Stevenson House

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A family member died after caring for sick little ones before knowing of their fate.


The Stevenson House is run under the auspices of the California Dept. of Parks and Recreation because it is considered a historical property of great interest to the public. It has been restored to its former glory, with two rooms devoted to the renowned author Robert Louis Stevenson. The upstairs of this adobe abode portray a slice of history, displaying the way of life of the Girardin family when they owned the structure, and put it to work as The French Hotel. They are honored for having the gumption to transform the house into a hotel lasting many years.

Two rooms in the downstairs area display artifacts of the house’s most famous guest: American author,Robert Luis Stevenson. It looks like he just stepped out for a walk. His family had a wealth of his belongings given to the state of California. Visitors have been enjoying them since the establishment of this museum in the 1940s.

Visitors and locals alike enjoy sitting in The Stevenson House gardens. They are truly beautiful, with many flowers and shrubs. It is a great place for quiet meditation, or for a break from a hectic day.

Gardens Open Daily: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM



The two-story adobe Stevenson House is a large rectangular structure with a wing built during the the 1830s, after Mexico broke free from Spain. It was made originally for the Custom General. Throughout its long history, it was used for the Custom General, families, government officials, artists, writers and fishermen.

The story of the Girardin family is tragic because of the number of deaths they suffered. Like many families, they migrated from the old country to Mexico. Juan Girardin was a Swiss immigrant of French descent who migrated to Mexico with his wife, his son and his son’s wife and two grandchildren, in hopes of a better life. Unfortunately, his first wife died in Mexico. Later, Juan fell in love with a local Mexican woman, Manuela. Hearing opportunity calling, the extended family moved to Monterey, perhaps sometime after the United States took over California, which explains why the Custom General was selling his house.

The Girardin family bought the Custom General’s house in the late 1860s/early 1870s, did some renovations, and turned it into The French Hotel, which became the hotel serving the public in Monterey . They did very well financially, but tragedy wasn’t done with them. Juan’s son and daughter-in-law died in an accident, leaving their two children for Juan and Manuela to raise. Life went on. The hotel boomed and the children grew up.

The year 1879 turned out to be disastrous. Typhoid fever swept through Monterey, and Juan caught it and died on July 1, 1879. A few months later, the two children also succumbed, so Manuela, the devoted grandmother, put her all into nursing them, but she too was struck down by the disease and died on December 21, 1879. Miraculously, the children survived and went on to lead productive, happy lives, though Manuela died before they recovered.

After all this death, no one wanted to buy the French hotel until a man named Sionou bought it for chump change. He continued to run it as a boarding house, and let his poor, sick friend (Robert Louis Stevenson), who was fighting TB, stay there for free. An unknown author at the time, Stevenson stayed there for a few months, sometime in 1880, and was nursed back to health by his friends. He didn’t feel sorry for himself, but instead made good use of the time here, only writing well-known story “Old Pacific Capital,” but also by courting his future wife, Fanny Osbourne. Some think he drew inspiration to write his popular book “Treasure Island” from his health walks around Monterey, including the Monte De Oro beach area.

The restoration of the building is due not only to the labors of the Girardin family, but also to the work of the Stevenson family. They carefully kept all of his belongings, building up quite a collection of memorabilia , though they had no place to display it all. In 1940, the Stevensons approached the state of California with a once in a lifetime offer that the state could not refuse. They offered to give all of the author’s memorabilia to the state if they would open and maintain a museum in his honor.

It so happened that the state had just bought many of the old adobe fixer-upper opportunities to restore and be part of the Monterey State Park. The authorities moved Stevenson’s belongings into the two rooms on the first floor. They also decided to honor the Girardin family by setting up a display of their living quarters in rooms on the second floor.

Ever since then, California has been faithful in maintaining The Stevenson House under the watchful eye of the Department of Parks and Recreation. For years, the public has enjoyed this fine museum.

