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Nancy Bradley

The Sierra Nevada House

February 7, 2009 | Comment icon 0 comments

Image Credit: Nancy Bradley
The wooden two story building known as the Sierra Nevada House has stories to tell about its history in the early gold mining days. Those were the gun toting, claim jumping days when John Sutter first built his small fort at the Y, where the Sacramento and American Rivers meet. The year was 1839, and the Sierra Nevada was virgin territory, a quiet area, mostly the home of the Miwok and Maidu Indians. John Sutter was a smart Swiss pioneer who would find his legacy would change the lives of many as he unexpectedly forever changed this quiet hamlet with his discovery of gold. Originally he wanted to keep his gold find a secret, but once he tithed his fair share to his church, the news was out. Obviously the church could not be trusted with his secret. GOLD IN CALIFORNIA!

With news of that discovery, folks from the east hurried to make their way to COLOMA, where mining towns and mining claims sprang up quickly. No more this a little known spot on a map, there were picks and shovels, screaming and yelling, hauling and hanging, as the good folks of the world and the criminals and lawless all staked a claim. Everywhere you looked they covered the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. In 1849, nearly 4000 people lived and even more, died, in the area. Few found their riches in gold however. More likely to get rich were the people who started businesses to help, accommodate, and house the miners. Soon there were banks and hotels, stores and gambling halls, brothels. Ah yes, so important to relieve stress for those hard working miners. All at a price of course! And because of that, many of the wives of the miners thought perhaps they should tag along, as unsafe as it was, to “protect’ their men and (therefore) their interests. They figured if their men needed to be entertained, they did not want a woman of the night to get her hands on his finds. And so, another need was born, and the Sierra Nevada House went about calling itself “the only alcohol free establishment that catered to women and children.” Of course that did not last long!

Ah good intentions?? Or did they just not make enough money?...

In its day The Sierra Nevada House was one of the finest hotels around. It was conveniently located right next to the Wells Fargo Depot and right close to Sutter’s Mill too. The Sierra Nevada House was at one time owned and operated by Robert Chalmers (Who eventually built the Vineyard House for his lovely bride, another haunted site in Coloma.) We wondered, did ghosts just follow him? Today he one of them! Does he still stick around? Hum! But we get ahead of ourselves. The hotel, as many of the buildings of the day caught fire and was completely destroyed 1902. Undaunted, it was rebuilt only to be destroyed by fire again in 1925. After being re-built (people in those days never gave up) it was used as a theatre and town hall. Today we know that the Sierra Nevada House is a genuine interest as a part of the historic, and haunted, Old West.

But we are interested in exploring the full length mirror that was passed down from owner to owner supposedly since the 1800’s, where it was rumored to have been brought around the horn by ship to this known establishment. The full length gold and elaborate mirror, embellished in gold carvings was ceremoniously placed in the large ballroom… and it is rumored to be haunted by a lovely lady in blue called Isabella. We are told it was hers at one time, given to her by a lover. We are told it is extremely haunted, as people can see her beautiful face in the mirror as they walk by. We shall see…, won’t we, as our organization maintains over a million dollars of the most up-to-date-state-of-the-art paranormal equipment known to prove or disprove just such things.

I remembered back to a few years ago when my husband Robert Reppert and his partner Rodney Roberts from GOLD RUSH GHOSTS PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS were invited to go to the Sierra Nevada House by several newspapers including the Mountain Democrat and the Auburn Journal, several radio programs as well, and television, over the Halloween holiday to see if there were ghosts and spirits at the SNH. Interestingly, they picked up EVP’s everywhere in the bar area, located as you enter the door. Their investigation was to take place during the day, early morning as no one was around except them and the owner. The floors are wooden, the building empty. Ghostly voices could easily be heard and they were saying such things as” Get out of here ~ I’m not supposed to be drinking and my wife will find out” to “Billy wants to talk to you”. Of course once said, they were unable to communicate with Billy on the EVP equipment any longer, although they asked that he walk across the floor, and our $12,000 FLIR was able to see, photograph, and record the footsteps. Rod and Robert heard the footsteps as well, and they noted that the heat source under the wooden floor was incredible. The owner of the building took them through the floor plan and heating ducts and there was no earthly explanation as to why the floorboards heated up as ‘Billy’s’ footsteps were seen. The area that houses the beautiful gold ornate mirror was to produce a shadow inside the glass, that of a woman. We were anxious to follow this investigation up for our television show.

