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  Columnist: Nancy Bradley

Image credit: Nancy Bradley

Coloma Pioneer Cemetery

Posted on Wednesday, 18 February, 2009 | 1 comment
Columnist: Nancy Bradley

There are days you remember and you wish you didn’t. There are days you forgot and if you looked back would be grateful for having done so. And there are days that are so unimportant that you overlook them in boredom. None of the above represents the day we spent in the Coloma Pioneer Cemetery, for it was exciting, overwhelming and heartfelt. To the ghost enthusiast it was productive. As only one in about every twelve investigations is worthy of reporting, this one was a great one. One of the goose-bump kind. The day to remember was Sunday January 18th,2009, and our crew from the television show INVESTIGATING THE UNKNOWN with GOLD RUSH GHOSTS was ready to investigate, but not at first overly enthused.

Contrary to some beliefs, apparitions are seldom associated with cemeteries. Some people think that apparitions are earthbound spirits, although we have never seen any evidence of it. But ghosts can generally be considered earth memory, Akashic images, animated astral body shells, spectral thought forms or whatever. Students of ghostly lore tell us many tales about cemeteries. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that spirits seldom display any interest in their decomposing physical bodies or their ashes in urns, and rightly so. Who wants to hang around rotting remains?

Good cemetery stories always seem to be passed down by a friend or a friend of a friend. This goes on ad infinitum. The intelligent reader (and all of you are) will quickly see there is no comparison between such wild stories and the cases we collect for the television show. We have found that spirits are more likely to haunt the abodes they knew in physical life. These are usually dwellings, but sometimes they appear in hotels, pubs, office buildings, factories, on board ships, and in one widely-published case several years ago, in the cockpits and galleys of airliners.

Again, as far as spirits hanging out in cemeteries, it is rare. But there are exceptions, and one such case is right here in Coloma, California, deep in the heart of the gold rush country.

A tall phantom woman taunts the tiny town of Coloma, as she keeps watch over an ancient broken tombstone in an older settler’s graveyard. Known only as the Beckoning Specter in Burgundy, she waves to motorists on the road, visitors to the cemetery, and to the occasional passerby, and then as they approach her, she disappears before ever getting her message known. The gravesite she watches so fervently is occupied by three people, a man, a young woman, and a child. There are three sides occupied beneath this tombstone, and clearly a forth side intended for another to be interred. Those already in the ground should all rest easy, knowing they have their own special guardian. But it appears this guardian angel is not resting peacefully. She wants to join them. Unfortunately, no one around knows for certain how to help her, or has offered an absolute explanation as to why her spirit stands guard. From my psychic perspective she is the wife of the man and mother of the younger interred. I have been unable to find a lot of information on her and very little about them either. Too many years have passed, records long gone. We believe at this point she has become a ghost, an imprint, because she does not communicate. Theoretically non psychic types believe it is impossible to know if the spectral woman represents a wife and mother who is standing guard over the physical remains of her family, or if this ghostly apparition just happens to be in the location. Silly them. I have personally encountered her on many occasions, only not able to make contact. Over the last year more cases of sightings have surfaced (Pun intended). We were invited to bring our Gold Rush Ghosts Investigating the Unknown staff and camera crew to the site to investigate for our show. We are on the case. Investigators from GRG that joined in this investigation were; Danielle Carpenter, Cat Noble, Laura Martucci, Bob King, Millieanne Jackson, Robert Reppert, Wayne Peterson, and me, Nancy Bradley. Noble was in charge of the Video Camera, Divine Rods/Wands, Digital Camera, and temperature meter. Martucci had with her our 35mm Camera, Divine Rods/Wands, and temperature meter. Cooper held another temperature meter, an EMF meter, EVP, and Divine Rods. Carpenter was in charge of a Digital Camera, a temperature meter, and me, Reppert and King were on cameras, and well, I held the $12,000 FLIR. If it were to get broken it would be on my watch.

