The city of Monterey’s history includes some unfortunate and dark events that still spook residents and visitors today. A trolley tour around downtown shares a haunted history lesson from Monterey’s past.
On an October night with a nearly full moon, the Ghost Tour of Old Monterey is fully booked. About fifty people meet up in front of the new Dust Bowl Brewery in Old Monterey to board two trolleys.
“We’ve been doing the tour since 2002,” Gary Munsinger said.
Munsinger is the owner and operator of the ghost tour. For nearly 20 years, Munsinger has been running trolley tours that explore the haunted places of Monterey around Halloween.
“It’s actually a historic paranormal tour,” said Munsinger. “So what I did was take the old legends of the different adobes and try to find out who these people are that are still haunting. So I do research, going back with old newspaper articles, things of that nature, to see if anything, you know, possibly may have happened in some of these buildings. And actually, the stories are epic.”
The trolley has pirate and zombie masks on the walls and a winged skeleton surrounded by flowers hanging above the driver’s seat. As we ride through the streets of Monterey, Munsinger offers up bits of narration about haunted landmarks in the area. At the infamously haunted Stokes Adobe, Munsinger talks about its murderous past.
“1833, knock at the front door, 27 year-old Englishman stood right where I’m standing, extended his hand, and introduced himself as Dr. James Stokes, claiming he was a doctor. In his possession, two huge steamer trunks full of medicine, which he knew nothing about,” Munsinger said to the crowd.
He goes on to explain how Stokes began living in the adobe, pretending to be a doctor, but was believed to be murdering his patients. The then-Governor of Upper California, Jose Figueroa, fell ill and was under Stokes’ care in the adobe when he died under questionable circumstances.
“An official saw the good doctor embalming the governor with pure arsenic, trying to find the vein and finally filling them up with the most acidic poison you can find. And by the time they got the governor down to Sacramento to bury him, he was V-8! Well, he didn’t look so good, but he tasted great,” Munsinger said.
The tour is full of these horrific tales with a comedic twist. Back on the trolley, Munsinger plays haunting rock music on a CD player inside the trolley to set the mood. That’s when the tour takes a dark turn, as we arrive somewhere unexpected, the Monterey cemetery.
With only a few flashlights and cell phones to light our way through the graveyard, Munsinger tells us the history behind some of the gravestones
“You can see that the Williamson grave says “murdered in Monterey, November 9th,” said Munsinger.
After nearly two hours and plenty of frights and fun, the tour ends back at Dust Bowl Brewery. The Ghost Tour of Old Monterey runs this Saturday and on November 30th.