No story about ghosts and love would be complete without mentioning the American River Inn, right in the heart of the Gold Rush Country of California . Nor would the story be complete without the tale of hospitality and loneliness. The two go hand-in-hand. It’s the Romeo and Juliet for all ages, and it happened right here in Georgetown , heart of the gold rush country, hills and mountains, forests and trees, and gold.
We first wrote about this ghost several years ago in our book INCREDIBLE WORLD OF GOLD RUSH GHOSTS, and we have encountered his spirit on subsequent visits as well. He is a gruff, old miner haunts Room 5 of the beautiful American River Inn in downtown Georgetown . Located at 6600 Orleans Street in this quaint little town that has changed little since the gold rush days, he abruptly makes his presence known on a whim, yet despite his disheveled appearance, it is amazing that he rarely has a frightening effect on the guests. He has been talked about through time as a man of tender nature, regardless of his adverse appearance. And he apparently loves three things about the inn: honeymooners or happy lovers, Room 5, and his long-dead girlfriend, for whom he is still pining. Rumor tells us he last saw her in Room 5.
During the Gold Rush days, the American River Inn was known as the American Hotel (circa 1853). There were a series of owners, name changes, and rebuilding required courtesy of the fires that caused widespread havoc through most of the gold rush country including Georgetown . The American Hotel was constructed over a productive lode known as the Woodside Mine. From the Woodside Mine, many pound-sized chunks found their way into miner’s hands. It is told that at one point as much as $90,000 was pulled from the earth within a two-week period. Then, as if in retribution for the gold taken from its ground, the mine painfully claimed lives. Many of the hardworking men were trapped within its confines. The grounds slowly sucked the air out of them, but it did not spit them out. Some are believed still buried under the American River Inn, as a result of that mine collapsing. Taking a walk downstairs, a basement wall hid the grim story of that deadly time. Oscar survived that catastrophe. Such begins the tale of Oscar, the honeymoon ghost. Last we knew our Gold Rush Ghost book was available for sale at the gift shop inside the inn.
But back to the haunting, the miner was a hearty soul of the 1800s, looking for fortune like thousands of others in this time of history. He must have made an impact on the townsfolk, as when we were there his name was synonymous with Georgetown . Old-timers were happy to tell tales about Oscar, being remembered by stories passed down through generations as a gruff, old poke, about 5’8”, ambitious, and anxious to find his fortune. If there was a strike, Oscar was the first to pick up a shovel. It is told that he was fearless in the rickety mine shafts and tapped-off river channels. Once known to be lost for several days in an extensively channeled abandoned mine, he emerged complaining, “Didn’t find no gold!” Everyone agreed he had a perpetually romantic heart and was to give his, foolishly or not, to a nameless “woman of the evening.”
Now there was a time our beautiful American River Inn was not as luxurious as it is today, and a time when it was used for other types of guests than those the management caters to now. As we said before, miners had needs, and in Georgetown they were often met at the American Hotel. As history is told, Oscar fell hard for a Gold Rush prostitute. He was well aware of her profession. In fact, it was how they met. Many years her senior, he was smitten enough to dream of making her his wife. They had long talks before and after lovemaking. She told of missing her family in the east and of making enough money to return there.
Whether the complete story is true or some of it is conjecture, we cannot know for certain, but the ghostly spirit of the American River Inn certainly takes on all appearances and characteristic of the seeming immortal Oscar. And, because we all have to die, Oscar’s demise came swiftly in the inn just above the Woodside Mine he once worked.
When not searching for the elusive metal, he had worked as a carpenter on this property to be near his love, and he was very jealous of her. A heckler and a former client of his love insisted on belittling her name. Words were passed between the men. A scuffle prevailed and in the heated moments that followed, the aggressor shot Oscar dead on the steps of the American Hotel. His body died, but his spirit remained.
“The activity seems to be centered around the top of the stairs and in Room 5” stated Carol La Morte, ex-manager of the American River Inn for owners Will and Maria Collin. They purchased the American Hotel in 1984 as a family project and embarked on the biggest challenge of their lives. They renamed the hotel the American River Inn, and for three long and painful months they remodeled, added eight bathrooms, reconstructed old woodwork and paneling, chose wallpaper reminiscent of the gold Rush era, and, all in all, changed a declining fortress into a stately mansion.