Since 1850, Coloma’s Pioneer Cemetery, located across the street from the very haunted Vineyard House (ah… another tale to tell) is often also called the Vineyard House Cemetery. It is the final resting place for many early Mother Lode settlers from the gold rush days. Buried side by side are 49er miners, pioneer farmers and their families, tradesmen, murderers, and prostitutes. The two men executed from scaffolds temporarily erected in the front yard of the Vineyard House across the street are interred here. Also interred are Martin Allhoff, who was Louise Chalmers’ (mistress of the Vineyard House) first husband, Robert Chalmers her second husband, herself and their offspring. We can clearly see the imposing three- story wooden Vineyard House through the trees from the cemetery. Yes it is history, and it is rather imposing as well, even for seasoned investigators.

As we entered the premises, we took a photo of the plaque at the entrance to the cemetery which reads,

“Each contributed to California’s colorful history.

Please Respect Their Memory as you visit.”

I feel easy connecting with those that are to this world considered deceased, and although I have written about this cemetery in my prior book “Incredible World of Gold Rush Ghosts” this time the intent was for my crew and myself to do just that, investigate this crumbling cemetery, one more time. We are careful as a matter of course to never disrespect a final resting place. It is unfathomable to us that people would disrespect a place normally put in place to house the no longer needed bodies of people and pets. GRG has no tolerance for ‘grave players’ and others that insist on doing the unthinkable.

Getting back to that old cemetery sign, country folks over the years have wished the Lady in Burgundy would heed the words on that sign. She has been known to disrupt the serene environment, and cause an occasional car to go off the road, with her insistence that motorists stop to help her. She confuses and upsets the tourists who see her when they come to visit this historic little gold rush town. She appears on a mission, and although her image is fast fading more and more over the years, she remains undaunted. Do we dare to hope her dreams and needs need not fade with her image?

ITU/GRG knows going in that reports are continuing to filter back to us at Gold Rush Ghosts Paranormal about this spectral woman standing above the graves on this hillside graveyard. As a group we have researched heavily but know little more about the interred at the site she stands. The man in the grave owned approximately $100 in personal property at the time of his death. He also had on his person at the time of his death $800 in cash, which is odd for the times that he was not robbed, the money long gone. But it wasn’t and we now know he was a resident of Coloma, and the year prior to his death, he paid a whopping $4.65 in state tax, $4.75 in county tax, and a poll tax of $2.00. By all rights this made him a respectable citizen it would seem, but was he a respectable husband and father? His occupation is lost in history, as is any further personal information. And yet this woman in burgundy stands here, over his grave, always watchful, waving to motorists on the road to come see. Obviously she loves him and those below. If the story is as I think, those below her are those she loves. Other explanations would be she is this site by accident, or those many folks that have seen her are all high, drunk, or suffering some mental problem. Highly unlikely! So, just what is her story?

From all accounts as well as my own, I can report her tormented ghostly features are plain but strained. She has high cheekbones. Her hair is parted in the middle and pulled back severely on both sides. She is a tall big busted woman, and she wears a modest-type shirt reminiscent of the 1800s. But her most memorable features to those who have been startled by her, is the long flowing skirt of deep burgundy, wrapped around her legs as she scurries away.

And of course, another unusual aspect of this entity is that she is clearly seen in color. Many sightings from the past, and most all in cemeteries, are displayed in black and white or muted hues. Those who have witnessed the Lady in Burgundy remark on the color of her cheeks (if they are lucky enough to have seen her up close) or the blackness of her hair. These are the days before Lady Clairol, and she is clearly one with thick natural black hair. All remark on the vivid color of her skirt. It swishes as she turns and disappears before their very eyes. Day unto night she stands watch, beckoning with her hand to anyone who can see her to come closer. And then she is gone. She certainly appears ever protective of that little plot of ground in the cemetery.

