Pour A Glass of Wine for the Spirits: Haunted Vineyards and Wineries

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To celebrate my return to blogging after a short break (not of my choice!), I decided to explore ghosts through one of my favorite pastimes: drinking wine! I do not have the luxury to see many vineyards in person, but visiting them through their ghost stories is just as fun. The following vineyards and wineries have especially interesting paranormal history. Open a bottle of wine, turn down the lights, and get ready to be spooked (or not, you are so brave).

Bartholomew Park Winery (Sonoma, California)

Before it became a winery, this location served as a morgue, insane asylum and delinquent home for wayward women. According to ghost hunter Jeff Dwyer, “A short time after the winery opened, employees heard voices singing in the cellar that once housed prisoners. The choir is heard in the afternoon and again late at night. Hymns are the usual choice” (source). Visitors have also reported doors locking on their own, a fire extinguisher thrown against the wall, and a piano playing.

In the 1970s, the remains of a woman were discovered in the basement walls during an earthquake retrofit. Some attribute these remains to Madeline, an incarcerated women who lived on the property in the 1920s/30s.  She tried to escape several times and was eventually successful. Or, is that her in the wall?

Korbel Champagne Cellars (Guerneville, California)

Korbel was founded in 1882 and produces the very popular champagne I consume once a year (because I can only afford Andre). The horror film Altergiest was inspired by and filmed at this winery (I haven’t seen it, have you?). People have reported orbs, cold spots, and moving objects.

A lot of the hot ghost action happens in the Santa Nella House. In the late 1860s, the Korbel Brothers called on their friends to help in their Champagne endeavor. One of these friends, Dr. Joseph Prosek, arrived in 1871 and built a large house near the vineyards. He planted grapevines and olive orchards (for medicinal purposes). Now called the Santa Nella House, Prosek’s home is now an inn for those visiting wine country. According to Dwyer, four ghosts haunt this location.

  1. Dr. Prosek’s Wife, Emma (supposedly): She moves, hides, and reproduces objects around the inn. She is seen wearing a long black dress with high collar.
  2. An Elderly Gentleman: He sometimes wears a tophat and mourning coat. He has been seen sitting in a parlor chair and walking around guest rooms. He sometimes makes noises and messes with electronics.
  3. The Veranda Ghost: Seen outside the house (mostly on the veranda), this ghostly man likes to ring the doorbell.
  4. Ghost Cat (yes!): This cat leaves paw prints on the bed and carpet of The Blue Room.

Franco-Swiss Winery (St. Helena, California)

The 2010 Time article “Bringing a Historic but Haunted Winery Back to Life” describes Leslie and Richard Mansfield’s decade-long endeavor to bring this “ghost winery” back to life. This restoration project came with a ghost: Jules Millet, a past owner of the winery who was murdered there in 1882. One winter night, Leslie and Richard were giving their dinner guests a tour of the winery with flashlights. One of their friends shouted, “If you’re here, Jules Millet, knock three times!” Nothing happened. The next night when Leslie was home alone, she heard six loud explosions in the house. The next morning she went to the basement and found the source of the noise: the flashlights used during the late night winery tour exploded into a million pieces.

Belvoir Winery (Liberty, Missouri)

The Belvoir Winery is on the historic Odd Fellows Home site. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) was founded by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland in 1819. The IOOF “promotes the ethic of reciprocity and charity, by implied inspiration of Judeo-Christian ethics” (source). The Odd Fellows Home site in Liberty served as a place to care for their members, widows, and orphans. This wasn’t considered charity, because residents worked (if physically able) and were expected to remain in good standing. The site had three main buildings: the hospital, the old folks home, and the school. There’s also a cemetery onsite. I recommend reading its history on the winery’s website (super interesting).

Paranormal experiences include:

  • Apparitions of orphan children
  • The sound of children running down the halls, giggling, and singing “Ring Around the Rosy”
  • The sound of a piano playing
  • Doors opening and closing
  • Shadows
  • The feeling of being watched
  • A hug and shoulder grab from an unseen source
  • A “mischievous man” growling

Zephaniah Farm Vineyard (Leesburg, Virginia)

In 1743, Lord Fairfax (a friend of George Washington’s) sold 2000 acres to George Nixon, who then started a dairy farm. In the 1800s, his daughter Mattie inherited the farm. She legally owned the farm until she married British veterinarian Dr. William Casilear, because it was passed to him due to a (sexist) law.

So, Dr. Casilear was a jerk. He was aggressive, carried around a pistol, and supposedly cheated on his wife with the cook. In July 1911, Dr. Casilear shot one of this tenant farmers, Joseph Cross, to death. He believed Joseph left the gate open, accidentally letting the cows loose. Dr. Casilear said it was self-defense and, since this was Jim Crow South and Cross was black, he was acquitted of his charges. Dr. Casilear ran off and was never seen again, leaving Mattie to care for the farm. In 1950,  the Hatch family purchased the property. In 2001, Bill Hatch and his wife Bonnie planted grapevines and started their winery journey.

According to paranormal investigators, there are possibly 35 spirits on the property (mostly in the library), including pets! One of the spirits is Mattie and, according to Bill Hatch, she is especially active when soon-to-be-married couples visit. Maybe she’s trying to warn them of the difficulty of marriage? Bonnie has reported hearing loud conversations upstairs. A carpenter refuses to enter the attic. And, employees have seen apparitions sitting at the table. The owners are not too worried about all these ghosts, though. During a paranormal investigation, it was revealed that Mattie was pleased with the changes made to the property (Food and Wine).

I wonder if there are ghost cows?

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