“Room 5 was in especially bad shape,” she told GOLD RUSH GHOSTS INTERNATIONAL PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS. This became extremely evident in the photographs that were shown to Robert Reppert and Nancy Bradley of the ‘before and after.’ “Besides the bad shape, we began to feel uncomfortable working in that room, we were cold on a hot day” one of the workers told us. “Something would brush past us. We could physically feel it, but no one was there. There was a ‘presence’ in that room as we worked on it, but because the other members of our family did not want to admit to a ‘ghost’ I tried to concentrate on other aspects of what it could be. Obviously, since we have been admitting guests into that room for overnight stays, and they have actually seen a ghost, we have got to admit that he is here. And what is interesting to note, none of our guests are terrified of him, even though he is gruff looking. He is a friendly ghost, and he smiles at the lovers as he walks through the rooms as if he belongs there. He especially takes pride in appearing to honeymoon guests, as if he wants to be a part of their happiness.”
Guests agree with this. Someone who wishes to remain anonymous repeated his experience to the author, and it went something like this; “When we married, my wife and I stayed in Room 5 of the inn. At 3:00 a.m., a man dressed in old, tattered clothes walked past us. Out light switched on for no reason, and the entity smiled as he continued walking through the closed door that leads to the hall. We both heard his footsteps seemingly go down the stairs to the main part of the house, but I must admit neither of us got out of bed to check this out. Our light then went back off. When I turned the light knob, it went back on because the lamp had been turned off the whole time.” LaMorte admits to us, and through affidavits, that electricians have been called to fix the problem, but to no avail. They now shrug their shoulders and say there is no possible electrical reason for this annoying fiasco.
The American River Inn’s guest book makes interesting reading. One couple from Crestline, CA. wrote, “We loved experiencing the comfort and romance of your beautiful inn. Pam enjoyed feeling Oscar in our room and maybe she’ll be able to sleep at our next stop.” Another guest enthusiastically wrote, “We have already made reservations for next time. Long ‘live’ Oscar.” Another couple, these folks from Yuba City , CA. wrote, “The highlight of our visit was a visit from Oscar. In the wee hours our lamp went on for no reason. We’re sure it was Oscar.”
Help at the inn often experience his presence when cleaning the rooms. La Morte admits to “Talking to him when I know he is around so I won’t get afraid.” Several guests have told the management “We were snug in our bed when this dirty-looking miner type walked into the room, smiled at us, and left through the door.” Oscar always enters through the door that opens up on the balcony and leaves through the door at the top of the stair. It makes no difference if the door is open or shut, as he does not take time to fiddle with it.
“And he has an uncanny way of whispering your name” La Morte was to admit to us. “Several guests complained of hearing their names spoken and no one was there. “ A letter received by the inn and written by former guests from Hawaiian Gardens , CA., states in part, “That evening at cheese and wine, by husband and I were talking to each other. We learned that both of us felt uncomfortable each time we passed a specific part of the house. We compared notes and came to the conclusion that what this must be is the house. I would appreciate any information…”
When we were at the inn, centering our investigation in Room 5, the following meter readings were recorded. The EMF readings varied between .5 up to 6.3 and the temperature variance was around twenty degrees. The EVP after over an hour of no communication was to reveal these words on tape “My Room”.
Obviously the American River Inn still holds secrets of the craggy miner and his woman of the evening. Their never-ending passion seems to continue as he roams the halls in search of his love.
Interestingly to GRG, not too many years ago a couple that stayed in the room told of hearing a woman’s voice as well as a man’s in Room 5 of the inn. “In the middle of the night, I awoke to a whisper near my pillow. When I sat up, it was gone. Figuring I was just dreaming, I laid my head back down. Immediately the whisper was back. I heard a man in the background and a woman’s voice, but I could not quite make out what they were saying. The woman’s voice I heard distinctly. Then, I heard footsteps going down the stairs. The American River Inn is a great place, and I had one of the oddest experiences of my life in Room 5. I will never forget it.”
All guests want to come back to the American River Inn. The management is friendly and the ghosts are contented being here. It is obvious to us that there is nothing here to fear, everyone is simply hoping for their chance to see Oscar.
But because a woman’s voice is also sometimes heard from the depths of the unknown inside the inn, it is interesting to note that soon after Oscar’s death, a beautiful woman of the evening attired herself in her finest negligee, and, with liquor bottle in hand, took the leap of death from the balcony of the American Hotel. The doctor said that her neck was broken instantly. Could it be that a broken heart preceded it?
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