Updated Photos from Murphy’s Ranch

By Scott Markus

There has been much concern for the fate of one of LA’s most unique landmarks and ties to strange history – Murphy’s Ranch.  Plans for the demolition of the remaining buildings have long been known.  Then, early in 2016, some dates became public knowledge.  Specifically, late March was the bulldoze date.  Scott and Connor made a trip to the site in early April to get a look at the changes.  While a lot is gone, it could have been much worse. photo IMG_1655_zpsn2g8pk4a.jpg

 photo IMG_3865_zpstidyfjml.jpg Immediately apparent is the large fence and wall have been totally removed, making trail access even easier than it already was.  Perhaps if the gates weren’t locked in the first place, people wouldn’t have felt the need to create their own hole in the wall in the first place.

 

 photo IMG_3872_zpsk6vfyhqd.jpg

The huge water tank was the first victim of the “clean-up,” having been eliminated in early 2016.  It was fairly recently that someone got themselves stuck inside of it, requiring help from the authorities to get free (I think it’s okay to call them an idiot).  The silver lining here is that there’s still evidence of where the tank was.  The cement walls were sliced at an angle, creating a sort of curb for the downward sloping trail.  Of course, we’d love for the tank to still be standing, but this is a nice accent that lightly hints at the former site.

 photo IMG_3875_zpsmiv6dfju.jpgSeen to the right, Connor (and co-adventurer, Brownie the chocolate lab) is standing in what was once the center of the large water tank.  The now removed wall gives you a unique perspective and vantage point to how enormous this thing was.

Along the way we passed the remains of a small house (pictured below).  Though largely untouched for the moment, most of the debris in the structure was swept out towards the road.  Our guess is that the junk will be cleared, but we hope the foundations remain.
 photo IMG_3885_zpstoiql42r.jpg

 photo IMG_3895_zps8ua1x67s.jpgTo our (and Brownie’s) delight, the most iconic building is still standing, fully in tact.  Not only is it untouched, but for the first time that I’ve seen, the cyclone fencing around it has been removed, making this a strangely inviting location.

The large metal building, which had turned into a mountain of twisted metal was removed (before and after pictures below), along with the remains of a 1960’s VW Mini Bus.  The loss of this bus is a negative to me because it was a wonderful example of how this location went from a center of hate and domination in the ’40s to a home to artistic endeavor and free thought/love in the ’60s.  Poetry in history.  The remnants of the van were brought up to the main road, likely for easier collection.

 photo IMG_1673_zpskpupefhc.jpg  photo IMG_3907_zps3t5mi7i1.jpg

I didn’t really want this to be a “review” of the changes, as I am quite the naturalist/preservationist.  I would’ve loved to see what was left standing of the large structure secured in a safe way, but I understand clearing out the debris.  Though I hate the loss of the water tank, people getting stuck inside of it (again, like idiots) makes this an easy decision for the powers that be to simply remove it.  Removing the wall & fence at the trail head seemed unnecessary.  Simply opening the gates and welding them to a secure, open position would’ve been effective and a much easier task then removing everything in full.  Still, as far as everything else is concerned, I’ve found my peace with what we’ve lost and I just hope nothing else goes.  This is such a wonderfully unique piece of Los Angeles history, it would be a shame to lose anything else.

I plan to do a more complete live video discussion on this topic in the near future on Periscope.  That video will later end up on YouTube and right here with video footage of some hard to find locations and a lot more ‘off the beaten path’ structures in this area you may not know about.  Stay tuned!


First Adventure of the New Year! Spahn Ranch

Scott and I IMG_3827decided to start the new year off right and pick a new creepy spot to visit for the start of 2016!

We often get asked about Manson family locations, and though we do touch on the subject of the murders, and are somewhat well versed, it is not a piece of history we focus on much.

spahnold1

That being said, when we were talking about the first place to go for the new year, both Scott’s and my first thought was to head up to the remains of Spahn Ranch and hike out to the famous “Manson Family Cave.”

 

family

The ranch has been around since 1862 when J.R. Williams received 160 acres after the Homestead Act was passed by the US Government. The land itself is part of the Santa Susana Pass, the main transport road between LA and Santa Barbra during the mission days. The land was used in early silent films and even owned by William S Hart for a time, before finally ending up in the hands of George Spahn.

