This article first appeared in The Tribune on May 13, 2006. The Clubhouse has since closed.
Andrew Adams didn't know when he offered to buy This Old House that the place had a history of inexplicable occurrences. All he saw was a sagging, moldy and overgrown old restaurant -- just outside of San Luis Obispo's city limits -- that had what he called "tremendous potential."
"The building has 6,000 square feet with some acreage around it, " Adams said. "The Realtor called it a total tear-down -- the original house was built in 1917 -- but I figured I could fix it up and open a country club, a clubhouse for local sports groups here in San Luis. ... I have been talking about doing this for years."
Most country clubs cater to the tennis and golf set. The Clubhouse at This Old House, slated to open this summer, will be a place for other team sports, such as rugby, soccer, basketball, softball, even tackle football, to call their own.
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It was only when Adams was in escrow that the real estate agent mentioned something extra might come with the deal.
"I learned the house had a ghost, " Adams said.
Adams liked the place even more.
"I think it's cool when a house has a history, " said Adams, who plunked down almost $1 million to buy the property last October.
During the last six months of renovations, people have dropped by This Old House to tell Adams their stories. They talked about a glowing presence peeking through the curtains at night, a poker swinging back and forth in the fireplace, a jukebox that would start up on its own. It only played one song, "The Days of Wine and Roses."
Several of Adams' construction workers also claim to have seen flashes of a presence or felt there was someone standing in their peripheral vision, only to disappear when they turned to get a better look.
Adams said he has not seen the ghost -- yet -- although he admits to feeling "the heebie-jeebies" when he's there alone at night.
Former employees of This Old House, such as Gretchen Gonyer, say that the ghost is friendly.
"He was a fun subject for those of us who worked there, " said Gonyer, who managed This Old House when it was a steak and barbecue restaurant in the 1980s. "We treated his habitation with respect and didn't try to change him. That's not to say we didn't blame him for absolutely everything that happened, even the cheesecake that would be missing from the refrigerator. Of course, none of us were getting any lighter either."
Adams said he has made some other discoveries on his own.
"I found a secret stash stuck in a hole in one of the walls, " Adams said. "There were employee sheets with people's names on it, and a 30-year-old menu with the restaurant's history on the back. It says the ghost communicated to the owners through an Ouija board, telling them he was John Vinney from Autry, Utah."
Adams also learned that Eugene Johe, a relative of the ghost, still lived nearby. Johe has heard stories about strange happenings in the house as early as the 1940s.
"Things would move around, candles would blow out, that sort of thing, " Johe explained to The Tribune later.
Johe speculates more than one spirit could be present in the house, but he knows for a fact of only one man, Attilio Guerra, who has died there.
"My great-grandfather Eugene Johe built the house as a wedding present for Attilio, his son -- I think that would make him my great-uncle, " Johe recalled.
"I have heard that Attilio died from a high fever soon after he got married. I don't really know why he haunts the place. Maybe he was too young, and wanted to stay in this world a little longer."
Adams also discovered a rusty safe tucked in the back of one of the closets. Once he figures out how to crack it open, it may shed some light on the house's longest kept secrets.
In the meantime, Adams wants to open the clubhouse by the beginning of August. After spending an estimated $500,000 in renovations -- skylights, a new kitchen, new decks and bathrooms, and a new roof, he hopes the ghost will be happy with his new digs.
"I consider him my security system, " he said. "He'll watch over the place with my interest at heart because I helped to make the house beautiful again."
And if the ghost has a hankering for cheesecake, he's going to be in luck.
"I like cheesecake, too, " Adams said. "It will be an item, for sure, on the menu."
The ghost, of course, can stay -- and eat -- for free.