Coming to you from Culver City, overlooking Culver Studios and the Culver Hotel, I take some time to analyze some possibly paranormal photos! If you have some of your own to share, please send them over to me!
Waaaay back when I was in college I interned just about everywhere I would get accepted. I had the pleasure of working at HBO Films, and even got some of my first on-set experience on “Daddy Daycare” and the seriously underrated “Hollywood Homicide” with Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett when I worked at Revolution Studios. However, one of the best experiences was right here in sweet home, Chicago working for CLTV. The show was a weekly entertainment series called “Metromix.” Even after finishing up my internship there, they brought me back on to help produce three “Haunted Chicago” segments for the weeks leading up to Halloween.
It’s insanely difficult to tell a ghost story, involving a location’s rich history, in two to two and a half minutes, so some of the segments feel disjointed (if you ask me), but it’s still fun to look back at what these locations looked and felt like in 2002 when these bits were shot:
Paranormal Activity at Robinson Woods Burial Grounds, Norridge, IL
The top YouTube comments on this video are
- “This is where John Wayne Gacy killed the Peterson-Schuessler boys” (oy!)
- “The deer aren’t possessed, they’re following you because people feed them.”
First thing’s first, those bodies were actually found at Robinson South. I should make a video pointing out these two different locations. They are close, but aren’t the same exact same place. It does get misreported quite a bit though. The location where the bodies were discovered is about 700 yards away and is south of Lawrence Ave. Also, those poor boys were killed in 1955 while Gacy was active from 1972-78. Totally understandable why there’s confusion as Gacy did do his killings not far from here. His house is almost exactly a mile from the Robinson Stone, to the Northeast.
As for the deer comment… well, the commenters are right. The deer are definitely not possessed. There was the issue of trying to tell a long, detailed story that got cut down to two minutes – most of the story was cut. Not hearing most of it, a lot gets lost. I have an incredible story about how the deer reacted once activity started picking up on my first visit here. I also share the native American belief that a chief may be reincarnated into a mighty buck, which I find fascinating (I’m into learning diverse cultural beliefs). I spend a lot of time on this location in my book, of course mentioning the Peterson-Shuessler case and telling Alexander Robinson’s story. We include an interview with one of his descendants while also presenting evidence through a Pulitzer-nominated investigative reporter, that Hansen (the man believed to be the killer), was a bad guy, but possibly not the killer.
And shout out to Mary Czerwinski, my research partner on the first edition of my book, who gets some screen time!
Paranormal Activity at the Bucktown Pub
The top YouTube comments on this one are all suggestions on other haunted places in Bucktown. Keep ’em coming!
I re-visited this location just recently and a bartender that was there when I first visited back in 2000 or 2001 (not pictured) has been working there since before the owners in the video took over. He has spanned multiple owners and said that Tom & Piper, while nice people, chose not to see the paranormal events happening around them. Today the location isn’t as active as it was in the years right after Wally’s death, but activity is ongoing.
Ghosts of the Haunted Fort Sheridan in Highwood
Top YouTube Comments on this video include:
- “I’m in this neighborhood all the time – it’s not haunted”
- As well as people telling their personal stories of paranormal activity sighted here…
- …including, confusingly, both types of comments from the same user (huh?)
This is the thrilling conclusion of Haunted Oscar Locations Pt. 1, which you can find here.
Roosevelt Hotel, 1924
The glamorous, though perhaps long and drawn-out, annual rite of passage known as the Academy Awards, checks in around three hours if we’re lucky nowadays. The first ever awards only lasted 15 minutes. It was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which is just across the street from the Chinese Theater and down the road from the Pantages.
The Roosevelt was put up by Louis B. Meyer, Sid Grauman, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, the later two, of course, were Hollywood’s first power couple (see picture to the right).
Hauntings here happen throughout the building, but especially at the pool area (which is one of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles… well, one of my favorite places in the world). The pool is set back from the streets, nestled between the main hotel building and a series of bungalows. This location is a hidden gem that’s open to the public due to the poolside bar that caters to guests and curiosity-seekers, alike.
