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The Haunted Winery

NOW A POPULAR TOURIST SPOT and the home of a successful series of Friday night concerts, Bartholomew Park Winery in Sonoma was established within a building that was once used as a hospital and, many years before that, as a women's penitentiary. Many women met their demise within those walls. There have been, over the years, hundreds of reports of various odd doings down in the cellars where prisoners were once jailed.

"We hear them singing," admits Meg Scantlebury, promotions director at Bartholomew Park. "Late at night, sometimes in the afternoon. We will know, for certain, that no one is down there, and then they start. Hymns usually."

The mood in the cellar, where the winery's production department has been established, is certainly evocative of ethereal imaginings. Unlike the sunny lawns and gardens of Petaluma, this is exactly the kind of setting in which one would expect to run into ghosts, even musically inclined ones.

"I bring my boom box down here sometimes," Scantlebury explains. "If I'm playing something really contemporary, they sometimes shut the music off. One time the boom box was suddenly flung right off of the counter."

According to Scantlebury, one artist the ghosts can't get enough of is evocative Celtic harpist Loreena McKennitt. "I was playing one of her tapes once," Scantlebury describes. "She does 'Greensleeves.' Every time that song came to an end, it would suddenly rewind to the beginning of the song. Over and over."

The employees of the winery have grown accustomed to such shenanigans, and are rather proud to be working alongside such esteemed company. The random visitor, however, has been known to become startled. In particular, the ghosts have an apparent fondness for spooking salespeople.

"One time this guy was trying to sell me something," she says. "We were back in the production area, and I started telling him about the ghosts. I said, 'Sometimes they even turn on my tape player,' and right at that moment, way across the room, it turned on, all by itself."

She laughs, and adds, proudly, "He suddenly had to leave."

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

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