Fact or Fright Fiction

According to an old legend, the ghost of Sarah Miller – daughter

Residents of the South Valley might not be the only ones roaming
the restaurants and roads
Halloween is a time for ghosts and goblins, haunting and witchery, but what some South Valley residents might not know is that a few lingering spirits refuse to leave with the passing of Oct. 31.

Glimpses of a woman in a red dress, tales of a Gilroy founder’s daughter trying to get in a traveler’s car – such chilling accounts have spread through the region’s rumor mill for years. And although they might sound like urban legends, people who have experienced the tales firsthand say otherwise.

When former Gilroy resident Eric Goodrich was a child, he heard the tale of Sarah Miller, a daughter of Henry Miller, one of Gilroy’s founders.

“I remember being told that there was a ghost on the mountain, and she tried to get off the mountain by riding in people’s cars,” he said.

Years later, Goodrich took a job as a park ranger with Santa Clara County and was stationed at Mount Madonna. While working the night shift, Goodrich said, there were several occasions when the lights in the Mt. Madonna Inn, a restaurant on the top of the hill, would turn on, despite that the building had been locked and closed for business for the day.

“We would go up there and turn the lights off, and then a few hours later they would go back on,” Goodrich said.

Lights on turning by themselves was weird enough, but Goodrich remembers another instance, on a chilly night, that spooked him even more.

“It was really foggy, and I heard this young woman yelling ‘help,'” he said. “I was alone, and I searched the entire area by foot and vehicle.”

Search he did, but Goodrich never found anyone. After his all-too-real experience, he decided to look into the history of the tale he’d heard as a youngster.

Goodrich researched at the Gilroy Museum and learned that on June 14, 1879, Sarah Miller was killed after falling off a horse she was riding on the mountainside – likely on the way to her family’s summer home on Mount Madonna. The bricks and foundation of the house can still be seen today.

Goodrich said he’d always heard about Sarah haunting the mountain, but his experience on that foggy night made the childhood ghost story come to life.

“Ever since I was a little kid, feeding the deer up there, I have always felt a presence,” he said. “A lot of the time, you feel like you’re being watched up there. Especially in the early evening.”

Hollister resident Earlene McCabe hasn’t had any run-ins with Sarah Miller, but she has had a few ghostly experiences at the Mariposa Restaurant and Tea Room in San Juan Bautista. McCabe is convinced that a kind woman in a red dress walks the halls of the eatery. An employee at the Mariposa Restaurant declined to comment.

Years ago, a friend was in town visiting McCabe. After his visit, he and his wife asked McCabe for a good place for dinner near Highway 101. Although McCabe had heard rumors of Mariposa’s ghost in the red dress, she decided not to share the information with her friend. After dining, McCabe’s friend called her to say he saw a woman in a red dress walking around the restaurant.

“At first I thought he was pulling my leg,” McCabe said. “But then, about three years later, we all went there for dinner, and I asked him if he had seen her again. He responded by saying, ‘She’s been standing right behind you the entire time.'”

Mariposa isn’t the only South Valley restaurant swirling with rumors of spooky occurrences. Scrambl’z Diner on East Dunne Avenue in Morgan Hill opened its doors in the summer of 2004. But some of the patrons from Lyon’s Restaurant, which inhabited the building before Scrambl’z, simply refuse to leave. The relatively new tale holds that a man who was a regular customer of Lyon’s died while dining, and his spirit remains in the eatery.

Joleen Coons, manager of Scrambl’z, said she’s never heard the exact story of the ghost. But she does believe a spirit lurks in the restaurant.

“I can definitely feel a presence in here when I’m working,” she said. “There have been times when bread has flown off the wall, and other things will just fall for no reason.”

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