The Leger Hotel Ghost
By "Truffie McFeral-Faber" as told to Elaine Faber
Did you ever hear what happened at the Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hills? Probably not, because I doubt there was anything in the papers or the Talk Shows about it. Nobody cares much about ghosts any more, what with political news taking up the headlines.
Well, it happened sort of like this.
My persons rented a room at the Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hills – that’s in Northern California in the Sierra Mountains. The hotel brochure said the place was haunted, but my person doesn’t buy into that sort of nonsense. Of course, they took Sissy and I along because we were too young to stay home alone. Mom had some half-baked idea that we would enjoy the cultural experience… like… as if… since when do cats give a hoot about culture? Now a good piece of salmon... that’s another story…
I digress. We got to the hotel and my person got our equipment unpacked. Sissy and I stayed in the room while they went exploring. Now tell me, how were we supposed to have a cultural experience confined to the hotel room? If you ask me, it was just an excuse to bring us along for the weekend.
Sissy Amber and I spent the first hour exploring every nook and cranny, looking out the window onto the 2nd floor balcony where the prostitutes sat, advertising their wares. I didn’t make that up. That’s what the maid said when she showed us the room. We crawled in the fireplace and under the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. There was definitely "something" in the room, but we couldn’t exactly figure it out.
That’s when I heard the voice. Darn near scared me to death. My hair stood on end and my tail fluffed up. I do that to make myself look bigger, which even puffed up, isn’t very big. I saw the faint wispy outline of an old guy sitting on the sofa by the fireplace. He was wearing a dirty miner’s hat and his face was wrinkled and covered with gray whiskers. He had a couple of front teeth missing in the front of his mouth. He looked pretty scary!
Sissy Amber was sleeping. She could sleep through an earthquake. She’s not like me. She’s all quiet and prissy. Me, I’m always looking for trouble. If I can’t find any trouble, I usually make up some.
So this old guy waves his gnarled hand and says, “Can ya’ help me? I need some help to move on.”
I looked around the room. I thought maybe he was talking to my persons but there wasn’t anyone in the room. So I figured he must be talking to me. I lifted my paw and pointed to my bosom and said, “Are you talking to me? I’m a cat.”
“I can see that.” He says, with a drawl. “Maybe you’s can help me more than anybody, what you bein’ a cat and all.”
My eyes got real wide now that I guess what was going on. “Are you a ghost?”
“Yeeehhh. Name’s Joe Harrigan. I guess you’d say I was a ghost. They hanged me for killin’ my partner back in 1876. I shoulda gone on to whatever comes next, but I didn’t. Since I was convicted of murder all official-like in a Court a’ Law, Heaven said they couldn’t take me. They couldn’t send me to Hell either, ’cause I was innocent, see. I’ve been stuck here in this room ever since, tryin’ to get somebody to help me clear my good name.”
“Why can’t you get someone to help you?” I begun to relax a little and stretched out on the carpet in front of the fireplace.
“If I concentrate real hard,” Joe said, “some folks can see me, but I can’t make them hear me. They just run off yellin,’ “I seen a ghost! I seen a ghost!” and ask for a room change. They don’t stick around long enough to hear what I got ta say. Sometimes there’s been a dog stay in the room. They can see and hear me, but dogs is too stupid to pay attention. They just growl or hide under the bed. I’m thinkin’ maybe cats is more understandin’?”
Sissy Amber woke up. She puffed her fur up, trying to look scary, and her eyes got all big and round. I think she was even shaking a little. “Whaaat’s going on?”
“Calm down, scardy-cat,” I says, “It’s just an old ghost trying to get someone to help clear his name. They hanged him and he can’t move on. He wants us to help him.”
“What can we do? We’re cats!” Sissy asked.
I was about to explain when the door opened. The ghost sort of melted away when our persons came in.
“What’s up with Sissy Amber? She looks like a porcupine!” our person said.
