Hangmans Tree Ice Cream Saloon
Angry spirits who suffered mob justice, share their rage.
Other victims linger, enjoying the perks offered.
The town’s former agent of doom is now a spectral manager and protector.
Spirits of all ages are drawn here… for the ice-cream.
The two brick Herrick buildings, constructed in 1853, have mostly been restored by the current owners of this property. The larger of the two is a rectangular, two story structure and sits on the corner, with its long side parallel to Main Street. The first floor and basement are still being restored but the second story is finished as of January 2017. If you go to their Facebook page, you can see the progress being made.
The smaller two story building that now shares a roof with the bigger one is done and is now the home of the Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream Saloon, which opened on January 28th, 2017. Besides offering cool treats, there is also a mini museum of Placerville’s history for customers to enjoy. From the pictures posted on The Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream Saloon’s website, there are historic items from the Gold Rush days displayed on the wall, and a small assortment of interesting artifacts for patrons to peruse.
The large corner lot where the Herrick buildings now stand, has a history of other uses, beginning when the original town of Dry Diggins was founded. During the beginning of the Gold Rush years, it was a hay yard for animals, on the very West end of Main Street. It would soon to be used for another purpose, however, which has been the cause of hauntings of these two buildings.
Starting in 1848, the influx of wanna-be miners who came to work their claims in the Placerville area caused a crime wave. The state of California was in its infancy, having just been turned over to the United States from the Mexican Government. Law and order was mostly left to the individual counties. Something had to be done about the mayhem in Placerville, though. A small number of violent criminals had come to prey on the miners and others.
In response, the city of Placerville established law and order through a streamlined court system that offered the liberal use of the death penalty by hanging. Much of the time, they tried to have a reasonable facsimile of a judge and jury trial. But, Civil Rights of the defendants were not often taken seriously and defendants became victims of abuse by this legal system. The town’s form of justice was swift and often illegal by any reasonable standards.
Though other trees were sometimes used, there was one large white oak tree in particular that stood where the current mannequin now hangs from the second story window of the smaller building; the Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream Saloon, that did the job just fine. Because so many violent “wrongdoers” along with those who would normally not qualify for the death penalty were being hanged, Dry Diggins changed its name to Old Hang Town in 1849.
A glaring example of this unjust system is the case of the three thieves who used aggressive tactics to get what they wanted, gold and money, from miners. They met their nasty end in 1849, earning the dubious distinction of being the first people to be hanged from the large white oak standing in the hay yard.
They had been caught trying to separate a gambler from his money, in a robbery attempt up in the miner’s room at the Cary House Hotel one evening. A jury of 12 and a judge were assembled in the same evening, and the three were sentenced to 39 lashes by a leather whip in the morning. At the appointed time, they were flogged severely as decreed, and then taken to a nearby home.
After their flogging, these three men were identified by angry witnesses as the men that were bullying miners and taking their gold in other camps. A kangaroo court was set up immediately and charges made that the three were not present to hear, nor did they have legal representation. They were hung almost immediately. One brave soul tried to stop them and show compassion. Onlookers offered to hang him, too.
The three thieves were buried in the then dirt yard behind the tree in an unmarked, common grave. The yard was eventually paved over to become a parking lot. Uh Oh!
One hundred years later, in 1959, a plaque was displayed near where the tree once stood, which remembered the “three unfortunates:(no names)”, but fibbed a bit as well. The plaque claimed that they had received a “fair trial”, and asked that we understand the rash actions of the people because they lived in rough Gold Rush times.
The hangings were stopped in 1852 when the first California prison, San Quentin State Prison, opened its doors and became the place for carrying out the death penalty. This stopped the quick trial system and hangings by local towns as law and order truly came to California, established by a strong government and enforced legal jurisdiction over counties.
The white oak hanging tree was cut down, and this large corner lot was put back on the real estate market. It was sold to a brick mason by the name of Herrick. He built the two buildings in 1853.