It’s not uncommon for a security guard to see that somebody’s down in the pool area after it’s closed. A guard gets dispatched to kick out the after-hours guest, but when they arrive, there’s nobody’s there. So, he gets on his walkie-talkie to report it, only to hear back from a person in the control room, still watching on a monitor that, “No, they’re still there… and they’re standing next to you.”
When I was doing the LA Hauntings tour, I had a hotel employee in the van with us who claimed that he himself has seen these spectral people on security cameras as well. It’s noteworthy to point out that these cameras shoot in infrared, allowing for recoding after dark. Ghost hunters believe paranormal activity happens frequently in light spectrums that the human eye cannot observe, including Infrared. The same employee told us that it’s not just one individual that’s observed – there will be groups of phantom people hanging out poolside.
Thirteen floors up, the crack of the bat is heard on the rooftop. Babe Ruth used to spend some of his offseasons hanging out in Hollywood (pictured below in front of the Roosevelt). He allegedly had a batting cage installed on the roof and people apparently still hear the crack of the mighty Bambino’s bat.
Montgomery Clift was in the Sinatra film “From Here to Eternity.” In the film he had to play a bugle. This is not something he knew how to do, so he would have to practice. He was staying on the 9th floor of the Roosevelt and loudly practiced while pacing the hallway, likely annoying everyone in earshot. To this day, the front desk still gets complaints of horn playing coming from the hallways. Usually, only this phantom sound is observed, but apparently on one occasion his specter was sighted. He vanished by walking through a wall where a doorway used to be after tipping his cap to the witness.
I had the privilege of appearing on a couple of episodes of “Monumental Mysteries,” which was a spin-off of the popular Travel Channel series “Mysteries at the Museum.” The east coast-based production crew would come to LA and interview me if they were covering something unusual like a haunted Spanish Mission or odd UFO experiences. While setting up a shot, the producers asked me if the Roosevelt Hotel, where they were staying, was haunted. One producer talked about watching her closet door slowly open by itself. Not thinking too much of it, she closed the door and went into the bathroom to wash up. When she returned, the closet door was again open, but now the iron was sitting on her bed. We’re talking about a heavy object somehow transporting itself to a new location, not just falling off a shelf. Predictably, when I asked what floor they were staying on, the answer was, “the 9th.”
A lot of the best stories I know about haunted Los Angeles and Hollywood come from doing the tour when people on the tour share their own experiences. This one came before the tour even started. The clerk at the rental company where I rent the van picked up the van asked, “What are you renting this van for?”
When I told him about the tour, he said, “You go to the Roosevelt Hotel, right?” He obviously had a story to tell. He talked about checking in to the Roosevelt. Unpacking, he the closet door, revealing a maid standing inside, warmly smiling back. In an instant, she vanished.
The only rational reaction would be to hit your head on the ceiling while jumping out of your skin in fright. This is an interesting case to me because it shows how a paranormal experience can override rational thought and emotion. He claimed he felt very welcome, that it was a warm greeting. Whatever happy maid is still there, she is projecting a loving, positive feeling – a psychic impression. It’s also a nice reminder that paranormal experiences, while they’re always unexpected, they’re not always negative. One has to wonder if this helpful maid was the one to took out the iron for the “Monumental Mysteries” producer.
None other than Marilyn Monroe, probably Hollywood’s most sighted female ghost, was seen at the Roosevelt, but not in the most conventional way. Her ghost isn’t seen directly, but as a reflection in her very own mirror. Marilyn stayed here for a time and had a large mirror, about the size of a doorway, installed in her room. She would rehearse the next days’ scenes into it, being able to see, from head to toe, how she would appear on camera. After countless hours of emoting into this inanimate object, perhaps she left some deeper imprint on it. For a time, the mirror was placed in a second floor lobby, allowing anyone a chance to try to catch a glimpse of the blonde bombshell (the hotel even had a sense of humor about it, placing a cardboard cut-out of Marilyn in the distance for a good photo op). In 2008, the mirror was placed into storage for safekeeping while some construction took place. A decade later and the mirror has still not reemerged. Word around town is that Lindsay Lohan purchased the mirror. Hopefully it’s in a safe place, wherever it is.