Of course, I have always wondered why sometimes we see ghosts and spirits in black and white, and sometimes in color. It’s an interesting phenomena. And there are many scientists that have offered me possible explanations over the years, but from my gift it is certain to me that it has to do with energy at the time of the sighting, as well as atmosphere conditions. For instance, when energy is low, you see in black and white. Cemeteries that are recorded to have spirit activity is often seen black and white. Deeper energy, rain and electrical storms more often produce spirit in color, which is why I tell my students that have trouble seeing spirits to keep a fountain or humidifier or other source of water around.

But now I have gotten off course, so lets’ get back to the current investigation. Judy Cooper, one of our finest investigators for GOLD RUSH GHOSTS and a member of our television crew for INVESTIGATING THE UNKNOWN (4th Friday night at 8:00 pm, Channel 17) decided it was time to do this investigation again. She hand picked her crew from the group, Millieanne Jackson and Cat Noble. On a warm night a few weeks ago they loaded up the truck with paranormal equipment and headed for the establishment. From Judy’s recollections, “The minute I entered the banquet room I had the impression we were not alone in the room.” Judy has been a psychic student of mine for a long time, so I had no reason to doubt her assessment. And so she went on with her story. “I felt as though someone was watching us, follow us around the room. There’s a huge mirror that stands on the floor that used to belong to Madam Isabella, it made me imagine how many have gazed through it’s antique glass, and admired it’s beautifully decorative frame. I did feel a few cold spots that were confirmed with the meter.” Otherwise, the infamous mirror was not shedding any secrets that night.

“Next we went upstairs in room 2, the Gold Miner’s Daughter’s room” she stated. “I saw the spirit of an old man, whose face looked extremely weathered. He was wearing a wide rimmed hat, an old ratty brown coat and brown trousers. He was standing by the dresser looking at us with a grin on his face. I asked him his name but he did not answer. One of the staff earlier was telling us a story about an old man that used to stay the night quite frequently in the upstairs room because he was too drunk to go anywhere.” Obviously this night he was too drunk to go home.

Cat Noble was to tell us about the interviews they did with the staff. But first she wanted to tell a little about the building. “As you step through the doors, there is a sense of history” she tells us. “The paintings of the Old West, the ornate bar and the Wells Fargo safe in the corner help to envision the gold rush days in this town.” We must remember that some things do not change! Spirit hates change, so the more an old establish looks like it did in the days of their living, the more comfortable they are in a place after their passing.

“One of the people with a tale to tell about this historic place and its spirits was bartender, Samantha Campbell. Samantha told us ‘I was talking to this gentleman and behind me were racks of glasses and we were talking about spirits…all of a sudden, one of the glasses flew off and shattered. No one was even near it.’ Samantha said that she has feelings of “someone watching me…(it) never really scares me, I just say, Quit!’ She felt that there was “Nothing really negative.” She also said that she has witnessed wine bottles that “flew off the rack.” There are stories of another owner ‘”discussing spirits with a customer. The bar door from the kitchen blew open and stayed open. The bar door will stay open, but only in the OTHER direction!” She added that there was nobody in the kitchen at the time, and no other explanation she could come up with for the occurrence. The spirits apparently also like to cause Samantha more work, because she will come in for her shift first thing in the morning to find the “place setting messed up when I know I’ve set them” and she was the last one to leave the night before. GRG/ITU asked the spirits to throw a wine glass or bottle off the shelf. Although we offered to pay for it, that did not happen.
Another employee that the spirits seem to gravitate to is Janice Copper. Janice told GOLD RUSH GHOSTS/ ITU that she started out as a housekeeper at the hotel some years before, and now she is a bartender. When asked about “Isabella” Janice told us “Isabella was a ‘madam’ of this hotel when it was a bordello in the 1800s. She was jilted by her man. One day he left and never came back. I’ve heard that I look like her, according to the historical society in Coloma. I’ve never felt her presence, but I have felt a presence. I feel an old man, very territorial…hangs out in the back office… used to be the owner of the place in the ‘60s.” Of course our television show GOLD RUSH GHOSTS/ INVESTIGATING THE UNKNOWN is all about proof of existence we take it with a grain when people not psychically trained use the word FEEL. We are here for proof. However, sincere as she seemed, she continued “In the dish room… there’s a part of the dish room converted to storage… there’s times I’ll go in there and feel like (he is saying) ‘this is my space.’ ” Janice also told us, “In the bar, I’ve had a lot of strange things…glasses and wine bottles will fly off the shelf. My freakiest experience was (when) I was in the bar one morning. I was the only person there. All the electricity went off in the building and I felt a very weird feeling of like almost somebody was laying hands on my face and I got a high-pitched ringing in my ears and I felt like somebody was pressing against my skin and then the lights came back on and there was nobody there…fun stuff!” Janice talked of hearing stories from other employees about shot glasses that would slide across the bar about a foot and a half, but she willingly told us that she had not personally witnessed that. Janice’s stories were not yet over however. She told us she had another experience when she was a housekeeper in the building. “My first year I was here, a lady came in…her and her husband…they were newlyweds and they had rented the bridal suite. She was very distraught and upset that we had played a prank on her husband by writing his name in dust on the counter. I told her ‘I was sorry that had happened, (but that) I know I cleaned that place very thoroughly, and I had no idea that happened.’ The woman promptly checked out of the hotel for fear of it being haunted.” Looking at the hotel log for that date and time, this proved to be true. Janice says she has heard ghostly footsteps and she has been the first one to enter the dining room in the morning to find that the chairs had been moved around by unseen hands. The chandelier in the banquet room also seems to be the source of movement by unseen hands. Janice told us later she would walk into the room to see it swinging for no apparent reason. I am certain my professional investigators must have followed this up in the morning by being downstairs as the first employee walked in to check if the chandelier was swinging without hands or if the chairs had been moved around. After all, this is what real investigators do, they follow up on leads and stories. That day they did not report back to me any such things happening or being out of place.

