The Cambrian

Was that a ghost? Cambria residents share stories of the North Coast’s most haunted spots

Be forewarned. Things that go bump in the night may not always be the cat trying to raid the dog food dish or a raccoon trying to tear the bungee cord off the trash can.

Especially at this time of year, some people swear that some spots on the North Coast are haunted.

Melody Coe, archivist for the Cambria Historical Society, told The Cambrian some North Coast ghost tales — including her own spooky encounter with a specter.

Cambria Pines Lodge

Coe said one of her scariest ghostly experiences was in 1987 when a Chumash elder, Grandfather Semu Huate, was called to the Cambria Pines Lodge to “appease the ghost in a room right above the desk in the lodge’s original main building.” (A fire destroyed the structure in January 1991.)

Tom Bost of Cambria, who was managing the lodge at the time, had requested Grandfather’s assistance.

He said via phone that “a lot of people who came to the lodge thought they saw a ghost in the lobby area, and I thought I did, too, going up the stairs.”

After Grandfather arrived, “We went up the stairs to the top and turned right,” Coe recalled. “When we got in the room, suddenly all the furniture went from the middle of the wall to the center of the room.”

Coe was thoroughly frightened. “I thought to myself, ‘We don’t need to be in here!’ ” she said, “but that was Grandfather’s specialty. They called him the ghost buster.”

Later, Grandfather told Bost and Coe that “the ghost had been a trapper, and the native people were holding him there,” in retaliation for the way he’d treated them, Bost said.

The legend says the trapper’s ghost “went back in time to ask for their forgiveness,” Bost said, “but they refused. He was released into town, maybe to cause trouble for all of us.”

Coe said that with the help of another medicine person, “Grandfather held a big town dance with a huge turnout that included drumming and ceremonies to appease the ghost.”

Bost called it “an all-day event, including the ceremony that Grandfather did privately in the lodge. And perhaps it worked.”

“Since that day,” Bost added, after years of financial woes, “the lodge has prospered.”

If you go: The Cambria Pines Lodge is at 2905 Burton Drive. Call 805-927-4200 or go to www.cambriapineslodge.com.

Bluebird Inn

One of Cambria’s premier ghost-sighting sites is the charming, historic motel in the town’s East Village business district.

As Tribune reporter Gabby Ferriera wrote in a 2018 story, “The Bluebird Inn was built in 1880 by George Lull as a home for his second wife, Mary Inman Lull. Apparently, Mary really loved the house. Hotel guests have seen her ghost wandering the halls and the garden at night.”

Evie Ybarra, the Ventura-based author of “California’s Haunted Central Coast,” said one guest couldn’t sleep and wandered around the inn. She reportedly saw a transparent woman in a long dress — perhaps Mary — walk through the wall and into the Bluebird Inn’s lounge area.

The Cambria History Exchange says that “it is believed by many that the ghost of Mary Inman still resides at the Blue Bird Inn and is often seen roaming the facility late at night.”

If you go: The Bluebird Inn is located at 1880 Main St. in Cambria. Call 805-927-4634 or visit www.bluebirdinncambria.com for more information.

adelaida cemetery
The Adelaida Cemetery in rural Paso Robles is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Charlotte Sitton, who lost a child to diptheria in the late 1800s. Sitton’s ghost is called the Pink Lady. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Adelaida Cemetery

According to Tribune archives, the graveyard in the hills between Paso Robles and San Simeon is “among twisty roads lined with gnarled oaks. It’s quiet during the daytime, but at night people have reported seeing the Pink Lady, the ghost of a woman named Charlotte Sitton.”

In Ybarra’s book, she writes that Sitton’s child died and was buried at the cemetery. Bereft over her child’s death, Sitton is said to have taken her own life, and now roams the graveyard in a pink dress.

A 2015 Tribune article says Sitton died at age 19 in 1890 and was buried at the cemetery. She reportedly can be seen wandering the cemetery on Friday nights, grieving for her child — or children, depending on the version you hear — who died of diptheria.

Ybarra said she spoke with several people who told her they witnessed the Pink Lady wandering the cemetery.

“There are so many tales that are similar all across the country, and I think every cemetery has their white lady,” she said. “It’s no different on the Central Coast.”

If you go: The Adelaida Cemetery is located near the intersection of Adelaida Road and Chimney Rock Road in Paso Robles. It’s open sunrise to sunset, with no entry after dark.

Rigdon House

This circa-1880 building — also in the historic East Village section of Cambria’s downtown — is perhaps best known as Rigdon Hall, the home of state senator Elmer Rigdon. Its secondary claim to fame was allegedly having the first indoor bathtub in town.

In 1917, Sen. Rigdon introduced a bill in support of what would later be known as Highway 1, the highly scenic roadway between Cambria and Carmel. Construction began in 1922, and the highway segment opened in 1937.

The Rigdon House is now a boutique hotel.

Coe said a well-known psychic who was staying at the hall swore it was haunted by the ghost of a 3-year-old girl. The archivist researched the tale, but couldn’t verify it.

“The only record I could find about a child who died in the house,” she said, “was a 2 1/2-month-old girl, the Rigdons’ only child, perhaps of typhoid fever.”

If you go: The Rigdon House is at 4022 Burton Drive. For details, call 805-927-5125 or go to www.therigdonhouse.com.

Other North Coast ghosts

Coe also spoke of a big house on Park Hill in Cambria that was so haunted, an exorcism had to be performed.

Her friends, Jane and Ervin Smithers, “heard a woman’s voice, with children screaming,” Coe said. “I looked into it, and a woman and her children were murdered in the house in the 1930s.”

Coe also recalled tales of possible ghosts at a house on Park Hill. It was occupied by a woman that some people said was mentally ill or suffering from dementia, because she kept seeing and hearing bad things in the home.

The woman’s caregiver defended her, Coe said, saying the woman really was seeing those things. Eventually, the woman moved out, and a doctor moved in to what Coe described as a “terribly disturbed house.”

Coe also mentioned ghost tales involving a house on Cambria’s Bridge Street. She said lots of people said they’d seen a surprisingly realistic image of Alfred, a former resident, as far away as San Luis Obispo.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

Kathe Tanner has been writing about the people and places of SLO County’s North Coast since 1981, first as a columnist and then also as a reporter. Her career has included stints as a bakery owner, public relations director, radio host, trail guide and jewelry designer. She has been a resident of Cambria for more than four decades, and if it’s happening in town, Kathe knows about it.
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