By Paul Tatara

Posted November 20, 2007 in Pop Goes the Culture

Bracken Fern Manor, Lake Arrowhead

Bugsy Siegel opened this members-only club that catered to Hollywood elite on July 4, 1929. Called Club Arrowhead of the Pines, it provided gambling, liquor and women for its thrill-seeking clientele. (In fact, the club so impressed the mob bosses that they endorsed Bugsy’s next weird idea—building a gambling hall in the middle of a nowhere place called Las Vegas.)

Meanwhile, Club Arrowhead thrived, fishy-business-as-usual. “The Crib,” or brothel, operated through WWII, the speakeasy until 1955.

Tall, dark and Tudorish, the building that housed the bordello upstairs is now a respectable, beautifully restored B&B called Bracken Fern Manor. But the dark and violent atmosphere of long ago remains. Reports of ghostly girls—prostitutes who were aspiring actresses—hovering around the upstairs are common, perhaps still awaiting discovery from those tall windows.

The ground floor of the manor had a market, butcher shop (and everyone knows how well mobsters and meat stores go together) and a soda fountain. Beneath the market was an icehouse (now the wine cellar) that hid an underground passageway connecting the speakeasy to the bordello. The tunnel is long closed, but the old door and steps are visible from the street and the wine cellar. Some say the mere sight sets their short hairs on end.

One of the ghosts from that yesteryear who is often sighted is a prostitute named Violet—who, after the mob killed her lover, fell into a deep depression and committed suicide. Violet had fallen in love with the young man and the pair were about to elope, but her mob-masters didn’t want to lose her as a moneymaker, so they murdered her beau. Now, whenever this restless spirit walks the halls, the scent of her violet perfume hails her arrival.

Another ghost is that of a little boy. Believed to be a prostitute’s child, he met his death when he was trampled by a team of horses. Today, his small footsteps are often seen in the snow surrounding the manor.

Visitors, including paranormal investigators, report feeling a welcoming presence at the manor, which they usually identify as Violet; evidently, this loving ghost still enjoys the company of strangers. (TT)



University of California, Riverside

The Tomás Rivera Library on the main campus of UC Riverside is named after the former chancellor/novelist who dropped dead of a heart attack in 1984.

According to campus folklore, a malevolent spirit haunts the library’s halls—but whether that spirit is Rivera or a grad student who hung himself after drinking one too many Red Bulls depends on whom you talk to.

Some say the ghost prowls the restroom on the library’s third floor, flicking lights on and off and touching people in the stalls on the backs of their necks with its cold, dead hands. (No one suffers from constipation in the third-floor restroom.) 

Others say the ghost haunts the entire fourth floor, which coincidentally (or not) happens to be home of the world’s largest academic collection of Star Trek material. It’s on the fourth floor, they insist, that things are supposed to get really creepy after dark.

According to Andrew Wennerstrom, a 25-year-old student and campus security staffer, the problem with the Tomás Rivera Library isn’t so much ghosts as it is ghost hunters—groups of young people who come into the facility and try to hide out until after closing so they can presumably wander around unmolested and run their tests. Wennerstrom said campus security typically catches two or three trespassing ghost-hunter teams a semester. (DS)


Calico Ghost Town, Yermo

Calico, an old silver mining town, is part tourist attraction, part historic landmark—and its ghosts can be found any time of the year with a whiff of phantom perfume and powder (dead hookers abound near the park office at the entrance), the sound (and smell) of invisible horses (farther into the park), and even strange blue orbs that rise up from Calico Mountain at dusk. And then there’s the old schoolhouse.

The schoolhouse is reached by a wooden bridge that spans a gully—at night, many people have reported feeling something tugging their ankles from below as they cross. At the schoolhouse, even during the day, many people claim they have feelings of being watched, or of seeing “shadow people”—dark figures all over the schoolyard, in the building, and even sitting on the roof. Touching the flagpole freaks some tourists out—perhaps what they say is true, that it holds emotions, mostly the dark ones, and passes them out like candy. There are even reports that some visitors have spoken to ghosts of long-dead schoolteachers, assuming they were hired re-enactors—until they disappear into thin air.

Children, but rarely adults, sometimes report seeing a smiling child looking out of the window at them. They think she’s alive—until she starts floating upward. Sometimes, she just moves to another window—but she doesn’t walk, she glides. Tres creepy.

In other areas of Calico, the ghost of Dorsey, the mail-carrying dog, is often spotted. He’s a fun, happy haunt—but for sheer goosebumps, walk near Hank’s Hotel. An original building, it’s not open to the public, but that’s probably just as well. Park employees have attempted to spend the night in the place, but they never last long. The knocking and stomping all around them in this little, but very potent, whorehouse scares off even the bravest ranger.

The women’s restroom near the entrance to Calico is also haunted. You wouldn’t know to look at it, but if you enter a stall and hear noises, it’s not necessarily another woman. Another live one, anyway. Talking, walking, and presumably ghost peeing has been heard, and more than one tourist hasn’t paused to wipe, let alone wash, on her way out.

The Maggie Mine is said to be haunted by miners who died in accidents, and one angry ghost has threatened employees with a pickaxe. The Calico Photoshop, a former saloon, has a couple of ghosts—a friendly old drunk named Joe, and a little girl who came along when the owners rescued a death-portrait of her from a Hank’s Hotel fire. You can see the portrait of the dead girl (and maybe feel her presence) and also check out photos of some of the town’s anomalies at the shop. (TT)


The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa, Riverside

The Mission is reputed to be the most haunted place in the Inland Empire. The product of more than a century of renovations, additions, bankruptcies and restorations, the hotel can best be described as the Madonna Inn on steroids. 

It began life in 1876, as a 12-room adobe boarding house owned by Christopher Columbus Miller, who sold the property to son Frank four years later. Over subsequent decades Frank obsessively built up the site, adding four-story wings here, a medieval-style chapel there, a catacomb down below. Today it’s a national historic landmark occupying a full city block and a major revenue stream for the city, which it predates. 

With its gothic (or Tuscan or Baroque or Mediterranean—Frank never could settle on a style) architecture, the Inn is a magnet for spooky stories. The Internet abounds with reports of supernatural phenomena occurring in the Inn’s foyers, hallways, staircases and several of its 248 rooms. Many of the alleged incidents occurred in or near rooms once occupied by members of the Miller family, leading to speculation that the property’s former owners are none too happy with the present owner’s frequent use of the facilities for Republican fundraisers. 

The most oft-reported phenomena involves guests who say they were suddenly and mysteriously shoved from behind while on the hotel’s famous spiral staircase. One such incident allegedly occurred in 1993, when a couple on their honeymoon abruptly checked out of the Inn after the bride claimed to have been jostled by invisible hands while descending the staircase. Whether the event was an actual paranormal occurrence or simply the groom trying to escape a lifelong commitment remains unknown. (DS)


Korakia Pensione, Palm Springs

Tucked into the base of the San Jacinto Mountains, this unique, historic villa was built in 1924 and is said to be haunted by the Lady in Red—the wife of a former owner.

Apparently during a party, the woman, renowned as a party-till-you-drop girl, did just that when she stepped out onto the road, directly in front of an oncoming car. Nowadays, she is most often reported seen walking along that very road near the Moroccan-style inn—but she also seems to be a control freak: guests report that their clothing is often rearranged in their rooms while they’re out for dinner or a stroll.

The Lady in Red’s presence is announced by strange cold chills—which are especially noticeable on hot days. (TT)


JJ Live Oak Steakhouse, Corona

This old cottage resting in the shadow of the massive live oak from which it drew its name is where, according to more than a dozen websites, outlaws of old were frequently hanged. If you look closely, the websites report, you can still see the remnants of a noose that had somehow grown into the tree. The steakhouse is haunted, not by the unfortunate outlaws, but by the ghost of a former waitress who was murdered there one dark night in 1988. 

Former employees say the waitress was strangled in the ladies’ restroom by one of the restaurant’s cooks. The cook then dismembered the body, piled the pieces into the trunk of his car, and drove her into Mexico for ignominious burial. He returned to the restaurant and continued working at the steakhouse, but was so overwhelmed by guilt that he eventually hung himself—hanging apparently being the preferred method of execution on Temescal Canyon Road. 

Shortly after the cook’s death, strange things began to happen inside the restaurant, mostly in and around the kitchen and restroom area. Ashtrays and beer glasses would suddenly fly across the room; a cold mist would be spotted spilling from under the kitchen door into the hallway; oven burners would inexplicably turn to their highest setting—all by themselves. 

