Jim Hemig: What do you think? Are these ghosts in these photos? | TheUnion.com

Jim Hemig: What do you think? Are these ghosts in these photos?

Ghostly photographic image taken at the Stone House in Nevada City.

“It’s getting close to Halloween, would you like to see my ghost photographs?” a quiet female voice asked in a phone message I received last week.

Regular readers know that I enjoy a good story from a subscriber, and with Halloween coming up I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

So I returned the call and was invited to visit the home of Merrill to view a photo she had taken at the Stonehouse in Nevada City. She also offered a glass of wine, which was the icing on the cake.

I found myself wondering if I should be visiting a reader’s home without having ever met her, so on the way out the door to meet Merrill I stuck my head in The Union’s audience development manager’s office and said, “Hey Elizabeth, come be my bodyguard. There is wine involved.”

Are there really phantom workers in and around the Stonehouse looking to trick visitors with their ghostly images?

Walking up to Merrill’s house and knocking on the door, we felt like kids on Halloween night.

When our host answered the door, I wanted to say “trick or treat,” but I felt that this woman meant serious business with her ghost images and may not appreciate the humor.

Merrill’s house fit the bill as a spooky old house. Built in the mid 1800s and sitting on Main Street in downtown Grass Valley, the house completely looked the part.

But once inside, she had it beautifully decorated including a remodeled kitchen, skylights and walls full of paintings and artwork.

A brief tour of the historic home, a glass of wine, and it was time to look at the ghost photos.

Merrill explained that she recently went on a ghost walk at the Stonehouse in Nevada City, and during the walk she held her camera up high and snapped a photo ahead of the tour group.

In the photo (available with this story at http://www.TheUnion.com) you can’t see much in the dark room. However, you could see what clearly looks like a figure in the middle of the photo that is partially lit, partially in the shadow and with an odd glow.

Staring at the ghostly image we thought it looked like a male wearing a hat and long coat. The figure looked oddly familiar.

Merrill then showed us a video about the Stonehouse’s history, including rumors of underground tunnels into downtown Nevada City and the Chinese laborers that built them.

As the story goes, some of these laborers died when a tunnel roof collapsed, and these poor souls are reported to haunt the Stonehouse until this very day.

Google early Chinese miners and laborers and you’ll see they wore the very same long coats and hats this ghostly image looks to be wearing.

OK, so I’m not a firm believer in spooks and specters, but both my bodyguard and I were a little freaked out.

Were we being tricked? Or was this treat the real thing?

Merrill has only been in Grass Valley for six years after moving from a seaside home in Delaware. She occasionally hosts dinner parties and is quickly making new friends.

Some are people she meets in town and others are apparently the lost souls of the early miners and workers in our small historic town.

We felt that our time with Merrill was the real treat; she is a gem of a woman and a nice addition to our community.

I brought the images back to the office and had The Union’s expert photographer, Laura Mahaffy, inspect them just as we did the last time this happened — with submitted photos of aliens. The last time we did this Laura and I weren’t convinced of the photo’s credibility, but this time we really couldn’t disprove them.

Are there really phantom workers in and around the Stonehouse looking to trick visitors with their ghostly images?

With Halloween tomorrow, which folklore says is the day that the veil between the worlds is thin and spirits can walk the earth, who knows what is possible?

To contact Publisher Jim Hemig, email jhemig@theunion.com or call 530-477-4299.

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