Lori Savageau was three days into her new job at the Dew Drop Inn the first time something weird happened. She'd arrived at the down-home Grass Valley landmark at 8 o'clock that morning, locked herself inside, and got to work cleaning the women's bathroom.
"I heard the back door open, so I assumed it was the bar owner," Savageau tells KQED via Facetime. "And then I heard a great big crash. It sounded like someone had dropped a shelf full of groceries. So I came out of the bathroom, and called out, 'Are you okay?' And I heard a woman's voice call back, clear as day, 'Oh, don't worry! It's just me!' So I went to see if I could help."
Once in the back room, Savageau found the back door still locked, nothing disturbed or broken, and no one to be found anywhere in the building. About an hour later, when owner Lori Holcomb Godfrey arrived, Savageau relayed the morning's strange events. "And [Godfrey] just very casually said, 'Oh yeah, the bar's haunted,'" Savageau recalls. "Like this is perfectly normal."
When Savageau moved to Grass Valley from San Francisco in 2016, she did so in search of a quieter life. She had recently left her job as a program manager at Google after an accident at home left her with second- and third-degree burns across her chest, neck and arms, and the long recovery process forced her to reevaluate her life. Grass Valley, she thought, seemed like the perfect small community in which to recuperate. And for a while, it was. But toward the end of her first year in town, Savageau started noticing this little corner of Gold Rush country wasn't quite what it had seemed.
"I've never lived anywhere like it," she explains. "When you hear about ghosts up here, they're never a surprise to anybody. The south county of Grass Valley is accepted as a haunted place by everyone who lives here. I certainly haven't met anyone around here who doesn't believe—it's just treated as common knowledge. And that stuff," she continues, referring to paranormal activity, "introduces itself gradually to newcomers. Then slowly you just begin to accept it. If you didn't, you'd go crazy trying to explain things that can't be explained."