By the time the Manson Family arrived in 1968, the rancspahngetty2-thumbh was only being used occasionally for TV shows and locals for renting horses to ride around the property for an afternoon. I won’t write much about Manson’s time on the ranch, which is often shrouded in contradictory urban legends. Plenty of other people have done so before me, and in a much better way than I could. You can read LA Curbed’s Post on the ranch HERE

The property burned down in 1970, so there wasn’t much for Scott and I to explore while we were there. We hope to find a map containing the old building locations so we can explore with a bit more direction on our next visit.  If you have such a map, please share!

Actually, to call this excursion a hike is more than a little exaggeration.  It’s really not a hike at all! After reading a few blogs and our with our previous experiences hiking to other creepy spots, we expected a lot worse. We were warned about Poison Ivy and Rattle Snakes, and though we didn’t see any, I’m sure it is still a danger! IMG_2633

The path is narrow, but fairly direct, it’s also littered with morbid little reminders of where we were.  (To the left is an example: a displayed modern picture of Manson; green little skeletons dot the area)

We found the cave quickly and took our obligatory selfie (up at the top). We were surprised to see that there were quite a few other people there. We talked a bit and then went back to poking around the property.

People often report paranormal goings on at Spahn Ranch, which seem to be mostly residual in nature. Scott and I did not do an investigation on the property on this visit, so we don’t have anything toIMG_2655 add on to the subject.

We didn’t spend much longer at Spahn Ranch, before heading back to our car, but we took pictures of a few items.  There are plenty of pieces of building material, plates, car parts and more that require more examination to properly attach to dates.  That said, we felt satisfied with our first adventure of the year!

 


A Ghost Hunter Watches – Supernatural – Episode 1

Just in time to start season 11, Connor takes you all the way back to the pilot of Supernatural!

Follow along as Connor watches Supernatural and then discusses the real life paranormal concepts behind each story!


Woodstock and the Stickney House

We were planning on resting and laying low today, recovering from our awesome weekend at the Chicago Ghost Conference….but around 2 o’clock we decided we couldn’t just sit around any more, so we decided to go on the hunt for some things we’d always wanted to see!

Turns out that one of Mickey Cohen‘s bodyguards is buried in Woodstock, Illinois! Johnny Stompanato, a strongman in the LA mafia and lover of Lana Turner, was from the small town. Stompanato was stabbed by Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, a crime that was later ruled as self defense. His body was taken back to Woodstock after his passing and he was interred at Oakland Cemetery.

unnamed-7 Stompanato unnamed-4

The cemetery is old and beautiful, and also the final resting place of Dick Tracy creator, Chester Gould.

Unfortunately, Scott and I were not very successful in locating either of the graves (if you have directions to where they are let us know!)

We did however find lots of great old graves, and even saw some great wildlife.

unnamed-3  (can you believe this picture is real?? I still can’t and I took it!)

They even have a small pet cemetery with a bunch of sweet send offs for fur babies!

unnamed-6 unnamed-2 IMG_3172 IMG_3168

It was a great place to spend an afternoon.  It was very restful and there were plenty of other people and their living pets walking around too.

IMG_3149  IMG_3173 IMG_3171

unnamed IMG_3150 IMG_3175

After the cemetery we headed into downtown Woodstock, which is super cute, and also where they filmed “Groundhog Day!”

IMG_3176 unnamed-1 IMG_3181

After a walk around the town square and some much-needed hot coffee, we headed over to the Stickney House.

The Stickney House was one of the locations covered by Scott in his book, “Voices from the Chicago Grave.”

Built in 1856 and located in the Village of Bull Valley. George Stickney, his wife Sylvia, and their family were the original residents. The house was built without any 90 degree corners.  The Skickney’s were spiritualists and believed ghosts could become trapped in such spaces. Of the 10 Stickney children only three survived into adulthood. The family held many séances in the house trying to contact the children that passed away.  Some believe that perhaps it was Sylvia’s inabilities as a medium or cultists who moved into the house in the 1970s that have caused the home to become very haunted.

