I've been searching for ghosts, UFOs, monsters, you name it, for over a decade now and everyone always asks me when I was the most scared. Normally I tell them the story of Fidget the Necromancer hitting on my friend Scott (a story I need to put on here one day), but that's just for laughs. The one time I was truly scared shitless was on one of my very first investigations.
It was the summer of 2000 and I had formed my first paranormal investigation group with several friends of mine who also shared the same interest in the paranormal as I did. After doing a few local investigations we felt we were ready to do something bigger. I had recently purchased Haunted Places: The National Directory by Dennis Hauck which lists haunted locations by state. After checking out what was near us, I came across a story of a haunted cemetery outside of Paso Robles. It was a small cemetery by the name of Adelaida and it went back to at least the mid 1800's. The story behind the haunting was that sometime during the late 1800's a woman was distraught over the death of her two children after they had succumbed to diphtheria during an outbreak. Finally she couldn't handle the loss anymore and out of desperation (and probably madness) took her own life. But it seems that even in the afterlife she continued to mourn for her children. According to the book she would appear on Friday nights between the hours of 10:00 pm and midnight and leave flowers on her children's grave. Perfect. We had a story and a time and place for us to be. We decided to this would be our next investigation.
Our researcher called up the cemetery district to dig up more information on the story and to make sure it was ok for us to investigate at night. The cemetery district was more than open to the idea of us investigating (something rare these days) and even gave us the name of the ghost we were looking for, Charlotte Sitton. As Friday approached I was anxious; we had investigated local cemeteries but this was different. This cemetery was in a nationally published book and to me that meant something big (mind you this was before the advent of social networking and Google wasn't the search engine giant it is now). Finally Friday 5:00 hit and I met up with the other three of the group and we headed off to Paso Robles expecting to arrive at the cemetery around 9:30 or so.
We arrived at the cemetery's front gate almost exactly at 9:30. I marveled at the location, it was heavily wooded and rather hilly, which is different than the cemeteries here in Fresno. We parked on the road and walked through the pedestrian gate. Our game plan was to find Charlotte's two children's graves (since it was said that she left flowers on their graves) and investigate around that area. As we started to walk around we noticed that most of the graves were from the 1940's to the present. This didn't sync with the story taking place in the late 1800's, but upon further investigation we found the older part of the cemetery up on a hill. As 10:00 approached it was decided the four of us should split up into two groups of two in order to cover ground faster. Myself and my friend Scott would take the portion of the cemetery near the front gate and my other two friend's Tom and Fred would explore the portion up on the hill. If either found the graves we were looking for we would notify the other.
As 10:00 approached Scott and I started exploring our section of the cemetery. Most graves were from the 20th Century, but I felt it was best to check every grave just to make sure. I didn't want to skip a portion and then find out later it was what we were looking for. As we started walking around we began to hear crunching noises about twenty feet from us. The ground was heavily littered with dried oak leaves (the trees there nearly formed a canopy over the cemetery) and every time you walked you would make a crunching sound as you crushed the foliage underfoot. What we were hearing sounded exactly like this. Problem was, Scott and I were the only ones there. I looked up at the hill where Tom and Fred were at and I could see their flashlights so I knew it wasn't them. As we walked around the footsteps would follow us, only stopping when I called out to see if anyone was there and then starting back up again when we would continue to walk. If I didn't know any better I'd say we were being followed. And while all of this was going on I happened to look up at the hill and notice both Tom and Fred's flashlights waving around wildly and even heard Tom yell out something (he was too far away for me to be able to make out what he said). Soon after this the foot steps stopped. And then I hear from Tom as he's coming down the hill.
"We found Charlotte's grave."
Excited, both Scott and I run up to meet him and Fred. He shows us the grave and inscribed on the tombstone it read "Charlotte Sitton". I was excited that we had found the grave and noticed that her two children's graves were next to it. As I started taking pictures I asked Tom if he had been down in our area at all to which he replied he hadn't. When asking me why and I mentioned hearing the footsteps, his face went blank for a second. He said that both he and Fred heard the same thing and assumed it was us playing a joke on them at first.
I described to him what happened while we were searching for Charlotte's grave. What's interesting is that he and Fred heard their set of footsteps around the same time as we did. He continued to say that their footsteps were more active and at one point sounded like several persons running around them. Not sure who it was he shined his flashlight around trying to see where they were coming from (this is what I saw when I was down on the lower portion of the cemetery) and started calling out for anyone who was there to show themselves (once again this was what I heard). Here's where the story gets even more interesting. Tom went on to say as he was shining his flashlight around, it passed over Fred and landed on a shadowy figure. That figure, once noticed, began to move and disappeared behind a tombstone. Tom ran over there to see where it went and noticed the name on the marker. Charlotte Sitton.
I've done over a hundred investigations since that hot summer night back in August of 2000, but it's still fresh in my mind as if it had happened just last night. I was truly terrified by what I was experiencing at the time. Now it might have been due to my lack of any experience, but I've had encounters before. Once at my mom's old house where I saw my first ghost and a cemetery in Madera County where both Tom and I heard what sounded like little girls laughing, despite the fact that we were alone. So why was this different? Was it the footsteps, the shadowy figure? Or maybe it was both those and the story. Here was a story, and a sad one at that, that seemed to have some credence to it as we witnessed what the story is said to occur. I'm convinced it was Charlotte and her children we heard, and she that Tom saw that night. Yes I have no evidence, but that doesn't matter. Turns out that we are now part of the legend.
Our group lasted a few more months and then disbanded, real life having taking a priority. But I kept up on the paranormal, especially as the internet became more and more prevalent. So imagine my surprise one day when I was on a site called Shadowlands.net, which lists haunted locals by state, when I saw one on Adelaida Cemetery. I started reading it and it was the same story as I had read in my book years ago (which I still have btw, though there have been two newer publications since). The listing mentioned the story as I had heard it but with a bit extra added on. It mentioned how a group went there on a Friday night in the summer of 2000, heard mysterious footsteps and encountered Charlotte. Could this be us? I checked a couple of other sites and they said the same thing. Somehow our story got out there and was added to the legend of Charlotte. To me that's better than getting the best piece of evidence.
Sadly the cemetery doesn't allow investigations anymore. When I was with CCPI we had inquired about investigating but was turned down due to the heavy vandalism that occurred there. Seems a lot of thrill seekers wanted to see Charlotte for themselves and ruined it for everybody else. CCPI and I did go there one weekend to help clean up the cemetery and offered to clean the area around Charlotte's grave. The place looked the same as it did almost ten years before, but it broke my heart when I saw Charlotte's grave was broken at the base. To say this was disrespectful is putting it lightly to say the least. Still we cleaned up as best we could, cutting weeds around a good area of the cemetery. I did say hi to Charlotte, though I didn't receive a response. Though I know it wasn't my fault, I did apologize for the vandalism that had occurred. But I did thank her for that night and the story that I get to tell people about the one time I was truly terrified. I like to think she appreciates the fact she isn't really forgotten.
Note: I want to apologize for the poor image quality. The originals were lost years ago and the scans were lost when a hard drive crashed (this was way before the cloud) and all I was able to find were these photos. I did have one of Charlotte's grave, but it was so small that you couldn't make out any detail.