Coleman Mansion, a former residence, is the site of Peninsula School in Menlo Park. Glowing a creamy yellow in the early evening sunlight, the Greek-style Victorian with a wrap-around porch faintly echoes with the imaginary sound of children chasing each other around the colonnaded porch.
Set back from the road, the grandiose former residence is enshrouded by mature trees and shrubbery.
Built in 1880 by San Mateo County assemblyman James Coleman, the mansion is said to be haunted by the ghost of his wife, Carmelita. Killed after a gun discharged in their hotel room in San Francisco, she never lived in the residence. After her death, James Coleman was said to never have lived in the house.
Carmelita Coleman has been a very public ghost. Eyewitness reports of encounters with the apparition have circulated in books and the press for decades.
Many years ago, teacher Jerry Hearn was making the evening rounds with the property's caretaker, when they heard noises coming from the house. Thinking they'd catch some kids in the building, Hearn and the caretaker took flashlights and entered through two main entrances, expecting to meet up and corral the young intruders.
"When we got to the attic, we shone the flashlights on each other. We saw nothing, but we sensed somebody was there. We thought, oohhhh. ... The noise sounded like low voices talking. We thought it was Carmelita," he said. "When something like that happens, the hair stands up ... it's a very odd feeling."
Hearn recalled when an eighth-grade teacher, the late Joe Starr took a class of students into the house at night as a treat.
"They saw a wispy apparition-light-kind-of-thing 25 years ago," he said.
Not everyone appreciates Carmelita's presence -- or believes in it.
"I talked to other people at Peninsula School, said school director Katy Dalgleish. "No one believes in the ghost. They're just stories kids trade. We don't want the publicity. It's just something that would scare the children. This is a school. If you have any respect for us, you won't write about it."
But Hearn, who has been teaching at the school since 1969, sees it another way.
"Kids don't see them (ghosts) as evil or scary until we lay that on them. They experience them as friendly. The fear comes out of our Western denial of anything you can't touch or see."
It's even a tradition on graduation night to take the kids into the attic, where they write messages about what they want to leave for the future, he said.
Speaking of the wonderful experiences teachers and students have had over the years at Peninsula, he said, "I have a sense of the big building imbued with a lot of spirits from over the years.(1)
Peninsula School is a progressive, private K-12 school located in Menlo Park, California. Founded in 1925, Peninsula is located in a huge Victorian house on 6 wooded acres in the eastern part of Menlo Park, just off Middlefield Road.
Members of the Grateful Dead family had multiple connections to Peninsula School. Bob Weir, John “Marmaduke” Dawson, and recording engineer Bob Matthews all attended the school at various times. Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter apparently played their first gig there back in 1961.
Jerry performed here in
5/5//61 Robert Hunter(5)
Their second gig was at Peninsula School's eighth grade graduation ceremony in early June. That gig had been arranged by Danya Veltfort, whose younger sister was matriculating. Danya says, "Bob and Jerry took home fifty dollars for their troubles, good money for those days (and that crowd)."(3)
June, 1969 Unknown billing(4)
Fall 1969 New Riders Of The Purple Sage
"Well, I was at the first New Riders gig at Peninsula School (I thought it was late 1969 and John Dawson agreed, but, hey it was the 60's!!!)and remember it being in front of the handball wall (which is still there!) Also I remember that it was John Dawson, Jerry Garcia, David Nelson, Mickey Hart and Phil Lesh. John Dawson told me many years later that it was maybe their 5th or 6th time playing in front of people in that configuration. Florrie Forrest, archivist for Peninsula School, told me that she has a handbill for one of the gigs which was actually a fundraiser for school tuition for Jerry's daughter, Heather." (Steven Marcus)
Another New Riders show here on May 28, 1971. The May 28 show was odd because a very ill Jerry Garcia could not make the show, and The Riders played as a quartet.(2)
1.)^Dremann, Sue, A haunting Experience, 2003-10-31, Mountain View Voice, http://www.mv-voice.com/morgue/2003/2003_10_31.hhouses.html
3.)^Jackson, Blair, Garcia: An American Life, pg. 36.
4.)^Arnold, Corry, 2011-12-08, http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2011/12/new-riders-of-purple-sage-bassist-1969.html?showComment=1344911663000#comment-c6386804019353400004
5.)^McNally, Dennis, A Long Strange Trip, pg. 33, http://books.google.com/books?id=sWCRWJnTTF8C&pg=PA30&lpg=PA30&dq=norm+%22pogo%22+fontaine&source=bl&ots=lLFJsUVMPm&sig=FqvZvbs75rnMhO99EEiRHc-dvio&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wlNaUIWBBaS6yAGbloGAAQ&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=norm%20%22pogo%22%20fontaine&f=false