As an interesting side note, as mentioned in part one of this article, Marilyn had her hair dyed blonds in the salon at the haunted Gaylord Hotel and her first photo shoot as a blond took place here at the Roosevelt, poolside, for a sunscreen lotion print ad.
Not every haunting at this location is a positive one. At one point, an employee of the Cinegrill, one of the Roosevelt’s bars, was on the tour. He told me that he was talking to some security guards who heard screaming coming from a hallway. Looking at the security tapes, they saw one of the maid staff seemingly get thrown out of a room, hitting the wall opposite the doorway. She ran, screaming down the hall. As these stories tend to go, she left the premises, never to return and, unfortunately, never telling her story.
What in the world happened? Is that story even true? We won’t know, but I’m just passing this interesting, spooky story along to you, to create a timestamp of the first negative story about this location that I’ve ever heard.
Finally, our last story is an Oscar story! Apparently people in the Blossom Ballroom, which held the first-ever Oscar Award ceremony, feel a constant cold spot in the area where the podium stood. Unlike other stories about cold spots, where it comes and it goes, this oddity is focused in one spot all the time and it’s there almost constantly. I wonder if somebody’s still giving their award acceptance speech, continually reliving the biggest highlight of their career. Some wonder if the cold spot is some some sort of a doorway that’s allowing for all this energy to be coming and going, allowing all these entities to continually make their presence known.
Outside of Linda Vista Hospital, which is now an off-limits, private location, I believe the Roosevelt is the most haunted building in all Los Angeles and a must visit, whether you’re a local or just passing through town like to many a soul have done in the past.
It did take me a while to finally getting around to giving the Netflix reboot of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” a chance. I love Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as much as the next guy and had no doubt the show would be done the ‘right’ way. Still, I had a good year of hesitation before I finally dove in.
In addition to being a worthy follow-up, the very first episode featured a song about cryptids! The first movie of their season is a Danish monster movie called “Reptilicus.” The song goes on the premise that, hey, Japan doesn’t have exclusive rights to big, dumb monster movies. After all, as the refrain goes, “every country has a monster they’re afraid of!”
So, I decided to go through the lyrics and dive into the creatures mentioned in the song. To my surprise, there were quite a few I hadn’t heard of! Feel free to check out the video above and follow along in my abridged version of the lyrics (if they don’t mention a ‘monster,’ I skipped ahead). All images are clickable so you can see them in their full spooky glory (when possible, I link to the original artists post)!
Did you know that a CRAZY amount of Academy Award Theaters are haunted? This goes all the way back to the very first award ceremony back in 1924.
Recently, I was fortunate to be back on the “See You on the Other Side” podcast to discuss the “Oscar love curse,” which is the idea that after someone wins an Oscar (usually referring to women) their relationships end. And in the process we went into a whole bunch of different ghost stories revolving around celebrities (click on the image to listen to the full episode).
One thing I was hoping to get into that we just didn’t have time for on the episode was the surprising amount of Oscar theaters that are haunted. In order, from newest to oldest, here’s the list:
Hollywood & Highland Center / The Dolby Theater – 2002 – Present
Located at the Hollywood & Highland Center, (pictured right with a portion of DW Griffith’s “Intolerance” set rebuilt to the same, massive scale as the original), the Dolby Theater was called the Kodak Theatre when it first opened just back in 2002. The location recently hosted their sweet 16 Oscar ceremony. It’s not known how actively haunted this place currently is, but it’s built on the site of a known haunted location. Long ago the Hollywood Hotel stood on this location and was one of the many places where people would encounter Rudolph Valentino’s ghost.
I should do a full article about him. I always called him ‘Hollywood’s most traveled ghost,’ because he is apparently seen in over a dozen places around Los Angeles as well as a half dozen or so places in New York. So, his loss of life has not slowed him down at all. He is still the quite popular person and, of course, was the silver screen’s first sex symbol, who died at a very young age. His death left so many people hurting that there are still annual funeral services held on the anniversary of his death, some 90 years later.
