"Pleasanton has a lot of old buildings and it seems that when we renovate those buildings, we have more activity," said Museum volunteer Rebecca Bruner. "Sometimes ghosts stay because they want to see what's going to happen, because they want to care for somebody. Sometimes they die here suddenly and they don't know they're dead, so they stick around."
Bruner told Ghost Walk participants that lingering spirits may also be remnants of Native American culture. Local Ohlone tribes, which had settlements near Castlewood, would bury their dead near water so their souls could follow the stream.
"In Pleasanton, you're on water that's contained near an underground lake, did that keep the souls here? Possibly," she said.
Other causes for things that go bump in the night are underground tunnels and a long history of violence and crime, from when Pleasanton had just one lawman and many Wild West ways. Bruner said stories of other worldly activity have been passed down for generations then confirmed by ghost hunters, tracking equipment and psychics.
While forgotten mortuaries and ghostly sightings dot Main Street, a few well-known spots are visited by brave Ghost Walk participants every year:
Towne Center Books
This bright and friendly bookstore was a French laundry in the 1920s and is known to harbor ghosts from the era, including that of a young female employee who died of pneumonia. A fan used to blow the laundry's fumes outside is still there, and bookstore owners use it to blow spirits away.
This restaurant was once home to the Arendt family whose members and employees have chosen to stay for eternity -- often throwing parties at night, slamming doors and moving objects. One regular spirit is that of a children's caretaker who died of a cough in her early 20s. Taking care of the homeowner's children was the light of this ghost's life and she's often seen in what used to be her bedroom window.
Buildings behind Pleasanton Gas Station
A man named John Amaral built a few buildings behind the service station on Main at St. Mary streets. One of the buildings housed a bakery and after a day's work, employees would return in the morning to find the kitchen in disarray and only chocolate chip cookies remaining. In another building, employees would report heat coming from a broken, disconnected heater and a man resembling Mr. Amaral walking between the buildings.
Vacant lot/former site of Union Jacks
A psychic who came by the vacant lot noticed three Native Americans sitting in the corner, they said they were glad to see the lot empty and would leave as soon as something else was built. When the building was torn town, workers believe they found a collapsed entrance to the tunnel system.
These ghosts are known to have fun with guests, often banging on doors, violating rooms and opening suitcases. Ghost trackers once set up cameras in the hotel basement and filmed a row of employee lockers moving from the wall without any help -- that the naked eye could see.
A prostitute from the 1850s named Lily is known to haunt the second story of the hotel, where she lived and worked. One night, a drunken, jealous customer chased her down the hallway with a knife and cornered her in a stairwell. Lily died at that stairwell and is still seen and heard in the converted offices, howling for help.
John Kottinger's barn at 200 Ray Street became Pleasanton's first jail in the 1850s. Kottinger had a tunnel built for transporting criminals from the courthouse -- his residence behind what is now Oasis Grill and Bar -- to the jail. Now the site of Milfleur's, owner and clairvoyant Terri Carlson often reports seeing orbs and spirits in her shop. Carlson said she regularly sees 20 "disencarnate beings" in the corner of her shop, as well as several historical figures. Carlson believes Kottinger himself has visited and once saw a jail cell holding a criminal who stole livestock appear in her store.
Adamos Aldrin dentistry, 219 Division St.
Maybe there's more than one reason to fear going to the dentist -- this office, built in 1882, is home to a ghost that is reported to have locked a patient in the bathroom. This ghost is rather helpful, often bringing in newspapers before the office opens, stacking mail and organizing cabinets.
Train tracks used to run through the park across the street from the Meadowlark Dairy and many men died while trying to walk along the tracks at night. Native Americans would follow the tracks to the bars (Meadowlark Dairy was a bar in those days) and then some would fall asleep on the tracks on their way back to their camp and be hit by the passing trains. Several of these ghosts are said to live in the second floor of the renovated Pleasanton Station, along with Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Sheffield, head of the train station.
Gay 90s Pizza
The second oldest building in town has been used as a Wells Fargo stagecoach stop, a bar and a brothel. Many have claimed to see a "lady in blue" standing at the upstairs window and a psychic believes the woman was a prostitute during the time the upstairs was used as a brothel. The owner has never been able to get a plant to stay alive in this window. The owner once saw "BOO" written in a mirror inside the restaurant and, despite best efforts, has never been able to remove the words.
Additionally, Gay 90s' basement is longer than one might think and was once part of the city's tunnel system.
Next time you're strolling through downtown Pleasanton and feel a chill or catch something strange out of the corner of your eye, you might have just seen a piece of the past that hasn't quite passed over.