Click Here to Print This Story!   Click Here to get a PDF Copy of this Story!   

Sunday, October 27, 1996

Solano no stranger to ghostly visitors

Kristin Delaplane

County history full of stories about spirits

One of the first ghosts to make its appearance in Solano County was on a dark and stormy night when Dr. Platton Vallejo, traveling in a horse-drawn buggy, was returning from a call out in the country.
As Dr. Vallejo told it, “Fast moving clouds sporadically hid a large full moon, which when out, changed the scene from night to day.

The road passed the Vallejo Cemetery, and just as we drew opposite it, Daisy (his horse) stopped, quivering all over, as she gazed out over the scary burial grounds!

“On the far side of the Cemetery, a white spooky figure, glided in and out of the crumbling tombstones!

Reaching down under the seat of the buggy, I pulled out an old shot-gun I always carried with me. Stepping down onto the road, I stopped to talk soothingly to the quivering Daisy, then went over to the edge of the cemetery, beneath a large oak tree.

Just then a wild feral cat, hissing and spitting, ran up the trunk of the tree, flushing out a huge shriek my own. Being an old dead-eye, I dispatched of it with one shot!

“The thunderous explosion of the gun not only bolted Daisy down the road towards home, but scared the be-jabbers out of the gliding cemetery ghost, causing it to disappear over the far hill into oblivion!

Using a few choice Spanish epithets, I trudged the long two miles home, where, of course, I found Daisy calmly munching hay in the Vallejo barn.

This time, I am the one, tired, quivering with indignation, praying that all future ghosts will stay where they belong . . . out of sight.”

Another Vallejo ghost was said to haunt an old house on Marin Street in more recent years.

The home was converted into apartments some time ago and at night, the tenants reported they would hear footsteps and crying from upstairs where no one was living.

There was also some mischief with the coal bin in the basement. The tenants would take coal out and when they returned for another load, the coal bin would be totally full. Who was the spirit? It was said to be the grieving widow of a sailor who never returned home from sea.

The ghost that haunted Mare Island was also a sailor who died at sea in the 1892. Though the sailor, Lt. Wilson, was not from the Vallejo area, his body was shipped there for burial.

Seven years later, his wife sent a handsome tombstone for his grave, but his grave could not be found. Hearing this, the widow, newly married, came to Mare Island. It was then discovered that the body now nine years old was well-sealed in three boxes and in the back of the warehouse in Building 77. The body was properly buried with the handsome tombstone, but it was from that time that strange noises were noted about the building site.

Perhaps the ghost of Lt. Wilson was perturbed at having been shoved in back of a warehouse.

Green Valley had its ghost as well. A tragic death occurred in 1864, but the ghost wasn’t reported until the turn of the century.

The death occurred at the Dingley’s Mill, one of the early-day flour mills. Being a successful operation, visitors often came to see the workings of the mill. On this occasion a 17-year old girl was leaning over one of the hoppers when her dress got caught in the slowly revolving shaft.

Not realizing the danger, she called to a nearby miller half-jokingly, “My dress is caught!”

The miller cried out, “My dear girl, you will be killed.” Orders were shouted to shut the machinery down, but alas, it was too late. Mary Eliza Parker lost her balance and was flung with great force her head striking the cast iron boxing of one of the stones. Her mother, for her own safety, was restrained from running to the dead daughter. In the next century, Mary’s ghost was said to haunt the burned out and deteriorating mill, her dying shrieks heard at night and some claimed her form would float by broken windows.

In times past, the Martin House, across from the Solano Community College, was rumored to have a ghost in the attic. It was concluded that the ghost was that of a young boy who killed himself in the house.

The old Solano Ambulance Co., now Baystar Medical Service, is located in a 1920s ranch house on Beck Avenue in Fairfield and was renown for its in-residence ghost. As recalled by Walt Walters, operations supervisor, the ghost was Mr. Beck himself. Others claim it was a member of the Hanks family who had lived in the house.

According to tradition, the house was moved according to Beck’s instructions after his death so that it would be located on the lane named after him.

His ghost went with the house.

Early reportings of the ghost were that an old man would make an appearance in a room and the hallway and there were often “weird” occurrences.

One of the crew members slept in one bedroom and would be awakened feeling a presence next to the bed.

The entry to the attic crawl space would open. According to Walters: “We’d leave for a call and shut everything off - lights, TV, etc. We’d come back and the door would be open and everything turned on. Or we’d be in the building and electric appliances and lights were go on and off sporadically.” It seems the spirit tired of his spooking ways as nobody has reported any occurrence in recent years.

In Benicia, Stella Hofstetter says she is frequently visited by an old pioneer at her house on East O Street. The first time she saw the gentleman she was ironing her husband’s shirts.

She would hang up the ironed shirt and it would fall. Getting an eerie feeling she went into the front room. As she tells it, “There’s this man standing there in a checked suit. Standing there and yet not there.

I got scared. From then on I started seeing him in corners of my house, but then he wasn’t really a form. You’d just see something through the corner of your eye.”

Stella soon learned that her neighbor had seen the same ghost; a man in a checked suit who, they decided, was from the 1800s because of his shoes. Stella believes the ghost is a preacher and that he comes from the nearby cemetery. Stella has also experienced other phenomena. Her sewing machine would start going, but not be plugged in and doors would slam shut.

For a long time all was quiet. Then her four-year old grandson said he saw a naked man who went right through the wall.

Reed Robbins owns the Captain Walsh House in Benicia. When initially repairing and restoring the house, Robbins experienced an apparition a few times. From the corner of her eye she saw a woman walk into the salon room.

At that moment, Robbins’ dog, who had been sleeping in the room, yelped and fled the room.

The vision was so clear Robbins called out, “Excuse me, this house is privately owned. You’re not supposed to be here.” By the time she entered the room, the apparition had disappeared. The viewing of the ghost occurred a few more times and Eleanor Walsh, wife of Capt. Walsh, was identified as the spirit.

To this day a light fixture in the parlor will start blinking when a person sits at the table under it. Eleanor did not limit herself to spooking those awake. A plumber’s assistant spent a night in the parlor and woke up crying.

In his dream the door to the kitchen was open, but, instead of seeing the present-day kitchen, the door led to the outdoors with a long path to a little house. He said, “I kept calling, ‘Eleanor, come back please.’ ” This plumber’s assistant was said to have no knowledge of who had lived there and of the original building design.

Because, indeed, in the 1800s the door had led to the outside with a cook house down the path.

Out in Rio Vista, Lloyd Schmidt recalled his encounter with the ghost with a headless body. Rumor was that in a house on a lonely back road a woman had been murdered and decapitated. Her head never found.

On moonless nights she was said to roam the rooms of the vacant house. As a teenager, Lloyd and some friends entered the dilapidated building and went up the stairs to the room where the crime occurred.

One of the girls went into the closet closing the door behind her. Suddenly she shrieked in terror, the closet door crashed open and all fled the house in panic.

The hysterical girl cried, “I felt her ice cold hands and she tried to take my head.” The girls’ state of fright was so extreme a doctor was called to her home.

None spoke of the experience for many years.

Though the house was torn down many years ago, they still say on a moonless night you can hear the ghost with the headless body moaning.