Juan Girardin was a Swiss immigrant of French decent who migrated to Mexico with his wife, his son and wife and two grandchildren. During his stay in Mexico, Juan lost his wife and remarried a Mexican woman named Manuela before immigrating to California and finally settling in Monterey. Juan purchased a home built for the customhouse general, after the customhouse was moved to San Francisco. The family transformed the large house into the "French Hotel" and started a thriving business being the third hotel in early Monterey.
Tragedy struck the Girardin family when both his son and his son's wife passed away on the same day, possibly from some type of accident. Juan and Manuela were left to take care of the two young children and the hotel. Misfortune struck again when Juan died of typhoid fever July 1, 1879 leaving Manuela to care for the two young children and the hotel. Suddenly her situation became worse when the children also contracted the deadly fever. Manuela was up day and working feverishly to keep the children alive until she also caught the fever and died December 21, 1879. Miraculously the two children did survive, but Manuela died before knowing this.
After her death, no one had interest in owning a building associated with so much death, until a man by the name Sionou purchased the French Hotel at a nominal price and let his poor broke author friend Robert Louis Stevenson stay for free.
Fast forward to 1940, the Stevenson family is living in Santa Barbara and contacted the State of California with a proposition. They had all of Robert Louis’ belongings without a place to display them. The Stevenson family made a deal to donate these very special items to the State in exchange for opening and maintaining a museum in Stevenson’s honor.
The State had just acquired many of the Old Adobes in Monterey and was in the process of opening the California State Park Monterey and decided to transform the French Hotel into the "Stevenson House." Downstairs they opened the museum dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson and upstairs they refurbished the rooms back to the days when the Girardin family occupied the building. Many times during the forty years that the museum was open, the curators would have guests compliment the authentic costume of the lady upstairs in the nursery.
Over and over this was happening, always describing a lady in a black dress with a white collar shawl who was leaning over the bed, cleaning the room or sometimes rocking the old rocking chair placed in the room. From ages five to fifty-five the sightings occurred over and over again. One foggy afternoon the curator was closing down the house when she went up the stairs to the end of the hallway and looking into the nursery saw the woman in black. Not thinking twice about it the curator said "its closing time," turned around and then turned back to see no one in the room.
I have had many guests who have claimed to see the ghost of Manuela Girardin. One afternoon while giving a speech to the California Historical Society a woman claimed to have seen Manuela twice, once standing in the room and another while she was rocking in the chair.
One afternoon a gentleman from Malibu called to ask if I included the Stevenson House on my tour. The man told me that when he was seven or eight years old, his family had taken him on that tour. Going upstairs the young boy decided to sit near the doorway of the nursery while waiting for his family to come upstairs. Looking into the room he was astonished to see a woman staring back at him. He claims to have had a short conversation with her and then turned to look for his family. Turning back towards the lady within seconds he was amazed to see she had vanished. Jumping to his feet, he pressed his face to the bars to fully survey the room. He could not believe that the woman was nowhere to be found. When I asked him to describe this woman he stated “she was in a black dress with a white shawl” sending shivers up my spine!
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