Did you ever hear what happened at the Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hills? Probably not, because I doubt there was anything in the papers about it. Nobody cares much about ghosts anymore. Well, it happened sort of like this.
Mom was Dad rented a room at the Leger Hotel the week before Halloween. The Hotel brochure said the place was haunted, Of course, they took Sissy and me along because we were still too young to stay home alone. Mom had some idea that kittens would enjoy the cultural experience.
Sissy and I stayed in the room while they went exploring. How did mom think we could have a cultural experience from the hotel room? I think it was an excuse because she couldn’t be away from us.
Sissy and I spent the first hour exploring every nook and cranny, looking out the window onto the 2nd floor balcony where the prostitutes used to sit, advertising their wares. I didn’t make that up. That’s what we heard the maid say. We crawled in the fireplace and under the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. We felt “something”, but we couldn’t exactly figure out what it was.
That’s when I heard the voice. My hair stood on end and my tail fluffed up. I just made out the faint wispy outline of an old guy on the sofa, wearing an old miner’s hat. His face was covered with gray whiskers and he was missing a few teeth. He looked pretty scary!
Sissy was sleeping. She’s not like me. She’s all quiet and prissy. I’m usually awake and looking for trouble. So this old guy waves a gnarled hand and says, “Can ya’ help me? I need help to move on.”
There wasn’t anyone in the room, so I figured he must be talking to me, so I says, “Are you talking to me? I’m a cat.”
“I can see that. Maybe you can help me more than anybody, you bein’ a cat and all.”
“Are you a ghost?”
“Yeah. Guess so. Name’s Joe Harrigan. I died in 1876. My partner and me had a little mine nearby and we usta’ come to town on weekends. They hanged me for killin’ my partner, but I didn’t. I shoulda’ gone on to whatever comes next, but since I was innocent, they couldn’t send me to Hell, but bein’ convicted for murder, all official-like in a Court a’ Law, Heaven said they couldn’t take me neither. I’ve been stuck here in this room ever since, tryin’ to get somebody to help me clear my name so’s I can cross over.”
“Why hasn’t anyone helped you before?”
“Some folks can see me, but I can’t make them hear me. They run off yellin,’ “I seen a ghost! I seen a ghost!” and change rooms. Sometimes there’s a dog stay in the room. They can see and hear me, but they growl or hide under the bed. Maybe cats is more understandin’?”
Sissy was awake now. She puffed her fur up, and her eyes got all big. “Whaaat’s going on?”
“Calm down, scardy-cat. It’s just an old ghost. They hanged him so he can’t move on. He wants us to help him.”
“What can we do? We’re cats!”
I was about to agree when Mom and Dad came in. The ghost melted away, so we couldn’t ask any more questions.
“What’s up with Sissie Amber? She looks like a porcupine!” Mom said.
“Maybe she’s seen a ghost!” says Dad, and both of them fell down laughing on the bed and got all kissie. Sissie and I tossed sand from the litterbox onto the hearth, to let them know what we thought about such nonsense.
A while later, Mom and Dad went to dinner and locked us in the room. We waited for the ghost to come back again but he didn’t. Mom and Dad came back and went to bed. We could see ghostly shadows all over the room and chased them around for the next three hours until Mom tossed us into the bathroom.
About 6:00 AM, I clawed the door and woke up Dad. He hasn’t needed an alarm clock since we came to live here. I just claw the door and howl, and like Pavlov’s dog, he’s out of bed, opens the door, and feeds us. Just three or four days of repetition and humans are fairly easy to train.
Mom and Dad went off to breakfast and left us in the room. So much for day two of our cultural experience. The old guy showed up about 9:00 AM. His aura faded in and out, much fainter than the day before. His hands trembled when he spoke. “Look, girls, I think I’m about at the end of my rope…no pun intended… If I don’t get some help movin’ on pretty soon, I don’t think I’ll ever make it.”
“But, you never said how we could help you,” I exclaimed.
“There’s a secret panel in the back of the old armoire in the corner. I hid a paper inside the panel. My partner writ out his will, tellin’ how he accidentally shot hisself’ cleanin’ his gun. After I buried him, I was grieving’ his death and come to town to get drunk. I hid that Will in the armoire before I went to the bar. I told um’ my partner was dead and they thought I kilt’ him to get the mine all to myself. One thing led to another until someone got a rope. They had a trial, but I was so drunk, I plumb forgot to tell um’ about that air’ Will in the armoire. So they hanged me.
“Bein’ dead sorta’ cleared my head and I remembered the Will, but it was too late. I’ve been ‘ahoverin’ ever since, hopin’ someone would find the Will and clear my name, so’s I can get a crack at Heaven, which it’s doubtful I deserve, but I’d like to give it a try!”
Sissy and I jumped off the bed and clawed at the door of the armoire. We got the door open and began clawing at the back wall of the paneling.
“That’s it! Right there! Give it all you got, girls. If you push on it, it sorta’ slides in. There! You can see the paper stickin’ out?”
“You can do it, SissyAmber! Go for it!”
Amber had plenty of practice pulling thumbtacks out of bulletin boards and pulling papers off the wall. She grabbed the paper with her teeth and pulled it out.
Old Joe was pretty excited. Mom and Dad came into the room about then and saw us pawing at the paper.
“What have you girls been doing? What’s that?” Mom picked up the faded paper with teeth marks in the corners… I was quick to explain that if anybody was in trouble, I didn’t have anything to do with it… Mom read the paper.
Joe, he didn’t shoot me. I done it kleenin my gun. I got no fambly and my frend Joe Harrigan otta have my shar a the mine. Sined July 1876 George Wales
“Where did this come from?” Mom asked.
“It looks like they were inside the armoire,” Dad said. “The door’s open and the paneling on the back wall is pushed in.”
“Let’s take it down to the manager and see what they make of it.”
Mom and Dad put on our collars and leashes and carried us downstairs to the manager’s office. At last, our cultural experience!
“Our girls found this in the armoire up in Room two. This old paper looks like a handwritten Last Will and Testament. Your Historic Society should see this,” Mom said.
“My goodness, yes. I know the name, Joe Harrigan. He was hanged for killing his partner, old George. They say Joe haunts Room two. Indeed, the Historic Society will be very interested! Poor old Joe. So, he was innocent after all. He’s buried up on boot hill. Folks go up to see his headstone. Your cats are heroes!”
Mom and Dad drove us to the cemetery and found old Joe’s headstone. Poor old guy. I guess The Leger Hotel added a postscript to their brochures about the ghost of the miner who was hanged by mistake at the hotel. I don’t think anybody in the news media paid much attention. Hopefully, someday, the courts will clear his name.
We never heard about old Joe’s ghost again. I think he must have been able to move on. I expect St. Peter gave old Joe a fair trial when he got to Heaven. He sure never got one at the Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hills!