where he’d been left, instead across the room, sleeping in a bed of ashes. One of the women said she was visited repeatedly by the spirit of an adult man and a boy, who reportedly relayed the story to her of how they’d long ago been killed in the building, over gold hidden onsite. He said their bodies were buried at the foot of the stairs, and requested a proper Catholic burial. No human remains have ever been found, nor any gold. But a more recent curator of the building reported an “eerie feeling” she’d get whenever she climbed the stairs to the area where reportedly gold had once been hidden. Today, the Custom House is part of Monterey State Historic Park. Mission San Antonio People lived at remote Mission San Antonio in Jolon for roughly a century, starting in 1771. One violent account concerns the tail end of that time, when a woman living at the mission was having an affair with a prospector working in the nearby hills in the mid to late 1800s. Her husband caught her, and beheaded her with an ax—and Reinstedt documented several stories of sightings of a headless person on a horse. Some of the relatively recent accounts came from soldiers assigned to Fort Hunter Liggett. “I saw it while at ASP (ammo supply point) in December 1974. It was a female, I’m sure of that,” one soldier is quoted as saying in Reinstedt’s Ghostly Tales and Mysterious Happenings. Another soldier stationed at the same ASP on another occasion reported seeing a headless figure approach, and drew his weapon— only to see the figure disappear. In 1975, a brother at the mission reported four military men had come to see him to report on the same ghost. They had chased her in their jeeps, only to lose her as she disappeared. Hotel Del Monte There are multiple accounts of ghosts at Hotel Del Monte, once a major Monterey Peninsula destination. (It’s on the campus of the modern-day Naval Support Activity Monterey installation, and still open to guests today.) Who is the alleged ghost? Reinstedt reports on a story of a fire in 1887. While mopping up the blaze, the fire crew took a head count, and discovered one firefighter was missing. An extensive search ensued, but his remains were never located (according to legend—no records corroborate the account). Shortly afterward, a carpenter working in the hotel saw a ghostly figure rising, as if climbing a flight of stairs. He shared the story, which made it to the local firefighters, who asked for a description of the ghost, and it matched that of their missing crewmember. Years later, an overnight janitor reported seeing something similar—a ghostly figure ascending stairs—at 4am, which corresponded to the time of the fire. Another theory about the ghost’s identity is that it is former land baron David Jacks, who—despite turning a massive profit on his land sale to Del Monte Properties Company—was reportedly upset that it eventually became even more valuable. Various similar accounts are reported in Reinstedt’s books. In one, a server was cleaning up in a banquet hall and reported seeing an inquisitive, lone figure seated at a table. As she approached, he disappeared. Another worker described seeing a man seated at a long banquet table, prompting the hotel employee to run. Upon return with his coworkers in tow, they found the singular seat where the mysterious figure had been out of line, as if pushed back for someone to rise from the table. The person was gone. Mal Paso Creek It’s not named “bad crossing creek” for nothing. In the era before cars, wagons would regularly travel through this Carmel Highlands canyon to and from Big Sur. One wagon driver, hauling a load of tanbark from the South Coast, reportedly worried about a sharp bend in the path down the canyon that he would face while going downhill after a steep decline. He began going down, his four horses’ bells jangling, and all was fine—until the brakes on the heavily loaded wagon gave out. They were moving too fast to round the bend, and the story goes that the horses, driver and wagon plunged over the cliff edge. For years afterward, Reinstedt wrote, people who traveled the trail at night could hear the sound of horse bells jingling—with no horse to be seen. Reinstedt gathered more similar stories of distant bells, which people believe to be “the sounds of the stagecoach as it continues to make its ghostly run.” Seeing Ghosts The stories behind some of Monterey County’s allegedly haunted places. By Sara Rubin “From time to time various workers in [Monterey’s Colton Hall] have described several strange happenings and rather odd sensations,” Randy Reinstedt wrote. He attributed the potential ghosts to people who’d been hanged at the adjacent jail in its early days. (The building was completed in 1848.) Spooky Season