Apparently, a spirit has also decided to visit the second floor in memory of a tragic event that eventually took her life and left her not knowing what happened. She may have visiting companion spirits also, with connections to the house, and issues of their own.



The restoration of houses can act like an environmental trigger to draw back spirits with strong connections to it.

The visiting spirit started appearing after the restoration of the house and felt right at home, as the second floor was dedicated to her family.

In 1879, when Manuela’s two grandchildren came down with typhoid fever, she devotedly nursed them both day and night, probably exhausting herself. Alas, she also caught the fever and died, without knowing if her grandchildren pulled through.

Sometimes, spirits like to observe the activities and events of the living, whose presence has drawn them in their favorite worldly places.

One afternoon while giving a speech to the California Historical Society, the speaker noticed that Manuela was part of her audience, listening with interest. She was standing in the room, and then she sat in a rocking chair, and began rocking.



The Spirit of Mrs. Manuela Girardin

She relives the last sorrowful weeks of her life in the house’s nursery, almost always during the first three weeks of December, perhaps mourning the death of her grandchildren.

The nursery rocking chair will begin rocking by itself, propelled by an unseen presence. Visitors to the house will smell the sickroom disinfectant, carbolic acid, which was used in the 1800s. One visitor felt a calming hand on her shoulder that began to softly rub her back. Manuela also rearranges trunks by dragging them across the floor. She leaves the aroma of roses. She pulls books out of the bookcase; perhaps they are the ones she doesn’t like.

A woman in a black dress has been seen in the nursery by both visitors and the curator, Barbara. Visitors figure that the woman was the housekeeper because she was in costume, like the curator. The woman then vanishes before their eyes.

Barbara, while preparing to close the museum for the afternoon, has spied this woman in a long, black gown, with a high lace collar, looking intently down at the children’s bed in the nursery. Barbara tells the woman that it is time to close the museum, and the woman, looking straight at her, nods that she understands. When Barbara looks again, the woman has vanished.

The Spirit of Manuela Girardin apparently has a soft spot for children.

A seven-year-old boy once took the tour with his parents. He went upstairs and decided to wait for his family to catch up with him. He sat down near the barred door of the nursery.

As he peered into the nursery, he saw an ordinary lady dressed in a long black gown and wearing a white shawl, looking at him pleasantly. He wasn’t afraid; in fact he had a short, cordial conversation with her. He turned to look and see if his family was coming yet. When he looked back into the nursery, he was surprised to see that this kind woman had vanished.

Th Spirit of a little girl

She is thought to be Manuela’s granddaughter, or another child whose family lived here.

She has been seen playing with the nursery toys on display. She always fades into the air, surprising witnesses.

Green orbs have been seen by visitors flying around the room.

The Spirit with a blurry face

Wearing a long black robe with a hood, it has been seen floating around the second story rooms and hallways.

Perhaps he lived here at some point in time.

Residual energy

A disembodied coughing has been heard by visitors in a second-floor room.


Most Probably so! Spirits attached to this structure enjoy being here and/or have unfinished business to work out so they can let go.

For 78 years, people have seen the spirit of Manuela Girardin in the nursery and in the lecture room. She appears as an ordinary living person, solid and life-like, fooling the many people who have seen her, until she disappears. She is kind and friendly, and doesn’t scare anyone, so she is accepted as being part of the museum. Other spirits and paranormal activity have also been noticed.

Understandably, no paranormal investigators are allowed inside, as the museum only wants to attract people interested in history and the famous author resident, Robert Louis Stevenson.



530 Houston Street
Monterey, California 93940
(831) 649-7118

The Stevenson House is a California Dept. of Parks and Recreation Museum which is located in Monterey, at 530 Houston Street, near the corner of Pearl Street and Houston Street. It is secluded with trees and shrubs, away from the traffic and noise of the neighborhood. The museum is open every day but Wednesday, from 10 -11 am and from 1-4 pm. One must make reservations in advance for the tour.


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