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Ghosts vex the living

If you’re a guest in Room 9 of the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley, you might wake up in the night and find a maid in Victorian outfit arranging your things in the cupboard by your bed.

Midnight room service? No. It’s just a ghost.

On Monday, the day before Halloween, some Nevada County residents shared stories about spooks they’ve seen and heard of. Though mostly harmless, the errant spirits in their anecdotes seemed to haunt, taunt and terrify those who crossed their paths, according to folklore.



Eleanor Kenitzer, a resident of Grass Valley, worked at the Holbrooke Hotel for 10 years. She recalled the ghosts known to haunt the historic location.

“There are three children that run up and down the hall in one section of the hotel,” Kenitzer said. “Guests will hear them in the middle of the night laughing, giggling and whispering.




“In fact, this past week, I was talking to one of the guests there. She had heard the children jiggling the doorknob. She was scared, but I just laughed because the children don’t do anything. They just have a fun time.”

Kenitzer also recalled a psychic guest who went downstairs to the ladies room and felt there were three spirits there.

“In the basement area, a lot of people feel uncomfortable,” she said.

“We’ve had staff who would say that someone called their names or tapped them on the shoulder. Or, out of the corner of your eye, you would see someone, though there is no one there.”

Amelia Slagowski, a new employee at the Holbrooke, has never seen a spook. But she has heard ghost stories from her co-workers and can’t wait for her own haunted experience.

“I have a colleague named Kelly who says she has seen a woman coming up the stairs from the basement,” Slagowski said. “She (the apparition) wears an old-fashioned dress with a high collar neck.

“There is an older man who comes down the stairs in a top hat and an old-fashioned suit. Kelly says she’s seen the man standing at the front desk.”

The ghost in Room 9 once neatly arranged the clothes of a guest in the drawers and cupboards. The lady who rented the room – an Air Force officer – awoke to find someone had “hung all of her uniforms and put her makeup out,” Kenitzer said.

“My theory about the apparition (in Room 9) after hearing all the stories is that she was probably a maid in the hotel,” she said.

“Guests will say she straightens the covers in the middle of the night. She appears as a woman in a black dress and always wears her hair in the form of a bun on top of her head.”

The Holbrooke Hotel is not the only establishment in the region to have its share of specters. In Nevada City, the National Hotel is known to house some formless residents, as well.

“I have an employee who reports seeing a little boy dressed in blue on the third floor,” said Thomas Coleman, owner of the hotel.

“He just appears – he stands there, doesn’t move.

“Housekeepers have reported mysterious happenings like doors closing and no one is around, and there’s no draft. The night auditor has reported hearing footsteps on the third floor, and there was no one there (at that time).

“A guest once … didn’t want to stay in a certain room because … the subject matter in the (picture) frames was moving.”

In addition to the hotels, some shop owners think their stores in the twin towns are haunted.

Kimberley Lovely, whose mother owns the Jewells Gallery of Collectibles on Mill Street, said she had paranormal experiences at the previous location of the store, on the same road.

The building where the shop was formerly located had basements at two levels, Lovely said. Once there was a bar on one of the levels. There also used to be a mortuary at the same location.

“We used to store the boxes that the collectibles used to come in downstairs,” Lovely said.

“One afternoon, I went to retrieve a box for an item that was sold. The door I opened to go into that part of the building slowly but firmly shut behind me. It was locked from the other side. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a spirit that did this. I knocked, knocked and knocked till someone came downstairs and opened the door for me.”

Lovely said she would often hear the sound of parties while working downstairs.

“I could hear a band playing and people laughing and toasting their glasses,” she said.

“Sometimes, you would be in the store and you would hear something fall downstairs. You would go there, and there would be nothing.”

The question is, does having a phantom in one’s establishment add a special vintage value to it in a region that prides itself on its past?

According to Coleman of the National Hotel and Sylvia King, general manager at the Holbrooke, the answer is mixed.

“It could have a positive or negative effect,” Coleman said.

“I read in … a magazine the other day that out of 300 million Americans, 37 percent believed that a place can be haunted. I was surprised (by the statistics).”

King felt it all depended on the guests.

“Quite a few people are actually afraid of things like that,” she said.

“If they hear (the ghost stories), they’d want to go stay somewhere else.

“It is something just for history bluffs who are looking for such things, and they ask and we tell them. It is not a selling point – not that I am aware of it.”

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To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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