by Rebecca Yerger
Some Napa County buildings have gained distinction, and even notoriety, not only from the architectural style they possess, but also the spirits that possess them. One such place is the Napa State Hospital. Through its long history, its sheltered separation from the community-at-large has generated numerous stories of paranormal activity.
Opened in 1876, the Hospital was considered to be a state-of-the-art, progressive, treatment facility. The Hospital was originally called the Napa State Asylum – a place of refuge for the troubled being.
The Asylum was a self-sustaining and sufficient facility, with orchards, livestock, farm buildings, workshops, a cemetery, and more. Many of the patients worked within the Asylum facility as part of their treatment. The philosophy of those times was that if the patients were given a sense of purpose through constructive and physical activity they would heal.
However, there were some patients who were restricted to their quarters housed within the main building. This massive stone building with its towers became known as “The Castle.”
Near the former “Castle” site, the unexplained has occurred frequently. In one building within this area, a paranormal prankster called “Freddie,” likes to play “keep-away” with the mortal hospital staff. Items such as jewelry, socks, pens and patient files disappear. After about two days, “Freddie” returns to continue the game. It begins with the staff feeling a brush of cold air at their sides and a tug at their pockets. When they reach into their pockets, they find the missing personal item. As for the files, they are eventually found in one of “Freddie’s” favorite hiding places in the building.
Another paranormal incident that occurred in a building near the former “Castle” is far more chilling. It is said that within a small room that served as a supply room for many years, many mortals have been assaulted by a pair of malevolent spirits.
The terror begins with a loud crash, as if heavy wooden doors are torn from their hinges and locks. Then, with great speed, two, large, shapeless forms charge towards the mortal who they pin against the wall. Those who have endured the incident have all said the freezing-cold forms emit a horrible stench as they vocalize unearthly laughter. The assault ends just as the forms raise what appears to be knife-wielding hands. Understandably, many mortals request transfers out of that ward following their paranormal assault.
As previously mentioned, originally, the Asylum grounds contained numerous buildings, such as a dairy and workshops. Regarding the latter, each shop had a specific purpose, such as plumbing repair. For many years, when the plumbing shop was still in use, one Obsessive-Compulsive male patient essentially ran that shop.
About a decade or so after that patient’s death, circa 1907, the new shop foreman, a mortal, was perplexed by a daily oddity. Every night the mortal would layout the tools and materials he would need for the next day’s projects. However, the next morning he would find all those tools and materials had been neatly put away. And, every time the he tried to reorganize the shop, the next morning he would find even the heaviest of equipment returned to its long-standing locations. Eventually, the foreman gave into the
In addition to the workshops, the Asylum grounds featured residences of late–Victorian, architectural styles. These buildings served as housing for the doctors-in-residence and their families. One of these residences is said to be occupied by a genteel, Victorian-era lady. Her form, while faint, is full length and dressed in clothing typical of the 1880s. On the rare occasion when she is seen, she is sitting in a chair in what would have been the parlor. At first, she seems to be focused on some handwork, such as needlepoint. When she looks up to notice the mortal in the room, she smiles, sets down her project, gets up and walks towards the person as if to welcome him or her into her parlor. Then, as she leans forward as to kiss the person’s cheek she fades, to leave behind a faint and chilled scent of rose for the bewildered mortal to experience.
Another location of paranormal activity at the Asylum is the old cemetery. It is said that a number apparitions have been seen at this location. According to these stories the apparitions are only partial in form, but clear in detail. One account tells of two male ghosts, dressed in early 1900s clothing, who seem to be fighting violently until they eventually vanish from view. Two other apparitions appear to be a young mother and her toddler daughter from the 1930s. While holding her daughter, the woman sways about and seems to be singing, silently. Suddenly, the child is torn away from the woman who then appears to sink as if she has fallen to her knees as she sobs. She vanishes shortly thereafter.
These accounts are just a sampling of the Napa State Hospital ghost stories told over the years. Whether true or not, they have added yet another layer to the mysterious mystic of this 138 year old Napa County icon.
If you enjoy hearing local ghost stories and paranormal tales, please join me as I share yet another sampler of Napa County’s supernatural events on Wednesday, October 29 from 6 – 7 P.M. at the Napa Library – 580 Coombs Street. For more information call 253-4235.