Through the eras, the larger of the buildings had “Hangman Tree” in its title because of its close location to the actual tree. The stump was in the basement for years before it was removed. The building was home to a variety of restaurants and businesses.
Perhaps as a way to to memorialize the unjust hangings, a mannequin dressed in miner’s clothes was at some point hung by a hangman’s noose from a window on the second floor.
As the years went by, the condition of the Herrick buildings deteriorated. The Hangman’s Tree Bar and Lounge closed in 2008. By 2009, the buildings were condemned and deemed uninhabitable. Both were scheduled to be torn down with the blessings of the Placerville City Council to wipe the slate clean for something else to be built on this prime corner. Uh Oh!
Then the Historical Society of El Dorado County and Sharlene McCaslin and Carol Sexton came to the rescue, and saved the buildings from destruction. They got their legal ducks in a row, which included proving that the Herrick buildings were historical, and reminded the Placerville City Council, about the California laws dealing with historical buildings.
After a short legal fight, the Placerville City Council rescinded the tear down order, and the Herrick buildings were sold to a couple in 2012, Tim and Sue Taylor, who were dedicated to restoring and renovating the buildings, which were in sorry shape. Folks from the community and the Historical Society helped with funding and provided the construction skills needed to complete this momentous effort.
As of January 28th, 2017, the former Hangman’s Tree Bar and Lounge, that was located in the smaller Herrick building is now the home of The Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream Saloon. While the second floor of the larger building is completed, the first floor and basement/foundation issues are still being restored and improved to meet current code.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
When a building is built on top of or near ground that has seen killings, the new owners of this building sometimes see the spirits whose lives were taken on this same plot of land, especially if the spirits feel that they were killed prematurely or executed unfairly.
While some of the men that died on the main white oak “Hanging Tree” may have deserved their punishment, others should’ve simply received jail time. The three thieves suffered a tortuous whipping, and were hung on the word of witnesses who claimed that these three men were the mine camp bullies in other areas.
People who are buried without gravestones in unmarked or mass graves have been known to haunt the land where they were buried. Further disrespect of the resting place, such as paving over those graves, is a further aggravation.
Perhaps the spirits of the three thieves are still on the property. Others who died by hanging may also have been buried in unmarked graves in the town’s cemetery.
People who were involved in carrying out injustice that caused death and pain to others, or the convicted prisoners themselves who die at the hands of the law, sometimes have guilt as a result of their actions, and are afraid to go to the other side. They choose to stay in this world and continue as best they can, without bodies, sometimes trying to help the living, or express their restlessness.
The male entity who in life held the job as one of the hangmen, patrols both of the Herrick buildings.
Both the men who were hung for their murderous violence and mayhem, and the three men who were wrongdoers but didn’t deserve to be killed, were probably not choir boys in life. Some of them may yet be in the Herrick buildings or have moved into other buildings on Main St., near where they died, such as at the Carey House Hotel.
Structures and museums often have personal items on display that belonged to people who once lived. Spirits who have attachments to their former belongings, sometimes like to visit them. The Hangman Tree’s Ice Cream Saloon has artifacts and items from the Gold Rush Era on display in their mini-museum.
Male Entity – Darrell
He is described as being tall, dressed in black and wearing a top hat; the clothing of a hangman during the Gold Rush years.
Before the Hangman Tree Bar and Lounge was closed, this entity had considered himself an unpaid employee of the bar owners. During restoration, he continued in his managerial role with the construction crews.
He has made himself part of the staff, as protector, bouncer, bathroom inspector, assistant to the bartender, and floor manager of the living who work in the smaller building. He has made himself known, appearing in front of the bartender, and told him that he wanted to be called Darrell, a name he chose for himself.
The shot glasses, always in their place at closing, were once found in the ice container behind the bar where they could not of fallen. Someone had to physically move them there. This entity has also been seen coming out of the woman’s bathroom.
