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Bodega — the ‘cluster haunt’ town

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 | Posted by

Maybe Bodega should be called Boodega since it appears its ghost population rivals that of the living.

The Potter Schoolhouse is haunted, the McCrae House is haunted, the old Franceschi house is haunted, the old hotel is haunted, the house across the street is haunted, the loving ghost of Art Casini haunts The Casino (especially the pool table) according to his grandson and at least one employee. In fact it is hard to find a place that isn’t haunted in the small town.

Expert paranormal investigators called it a “cluster haunt”. Perhaps ghosts get lonely, too, and like company.

At the schoolhouse there appear to be multiple ghosts. The school held its dedication ceremony on Halloween of 1873. Alfred Hitchcock came to use it in the movie “The Birds” a year after it was closed in 1961. It lay boarded up until the Taylor family bought it in 1966. Real birds had moved in.

“The floors were  two feet thick in bird droppings and upstairs four large owls had moved in,” said Leah Taylor. Right from the beginning strange things were happening.

Leah’s mother, the late Mary Taylor, insisted she heard an Irish woman wailing for her baby.

“There is grave in back of the church [St. Teresa of Avila] next door. It’s the only one- Ellen Orr who died in 1861. I’ve heard she died in childbirth,” said Taylor. “Maybe it was her.”

“The front door hardware was broken and until we located replacements we chained the door closed. In the middle of the night we’d hear knocking and the chains rattling. We could see from the upstairs window no one was out there, but my mother was brave and would go downstairs to see what was happening. No one was ever there,” Taylor recalls.

“Once I was home with my dog and it was getting late. I heard the door open and close and thought it was my brother coming home. I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. The dog’s hair suddenly bristled and he became very alarmed. No one was there. Then a child’s rocker in the room began rocking, and a beach ball began rolling around. I just held the dog,  tucked my head under the covers and went to sleep,” she said. “My mother  heard someone call out ‘It’s Sunday!’ once, and we’ve all heard children laughing or singing at times.”

Taylor is convinced one of the ghosts is Calvin Keithly, the first teacher at the school. The Civil War vet fell in love and married a Bodega woman, Nancy, and they had a baby daughter, Clara. He died young of measles. He was missing his young family.

In the mid 1990s a TV program called “Sightings” sent a paranormal scientific team to Bodega. To measure all sorts of things – temperature changes, etc. One of their conclusions was that there are “residual energetic imprints” . Ever go into a place a pick up strong feelings  about the place that had nothing to do with history or architecture? Residual energetic imprints. Another conclusion was that Bodega is a “cluster haunt”. The show was hosted by Christopher Chacon .

Ten years before that TV team  came, in 1985 the rennowned psychic Sylvia Brown came to Bodega to the McCrae House built in 1878. The house had been built by John McCrae an Irishman who had missed out on the gold fields by 1860, so instead got into the lumber industry.

Brown was interested in meeting the resident ghost, a doctor wearing a dark suit and tall hat who is sometimes alone, sometimes kneeling by a little girl he apparently didn’t cure and still can’t accept the outcome. Brown confirmed the ghost sightings and returned with a film crew the following year. At the time it was owned by Charlene Weber who had established a doll museum, but more people came to meet the doc than see the dolls.

Mark Bencivenga and his family currently reside in the house. He has tried to find Brown’s documentary but has not succeeded yet, although he did find articles about her visits. “Sometimes I have heard a child crying upstairs, and I know it wasn’t mine because my baby was asleep in my arms.”

He also reports some shelving he put up had to be replaced three times. The first two times it flew off the wall within a half hour. Apparently the ghosts approved the shelving eventually.

The old Franceschi house is reportedly haunted by a kindly old uncle who spent most of his life upstairs, being more than little eccentric.

A very kindly ghost, Art Casini, who died in 1983 has been spotted in the early morning hours near the pool table at the Casino  by his grandson Brad Casini and one other employee. Everyone knew Art looked after the entire town while he was alive, so it is no surprise he might still be on the job.

The same crew that investigated the schoolhouse in the 90s also checked out the old hotel, now a private residence and confirmed paranormal activity to the great relief of the woman who owned it at the time.

“She thought she might have a brain tumor or something because she kept seeing things,” explained Leah Taylor.

That’s just a few of Bodega’s friendly ghosts. Come on Halloween (there’s a party at the Casino that night) and maybe meet them. Oh, and if you see Art, tell him everyone misses him.

The Potter School - overpopulated with ghosts.

The Potter School – overpopulated with ghosts.

The resting place of Ellen Orr - or is it? Some suspect she is not resting at all.

The resting place of Ellen Orr – or is it? Some suspect she is not resting at all.


  • Blair Jett

    Great article. I am a former resident of the area and I miss it dearly. I am also a paranormal Investigator and even have a story about the schoolhouse on my website containing a ghost photo taken at the school in recent months. I am always intrigued when reading stuff like this. Perhaps one day when I return to the area I might be lucky enough to cisit all of these locations. Thank for writing the story, Andrea.

  • Mary Jo Winter

    I knew you’d love this story, Blair!

  • Andrea Granahan

    Happy Halloween!

  • Dolores Marconi

    You make a good case for a dead town!

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Andrea Granahan is our West County correspondent.
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