In 1897, on the corner of a building at the southeast corner of Geary Street and Grant Avenue, San Francisco the ghost of a missing man stalked the halls.
Windsor A. Keefer, the principal owner in the Jupiter Mine in Calaveras County had gone missing since March 17, 1897.
He left to visit the mines in company of Mr. Thompson president of the mining company. They went hunting and separated some time during the day. Since then Mr. Keefer had not been seen again.
Mlle. Hassler, a teacher who lived on the fourth floor and a neighbor to Mr. Keefer, claimed she knew he was dead since she saw his ghost.
One evening she went to a bathroom in the hallway of the building, and she said, "Strange as it might appear, a feeling of chill and fear came over me. I heard no noise, but something indefinable caused me to turn and look out into the hall. I was almost frightened to death when I did so, for right there before me I saw Mr. Keefer, or what was a white-garbed, deep-sunken-eyed representation of him. The vision, for it appeared almost transparent seemed to float down the hallway. There was something so unreal about it that it was ghostly. I did not know then that there was anything wrong or suspicious about Mr. Keefer, but I felt I was in the presence of death."
The ghost dissolved into a mist when it reach the door of Mr. Keefer's apartment.
Keefer had lived for the last twelve years in Apartment number 67, and she was familiar with what he looked like.
Apparently this was not the first time Mlle. Hassler had a ghostly experience. August 3, 1883 she visited the Winter Garden, a venue for concerts and other large gatherings. A fierce fire broke out, and she lived in the building next to the site. Flames shot out and started to dance against the building where she lived, She said were it not for an unseen force that pushed her out of the way she would have burned to death from a sudden flame that entered through the window where she had been standing.
At the end of March 1897, Mr. Keefer's niece, Mrs. Sheehan broke open the door to his apartment with the help of a locksmith, and found the room in wild disorder, She claimed that $5000 in diamonds had been stolen.
Desks and safes had been ransacked, and apparently someone was searching for something. His family believed at that point that he had been murdered by one of the many enemies he made in a long and extremely checkered career. Only a year ago one of them had tried to assassinate him.
Mr. Keefer had made and lost a fortune several times. He started out as a messenger on one of the boats running between San Francisco and Sacramento. He changed careers several time and as he accumulated money he made bitter enemies. Several suits and quarrels against him ended in the courts. It appeared that he enjoyed making enemies.
At one time a reversal of fortune reduced him to poverty and he became a solicitor. During that time he met a French nobleman and convinced him to invest $30,000 in the Jupiter Mine. They became close friends as well as business associates.They traveled throughout Europe and Keefer indulged in his passion for jewelry and personal adornment.
At the time of his disappearance Keefer had been working the Jupiter Mine prospect for 18 years. He bought properties in the adjoining counties and increased his holdings.
He was one of the first to use electricity in California. In 1876 he used it to light up the mine.
He was described as a tall man who usually wore a sealskin overcoat that reached almost to his heels. He wore diamond rings and kept loose jewels in his pocket. Everyone knew that he carried thousands of dollars in jewelry on his person at all times.
He was 55 years old when he disappeared. He'd married a Miss Angie Crary 20 years before, but she went away and never returned. They never divorced and she moved to Denver.
A year before he quarreled with another stockholder, Annie Newlands, where shots were fired between himself and agents she placed at the mine to defend her claim. He ended up getting shot in the shoulder. and it took him months to recover. After this incident he took to wearing light chain mail under his suit when he visited Calaveras.
When he disappeared everything in his life was good and he was planning to move to a new home at 2025 San Jose Avenue, Alameda, which is why many initially thought there was foul play involved.
A thorough search of the area where he disappeared was conducted but with no evidence of what happened to him. He belonged to the Royal Arch Mason and the local lodge was asked to take some action in aiding to find him.
During those days he could not be found his account and books were examined. It was discovered that he was not dealing fairly with his associates or those who had purchased stock from him. Fraud was evident including misappropriated funds and illegal issuance of stock.
Keefer it turned out had very little money and manipulated the mine's stock for the last 18 years. The directors met and decided that Keefer had very little if any legitimate interest in the mine.
Some of Keefer's relatives described where he looked depressed in the last few days before he left on the journey. They told newspapers he spoke of a former friendship with an Austrian nobleman named Count Koreli. They had met three years before when the count visited San Francisco and was interested in speculating. They became close friends, but then the nobleman left to finish his tour around the world. They continued to correspond until a few days before Keefer's disappearance. Some wondered if the miner had absconded to Europe.
However, other friends insisted he was dead. They said he was not the type of man to run away. He had either been abducted or killed.
By the end of April, Keefer's sister, Mrs. Davids offered a reward, however it was not until the end of May that a clue was found to indicate Keefer's fate. A black, slouch hat was discovered close to where he was last seen, and it was riddled with buckshot. It was found accidentally when the reservoir was drained to make sure that the body was not there. The intent now was to search debris in a shaft hoping to find his body.
Men were sent down what was known as the "Old Engine" shaft, then they searched the Amazon mine with an incline over 400 feet long. Other mines searched were Fred Claus' copper mine, the Monarch claim, the Buckeye, Bully Boy and Eureka claims.
A search was made of every ranch in the neighborhood, including examination of the foundation of every barn and outhouse, steel rods were inserted into every possible hiding place inside and out, between the walls and under the floors.
Residents of the area turned out in force and spread themselves out, searching the thick brush that covered country. Despite all the effort made, the months passed and Keefer's body was not found.
His sister Mathilda Davids was made trustee of his estate, and in May 1904, his sister Mathilda petitioned the courts to declare him dead. Then in November of the same years, an announcement was made the he was living a quiet, secluded life in Paris. However no proof was ever produced for this claim.
The local reservoir where Keefer owned the Jupiter Mine was named after him, and the land later became the Calaveras Big Trees State Park.
Prior to his arrival though it was a booming mining town known as Dogtown, one of the biggest camps in California. The Gold Rush town was full of stray dogs which is how it came by its name.
By 1989, all that was left of Dogtown were derelict building foundations and a handful of collapsing wooden structures. The town had its share of gunfights, tragedies and strange occurrences, and none stranger than the disappearance of Windsor A. Keefer.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer