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Ghost Stories

Everyone knows one

The best friend of another friend once lived in a haunted house and every evening the living room light would flip on all by itself. That kind of thing. Then there are the first-person stories. You get the feeling that someone is watching you and you turn around but no one is there, and later you unexpectedly find the pair of glasses that have been missing for months and weren't there on that bookshelf as early as this morning.

Or there are the ghost legends. There was this earthquake that smothered hundreds of Chinese workers in a cave where a rich man stored his wine, and now whenever there is a thunderstorm, you can hear the champagne corks popping as the dead workers throw themselves a party. These are all real stories, meaning that they have been recently related by real people eager to join in the centuries-old practice of telling spooky tales. Whether one believes in an afterlife per se or whether one questions the wisdom of trusting in superstitions, it is impossible to deny that such stories are fun, and that they can effectively turn a simple walk in the woods, or down a city street, into a mysterious romp with the unknown.

The Ghost of the Cavenaugh Inn

FOR JUST OVER A YEAR, Jeanne and Ray Farres have run a highly rated bed and breakfast inn within their historic old house on Keller Street in downtown Petaluma. Formerly owned by one Adelaide Cavenaugh, who raised numerous children there, the inn is beautifully restored, comfortably charming . . . and haunted.

"Someone walks back and forth in the Magnolia Room," confirms Jeanne Farres. "We hear the footsteps. Sometimes we hear the closet open and shut. And that closet is always locked." Healthy disbelief originally led them to think the noises were caused by a large magnolia tree that brushed up against the window. They recently trimmed the tree well back from the house, however. "We still hear the footsteps," Farres laughs. "So we've just accepted that we have a ghost here.

"I think it's Adelaide Cavenaugh," she adds. "She must have been a very nice person, but I think she prefers men to women." Male guests have reported that they have felt drafts against their face and arms, as if someone were brushing up against them.

Apparently, Adelaide is one flirtatious phantom.

Neither the Farreses nor their guests seem to object to the ghostly presence. In fact, she has proven to be good for business. "One woman from back east was staying here," Farres relates. "Ray and I had just left for the evening and she was alone in the house. No sooner had we driven out of the driveway than she heard the footsteps outside her room. She opened her door and came out. She thought we'd forgotten something and had come back. But the house was still empty. She closed her door again, and the footsteps continued."

Far from being frightened, the woman was charmed. A haunted bed and breakfast makes for great vacation stories back at home. "In fact," the bemused innkeeper laughs, "that same woman just called and rebooked the room."

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From the June 13-19, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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