Ghost-approving fans of Tom Wyrsch’s 2016 feature length documentary “Haunted Sonoma County” have a second chance to explore the spooky side of Sonoma County in the Petaluma-based filmmaker’s newest release, “Haunted Wine County.” The film - which premiered last weekend in Sonoma – will materi-alize anew on Friday, Oct. 13 (what could be better) at Summerfield Cinemas in Santa Rosa, and all signs point to a Petaluma screening in the very near future.
The film travels through California’s Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, visiting dozens of haunt-ed locations. The “evidence” of each spot’s hauntedness is described by historians, writers, paranormal investigators and spirited eye witnesses. “Haunted Wine County” includes interviews with Jeff Dwyer, El-len MacFarlane, Devin Sisk, Doug Carnahan, Tami Benjamin, Carla Heine, Daniel Sullivan, Evan Attwood, Frank Ailsworth and Guy Smith
According to the film’s director, Tom Wyrsch (“Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong!” “Remember-ing Playland at the Beach”), the hardworking residents who once made their homes in Wine Country more than a century ago included a seedy and dangerous element - gamblers, thieves, prostitutes, murderers, and even the occasional pirate. Death or ruin travelled with them, the filmmaker suggests, and, long after committing their untoward deeds and then expiring, many of these colourful rogues simply remained in the area, roaming the hillsides, frightening residents and turning this otherwise serene area into, well, into Haunted Wine Country.
It was Wyrsch’s friendship with celebrated ’70s horror-movie personality Bob Wilkins – host of the be-loved “Creature Features” television program on KTVU – that initially inspired him to start making movies.
“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 [That would be “Watch Horror Films, Keep America Strong!”] 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 San Francisco amusement park.
After a Houdini film in 2015 – “Harry Houdini: Magic Among the Spirits,” which contained historical de-tail 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,” he says, “who then told the history of the area before I went digging.”
Digging up … ghost? Sounds like the beginning of another great movie.
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Haunted Wine Country
What: A new documentary by Petaluma filmmaker Tom Wyrsch.
When: Friday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m.
Where: Summerfield Cinemas, 551 Summerfield Rd., Santa Rosa.