Dear Ghost Hunters – Please Help Me!

Town of Hornitos sign

Dear Ghost Hunters,

I need help. I think our cul-de-sac is haunted.  And the creature that is haunting it, is becoming more brazen, he no longer hides in the shadows, he stands out and openly stares at our house.  I am not the only one who has seen him.  My kids have noticed his dark 7 foot tall figure standing behind the firs across the cul-de-sac.  My dogs stand at the front door and growl incessantly.  They are uncharacteristically nervous throughout the night. My boys’ friend saw a figure duck behind his parked car when he left our house to go home.  So it isn’t just me, I am not going crazy.

Thankfully, he is only present at night – or else I would never leave the house. I desperately need help in figuring out who this is, why he is here and most importantly, how do we rid our cul-de-sac of this phantom (if that is what he is)?

This is all started several weeks ago. I had decided a little adventure was in order, I needed to get of the house.  I hadn’t written anything on my blog in quite some time, and thought I would go explore what was purported to be a ghost town not too far from where we live, and then write a post.

It was a beautiful day, the day I went to Hornitos, California. The morning had been dreary and grey because of the Tule Fog that had settled into the valley, but by early afternoon the fog had burned off and the skies were clear. The town is tucked way back into the foothills of the Sierras, not far from Yosemite.  I don’t know if you have heard of this town, well maybe you have, since you are in the business – of hunting ghosts.  I certainly hadn’t.

The drive over there was so enjoyable. The hills which are normally a golden brown, were dressed up in a coat of lush green grass.  It kind of reminded me of the default screensaver for Microsoft.  The cows seemed happy, standing in the knee-high grass munching away. I even saw a group of cows happily running about after each other. I can’t say that I have ever seen that.  I saw a ranch teeming with Llamas, I saw goats and sheep. Everything was….blissful. I guess that’s what makes this whole situation so disturbing, the day was glorious and now I am mired in a situation that is quite miserable.

Hills and Goats

The town is about 12 miles away from Catheys Valley, down a winding, curvy country road. I actually almost drove through it, it is such a tiny town. There seemed to be a vintage car rally of some kind going on at the only café in town.  A group of elderly men were standing around looking at 1950s cars.  I was confused, because the sign said Hornitos, but this did not look like the usual ghost town. There were people living in this town. It turns out there are about 60 residents of Hornitos, they live amongst the abandoned buildings, with the ghosts.


I guess Hornitos had started out as a little town filled with Mexican miners during the Gold Rush era. But it became a town of outcasts. Miners shunned from nearby mining camps settled here.  According to what I read, while conducting my research, this little, tiny, blip on the map kind of town had a population of about 15,000 people back in its heyday. But these residents were the worst of the worst, hooligans, ruffians, thieves and murderers.  They say that at one point, the streets and the doors of every building were coated in blood because of the stabbings, the shootings and the murders.  In fact, there were so many dead bodies, and the ground in the vicinity was so hard, the residents would simply take the dead bodies and dump them in an area that came to be called Dead Man’s Gulch.


I parked my car on the main street and started exploring. I took photos of the first Ghirardelli store.  This building and piece of land is still owned by the Ghirardelli (chocolate) company.  A plaque erected in front of it says so.

I photographed the first ever Wells Fargo Express building. I remember reading that back in the day, about $40,000 of gold was being transported from this site daily. I have included all the photos I took that day I visited Hornitos, in hopes it might offer some clues regarding my present situation.

I went up to the church, where the cemetery stands way up at the top of the hill. The view from there was amazing.  I found it interesting all the head stones, were facing away from the church, so I couldn’t read any of the inscriptions.  The cemetery was fenced off, and the gate was locked. The plaque in front of the church says it was established sometime in the 1860s.  Why a town filled with delinquents and the scourge of humanity would need a church is beyond me.  But perhaps they need a church more than anyone.   It was while I was standing there, staring at the cemetery, pondering the reason for this church, that I caught movement in a copse of trees on the right side of the cemetery. It was a fleeting vision, and I intently glared at the group of trees for some time, hoping for a repeat performance, before turning back. I even photographed the trees in hopes of catching something.  I have included that photo for you to look at.  I don’t see anything, but perhaps you will.

It is said there are multiple sightings of ghosts in the area, which is not really surprising because of the violent history of the town. One story is about two ladies of the night who became embroiled in a knife fight in the middle of the town square. They were fighting over the same miner. The miners stood around them, clapping and cheering them on. Both of them died, from their stab wounds and today, the screams of the ladies, and the clapping of the miners can be heard in the middle of night, echoing down the empty, dark, deserted streets. Other people have reported a lonesome figure, up by the church, walking slowly, and dragging something behind him.  There are screams of anguish heard from the now empty jail.


I wanted to ask some of the present day town residents about these stories. But I only saw several of them, and they gave off the aura of not wanting to be approached.  The living residents scared me.  They all had gnarled faces, disfigured with deep wrinkles, leathered with sun, perhaps harried by the town’s past.  I don’t know, but I couldn’t muster the courage to talk with them.  I attempted to smile at them, but they stared past me, as if they could see something I could not.

I spent about an hour or so, exploring the town. Like I said, it is so small, I walked from one end to the other and back during that time.

I really had the most enjoyable afternoon, that is, until I climbed back into my car, in order to drive home. That’s when things started to go awry, but the occurrences were so subtle, I thought nothing of them, other than being minimal inconveniences, well, with the exception of one.

