(Originally published on Sept. 1, 1993) Saundra Dyer doesn't believe in ghosts, not really, but there has been something going on all the years she has owned her inn in this old Gold Rush camp.
"I don't know how else to explain it. I sense she's here, and other people tell me she's here, too," said Dyer the other afternoon as she sat on a bench on the shady front lawn of Dyer's Resort beside the north fork of the Yuba River.
"One of those rooms - I have guests who say they'll never stay in that room again. And I have others who always ask for that room."
Dyer said she has never seen anything, but she has felt and heard things, enough for her to think that the force that occupies her place is the ghost of Gertrude Peckwith, whose former house is the central building of the 13-room complex.
She was the bride of Tony Peckwith when she came to Downieville early in the century. They owned the Wide Awake Mine and when it prospered they bought the house.
But she died not long after, falling down a shaft in the mine. "Or was she pushed? That's what people around here always ask," said Dyer.
Whatever the cause of death, Tony disappeared and the house remained vacant until the early 1960s when it was converted to its present use by the people from whom Dyer bought it. Dyer, 48, a red-haired, green-eyed woman with a lilting laugh, said the events that resulted in becoming an innkeeper were in themselves a bit eerie.
"I had a good job in Redding," she recalled. "I love to fish and I'd come up here on vacation. I had no plans to move."
But she fell in love with the resort, which was not for sale. The owners decided to sell, however, so Dyer made a deal, quit her job and almost immediately started getting to know Gertrude.
"I'd be working in the laundry room - it's in the basement - and I'd hear someone upstairs, footsteps walking from one place to another like someone working in the kitchen," she said.
"Then I'd go up and no one was there. It happened time after time. And not just to me. The cleaning girls, on their own, told me about the same thing at different times."
And then there is that second-floor bedroom. A woman awoke there one night to hear her husband walking around the room. When he returned to bed she felt him sit on her.
"But it wasn't her husband," said Dyer. "He'd been in bed the whole time and when she spoke up, telling him he was on the wrong side of the bed, it woke him. And the weight that was on her just disappeared. They didn't hear another thing."
She said a few guests who have stayed in that room have had similar experiences, and of those few, some request the room on return visits, while others request another room.
"I don't know," she said. "There must be something going on.
"Once I was going up to clean that room and some force just wouldn't let me go in. I finally went back and got the dog to come with me, but the dog wouldn't go in either. It was several hours before I could get in there."
She said she doesn't consider the haunt something to worry about, however.
"I think it's just Gertrude, and I think she's a nice person. I have some of her and Tony's letters - hot, romantic letters. She was eager to come here before she moved from San Francisco.
"I think she still considers this her home."