Media Life: Ghost guide scares up Auburn area’s haunted habitats

Constable Jacks, Placer courthouse ID’d as ghostly sites; Shockley’s racism earns slot in Nobel Hall of Shame; More on Auburn’s vulture visitors
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Huell Howser of the afterlife has come up with a travel guide that shows not only where the California Gold Country’s skeletons are buried but where their spirits are doing their haunting at. Fairfield writer Jeff Dwyer spins some good yarns in “Ghost Hunter’s Guide to California’s Gold Rush Country” and manages to include a couple of examples of ectoplasmic activity in the Auburn area. Don’t be surprised to see some inquisitive ghost seekers skulking the corridors of the Placer County Courthouse in the near future carrying a copy of Dwyer’s spirit finder. He’s listed the Maple Street landmark in Auburn among the ranks of the haunted. Check out the first floor, where ghosts of prisoners who died in their cells still roam, he advises. And farther back in time, before the courthouse was built in the 1890s, public hangings took place on the site, Dwyer writes. “Sensitive visitors may hear the sound of cell doors swinging on rusty hinges,” “Ghost Hunter’s Guide to California’s Gold Rush” states. NEWCASTLE CHILLS Constable Jacks nightclub and eatery in Newcastle also earns a mention for the presence of at least two ghosts. Dwyer’s book states one is a ghost named Gary, who’s known to throw glasses and wine bottles off shelves. The ghost of Emily has also turned up, wearing a long dress. None other than Shannon McCabe, Haunted and Paranormal Investigations president, checked out Constable Jack’s with recording equipment and came away with some eerie findings. The electronic voice recordings included one of a female voice crying ‘Help me,’ while a male voice said ‘get out’ and ‘we are dead,’” Dwyer said. It’s good to know that Auburn and environs can hold its own in the ghost department, given competition from such nearby notables as the spirits of more than 20 miners roaming the bar at the Willow Steakhouse in Jamestown, the entrancing Lady in Gray at Nevada City bed and breakfast the Red Castle and the moaning ghosts of Stockton’s Old State Insane Asylum’s mass grave. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, Dwyer digs up some rarely told tales that are indicative of the rich local history of the area – as well as the possibility of ghosts in the gold country. IGNOBLE NOBEL Just how despised is William Shockley? It turns out he’s now internationally ranked. Shockley’s estate bequeathed 28 acres of land in Auburn to the recreation district but required it to name the park after the 1956 Nobel Prize winner. Now that the Auburn Recreation District board has decided to punt on the whole Shockley park issue, leaving it up to a future board to decide on how to handle the controversial naming controversy, this information from the Web site might provide some guidance on the man. With the Nobel Prize in the news again this year, the CNN site came up with a list of the Top Four winners with the worst reputations. And, guess what, Shockley made the cut for his over-the-top racist views – views that the CNN site reminds us were enough to “alienate the scientific community.” Here’s the company Shockley, who never lived in Auburn, is keeping these days: n 1976 winner Daniel Gajdusek won a place on the list for his research in viral infections. But his claim to infamy was being jailed for 19 months for child molestation 11 years after he was named a Nobel laureate. n Johannes Fibiger was honored in 1926. He soon joined the Nobel Hall of Shame when it became painfully apparent his discovery that parasitic worms caused cancer wasn’t even close to true. n Yasser Arafat rounds out the infamous four. He shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, sparking one Nobel committee member to resign because of Arafat’s ties to terrorism. VULTURE CULTURE An update is in order on the swarm of some 40 or 50 turkey vultures that seems to have taken up lodging in the Downtown Auburn area and can be seen circling around Placer High around sundown. Media Life reader Debbee West, who volunteered for many years on the raptor team at the Lindsay Museum in Walnut Creek working with birds of prey, said they’re circling in the evening around sunset to warm up their bodies before nesting for the night in their favorite high trees. West said that in the morning, they’ll leave their nesting site and find a spot to perch in the sun to warm up with feathers spread out before taking off on their day job – searching for carrion. West tries to help the birds out when she’s traveling local roadways by stopping when she sees some road kill and moving it to the side of the road. That makes it easier and safer for the birds. Nice lady. And thanks for the info, Debbee. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or call 530-852-0232.