Throughout the year, Napa Valley Register columnist Rebecca Yerger writes her twice-a-month column, Memory Lane, telling stories from Napa County’s history, but once a year, she adds in a collection of tales she has discovered during the year, from another side of Napa, the ghostly, weird and unexplained. Here, just in time for Halloween, are her new spirited tales.
It is all too common for the interactions between humans and even domesticated pets, to fray, contort and descend into discord or worse. Usually, these animosities are resolved with mature reasoning and the passage of time. But, that has not always been the case! Some of these hostilities have survived death to cruelly haunt the living. However, ultimately, these toxic spirits are vanquished by karmic justice.
The present-day owners and occupants of a tranquil southern Napa County country estate recently stumbled upon a bizarre and creepy piece of their property’s past indicating it had a frightful history. This unnerving story is a reminder that things and people are not always as they seem!
Pearls & Time Pieces
During the Prohibition and Great Depression eras, 1920 – 1939, a widowed woman of advanced years lived in her Carneros-area home. At first, the outward appearance of her home seemed picture perfect. But, on deeper examination, its forced conformity into the woman’s neat and tidy obsession rendered it to be a mundane and cold place.
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Within this lifeless domicile existed the widow and her hand-picked collection of companions, and eclectic and odd assortment of family and friends. She catered to their every need with what seemed to be a sweet, kind, caring, thoughtful and generous graciousness.
But in reality, it was a calculated maneuver on the widow’s part to control and manipulate her companions. To further insinuate herself into their lives, the widow showered them with gifts, specifically strings of pearls for the women and time pieces for the men. The end result was her desired outcome of instilling an overwhelming sense of debt and obligation in her companions.
All was well until someone did not comply or bend to her wishes and will. With great disapproval and anger, the widow would swiftly and unjustly cast judgment and spine-crushing guilt upon the poor soul until this person either obediently gave in or left in humiliation. It was during one of these tantrums the widow suffered a heart attack. But, before she drew her last breath, the paranoid woman vowed vengeance upon everyone who she believed had ever caused her any suffering.
At her funeral, the service was as she had planned it — obsessively orchestrated and of a false refinement and reverence. Part of those arrangements was the request, actually a guilt-laden edict, that all those who had received the gifts of pearls and time pieces wear them that day. All went as planned during the service, including eulogies lauding the late widow for all of her kindness and generosity.
During the reception following the service, the guests’ demeanor changed from complementary and reverent to critical and even mocking the late widow and her neat and tidy world. As her former companions and gift recipients left the reception those gifts became so uncomfortable to wear they were removed immediately. That was only the beginning of the trouble and terror awaiting these guests!
Shortly thereafter, those mortals were plagued by long streaks of bad luck such as job losses, freak accidents resulting in debilitating injuries, odd and lingering illnesses, termination of long time relationships and more.
If that was not bad enough, on a regular basis, the ghostly widow, too gruesome to even glance upon, terrorized them with her high-pitched cackles and unspeakable threats.
And for those who dared to reside within her prized former house, the grotesque ghostly widow tormented them with barrages of physical assaults and verbal abuses causing the mortals to flee for their lives.
Having endured too much and reaching their limits, her former companions gathered outside that very house. Armed with hammers, crowbars or whatever tools they could find, even just their bare hands, they entered the late widow’s precious dwelling. Even as she menaced them, they gutted the building.
When the house was stripped bare of its once perfect interior appointments, the contents were piled up on the property and set ablaze. Into the rubble were thrown all of her gifts of pearls and time-pieces.
The apparition of the former widow, once strong and fierce, faintly materialized within the bonfire. She appeared to be shackled, begged for forgiveness and wept hysterically. With the extinguishing of the last flicker of the flames, she vanished. But wanting to insure her permanent departure, the people collected the ashes collected and dumped them into the nearby estuary.
Once certain of her vanquishing, the house and its gardens were freed from their neat and tidy, boring and boxy constraints via a complete remodel. The results was a house beautifully transformed into a bright, airy, positive and genuine home.
Two Tormenting Tabbies
Stalking the opposite end of Napa Valley are a pair of once mortal cats that wreak havoc until they repeat their battle to the death every autumn.
