Ghost hunter tells stories at hunted winery

October 17, 2008 6:53:08 PM PDT
A ghost hunter will share experiences Saturday that he has had with spirits at a Sonoma County winery built in 1922 that used to function as an insane asylum and delinquent home for wayward women.

During a workshop at Bartholomew Park Winery, ghost hunter Jeff Dwyer will reveal the results of his month-long investigation into the winery as part of the Sips & Spirits event to celebrate the infamous haunting of the winery's main building, event coordinator Heather Mills said.

The building closed as a hospital in 1957 and became a winery, but spirits still roam the building -- and especially the basement, which used to be a morgue, according to Dwyer.

"There were 35 years of death and dying and misery in there," Dwyer said.

Since early September, Dwyer has visited the winery weekly to hunt for evidence of ghosts and has spent three nights alone in the building.

"I found quite a lot going on in there," Dwyer said, such as spots where the atmosphere was abnormally thick or cold.

"During part of investigation down in the morgue, there was a time when the room suddenly turned ice cold," Dwyer said. "It was just freezing to the point where I couldn't sit there any longer and had to go upstairs to warm up."

In 2006, five psychics attempted to hold a seance, but they were so overwhelmed with spiritual activity that they became exhausted and had to stop, according to Mills.

Dwyer said he spoke with a psychic who had spent time in the building and claimed to have felt Native American energy, most likely from the spirits of those who died in the 1800s before the building even existed.

During his investigation, Dwyer took audio recordings from the building and said he picked up noises that sounded like "Indian flutes, and thumping that sounded like Indian drums."

Dwyer said he also heard a piano being played in the morgue, which he claimed was entirely plausible because the incarcerated women used to practice for their choir in the morgue.

Dwyer, who has been interested in spiritual activity and claims he has seen ghosts since he was a child, said feeling the presence of ghosts doesn't frighten him.

"My first encounter with a ghost was when I was about 12 years old growing up in Alameda," Dwyer said. "I was looking out the window of my house when I saw a man who looked like sailor with a big bag over his shoulder. As I watched him he simply vanished before my eyes. That's when I started getting the idea that I could see ghosts."

Other ghost stories that have supposedly floated around the winery for years include a woman named Madeline, who was a patient at the asylum in the 1920s and 1930s, Mills said.

Madeline, like most of the incarcerated women, would frequently try to run away, according to Mills. One day Madeline finally managed to escape and was never seen again.

When the winery was retrofitted to be earthquake-proof in the 1970s, the remains of a woman were discovered in the basement, and a story developed that the bones found were those of Madeline and that her spirit remained the winery, Mills said.

Winery employees have reported various unexplainable incidents, including when a door locked on its own and when a fire extinguisher "propelled itself" off a wall, Mills said.

In addition to Dwyer's workshop from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the winery has also hired a psychic, a tarot card reader, a chancellor and a handwriting analyst, according to Mills.

Saturday's event takes place from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the winery. The event is open to the public and costs $50 per person, Mills said.


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