By John R. Beyer
This past January, I wrote an entry concerning the history of California Historical Landmark No. 782. Those in the know would recognize that as the official status given to Calico in 1962 by the state.
In a proclamation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, the town actually became the Official State Silver Rush Ghost Town. Another old mining town, Bodie, a little farther north on 395, became known as the Official State Gold Rush Ghost Town.
Not sure where the Official State Bronze, Tin or Recycled Beer Can ghost towns are, but we will keep looking fervently. Actually, I’m not going to bother to look, but a recycled beer can ghost town could be fun. Probably a lot of happy spirits reside there.
With Halloween just around the corner, we wanted to see if there is any truth to how haunted this once-bustling mining town of Calico really is.
Of course, when visiting such places in search of the paranormal, it is crucial never to trespass or do anything else that may be considered illegal or in poor taste.
An example of illegal would be breaking and entering supposed haunted buildings, houses or other property. In poor taste, would be running down the street with a sheet over your head, screaming for ghosts to show themselves.
There are some pretty interesting hauntings going on in the little burg of Calico. I mean really interesting in the realm of: “OMG, there’s a ghosty right there. I can’t wait to Instagram my friends with this selfie. Well, after I post what I had for lunch, of course.”
Laureen and I decided to take our four-legged wards on an overnight camping trip to the historical 1881 silver mining town, but not before I made a sensible suggestion.
“You know, we can leave them home. They are dogs, after all.”
Laureen looked at me solemnly. “They’ll miss us.”
“For five minutes, and then they’ll be sleeping and drooling all over the furniture.”
We loaded our four beasts into the motorhome, and we were off for the jaunt to Calico.
The San Bernardino County park has plenty of spaces for camping large and not-so-large rigs, tents and even cabins for rent. Some guests haul out their off road toys and enjoy cruising the hills behind Calico looking at this or that.
When looking at this or that, though, be mindful that there are open vertical mine shafts — those are the ones that go straight into the earth. Some of these old mines are not safe and very deep. So deep that I’ve heard colonies of trolls live in one. There, they wait for an unsuspecting off-roader to miscalculate and end up as an entree for troll dinner.
But seriously, when cruising anywhere abandoned mines are located, extreme caution should always be used. I travel off road a lot and am always on the lookout for dangerous road or trail conditions — and groups of trolls.
We arrived at our camp site, set up everything and made sure the doggies were well taken care of inside the motorhome — water, food, air conditioning, blinds closed, and Jimmy Buffett playing softly in the background.
The dogs had it so good that I wanted to stay and have a cold one while listening to “Margaretville.” But Laureen was adamant.
“Listen here, Buster. We’ve got ghosts to find.”
Funny thing, when we hit town, everyone wanted to talk to us about how haunted the place is. Mr. Anonymous had great stories to tell us. Ms. Anonymous had even better stories to tell us. Baby Anonymous had, by far, the greatest of all the stories.
Sounds like something out of the Goldilocks fairytale. Actually, when people talk about ghosts, unless they are high-paid TV paranormal types, they don’t want their name used in public.
“They’ll think I’m crazy,” stated a woman wearing a tin foil hat.
“I doubt you believing in ghosts will be the giveaway,” I replied.
One story we heard about involved a little girl who haunted the wooden bridge that spans a deep gully near the one-room schoolhouse.
Seems, as the tale goes, back in the late 1880s, a school teacher had a young daughter — maybe 10 or 11 years old. One day, tragically, the girl fell off a high cliff near the bridge and perished from her injuries.
Ever since then, people claim this girl wanders the location of the bridge, talking to children. What she says is very sad but sweet. According to many we spoke with, the ghostly little girl is warning the children to stay on the bridge, and to be careful about falling down the steep sides of the ravine.
Stranger still, only children see her. Adults have had their children tell them that a young girl, dressed in a long white dress with a white bonnet, has been scolding them about the dangers of not looking when running and playing. Parents look for the girl to no avail. The ghost who cares is gone.
“Even my friends this year told me their kids said this little girl approached them, warned them and then just disappeared,” Mr. I Don’t Want To Be Identified said. And no, this person was not donning a tin foil hat.
We walked across that bridge a thousand times. No ghostly apparition of a tyke in period clothing. I even crossed it a few times on my knees to make myself look smaller, in case I could outsmart the girl. No such luck, but, just because we adults didn’t see her, doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist.
“You have got to check out Hank’s Hotel,” someone said. “That place is really haunted. Doors slam shut when there is no wind. Things get tossed across the rooms. People used to stay there, but by dark, they were heading for their cars.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Would I lie to you?”
“I don’t know. You won’t even tell me your name.”
The hotel was locked. Laureen and I peered through the windows. Nothing slammed. No things were thrown around the rooms. But that doesn’t mean the place isn’t haunted.
Another person with no name told us that some shops in town have poltergeists. Those are the angry or misunderstood ghosts that like to throw items at people, hitting them and sometimes causing injury.
We walked through every store that was open. The only thing which got hit was my wallet. A store means purchasing in Laureen’s world.
The cemetery. Now that had to be haunted. All those souls on boot hill. They couldn’t have been happy, and they probably spent the evenings wandering around complaining to each other.
When it was plenty dark, we carefully and respectfully wandered the tombstones. Laureen thought she saw an eerie light floating toward us. Nope, just other tourists looking for a close encounter with a being from the afterlife.
So is Calico haunted? Not on our visit. But, perhaps, if you drive out there, it may be.
Contact John R. Beyer at email@example.com.