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Hauntings in Paso Wine Country

October 30, 2018

Paso Wine Country has it’s share of ghostly tricks, mysterious graveyards and even famous arachnids. These three stories may send chills up your spine!

Paso Robles Inn

So, what is haunting about the Paso Robles Inn, tell us the story. 

Mystery Phone Calls – Founded in 1864, the Paso Robles Inn has a long and interesting history—and with rich history, comes a lot of mystery. Over the long course of the Paso Robles Inn’s history, we’ve heard a number of different stories about “hauntings” in our hotel. Perhaps the most common of these is the Mystery of Room 1007. It all began after the first event was held in the newly renovated ballroom in 2001. Since then, the Front Desk at the hotel would receive mysterious phone calls—and they always came from Room 1007. However, when the Front Desk agent picked up the phone, there was nobody on the other end of the line—instead, they’d hear a bizarre squelching sound. A staff member would go to Room 1007 to investigate the call, only to find an empty room. After bringing out the phone company to investigate these strange occurrences, they didn’t find any glitches in the system that could have been causing the sporadic phone calls from Room 1007. It became a joke among hotel staff that a ghost was making the phone calls, and the staff would log each time the Front Desk received one of these phantom calls.  It was all good fun until 911 received a phone call from Room 1007 one evening. The police responded, and just like the hotel staff before them, discovered an empty room. Some of our staff even recall standing in the room and witnessing the phone light up and call the Front Desk on it’s own. Who was making these phone calls? Fascinated by the mysterious calls, the Inn’s former Manager started researching the Paso Robles Inn’s infamous 1940 fire that destroyed the original hotel. He discovered that a call to 911 went out around 9:05 PM on the night of the fire—close to the time that night clerk J.H. Emsley sounded the fire alarm to warn hotel guests. Thanks to Emsley, every guest was evacuated from the hotel safely that night—except for Emsley himself, who died of a heart attack before knowing that all of the guests were safe from harm. This leaves us to wonder, is Emsley still trying to keep everyone at the Paso Robles Inn safe from harm as unfinished business? Whatever the case may be, Room 1007 has remained one of the most highly requested rooms at the Paso Robles Inn.

Helen’s Ghost – Our Ballroom hallway and a few of the rooms are “haunted” by a little girl named Helen. Helen Sawyer’s father was a former General Manager from 1900’s. She is heard playing around in the hallway, (footsteps & laughing). A few years ago when we remodeled the Historic Ballroom she was very active. We would open the doors for the construction workers in the morning. She would then follow behind us and close the doors. Contractors would also find there tools moved around. She is the most active in room 1211 & the hallway.

Cecelia’s Ghost – Cecelia Blackburn (wife of William Blackburn, one of the original owners) haunts the wine room in the Steakhouse. She likes to play with the employee’s hair; pulls on it or brushes strands. She also locks the wine room on use after it is opened. It is the type of lock that can only be locked or unlocked with a key.

Paranormal Piano – We have a piano in the Ballroom lobby who Ignace Paderewski played on. One evening an employee was playing the piano and was playing a Paderewski piece. As the song started to build the wall lighting starting to flicker in unison with the music. The lights starting going on and off very fast. When the piece was finish two light orbs were seen flying away from the bench where the employee sat; the lights then went back to normal.

What’s the scariest moment experienced at the Paso Robles Inn? None of the “hauntings” have really been scary. The feeling you experience at the property is good. This was home to them, which they loved. They are still here as this was a happy place for them.

How have you used your haunting to your advantage? We are always happy to welcome thrill seekers to our hotel! It’s always fun to share these stories, especially around Halloween. We have been featured in some books and other publications because of these occurrences.

What have you done to embrace your haunting?

We have featured these stories in our Paso Robles Inn history book and often online through our blog and social media. Each of these tales are a chapter of our history that live on to this day—a testament to the important role this hotel has played in so many individuals lives.

Do you do any Spooktacular events? We currently do not; we are always happy to give guests tours and point out active areas around the hotel. Central Coast Food Tours offers a walking tour of downtown where a lot of these stories are highlighted.

Let’s talk Halloween – what will you be dressing up as and your favorite Halloween candy? I always have my cat ears and love Reese Peanut Butter Cups -Erica

Graveyard Vineyards

So, what is haunting about Graveyard Vineyardstell us the story. The staff…really…..come check them out. 

