by Kyle Pinjuv
Sonoma County is famous around the world for many things: the beautiful landscapes, the incredible variety of food and wine, the friendly and inviting culture of people who live here, the…supernatural activity? Yes, that is correct; if you start down that rabbit hole of searching for haunted places of Sonoma County, you will find books, movies and newspaper articles chronicling the rich history of this area and the stories of early settlements. Stories of those who landed here for one reason or another, and who are still here — for one reason or another.
A lonesome monolith at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains, the now unoccupied stone mansion at Glen Oaks Ranch stands just out of view of the passersby driving along Highway 12 through the small town of Glen Ellen. Built by Charles V. Stuart in 1860 and kept in private ownership until Sonoma Land Trust acquired the property from Joan Cochran in 2002, the house contains many of the psychological mechanisms that correlate with the feeling of being uneasy or creeped out. Houses are generally excellent locations for stories of ghosts and hauntings for a reason. They can be found in somewhat remote settings and our uneasiness is heightened by the fact that any help is far, or maybe even inaccessible (think "The Shining"), and being inside a structure heightens our animal sense of being trapped…two conditions that don’t allow us to rest easy. These old houses typically have accessories that perfectly fit into our haunted mansion archetype: secret rooms, old paintings, distorted mirrors, unexplored attics and dark, damp cellars…what is down in that cellar? More importantly, it is the stories of the place that are passed among the living that feed our fears of the dead.
The mansion at Glen Oaks Ranch still contains much of the old furniture and decorations from previous owners. Walking through the home is like walking through a museum of artifacts from the late 1800s and 1900s. There is one piece of furniture that stands out to most who visit — a single chair amidst a circle of others with the sign “Reserved for General Vallejo” pinned to the back. The previous owner of the house, Joan Cochran, used to tell her guests that the General’s ghost would return to the house and that specific chair was his to sit in when he visited. If you would like to sit, please choose one of the many other Victorian-style chairs to do so, she would say. Joan was also known to move her guests away from the window telling them they were blocking the General’s view.
Many say Joan’s stories of the General’s ghost were just her playful way of describing the history of the property, but there are other stories of unexplained (paranormal) activity within the house from recent tenants that might suggest otherwise. Perhaps General Vallejo continues to visit the property and sit in his favorite chair only to peer out at the beautiful scenery and find some peace in between worlds. Ghost stories are always surrounded by tragedy and pain. Perhaps this ghost just wants to find comfort in his favorite chair…and perhaps he just wants you to get out of the way of his view.
Kyle Pinjuv is the conservation easement program manager for Sonoma Land Trust.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.