My car, which I had cleaned several days prior to my going on this adventure, and sprayed with New Car deodorizer, now had a pervasive smell of hard-boiled eggs.  I thought perhaps something had snuck into my car, or some scent had floated in and been trapped within the closed car while I had been exploring.  Despite riding with car windows open, for quite some time, the smell did not dissipate in the least.  Also my heater didn’t seem to be working, the inside of the car was so cold, icy cold in fact.  I had the heater on high, I had the seat warmer on, but nothing helped.  I shivered all the way home, which is curious, or maybe not, considering it was in the 60s that afternoon. Before starting my drive back, I had attempted to look at the photos on my camera, but the battery instantly died, even though it was full charged before I left home.

I decided to drive back through the mountains to get home.  I went through Mariposa, Oakhurst and Coarsegold.  The sun was beginning it’s descent in the Western skies, and slanted through the front passenger window, creating an almost strobe light effect as it flickered through the trees.  At one point, at a rather treacherous part on these mountain roads, I sensed movement in the backseat and quickly glanced up into the rearview mirror and I saw, fleetingly, a dark mass.  I almost drove off the road in sheer terror, but managed to right the car before I catapulted off into a deep ravine. I looked back, and nothing was there.  The sulfur smell was stronger.

I was unable to get any of the usual radio stations.  All of them were just static, but a deep rumbly voice came through intermittently….on every station. I thought perhaps it was because of being in the mountains, but normally I can get one or two radio stations to come through.  Not that day.

I made it home in one piece, but now I seem to be falling apart.  I suspect I had a dark traveler, something glommed itself onto me, and has travelled back with me from Hornitos.  I was never so glad to get inside my house, but I sense my house will not remain a sanctuary, or a safe haven for long. I wonder if the Russian Sage bush in the front garden is holding him back.  I hear sage is good for warding off spirits.  It be may be a silly hope, but it is all I have at this point.

Whatever, or whoever he is, is out there.  He knows, that I know, he is out there.  The neighbors’ flood lights trip on frequently now, as if there is constant movement in the cul-de-sac, even though to the naked eye, it is empty. The dogs in the neighborhood, down the street, are howling at night.  There is a presence out there, I suspect brought back with me from Hornitos.  Here is a photos of the pines and a view of our house.

I don’t know if there is anything you can do to help.  I apologize for the length of this correspondence, but I needed to tell you everything.  Maybe you can make some sense of all of this, this craziness.  I would forever be indebted to you if you could provide some assistance or guidance in this matter.

Please help me….before it is too late.


S.D. Gates


P.S. I did go to Hornitos, but I am not being stalked by a ghostly shadow figure.  I just thought a letter would be more interesting than just a post about a ghost town.

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28 replies »

  1. Lovely. I’ve been writing ghost stories, and I live in gold country, although further north, near Coloma. I’ve been thinking of retelling some California ghost tales, and I’ve added some of my own. Hornitos, huh? I did not know that’s where Murrieta hung out. 🙂

    • I had never heard of this town either, I just stumbled across it while doing a Google search. Some of the stuff I read about Murrietta said he was beheaded here in Hornitos, some said it was in Coalinga. There is supposed to be underground tunnels that lead from the saloon to the street, and that is how he used to escape when someone was after him. And they say the world is going to the dogs, sounds like it was just total mayhem back in the Gold Rush days.
      I was thinking about going to Rhyolite in Nevada – have you ever been there? I also went to Bodie, over on the Eastern side of the Sierra – that is one creepy place, just north of Mono Lake. I did a post on that as well. I have this fascination for ghost towns (in the daytime).

    • Yes, about 60 people still live there, some in the older buildings. I can’t imagine what it must be like at night, when the streets are empty and dark. There must be some really angry energy thee with all the violence that town has seen in it’s past.

    • Hi my friend. I must say it was an incredibly creepy place, and that was in daylight. I can’t imagine what it would be like at night, as those are no street lights and it is out in the middle of nowhere.

  2. For a while there I imagined the ghost of a seven foot tall miner had somehow got his beard caught in the door of your car and had had little choice but to go home with you. I’m glad to hear you’re not really being stalked by a fearsome ghoul. 🙂

  3. I was thinking “oh no!” You actually stumbled across a ghost like the construction guy.
    I am glad that it was your author side coming through.

  4. What a fantastic post! I loved it so much! It’s fun and entertaining and the letter format got my attention throughout. And what a great adventure and fantastic pics.

    • Thank-you so much!!!!! I didn’t want to just do a boring post about a random ghost town, the letter was so much more fun to write! Are you enjoying your birthday?

  5. I am glad you included that final note because I was beginning to wonder! I was planning on suggesting the sage and smiled when I read you had a sage bush.
    I think the townspeople might all really just be ghosts, or maybe they thought you were one. I love your stories.

  6. I really had good bumps reading your interesting adventure to the Ghost town of Hornitos… I actually believed you were being haunted till the very end.. LOL I am quite a scared cat! Loved how you put it up though, fresh perspective.

    • Thanks-you so much for coming over and visiting my little blog. I am glad you enjoyed reading about my adventures. It was a really creepy place and I think the thing that made it so creepy was it was a ghost town with living people who were kind of scary too (I am sure they are very nice – once you get to know them).

  7. SD, thanks for sharing this creepy tale. I have heard of ghosts (or whatevers) following people from time to time. I see this is an old post…is the presence still around or did it fade away in time? Feel free to email me. Best, Jan

    • Thanks for reading – actually haven’t seen the Shadow Man for sometime but my youngest girlfriend swears there is a presence standing in the corner in my room. She won’t go in there by herself.

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