IMG_3184 unnamed-12 unnamed-8

The house has gone through much renovations since we last saw the house. Thanks to the local historic society and the Stickney Foundation. The interior and exterior are both being restored to the houses original state, and I have to say, it looks fantastic!  Note in the photos below the continued use of rounded edges – even the front door itself is curved.

unnamed-11 unnamed-10 unnamed-9

From the Stickney House, we were directed to the small cemetery down the road where the family was buried. It was starting to get dark, but as we stumbled around by cell phone light, we eventually found the family. A few of the tombstones were missing, and some of the others were damaged, but overall they were in great shape considering their age.

IMG_3186 IMG_3187 IMG_3189

There was an oddly large amount of traffic on the road, considering how far out of town we were. Still, we decided to do a small EVP session at Sylvia‘s grave.

unnamed We haven’t reviewed our recording yet.  Once we do, we’ll definitely let you know of any findings!


Chicago Ghost Conference

By: Connor Bright

Finally putting my feet up and relaxing after an awesome and VERY busy weekend at the Chicago Ghost Conference!

This was my 3rd year attending the show, which this year was super close to Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery! As Scott and I were driving to the Chicago Gaelic Park (where the ghost con was), I checked my Time Hop app and learned that it was also the anniversary of my first visit to the cemetery. So that was a fun little coincidence!

As always the Conference was A LOT of fun! A great place to see old friends and meet the new faces of the Chicago paranormal community!

Scott was there promoting his documentary on the La Crosse river drownings with Jay Bachochin (check it out here) as well as selling copies of his book Voices From the Chicago Grave (get it here)

I mostly came for the booze….just kidding! I got to sit with the talented and beautiful Virginia Madsen! Star of too many movies to name here, but mostly at the ghost con because of her work in “Candyman” and “A Haunting in Connecticut.” She is AWESOME and I am really looking forward to seeing her and Jennifer Lawrence in “Joy” this Christmas!

The show is run by Ursula Bielski, who is a wonderful and amazing woman with a CRAZY amount of knowledge on all things paranormal! She’s the best, Google her!

We got in a little too late (and I was a little too tired) for any of the Friday night activities….but we made sure we were well rested and prepared for Saturday!!

Saturday Scott lead a panel on urban legends in Chicago which was ENTIRELY full of AMAZING blonde ladies! From right to left: Ursula Bielski, Mary Marshall, Liz Nygard, and Virginia Madsen.

I…..mostly took selfies and tried to get everyone to join the Instagram Cult!

After day one of the conference, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the costume party!!! Which was “Come-as-your-favorite-dead-Chicago-resident” themed. Also, it was at Chet’s Melody Lounge, right across the street from Resurrection Cemetery (home to Chicago’s most famous ghost, the aptly named “Resurrection Mary”).

I’m not going to lie, I thought Scott and I would have the most clever costumes…Black and white John Dillinger and Anna Sage (the woman in ORANGE, not red)

But then freaking Dave Schrader and Jeff Belanger show up as MRS. O’LEARY AND HER COW!! (The same cow that started the Great Chicago Fire) They just deserve all of the awards for that! All of them!!

We danced the night away and I did my best Janis Joplin impression on karaoke (which do me a favor and if you have video…delete it, okay? lol).

Sunday got off to a slow start, for obvious reasons! But once I picked out a good enough outfit to hide that my skin was still kinda grey….the ball got rolling and it was a lot of fun!

Some very FANTASTIC speakers, such as the brilliant Mary Marshall (you have to love a strong woman like her in the paranormal field)

We all gave interviews with Shadows on the Wall Paranormal Radio (who are awesome dudes and you should check them out!).

And I promise I’m not just saying that because they wanted to talk to me WITHOUT Scott! (That doesn’t happen much, since we’re a team)

We had a GREAT time as always at the Chicago Ghost Conference! We learned a lot of new things and heard all of the latest on the paranormal in Chicagoland and the rest of the county! It’s always a good thing to get back to your roots and catch up with old and new friends at the most friendly ghost convention around!!

Since I apparently can’t take a picture unless it’s a selfie, I have two people to thank for all of these!

Thank you, Kenneth Munyer of Midnight Paranormal Society! You take a darn great black and white photo (and sweet colored ones too!)

And thank you Jay for letting me borrow your pictures, check out his group the Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators, currently on the trail of Bigfoot!