About five years ago, a quiet and unassuming Calistoga neighborhood became the territory of a pair of paranormal and predacious feline ghosts. The living residents of this haunting zone have named these vicious entities Menace and Mini Demon, or just “MD.”
When visible, Menace is a large and sleek, gray tabby cat with elegant markings. But its eyes are the most noticeable. In fact, they are seen even when the ghostly form is invisible. They are glowing icy blue orbs that eerily flash just before Menace pounces.
While probably an excellent predator in life, Menace is no longer able to hunt for the thrill of a kill. So, now it stocks its prey for the pleasure of inflicting bone-chilling fright. Menace lays in wait for its victims, whether they be humans, cats or dogs. Although its eyes flash just before the attack, it acts so quickly the victims have no time to defend themselves. While some people speak of feeling a frigid brush of fur across their faces, others have stated they were scratched leaving painful and odd marks requiring months to heal.
Menace’s favorite targets are children and pets. It loves to terrorize children with its creepy meow, chasing and lunging towards the young ones. As for the living pets, Menace attacks them with great voracity. Without warning, it suddenly rolls cats on to their backs and inflicts paranormal bites to the throat and torso. While not fatal, the ghostly and ghastly wounds are tender and painful. For dogs, Menace jumps on their backs, bits them viciously and vanishes leaving the traumatized dog with tender and painful supernatural wounds.
As Menace lays in wait for its living victims, Mini Demon — MD — has set its sights on its arch enemy, Menace. Although MD possesses an unnerving yowl, it has minimal interaction with the living. Also, while Menace is a good-looking tabby, MD has odd and unattractive markings as well as glowing amber-colored eyes. Most people and pets carefully ignore MD. But, when it finds its desired prey, Menace, every living soul becomes aware of MD’s presence.
MD begins with a spine-tingling hissing as it backs Menace into a corner or position of venerability. They both utter the familiar, yet frighteningly unfamiliar, cat fight yowls that seem to be summoned from another realm. Their posturing elevates to random strikes before exploding into a battle to the death accompanied by horrifying feline screams.
The last sighting of the pair for the season is that of MD standing over Menace’s lifeless body before it too collapses. A terrifying silence follows their disappearance. But, the paranormal pair of tabbies return each spring and repeat their terrorism and deadly battle each fall.
One resident said, “We’ve all come to long for and love the winter.” She added, “No one, not even our long-timers, recall these horrible cats while they were amongst the living. So we don’t understand why they haunt our lovely neighborhood.”
The Apprehensive Apparition or The Ghost in Denial
A spirit inhabiting a Napa area home will provide a bit of much needed comic relief to counter the intensity of the previous paranormal accounts.
Little is known about the “living “ era of the entity that visits a circa 1980s Napa home or that house and family. Regardless of those unknowns, the ghost began its visitations shortly after the original, current occupants moved in as a young family of four.
The children were the first to interact with the dense yet formless apparition. It began with the children being scared by it, prompting the entity to say with irritation, “Quiet! What is your problem? Hush up!”
It asked, “Hey, where am I?” as it partially passed through a solid object. In reaction, it proceeded to freak out and exclaim, “OMG! OMG! Where is my body? What’s happening? How’d this happen? No! I can’t be…DEAD! NO, NO NO! How’d this happen? When? I don’t remember dying. Was I done in?” It added, “That can’t be because everyone loves me! Oh, no!”
As it was speaking, the ghost frantically moved around the room. Being in such an excited state, it knocked things over agitating the pets until they were howling and hissing. Amidst this chaos, the children were laughing. In reaction to all of this bedlam, the parents came running into the room to restore order. However, witnessing that scene, they stood there with slack jaws and in wide-eyed disbelief.
This pandemonium sporadically repeated itself until the children had grown up and moved out. But about two or three years ago, the Apprehensive Apparition returned and announced its arrival one evening at the dinner table by saying, “So, how have you been? Did you miss me much?”
It continued, “So, what’s for dinner? I’m starving!” As it attempted to sit in a chair and pick up a fork, it said, “I hate this ghostly stuff!” It added, “I could just die for a good steak!”
The mortal husband added, “While my wife and I were startled and quietly freaking out, we were oddly pleased to know it had finally accepted its, shall we say, post-living realities.”
May the spirits you encounter this haunting season be kind and benevolent. Happy Halloween!