There are reported suicides that came about as a result of his death as well as injuries sustained as his body made its way from New York to its current and final resting place at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
At the Hollywood Hotel (pictured left from a 1922 film titled “Hollywood Snapshots”), women would say that his spirit would appear there and give them a kind of a spectral goodnight kiss from the other side. Naturally, that room was booked out far in advance because everybody wanted them to have one last encounter with Valentino
Is Valentino still hanging out where the Oscars are currently being held? Who’s to say? We haven’t heard anything yet. If you’ve heard anything about hauntings at the Hollywood and Highland Center I’d be very interested to find that out. It’s possible stuff is going on, but there’s just so much chaos and commotion that it’s hard to notice it.
Pantages Theater, 1950-1960
This is an interesting spot that was on the LA hauntings tour I used to give and still love coming here because most of the time we were telling ghost stories that are dark, sad or negative. This seems like it’s a place where people love to come back. So, this is kind of a happy ghost story location.
Howard Hughes’s presence is still felt there frequently, as he owned the building during the decade it hosted the Academy Awards. It’s associated with the smell of cigarette smoke. You’d think this guy must have smoked like a chimney but of course we know this guy was very neat and proper. He despised cigarettes. So, it’s interesting that we now associate the smell of cigarette smoke with Howard Hughes. You wonder, is it some former employee who’s smoking in his office and heard Hughes walking down the hall? He’d be freaked out because he knew he’d be in trouble and that bit of an imprint to this day.
There’s also apparently the ghost of a rabid theater goer. Now that she’s on the other side, and doesn’t need to buy tickets, she’s enjoying show after show. She’s enjoying herself so much so that she sings along to the performances. She even keeps up with the more modern performances that have come around after she passed away. Apparently she’s able to pick up new tunes. It’s alleged that she’s even ruined some recordings because her off-key loud singing that’s picked up on recordings.
I could good in depth about Alexander Pantages, who opened this theater. He had a conspiracy against him that’s pretty well documented by the Kennedy family. It’s all really fascinating stuff. Pantages himself doesn’t haunt this location, though he had 80 some locations across North America. Maybe his presence is still felt at one of those. This was the last building he built and he did not have a positive experience here in LA.
My favorite ghost story about the Pantages revolves around a wardrobe person who was cleaning up after a performance one night. She was the last person in the building. The lights shut off on their own and in the darkness she tripped over something and fell. She had a moment she started to panic. Then, out of the darkness, someone grabbed her warmly by the arm helped her to her feet. They walked with her all the way up through from the main room, through the lobby to the front doors. She opened the door and waited for the street light from Hollywood Boulevard to stream in so she could illuminate and thank her rescuer, only you see that there.
Again, a protective presence made its presence known. It’s interesting to note that even though this building went up long ago, the activity didn’t start till more recently. In the early 90s there was a break-in and a lot of damage was done to the upper balcony area. It seems like ever since then, the spirits that maybe were sitting there dormant, have taken a more active role in protecting the space.
In the land of hand prints in concrete and poorly constructed Ironman costumes, Victor Kilian spent one of his final evenings. He was killed in his home nearby, but this was one of the last places he visited in life. He was a character actor who made guest appearances classic TV shows of the time and western films in an earlier era. We don’t know how his life came to an end other than murder by a still unknown assailant.
Late at night at the Chinese courtyard you can have a quiet experience here. People encounter an elderly man who seems kind of confused or lost. In the process of trying to help them out, he vanishes. People believe that this is Victor Kilian.
Two alternating locations, 1930 to 1943
This is, most famously, where Robert Kennedy was killed by Sirhan Sirhan. People claim there are hauntings associated with the assassination but it’s hard to get a read for that. Is it just that that event was such an important moment in the fabric of American history to this day?
Like Linda Vista Hospital, when it went out of business it became a movie set. I talked with very good friend, DJ MacHale, who wrote and directed the movie “Tower of Terror” for Disney at this location. He said he talked to the caretakers of the location and as well as his crew members and nobody reported any odd feelings.