“Maybe she’s seen a ghost!” and both our persons fell down laughing on the bed and got all huggy and kissy. Amber and I tossed sand from the sandbox onto the hearth, letting them know what we thought about such nonsense in the middle of the day.
Our persons went to dinner a bit later and locked the door behind them. We thought the ghost might come back again but he didn’t. Mom and Dad returned and read until lights out. Once the lights were out, we saw ghostly shadows all over the room. We chased them around like butterflies for the next three hours. About 2:00 AM, our man-person threw us in the bathroom. That was humiliating, but there weren’t any ghosts in there so we slept for a while.
About 6:00 AM, I clawed the bathroom door and woke up my man- person. He hasn’t needed an alarm clock since we came. I just claw the door to our cat room, and like Pavlov’s dog, he’s out of bed like a shot, lets us out and feeds us. It doesn’t take much to train a human, just three or four days of repetition and they’re very quick to learn.
Our persons went off to breakfast and left us locked in the room. So much for Day Two of the cultural experience. The only cultural experience we’d had so far was meeting a ghost looking for a path to redemption, which I doubt is what they originally had in mind.
The old guy showed up about 9:00 AM. His aura wasn’t as bright as the day before. His hands trembled when he spoke.“Look, girls,” he said, “I’m gettin’ real worried. 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’m ever gonna’ make it.”
“But you never told us how we could help you.” I exclaimed.
“My partner and I had a mine outside a’ town back in ‘76. He accidentally shot his-self cleanin’ his gun and he writ out his Will, tellin’ how he done it. After I buried him, I was aggrieving’ his death and come to town to get drunk. There’s a secret panel in the back of the old armoire in the corner. I hid that Will in the armoire. I got drunk and told um’ down in the bar that my partner was dead and they got to thinkin’ I kilt’ him to get the mine all to myself. One thing led to another until someone got a rope. They had a mock trial. 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 armoire door. We got it open and clawed at the back wall.
“That’s it! Right there! Let er’ rip, girls. If you push on it, it sorta slides in. There! You can see the paper stickin' out.” Joe got real excited when the panel slid a little.
“Go for it, Amber! You can do it, ” I encouraged. She went for it.
She had plenty of practice pulling thumbtacks out of bulletin boards and pulling papers off the wall. She got hold of the paper with her teeth and pulled it out.
Our persons 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 paper. It was faded and wrinkled and had 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. Amber did it! She read the paper.
Joe, he didn’t shoot me. I done it kleenin my gun. I got no fambly and Joe Harrigan otta have my shar a’ the mine. He is my frend. Sined July 1876 George Wills
“Where did this come from?” my person asked her man-person.
“They were inside the armoire. Look, the paneling on the back wall is pushed in.”
“Let’s take the cats down to the manager and see what they make of it.” Dad- person said.
We got our collars and leashes on and they carried us down to the Manager’s office. At last, our cultural experience! Downstairs in the old hotel.
“Our girls found this in the armoire up in Room 2,” our man-person explained to the manager. “This old paper looks like a holographic Last Will and Testament. Maybe your Historic Society would like to see this.”
“My goodness, yes. I know the name, Joe Harrigan. He was hanged for killing his partner back in 1876. They say Room Two is haunted. Maybe it’s old Joe. The Historic Society will be very interested in this. Looks like he was innocent after all. He’s buried up on Boot Hill. If you’re interested, here’s a map of the cemetery. You can go up and see his headstone.”
We all drove up to the cemetery and found old Joe’s headstone. Poor old Joe. I guess The Leger Hotel added a postscript to their brochures about the ghost of the miner who used to haunt Room Two. Now everyone knows he was hanged by mistake. Hopefully, someday, the courts will clear his name.
No one ever saw Old Joe’s ghost again. Amber and I feel pretty good about it. We think he must have moved on. I expect St. Peter gave Old Joe the fair trial he deserved when he got to Heaven. He sure never got one at the Leger Hotel in Mokelume Hills!