Part of the closing routine of the Hangman Tree Bar & Lounge is the opening of all the bathroom stalls in both bathrooms. The stall doors are heavy and don’t shut by themselves. In one recent incident, all the stalls had been closed.
Darrell has been seen walking around the lounge area. He has also been seen sitting at a table near the door when the opening employee arrived one morning. Perhaps he was keeping watch, letting the employee know he was on duty.
Darrell’s Activity in the second, larger Herrick building
Later when restoration of the buildings had started, Darrell kept an eye on the folks who were rebuilding the bigger building as well, still being the protector of the buildings.
While a contractor was working on the first floor of that building, he saw this entity walk through the wall that separated the lounge from the building space he was working on, standing before him in a semi-see through state. The contractor took his tools and went home for the day, returning the next morning when other crew members would be there too.
Other Male Entities
Have been seen sitting at the Hang Tree Lounge Bar, sometimes appearing as real live people.
At the bar, a male customer sat next to a man dressed in 1849 clothing, assuming that he was an employee who dressed like that for his job. The customer had a nice conversation with this specter. When the customer turned away for a second, he had a surprise when he turned back, finding that this fellow had disappeared.
There is a music lover or two among the male entities that reside in the Herrick buildings. In the Juke Box area of the Hangman Tree Lounge, a staff member of the Lounge had always felt a strong, unseen presence nearby, watching her work. The Juke Box turned itself on, playing songs that this entity or entities liked.
The three male entities who bullied miners and stole money from them were active in the larger Herrick building. They used to throw dishes and glasses, sometimes at the staff of the various restaurants, they would mutter angry words as well to express their outrage over heir cruel deaths. This activity may have inspired the 1959 plaque that was placed where the white oak tree once stood.
Probably so, especially if the spirits liked ice cream and soda drinks while alive. Others may be disappointed and move on to another bar on Main Street, to enjoy watching people enjoy hard drinks. The new business may draw more respectable spirit people and children who loved ice cream while alive.
Darrell will still be there, happy to assume similar duties with this business. His heart may be lifted seeing the living enjoying treats and other more positive spirit people as well. He will continue to protect the buildings unless he can get some help with his guilt, and as long as the three thieves still reside in the larger building next door.
Hopefully the anger of the three thieves was released by the words of the memorial plaque. However, unless they received the help of a medium/energy healer, to let go of guilt and fear enough to go to the other side, the three male entities may still be in the larger Herrick building, perhaps looking for ways to be amused, probably at the expense of the living.
Other spirits who died on the “Hanging Tree” may also chose to stay, not knowing what awaits them on the other side.
Since the buildings were built, people have had paranormal experiences in both of the them for many years. It has always been known that they were shared with spirit people.
I couldn’t find any hard evidence that has been made public, though private investigations may have been done, especially for the owners of the restaurants who had to deal with the behavior of the angry spirits of the three thieves. It must have been hard to keep staff!
There are Placerville investigators and psychic mediums that could have easily done this job. What they learned may have resulted in the placing of the 1959 memorial plaque near the hanging spot. They got an admission from the living that they suffered cruel injustice.
301-305 Main Street
Placerville, CA 95667
The Herrick Buildings, one of which is now home to the Hangman’s Ice Cream Saloon are located on the corner of Main Street and Center Street, directly across from the Cary House Hotel.
- GOLD RUSH GHOSTS: of Placerville, Coloma & Georgetown
by Linda J. Bottjer
- “Placerville’s hangman hangs no more”
Posted on Thursday 30 April, 2009
Columnist: Nancy Bradley
- “New owners to restore Hangman’s-Herrick buildings”
By Wendy Schultz
Published on February 28, 2012
for The Mountain Democrat
Retrieved July 30, 2018
- “Herrick Building scaffolding gone”
By Wendy Schultz
Published on November 11, 2014
for The Mountain Democrat
Retrieved July 30, 2018
- Hangman’s Ice Cream Saloon – HistoricHangmansTree
- Photos © Tom Carr
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr