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Historical society’s Ghost Walk reveals downtown’s secrets
Ghost Walk
Turlock Historical Society board members host the Ghost Walk, a frightful tour of some of downtown’s oldest buildings (FRANKIE TOVAR/The Journal).

Turlock’s downtown buildings have a haunting history that I never would have known about if it weren’t for the Turlock Historical Society.

The society’s museum reopened to the public last weekend after a year and a half of COVID-19 closure, welcoming the community back in to learn all about the city’s past. As a lifelong Turlock resident, I thought I knew all there was to know about downtown Turlock — I’ve even educated myself on some of the scary ghost stories rumored to be true. 

That’s why I was ecstatic to take part in the Turlock Historical Society’s Ghost Walk over the weekend for our latest episode of Studio209, knowing that I most likely had so much to learn. Boy, was I right. 

“Ghosts” (who closely resembled some of the society’s board members) took us on a frightful tour of some of downtown’s oldest buildings, revealing to us their secrets and abandoned halls many diners and shoppers don’t know exist. 

What if I told you that right over Rustic Roots in the Geer Building, there’s an empty hotel which has remained unoccupied for 40 years? Crazy, I know. I had no idea. In fact, from the outside you’d never know that the wall space in the middle of the Rustic Roots exterior hides the hotel’s former entrance and a grand staircase leading up to the array of rooms. 

The Sierra Building, home to M&M Realty, houses a former 17-bed hospital upstairs. News to me too, don’t worry. Like the hotel down the street, this former hospital remains vacant — and creepy. M&M employees have reported spooky happenings in the buildings, like ceiling fans moving on their own. 

Now I know there are skeptics out there and I’ve never had a paranormal experience myself, but as the Ghost Walk continued, I realized that wasn’t the thrill of the tour. Learning about a space’s former use and the people who once walked the same halls as myself was enthralling. Did the people dining in Memo’s as we walked through even know the location was the third-most expensive building to be built in Turlock when it was constructed? 

Probably not, but I bet they’d be interested in hearing about the Berg Building and Martin Berg, who lived upstairs and offered dry goods and clothing at his store below. Berg was a cigar smoker, and people have reported smelling the faint scent of his cigars to this day. 

There are other buildings we went through on the tour, each with their own backstory and, possibly, paranormal presences. It’s hard to drive or walk through downtown Turlock now and not imagine the pioneers who created the beautiful buildings, lived in them and even died in them. 

It’s easy to appreciate your hometown, but even more so when you know its history. That’s why I think events like the Ghost Walk are worthwhile and supporting the Turlock Historical Society is so important. 

They put the work in so that we can know, love and appreciate (and sometimes be a little spooked out by) our home, Turlock. I only gave you a sliver of what to expect during the Ghost Walk tour, but the society has been hosting the tour since 2016 and tickets are available every October. It’s one weekend only, so don’t miss out next year!

In the meantime, stop by the Turlock Historical Society Museum and take in Turlock’s past for yourself. From old high school yearbooks dating back decades to copies of letters which tell the story of how Turlock got its name, educating yourself on our past is always time well spent. 

The Turlock Historical Society Museum is now open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday. The Ghost Walk episode of Studio209 will be up on all platforms this Thursday.