Graveyard Vineyards sits atop a picturesque hill on Estrella Road, one mile off Airport Rd in Paso Robles. Located at our big oak tree driveway, is the historic Pleasant Valley Cemetery.  This landmark began back in the 1860’s, when the surrounding area of land was the town of Estrella and the original landowner donated an acre of his property for the new First Presbyterian Church. Once the church was built, the landowner’s wife passed away and was buried next to the church, creating the “graveyard”. Many town’s people followed suit until the church burnt down in 1896. Neither the town of Estrella nor the church lasted, but the little graveyard continues on to this day. It is now named The Pleasant Valley Cemetery and is cared for by community volunteers just as in the 1800’s.

What’s the scariest moment experienced at Graveyard Vineyards?  For quite a time, the cuckoo clock on the wall kept going off. No one was setting it, yet it would start up by itself and cuckoo sporadically during the day. We never could figure out why…although the graveyard from 1865 is at the base of our driveway, so maybe it was a dear departed one saying hello.

How have you used your haunting to your advantage? We have discovered most people really love graveyards, but they shy away from telling anyone. A few of us went down to the graveyard on a full moon night at midnight with a bottle of wine and told stories. It’s been said on the internet the little graveyard is haunted. If it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?

What have you done to embrace your haunting? Some of the names of our wines are Mortal Zin, Dark Phantom, Tombstone Red (White and Pink, too) Psycho, Deliverance and SCREAM (this bottle glows in the dark with the Scream ghost on it). We have lots of fun naming our wines but the wines themselves are 90+PT award winners. Our “Name That Wine” Contests are Spooktacular! Our wine club is called The Skeleton Key Wine Club, we own the trademark for Wine to Die For!  and www.winetodiefor.com goes right to our website! We also have a  full size “John Wayne” type wooden coffin in the tasting room. That is definitely a photo op.

Do you do any Spooktacular events? For our wine club members, we have a Halloween party every year. Costumes, costume contests, a haunted house is built in our parking lot for days before the party. And, yes, just like the Oscars, you get your photo taken next to an 8 foot Frankenstein. You get to take the photo home at the end of the night. This party is talked about all year long!

Let’s talk Halloween – what will you be dressing up as and your favorite Halloween candy?  My favorite was Dog the Bounty Hunter and Beth. This year, as every year, it’s a secret until the party. So I can’t tell you. As for the candy, I’ll have an extra glass or two of SCREAM!

Halter Ranch Vineyard

We love Halloween at Halter Ranch. Our staff like to dress up each year, one of the most memorable themes was the Napoleon Dynamite trio that our Tasting Room staff coordinated. Halter Ranch was also the location for certain scenes from the movie Arachnophobia which was shot in our Historic Barn, in the Victorian Farm House, in the town of Cambria, and on location in Venezuela.

The Victorian ‘gingerbread’ funeral home, from which the deadly spider escapes when the coffin is opened, can be seen on Arlington Street just off Cambria’s Main Street. The practice of new doctor-in-town Ross Jennings (Jeff Daniels) is also in Cambria, but the house he shares with his wife Molly (Harley Jane Kozak) was built specially for the film, as was the cobweb filled barn alongside it. The home of neighbor Margaret, who becomes the spider’s first victim, is the Victorian here at Halter Ranch.

NO SPIDERS WERE KILLED DURING THE PRODUCTION: When dead spiders were needed, the filmmakers used bodies of arachnids that had died of natural causes.

IT WAS A LONG-TIME SPIELBERG COLLABORATOR’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT: Frank Marshall had produced a number of films for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, including The Goonies, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Empire of the Sun, and The Color Purple, but Arachnophobia marked Marshall’s feature film directorial debut.

THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT WAS MORE HORROR, LESS COMEDY: When Jeff Daniels came on board to play Dr. Ross Jennings, Arachnophobia was a serious horror movie—one that Daniels told Philadelphia’s Daily News was pretty formulaic.  He and Marshall were hoping for a black comedy with a more ironic tone, so the script went through several revisions, and the filmmakers studied Hitchcock films and Jaws to get the tone right. One key change: Daniels’s character was given a fear of spiders.

ONE SPIDER USED ON THE PRODUCTION WAS NAMED FOR A HOLLYWOOD DIRECTOR: The production required two species of spider: The first—the arachnid that hitches a ride from South America to California—needed to measure about one foot across. The filmmakers found their star in a bird-eating tarantula native to the Amazon; there was only one such spider in the U.S. and Marshall named the spider Big Bob after director Robert Zemeckis. …and the THE SPIDER HAD TO BE MADE SCARIER FOR THE MOVIE.

THE MOVIE ORIGINALLY ENDED WITH A REFERENCE TO THE BIRDS: However, executive producer Steven Spielberg was the one who said, “Let’s not do that. Let’s just make it its own thing.”