Angry spirits who suffered mob justice, shared 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 because of the ice-cream.
The brick Herrick buildings, constructed in 1853, have mostly been restored by the current owners of this property. The biggest of the two is a rectangular, two story structure and sits right 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 building is done and is now the home of the Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream Saloon which opened on January 28th, 2017. Besides enjoying a cool treat, there is also a mini museum of Placerville’s history. From the pictures posted on The Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream Saloon’s website, there are historic items from the Gold Rush days hanging on the wall, and a small amount of interesting artifacts are also there for patrons to peruse.
The large corner lot that 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, this plot of land was being used as a hay yard for animals, being located on the very West end of Main Street. It was soon to be used for another purpose which has been the cause of hauntings of these two buildings.
The influx of wanna-be miners who came to work their claims in the Placerville area caused a crime wave, starting in 1848. 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 for a few short years. Something had to be done with the mayhem in Placerville, caused by the bad deeds of some violent bad apples amongst the large population of miners, and the criminal element that came as well to prey on the miners and others.
The city of Placerville established law and order through a stream-lined court system that offered the liberal use of the death penalty by hanging to discourage crime. Much of the time, they tried to have a simile of a jury and judge trial. Civil Rights of the defendants were not often taken seriously and defendants became victims of misuse by this legal system. The town’s form of justice was swift and often illegal by the rules of law.
Though other trees were used, there was a large white oak tree 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” and even 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.
This trio of thieves was 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. They were flogged severely as decreed, making them very weak and half-dead. They were taken to a near by home.
After their flogging, these three men were identified by many angry witnesses as the men that were bullying miners and taking their gold in other mining camps. On these many eye witness accounts, a kangaroo court was held 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. They offered to hang him too.
The three thieves were buried in the then dirt yard behind the tree in an unmarked, group grave. The dirt 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 in July of 1852 to receive those men convicted of nasty crimes 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 returned when California established 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 onto the real estate market. It was sold to a brick mason by the name of Herrick. He built the two buildings in 1853 that shared a wall but had different roofs, and faced Main Street.
One was a larger two story rectangular structure, and the second building was a smaller building used as a bar and probably other uses. Throughout the eras, it had “Hangman Tree” in its title because of its close location to the actual tree. The stump was in the basement for years before being removed. The rectangular larger structure was home to a variety of restaurants and businesses.
Perhaps to never forget the unjust hangings, a mannequin dressed in miner’s clothes was hung by a hangman’s noose from a window on the second floor at some point.
As the years went by, the condition of the 1853 Herrick buildings deteriorated. The Hangman’s Tree Bar and Lounge closed in 2008. By 2009, the buildings were condemned and deemed inhabitable. Both buildings 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!
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 these two buildings that were in sorry shape. Folks from the community and the Historical Society of El Dorado County helped with funding and by providing 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 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 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 received jail time but were hung instead via a kangaroo court of sorts. The three thieves suffered a torturous whipping, and were hung by the word of witnesses who claim that these three men were the mine camp bullies in other areas.
People who are buried without a gravestone 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 their graves, is a further aggravation.
Perhaps the spirits of the three thieves are still on the property where their bodies were dumped into a hole. Others that died by hanging were also probably 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 about their actions, and are afraid to go to the other side. They choose to stay in this world and continue on the best they can without bodies; sometimes trying to help the living, or express their restlessness.
The male entity who held the job as one of the hangmen that were employed to hang the convicted, patrols both of the Herrick buildings; the one on the left and the smaller building that is now The Hangman’s Tree Ice Cream Saloon.
Both the men who were hung for causing murderous violence and mayhem and the men who were wrongdoers but didn’t deserve to be killed, were probably not choir boys in how they lived their lives. Some may be in the Herrick buildings or have moved into other buildings on Main St., near the place where they died, such as the Carey House Hotel.
Structures and museums often have on display personal items that once belonged to people who once lived. Spirits who have attachments to their former belongings, sometimes like to visit their stuff. The Hangman Tree’s Ice Cream Saloon have artifacts and items from the Gold Rush Era on display in their mini-museum located as well in this business.
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.
This male entity, Darrell, has made himself part of the staff, as protector, keeping the angry spirits out, bathroom inspector, assistant to the bartender, and floor manager of the living who work in the smaller building. This entity made himself known, appearing in front of a bartender, and told the bartender that he wanted to be called Darrell, a name that this spirit had chosen for himself.
The shot glasses that were always in their place at closing, were found in the ice container, that was in a place behind the bar that the shot glasses could not of fallen into, but had to be physically moved. This entity has been seen coming out of the woman’s bathroom.
Part of the closing routine of the Hangman Tree Bar & Lounge was the opening of all the bathroom stalls in both bathrooms. The stall doors were heavy and didn’t shut by themselves. In a recheck a few minutes later, all the stalls would be closed.
Darrell has been seen walking around the lounge area. Darrell was seen, sitting at a table near the door when the opening employee arrived one morning, perhaps keeping watch, letting her know he was on duty. Darrell’s Activity in the second, larger Herrick building. Later when restoration of the buildings had started, He kept an eye on the folks who were rebuilding the second, bigger building as well, still being the protector of the buildings.
While a contractor was working on the first floor of the larger Herrick building, he saw this entity walk through the wall that separated the lounge from the building space that 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 to be 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. Juke Box area of the Hangman Tree Lounge. A staff member of the Hang Tree Lounge had always felt a strong, unseen presence near the Juke Box area, 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. They were active in the larger Herrick building. They used to throw dishes and glasses, sometimes at the staff of the various restaurants that had a business here. They would mutter angry words as well to express the anger they had for their cruel deaths. This activity may have inspired the 1959 plaque that was placed where the white oak tree once stood; recognizing that they were treated badly and unjustly.
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 are still residing 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 Herrick buildings for many years. It has always been known that these buildings 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 angry spirits of the three thieves. It must of been hard to keep staff!
There are Placerville investigators and psychic mediums that could of easily done this job. What they learned may have resulted in the placing of the 1959 memorial plaque near the hanging spot, to try to make the three thieves feel a little better. 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