GRG interviewed several people about their experiences with her. “She looks frantic and sad,” said Jim Willis, a resident of Oakland who saw her apparition on several occasions. He related to seeing her always in the fall months, when visiting the area. This could account for the vivid image she projected, as we know entities have more energy when it is damp. “The second time I saw her, I had a friend in the car, and he saw her also, so I know I was not hallucinating.”

All so fascinating and yet somehow sad. So our crew decided to make a day of it. We put on our ugly flat walking shoes (not an easy thing for me to do, as I rarely wears anything but high-heals,) and we proceeded to walk through the cemetery. “As we all zig-zaged among the graves, meters in hand, it was obvious to all that there were many more bodies buried here than were accounted for, entered into the list of deceased, or known about. Not all the graves were marked either, seemingly those hung from trees for some forgotten indiscretion were left in unmarked graves, as were those that died without anyone available to identify them. The children’s graves are especially sad to us, so many died under the age of three years. It was hard living then. We know also that in older cemeteries, bodies were buried in makeshift wooden caskets. As the wood of those boxes broke down, they would fall apart and the earth would fill them in, further eliminating the bodies buried inside them. And so in older cemeteries there are always hollow places in the ground, little grave-size indents in the dirt or grass, where the ground is lower than the rest of the terrain, the victim of wooden caskets collapsing and going back to the earth as well as the bodies inside them. Spooky for some for sure, but to us it is just another day of investigations.
“As we walked to the spot where the Woman in Burgundy is seen, we are saddened to find that she is not there and that no amount of our coaxing would bring her out. We are obviously disappointed, as we spent the better part of two hours looking for her. The weather and all other conditions were right for us to see her, the atmosphere was damp and cold, as good as we could expect for this type of an investigation. But at the tombstone she watches, she is nowhere to be seen.

“We spent another hour exploring the cemetery in hopes of seeing her” Bob King stated. “Exasperated and tired, we were about to call it a day. As we were getting into our cars one investigator took one last glance up to another part of the cemetery, and said ‘Everyone stop. Don’t put your keys in the ignition.’ She pointed back to the cemetery.” On this winter day the leaves were falling and there seemed to be a shuffle or burst of wind that all of a sudden sent them tumbling. There, among the leaves was the figure of a woman meeting the description we were looking for in another section of the cemetery. The woman stood there, looking back at us from a modest slope. From a previous investigation I knew this was where I had felt her presence before, but as we walked the cemetery this trip, she had not been there. We got out of our cars and slowly walked back to that area only to watch her disappear behind an old gravestone.

She was not done with us though. As we approached the tombstone where she disappeared, we could clearly see her reappear at the tombstone she watches. Reppert took several photos of her at that site. When we got to where she was, elusive as ever, she was gone again.

The crew was anxious to share their other findings. “We all went over to the lower cemetery where the Chalmers family headstone was” Carpenter stated. “With a Digital camera and temperature meter, I began looking for activity. The temperature meter fluctuated from 39 to 48 degrees on the Robert Chalmers side.” Cooper was to experience tremendous activity with her wands on the Louise Chalmers side of the stone. It appeared obvious that we were we going to get activity from the Chalmers burial site as their bodies rest overlooking their old homestead. As the meters raced, Cooper made the decision to wait at Louise Chalmers grave with her EVP recorder to see if voices would respond as we followed the beckoning specter.

“When I reviewed the videotape of the Chalmers part of the cemetery later” Cat Noble was to tell us, “I saw a fast-moving orb that dropped from the trees to the grave below. I did not notice this light while filming.

The day was not going to be a loss at all. This time after following the specter to the tombstone where she showed herself when we were in our cars, we took our sleeves and wiped off the mounds of dirt on that tombstone. We looked for the name on the tombstone, and it proved that at this plot the gravestone name was that of a woman. She was born in 1862, and died in 1916. From how she appeared to us that day, we are certain she is the Lady in Burgundy, and this is her resting place. And so we were back on track, and now we knew we must solve the riddle of just how the gravesites interconnect.

“From my psychic perspective I have a knowing that we have ‘unearthed’ (pun intended) the mystery. This woman clearly has something in common with the tombstone that she chooses to watch over. She is not one bit protective of her own tombstone. I know clearly that she is the mother and wife wanting nothing more than to be interred next to her loved ones, instead of ‘up the hill’ where we found her plot.” Again on this visit, she refuses to communicate which would lead us to feel she is nothing more than a ghostly imprint by now, no longer a spirit, though at the time of her death, likely done wrong by not being placed with her loved ones. We believe it was her final wish before dying that she be interred with those she loved, after all, there was a space reserved for her.

Sadly, the mystery of how this problem can be accomplished is anyone’s guess. There would be a lot of red-tape to go through, so this one ‘remains’ (ah the puns!) open for anyone to solve.

But it will probably be hard. Several years ago I was on a very popular radio show talking about the plight of the Beckoning Specter in Burgundy. We felt sadness for this poor woman, and I offered the theory that perhaps she should be interred elsewhere. The station offered to fund the bill to move her. A member at that time of a preservation group that does not want people in the cemetery called the station (as well as me personally) after that appearance telling us not to reveal the exact tombstones involved, to forget such ideas as moving her, while giving us permission to print the story. Rather an oxymoron in my opinion. Strange too, I thought, if people were interested in preserving the cemetery why not also preserve the wishes of the deceased?

For now, what can you do, guess we have to respect their wishes. It is sad, though, most especially for the woman buried on the knoll away from her family. And if she wants nothing more than to have the opportunity to be with her family for eternity, why not do this to ease her suffering? Maybe to some this is not as important as spending time gathering information for the living. GRG does not feel that way, as the veil between this life and the next is very thin and wishes are wishes and dreams are made to be fulfilled, wherever, and whomever, they originate from.

The preservation organization had a valid point though. They did not want vandalism in the historic cemetery, and indeed, this has happened over the years. As our group was there, we picked up used soft drink cans, beer as well, gum wrappers, potato chip bags and cigarette butts. I am told more problems show up on Halloween night than the rest of the year, as groups of people want to walk the cemetery for the ‘spooky effect.’ Often these groups are there after a few too many cocktails at a local pub. We felt an alternative solution would be to have a historian give tours of the cemetery, do something constructive, so that the curious can enjoy the history of the place and yet keep it for all time. A small fee to enter to pay the curator or historian would not be inappropriate.

Our hope now for the Beckoning Specter in Burgundy, is this unforgettable story can still have a happy ending. And we hope soon, as the Beckoning Specter in Burgundy continues to have a self-imposed mission to fulfill, which apparently involves the help of the living before she can rest. She is fading, and we hope her dreams are not going with her as she slowly disappears forever. Seems only fair we help her out.

When we got back to the office and checked for proof of ghost activity at the cemetery, Coopers EVP was high on our list. We found that Louise Chalmers did not like her name. Clearly on the recorder, for all to hear and saved for all time she states, “MY NAME IS NOT LOUISE. MY NAME IS LOUISA”.

THE OLD COLOMA CEMETERY is right across the street from the VINEYARD HOUSE. The Vineyard House was for years a bar and restaurant. Today it is a private residence.

The Television Show INVESTIGATING THE UNKNOWN WITH GOLD RUSH GHOSTS PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS airs “LIVE’ the 4th Wednesday of the month at 8pm, on Channel 17., and REPEATS at 4 am and NOON the following THURSDAY. To download online, go to, click on the Watch Channel 17 button.

Celebrities Psychic Nancy Bradley, one of the top ten psychics in the world. You can also see NANCY, among other shows, on the TRAVEL CHANNEL’S HAUNTED HOTEL SERIES.

Article Copyright© Nancy Bradley - reproduced with permission.

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