However, there were some stories about a woman in white seen beckoning from a fourth floor window as well as activity in the Coconut Grove which was the swingin’ nightclub that was part of the hotel.
However, we won’t know anything more about this location as it was bulldozed in 2005 to make way for a high school. We shall see we if any stories emerge from these students and teachers at this location.
As a footnote, I gotta say, my favorite dive bar in Los Angeles is right across the street: the HMS Bounty. It’s an old, dungy, dark, nautical-themed dive in the lobby of the Gaylord hotel, which is a classic old hotel put up by Gaylord Wilshire. Wilshire, of course, was the big developer who Wilshire Boulevard is named for. Additionally, it’s in this building’s downstairs salon (now the laundry room) where Marilyn Monroe had her hair first dyed blonde.
This building, from the bar through out the residences, does claim some activity.
The Biltmore to this day, I think, is the most beautiful hotel in Los Angeles. It should be noted that its most famous ghost is a cinema icon: Slimer. This located doubled for a snooty New York Hotel where the Ghostbusters encountered that “ugly little spud.’
That said, the biggest hint of why we’re talking about this location is located in the bar, where you can order yourself a drink named after a young actress: A Black Dahlia martini. Elizabeth Short is still one of the most mysterious cold-case files in American history. Something that I hope paranormal investigation gets to the bottom of in time may be a scrap of evidence that helps us get to the bottom of this murder (If anybody needs a memory jog, she went missing for a number of days and the next time she was ever seen again her body was found cut into pieces in a field just barely off the road on Norton Street in the area that is now the Crenshaw district, just south of the ten in Mid City.
We don’t have any clue really what happened to her, but the last time Elizabeth Short was seem was in the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel frantically making phone calls. Eventually she went outside, got into a car, and was never seen alive again. Some people have claimed to see her spirit in the area of the phone banks to this day. Now wouldn’t it be interesting if somebody doing a paranormal investigation picked up a clue during an EVP session here?
Check out the video below for a video tour I did with Max Timm and Connor Bright as we visited locations important to the Black Dahlia story including the Biltmore and the location where her body was discovered.
Stay Tuned for PART 2 coming in just a little bit. Spoiler warning, Part 2 consists ENTIRELY of the haunted history of the Roosevelt Hotel! I think it’s the most actively haunted public building in LA and I am thrilled that I’ll be posting some brand new stories about that haunted site! Stay up to date by signing up for our free newsletter!
Another year is coming to a close and with it, time to reflect on the year that was. I have been unbelievably fortunate to be able to visit some astounding places. I thought it would be impossible to surpass my 2016 “Instagram Top 9” that included getting a rare look at the séance room at the Stickney House, the Yuma Territorial Prison, finally visiting the Roosevelt Hotel pool in Hollywood and The Alamo while getting one final look at the Willowbrook Ballroom just weeks before it burned to the ground. I even had a little cryptid fun, looking for The Beast of Bray Road in Elkhorn, WI.
Somehow 2017 was even bigger! So, here is the Top 10 Haunted Locations we’ve visited this year (location titles with links take you to articles we’ve previously posted on the topic):
10) Old Whitley Jail, Columbia City, IN
The Old Whitley Jail is a sight to behold. Built in 1875, the red brick portion was the sheriff’s house and courthouse, while the white portion was the prison. Currently, the site is used as a Halloween attraction.We hope this historic and haunted building is being preserved well, but that seems unlikely. It is home to at least three ghosts: Sheriff Frank Allwein, an unknown female and Charles Butler, a murdered who shot his wife in the back in 1883 before (temporarily) escaping the jail.
