‘Haunted Wine Country’ materializes in Sonoma

Fans of last year’s “Haunted Sonoma County” feature length documentary have a second chance to explore the spooky side of Sonoma Valley in the filmmaker’s new release, “Haunted Wine Country.” The film premieres at the Sebastiani Theatre on Monday, Oct. 2 and Tuesday, Oct. 3.

The film travels through California’s Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties visiting dozens of haunted locations – presented by historians, writers, paranormal investigators and eye witnesses.

According to filmmaker Tom Wyrsch, among the hardworking residents who made their homes in Wine Country more than a century ago lurked a seedy and dangerous element: gamblers, thieves, prostitutes, murderers – even pirates. Death or ruin traveled with them. And long after committing their untoward deeds, the spirits of many remain – roaming the hillsides, frightening current residents and turning this otherwise serene area into “haunted wine country.”

“Haunted Wine Country” features paranormal experts, authors, historians, ghost hunters and gifted psychics who recount the area’s ghostly tales and describe their personal experiences.

It was Wyrsch’s friendship with celebrated ’70s horror-movie personality Bob Wilkins – host of the beloved “Creature Features” television program on KTVU – that inspired “Haunted Sonoma.”

“I said to Bob one day, ‘People ask you questions all the time about “Creature Features.” You should maybe make a documentary about that, and answer those questions in a movie.’ And Bob said, ‘Well, why don’t you do it.’ So we made the movie, and after that, I just got the bug. Two years later, I made the ‘Playland’ movie, and that was huge for me. It ran for months in San Francisco. It’s still huge.”

That film used archival footage and photographs to recreate memories of the long-gone Playland amusement park.

After a Houdini film in 2015 – which contained historical detail on the annual Houdini séance begun by the late Petaluma journalist Bill Soberanes – Wyrsch decided to go ahead and make a film that was aimed squarely at ghosts, but with his usual focus on historical accuracy. “I went to the different places, talked to people who knew the historical background of each location, and who then told the history of the area before I went digging into stuff about the ‘haunts’ that had been reported there.”

“Haunted Wine Country” will premiere at the Sebastiani for two nights with just one screening per night at 7 p.m. Attendees will meet filmmaker Wyrsch with the cast and crew on both nights. Wyrsch will stay for a Q&A after each night’s screening. Tickets are $15.

“Haunted Wine County” includes interviews with Jeff Dwyer, Ellen MacFarlane, Devin Sisk, Doug Carnahan, Tami Benjamin, Carla Heine, Daniel Sullivan, Evan Attwood, Frank Ailsworth and Guy Smith.

The film’s trailer is viewable online.

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