My dearest full bodied apparitions,
I have been researching Pleasant for months now – I read academic texts, ghost stories, blog posts; I read about working conditions for women and Black people in California during the 19th Century, I watched videos – it was a lot. Pleasant deliberately obscured her background and holdings, and she reinvented herself several times. She also did SO MUCH COOL SHIT! She was truly remarkable and left quite a legacy in San Francisco and California.
At the end of the research, when I finally had a draft and was ready to publish, I went out to wine country to retrace some of her steps. Pleasant retired to Sonoma County, and lived on a ranch with her frenemy/sister wife Theresa Bell. That property is now a winery with a bed and breakfast called Beltane Ranch and I actually got to stay in the house! I asked around if the place was haunted, and one of the employees told me she thinks so. She also told me that the rumor is that the house was actually a bordello, which checks out. I had a lovely time there: I walked the grounds, looked through their research and files, drank some delicious Zinfandel, and experienced some light paranormal activity. In the middle of the night, something woke me up by saying loudly right into my ear “BABE!” It sounded more like the voice was trying to get my attention as in “Babe take out the trash” not “Damn ur a babe” but also I like the idea of being complimented by a turn of the century sex worker SO THANK YOU, GHOST.
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Introducing Mary Ellen Pleasant
The Mother of CA Civil Rights
Mary Ellen Pleasant was a master of her own image, she was a public relations genius who used racist attitudes about Black Californians to her own favor. She was an activist who supported John Brown’s rebellion and the Underground Railroad. She used the courts to win civil rights for Black folks in San Francisco and California, and her resources to find jobs and opportunities for them. They called her Black City Hall, and at one point she was worth almost $30M.
All of us local creeps know about the haunted Toys R Us in Sunnyvale. It was one of our most popular ghost stories! Sylvia Brown did an episode there! Apparently REI is going into that location, so expect the ghost to throw overpriced hiking socks instead of toys.
Supervisor Connie Chan has announced that she will seek landmark status for San Francisco’s Lincoln Park – where the old City Cemetery still remains. This is great news! I wrote about City in my Cemetery series, and I think that site deserves recognition. There are probably around 20,000 people still buried there, and the public should know that. Stay tuned to Insta for updates.