According to Suzanne Anderson, who managed the kitchen in 1994, customers would often walk through the front door of the restaurant, shiver, and walk right back out. And employees learned never to enter the ladies’ restroom alone—when they did, the temperature would suddenly drop so low that they could see their breath in front of them. Anderson said she had a hard time hanging on to help—employees would quit after just a few days. In one incident, a recently hired cook—whom Anderson hadn’t yet informed of the haunting—suddenly ran screaming out of the kitchen, jumped into his car and fled. He never came back, not even for his final paycheck. 

The steakhouse was recently sold and is temporarily closed for renovations, giving these ghosts some much needed time off. (DS)



Yucaipa has more than its share of haunts. The most famous include the Red Lady of Pendelton Road. 

A 1950s car accident victim, she was left for dead by her companion (s). Allegedly, she crawled out of the wreck and tried to find aid, but died during the attempt. Police found her body a long way from the accident site. To this day, she is said to still walk Pendelton Road, searching for help. Whether the red she wears is the color of her outfit when she died or a coating of blood is up for speculation.

Another famous haunt inhabits the old cafeteria at Yucaipa High School—where one can apparently hear the chatter of phantom cafeteria ladies and the sound of a ladle scraping out gruel for long-ago students. Sometimes the cafeteria ladies cackle with laughter, serving up their inedibles to a pitiful group of ghost students, forever trapped in a true hell on Earth. This abandoned area is also always cold, even during the summer. 

Speaking of teens, reports of four ghostly pubescents haunting the Chapman Heights housing development are frequent. The quartet wear white and are seen only with peripheral vision. They especially like to harass nighttime golfers at the adjacent course, so if you’re in a golf cart at night, you’re a special target—don’t be surprised if they give the cart a good shake.

Further east, in Yucaipa’s scenic apple-growing community of Oak Glen, it’s said that an old woman—a witch, according to the locals—put a curse on an area where teens liked to race. Subsequently, a group of kids died at the spot, and it is said that their spirits remain near the site of their deaths. If you park your car on the spot, some claim these honor students will push you uphill, out of the cursed location. While it’s said you can still see the steps that led to the witch’s house, no one’s really sure where to look, but a slow, careful cruise along the main drag is likely to yield more than road apples. (TT)


Thompson Creek Woods, Claremont

As you might expect of any place with “Woods” and “Creek” in its name, this is one decidedly creepy place at night. Locals have long spoken of unearthly goings-on in the woods above Indian Hill Boulevard; many of the reports are auditory in nature, such as hikers hearing the sounds of drums followed by blood-curdling screams and the high-pitched cackles of an old man. Other incidents involve sightings of levitating boulders and spectral balls of fire that chase visitors out of the woods.

Some locals ascribe the phenomena to a curse placed on the woods more than 140 years ago by a Catholic priest. The story goes that a mob of Mexican ranchers massacred a small band of Serrano natives in the woods that are now called Thompson Creek. Upon hearing the news, the outraged priest raised his hand to God and called for divine retribution—the result being that 140 years later, joggers repeatedly get the wits scared out of them while stopping for a breather. Several Internet sites also describe reports of visitors being afflicted with sudden visions of violence, strange symbols on trees and a cabin that bleeds—and we have no idea what that means, but you’re welcome to check it out and report back. Nice knowing you. (DS)


Agua Mansa Road, Colton

Colton, birthplace of the old west’s famous Earp brothers, is also home to several ghosts. South of the I-10, you’ll find Agua Mansa Road near Agua Mansa Cemetery. On this dark and twisty pathway, many have reported seeing an old man and his dog ambling along the side of the road. At first glance, they appear to be real—but on second look, they vanish. With all the notorious accidents that plague Agua Mansa, many wonder if this ghost was the unwitting victim of a collision or a rundown.

Then there’s the Weeping Woman—or La Llorona—of Colton, who also haunts Agua Mansa Road, as well as the cemetery. Originally hailing from Mexico, this legendary ghost is said to be a widow who was forced by a suitor to drown her children in a creek. Forevermore, she wanders and wails, searching for them—so desperate that it’s said she’ll take yours if you let the little tikes wander off. 

These two ghosts are usually spotted between dusk and dawn—peak hours are 10 p.m. through 4 a.m. Entering cemeteries after dusk is illegal, but apparently these ghosts will come meet you on the road, so drive carefully. (TT)



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