Millieanne Jackson, a seasoned investigator was to tell us about her experiences at the Sierra Nevada House “I observed the interviews only. I took photographs with my digital camera. The lens extends out approximately 4 inches in front of the flash. (We watch these things in our organization to not be fooled by trapped moisture or dust which could appear as ghostly orbs.) At this time there are only 2 pictures that caught any orb activity. However, as we know, spirits continue to develop long after you have the photo is in your hands, so we shall see if anything else develops over the next few months.”

She wished to add “The Sierra Nevada house has a warm feeling to it as soon as you drive up. It seemed to be very busy from the outside of the place however, once we entered the bar/restaurant, there was only a small handful of patrons there. One table had a party of 2, another had a party of 5, and there was one person at the bar. There was a cook waiting the tables and the bar, and also this person took our money for our room and gave us the key. She handed us the keys to the other 3 rooms that were vacant for the night as long as we promised not to disturb anything and to leave them exactly as we found them, which we did.

“We slept in Isabella’s room. I was hoping for a lot of activity through the night. However, the night was uneventful except for a live cat that lives on the premises that took a liking to us and we were happy to fed and cuddle up to. The most activity we felt was on the boardwalk around the rooms which our meters proved held a lot of activity, and the upstairs, where the rooms are, had a warm feeling to them.” Strangely, ghostly activity is usually cold. Hummmmmm! Millieanne continued “All three of us were able to pick up a strong presence in room 4 (the bridal suite). We recorded some unexplained activity out on the veranda, but again, no photo proof as yet.”

As they took their investigation to the banquet room where Isabella’s huge mirror stands she told us “There was a continual changing of scents. Some were of lavender, or roses, then there were some really bad rank odors as well, perhaps of minors that forgot’ to bath. Yes, I knew that I was picking up some stinky old miners, and at the side of one of them was a tamed wolf. Our organization leans heavily on animal spirits, as they are pure energy and we know spirit energy is always stronger in the presence of animals.

Well, sometimes you win, and sometimes you loose. This one, this time, could be considered a wash. Or a small bath. Or a ‘not as heavy investigation this time’ as some. On the first investigation there was a great amount of activity, proven on our meters and equipment. On this consequent one, there was some activity that presented itself, some proven phenomena, but not as much activity as had been anticipated for the 12 hours the crew stayed there. But this is normal. Spirits move around just as we do. We suggest you take your chances on this one. Come on down. Check it out for yourselves.


835 Lotus Road – Coloma, California 95613

(530) 626-8096

INVESTIGATING THE UNKNOWN WITH GOLD RUSH GHOSTS PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS is on every 4th Wed. night at 8:00 pm on Channel 17. It is also available on the web, dial in WWW.GOLDRUSHGHOSTS.COM for more instructions.

This show will be aired in January of 2009.

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