Brushes with the Paranormal—Ghosts Part 3

My best friend used to own a historic Victorian on the corner of Henrietta & Court St in downtown Martinez. It is located in what used to be known as “Portuguese Flats” not far from the Downtown business district. The house has had an interesting history. It was built in the late 1890’s. The original owners were the De Sotos, one of the early Mexican Land Grant Families. Mr. De Soto died of a heart attack 6 or 7 years after the house was built, and his widow sold the home soon after to a local developer by the last name of Colton. Both Mr De Soto and his wife are rumored to haunt the place. It is interesting to note that the house is actually known as the Colton House, even though he wasn’t the original owner. While he lived there, however, the house figured prominently in local society life. Apparently it operated as a speakeasy during the prohibition. The Coltons sold the home after their daughter succumbed to the influenza epidemic approximately 1918 or so. It is her ghost that can be heard running up and down the stairs. Not long after this it became a convent for the Sisters of the Holy Family, with the main church located a street or two over.

This is a photo of the original main church which actually can be seen from the upper story of my friend’s old house:

the website for the Church mentions the convent:

The years that followed saw many changes both in the leadership of the parish and in its facilities. Between 1896 and 1903, a second ????? was relocated and a second larger rectory was built. In 1923, the oversight of the parish was transferred from the Dominican Fathers to the Diocesan Clergy. In 1930, a new rectory was constructed on the original location. In 1931, the Sisters of the Holy Family came and taught Summer School. In 1933 they opened a convent in a rented home and later purchased it.

The Sisters operated the convent for many years but eventually moved the convent to another location and the home was used primarily to store church property. During the 1950’s the Sisters sold the home to the Columbo family who used it as a boarding house to generate income. According to my friend, one of the ghosts that inhabit his old house is a music teacher who rented a room from the Columbos during its boarding house phase. He was reportedly a dog lover and my friend’s Dalmations used to like going into that room, perhaps it was for a ghostly pat on the head!

Here is a picture of his home from above and behind

Here is what it looks like today:

When he first bought the home, he took me on a tour and explained the history of the place, and showed me the basement quarters of the home which housed the nuns when the place was a convent. He said that he did get an ominous feeling down there but he couldn’t explain it until he learned the home’s other, haunted history.

Among the ghostly goings on were flickering lights and the sound of little feet running up and down the staircase, most likely the little child who lived and died there. My friend surmised that the minor pranks that occurred were probably because of this youthful spirit. He also related a ghostly piano serenade on Christmas morning one year. The sudden noise of piano keys playing music on Christmas morning scared the visiting family members so badly they never came back!

I myself spent one night there and was worried sick about seeing/hearing “ghosties.” Without going into too much detail, all I will say is, I never heard or saw anything and was vastly relieved. A few of his Dalmations did keep me company that night and I was very grateful!

Part 4 coming soon…….

~ by irishgrl on September 5, 2008.

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