Until Next Year!


Surviving (and ENJOYING) Jury Duty in Downtown LA!

I recently had the experience of having to do jury duty and…. had a great time!  I am one of those “lucky” people who have actually gotten called for jury duty three times in the last three years.  Yes, I have gotten out of it in the past with legitimate reasons I was unable to serve.  This time, however, I gave it a go.  Okay, I did try to get out of it a few times until it got to the point that trying to get out of jury duty was more of a nuisance than actually serving jury duty.
So, to show off the bright spots of jury duty and to provide you with a jury duty survival guide, I wanted to create this post.  If you’re on this site, I imagine you are interested in ghost stories, local history, crime history, Los Angeles and visiting museums.  If you keep an eye on these themes, then serving jury duty is downright exciting!  I know that sounds like BS, but stay with me here.

 photo IMG_2687_zpslsrax0vx.jpg

The first part of jury duty and truly the only part that most people experience is being in the “jury pool.”  It’s just a big waiting room full of people hanging out.  Honestly, is that so bad?  Most people keep themselves busy with their iPads, phones, laptops, etc.  There is Wi-Fi, so it’s not a bad way to get some work done.  I, on the other hand, did a lot of reading.  I got deep into a fascinating book on the Prohibition era that deserve its own blog entry.  However, if you are serving jury duty in downtown LA, I would strongly suggest reading “A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption & LA’s Scandalous Coming of Age.”  This amazing book covers the frequently lawless and corrupt age of life in Los Angeles, a town that was growing faster than its infrastructure was ready for. The book covers topics like the Castaic Damn disaster and Clara Bow’s blackmail case.
Back to jury duty.  Each day you get a 90-minute lunch.  That’s crazy!  What’s more crazy is that most people stay local or even eat in the building.  In 90 minutes, you can walk to a lot of great places, taking a nice tour in the process.

 photo 20150507_121325_zpsygpdm5sf.jpg

 photo 20150507_121159_zpsu7jdkx7v.jpgAfter giving quite a few tours and frequently losing tour members to Mr. Churro, I decided that this was finally my time to check the place out.  Leaving 210 W. Temple (pictured, top with the white Pico House building visible on the far right) and walking North up Spring Street, you get a lot of great views of the Pueblo de Los Angeles area (pictured directly above).  This is our destination and also where the city of Los Angeles was born.  On your left, you walk past the largest cement military memorial in all of America, a tribute to the Mormon Battalion and the site of Fort Moore (pictured right).
 photo 20150507_120952_zpsazqueuok.jpgCrossing the next overpass gives you a great perspective on exactly how much of the original Moore Hill (specifically the land that was Moore Hill Cemetery) was dug out to make room for the 101 freeway.  Yes, in a tale straight from the movie Poltergeist, a cemetery was moved (said bodies are now located in Rosedale Cemetery in the West Adams neighborhood, by the way).  Yes, there was a school (that crazy stainless steel building) that was built on a former cemetery and yes, that is a haunted building.  Bodies from the original cemetery were found on this site from the original cemetery as recently as 2009.
Continuing down Spring, you’ll eventually make a right at the corner of Spring and Ord.  This is the site where, not all that long ago really, LA was gripped by the possibility that huge quantities of buried treasure was hidden underground throughout LA.  Who put this treasure here?  A now extinct species of 6 foot tall reptiles, of course (this is a true and strange footnote in LA’s already strange enough history).

 photo 20150507_121954_zps37gkydxa.jpg

Now turning the corner and heading through Chinatown, you get a nice look at the ornate dragons that keep watch over the neighborhood before walking a couple more blocks to Olivera Street.
 photo 20150507_122756_zpsrsl8r5gx.jpgGetting here has only taken about 15-20 minutes out of the 90 minute lunch, so there’s even time to visit the free Old Plaza Fire House museum (pictured left, with City Hall in the background on the right edge of frame), which is really not much of a museum, but you do get to enter one of the original fire stations in LA and see some of the vintage fire fighting gear and impressive photos of the LAFD in action through the years.
To read more about this haunted history of the Pueblo de Los Angeles including Pico House, the Avila Adobe (also a free location to visit) and La Gondoloria Resuaturant, check out my article here.
I grabbed my lunch to go (it did live up to the hype) and walked back to and past the courthouse building to have lunch in LA’s Grand Park.  It’s no Grant Park in Chicago or Central Park in New York, but the city has done a lot to create a gorgeous, large park right in the middle of this portion of the city.  In addition to a nice aesthetic, there are exhibits worth viewing including quotes and pictures from survivors the Armenian Genocide (pictured below, right with City Hall looming in the center of the image and the criminal courts building on the left).
 photo IMG_2695_zps5skjclan.jpgDay 1 ended with me actually getting assigned to a case.  Though most cases are only 1-2 days, this one was estimated to take 6 days if I was selected to the jury.  This was not a lock as I was one of about 50 people to make it to this stage.

 photo IMG_2686_zpscnovzvfe.jpg

Day 2

My second day of jury duty started around 11am or so and after just 60 minutes of jury duty, it was time for my 90 minute lunch.  It’s amazing anything gets done, really.

Unfortunately, on this day it was raining, so I decided to see what fun I could have in the building. Unfortunately there is no top floor observation deck, but I did find a museum-caliber display covering both the 17th and 18th floor of the building. It’s amazing!
 photo 20150508_131018_zps4v1uev2s.jpg
The displays are floor-to-ceiling and do cover every lady square inch of the walls on the two floors. The display is a timeline of crime in LA (technically, it’s about the district attorney’s office, since we are on the floor the D.A. is on).

 photo 20150508_124844_zpsm7rham6o.jpgThe perspective is interesting, looking at the history of Los Angeles as it relates to crime, from the 1871 Chinese Massacre through the Griffith J. Griffith attempted murder case in 1903, the 1910 LA Times building bombing, Bugsy and Mickey’s Mafia control in the ’30s, the career-ruining Pantages trials the Manson Family trial, through the modern age of the LA Riots and the OJ trial.  Among the more well-known stories are some tremendous events that today are largely forgotten.
Did you know that there were sea battles just a few miles beyond the Santa Monica Pier between authorities and floating casinos?  It’s a saga that went on for years and somehow we haven’t seen a movie based on these events yet(?).  Tony Stralla’s name appears on these walls a couple of times.  Before he went on to create the Stardust Casino on the Vegas strip, he was a prohibition-era bootlegger and casino operator in the soutland.

 photo 20150508_130100_zpsnufvbfft.jpg

This location also ties in beautifully with the afore-mentioned book, “A Bright and Guilty Place,” as pretty much every event covered in the book also appears on these walls, as well as personalities like Dave Clark (an LA City prosecutor who got his hands dirty and bloody more than once) and Burton Fitts.
LA’s DA office is about to move to another building, so this exhibit will not be here forever, so whether or not you have jury duty, this is a public building, so make sure you make time soon to go up and walk these halls.
Another must-do in this area is check out the observation deck on the LA City Hall building located just across the street from the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, named after the first female lawyer on the west coast.
 photo dd5f032c-321b-439a-8a36-385a14e11d60_zpsni4d9tzn.jpgJury duty or not, this location offers some of the best views of downtown LA and is a must visit.  Sadly, the view towards the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory is frequently obscured by smog and other larger buildings in the area block some other ideal sites, but it’s still well worth the visit.  West Hollywood, the Brewery artists lofts and, much closer Broadway and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  This is specifically a way to handle jury duty here in downtown LA, but when it comes down to it, no matter where you are, you can find an interesting way to entertain yourself.  Turn it into an opportunity.  How often do you have 90 minutes to kill away from home?  We’re always in a rush nowadays and you can use this time to your personal benefit.  The fact that you’re also pridefully doing your duty as a US citizen…. also a nice perk.

Rancho cucamonga / Alta Loma Suicide House

Is it pure urban legend or can someone actually track down a newspaper report to verify this intriguing story?  It shouldn’t be too hard if the facts we’ve heard are true.  The alleged suicide happened recently, just in the 1990s.  The details of the haunting (first reported here: InsidetheIE.com/scariest-place-alta-loma) include phantom whispers, screams, cries, an apparition of the father, and even a shadowy form walking about the back yard.

We’ve also heard that there are other homes in this neighborhood with very active entities residing within them.  We would love to investigate!  Please drop us a line!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 887 other followers