9) Jane Hotel / New York City
The Jane is still haunted by victims and survivors of the Titanic! Passengers and crew alike who were pulled from the icy waters were sequestered here after the famous sinking and had to stay here throughout the subsequent court proceedings. Apparently the 4th floor is the most active area where phantom crying is heard and full apparitions are seen. The hauntings at the building serve as a great reminder that it’s often the actions and the emotions of the living that lead to residual hauntings as it’s the grieving survivors that current day visitors witness. (additional photo on Instagram link)
8) El Rancho / Gallup, NM
The El Rancho Hotel is considered one of the most haunted locations along Route 66. Gallup itself was a moviemaking hot spot during the glory days of westerns and the El Rancho was the top destination for crews and stars alike. It’s in the upper lobby where people have heard phantom conversations, singular voices, footsteps and laughter. The bridal suite may claim the most activity, but neighboring rooms also report objects moving on their own, doors opening by unseen hands and the unwelcome wake up call of the curtains flying open on their own at the crack of dawn. A glance around different travel or review sites also recounts tales of unexplainable phenomena in the John Wayne room and the Susan Hayward room.
7) Queen Mary / Long Beach, CA
This was not my first trip to the Queen Mary, but it’s so incredibly haunted that it still earns a place on the list. That, and because there was an invisible visitor in the room with us who played with the sliding chain lock in our room. Easily something that perked me up from the edge of sleep! Also commissioned by the White Star Line, The Queen Mary is actually 136 feet longer than the Titanic and weighed nearly twice as much. And it seems that nearly every floor, deck and room is in play when it comes to having a paranormal experience.
6) Chelsea Hotel / New York City
In a strange coincidence, less than a day after I shot an interview with John Lydon (“Johnny Rotten” of Sex Pistols fame), I found myself at the Hotel Chelsea. It’s a spot where so much art was created, but it will forever be thought of as the place where his band mates, killed each other. Yes, this is the place where Sid Killed Nancy. Talking with the man at the front desk about the paranormal, his response was, “oh yeah, we’ve got it all… ghost stories, murders, suicides, murder-suicides….” An elderly tenant then walked in from the street, saw my camera gear and asked, “have you come to talk to the ghosts?” Of course, I asked him a follow-up question, which lead to him saying, “Not a lot of people here will talk about the stories, but if you’re sensitive, you’ll hear a lot.” It was a foreboding warning straight out of a movie.
5) Gore Orphanage & “Cry Baby Bridge” / Amherst, OH
The phenomenon known as a cry baby bridge (hearing phantom children crying from a bridge) is not uncommon and dates back to the La Llorona folk legend. However, this one in Ohio, over the Vermillion River, seems to be particularly active according to a park ranger who patrols the area. The road leads to “Gore Orphanage,” the ruins of which make for one of Ohio’s most haunted forests. Video and pictures from our paranormal investigation will certainly be the focus of a future newsletter. The ranger told us about a recent report where a bank of fog was hovering over the bridge. As the driver went through it, a handprint appeared on the windshield and then smeared up the windshield and carried on along the entire side of the car. The forest itself claims a number of different childlike paranormal phenomena despite not actually being the site of an orphanage.
4) Farnsworth House Inn / Gettysburg, PA
It’s been a while since I’ve been to Gettysburg and while I didn’t have a mind-blowing paranormal experience like the last time I was here, I did get to have the fun
experience of taking part in the monthly “See You on the Other Side” podcast hangout from this historic location. The top floor served as a perfect sniper’s perch. Beneath the sniper’s window, the brick wall is scarred with 135 bullet strikes. Upwards of a dozen different apparitions are seen here, including an 8-year-old boy and a nurse (the building served as a makeshift hospital) who tucks people into bed.
3) Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café / Pacific Palisades, CA
It was fantastic news when we found out the endangered building that housed Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk cafe was getting a full, historically accurate renovation! It might still be difficult to do a paranormal investigation here in the future, but at least the building won’t be demolished as previously rumored. Best case scenario: some future EVPs will shed light on the last mysterious night of the troubled actress’s life. Murder or accident? The jury is still out on the 1935 death of the beautiful blonde comedic actress. Amazingly, we got a room-to-room walk-through of the entire property, learning what each room was in the past and what the future plans involve. In addition to investigating this site, the nearby garage where her body was discovered should be investigated regularly.
2) Stull Cemetery / Stull, KS
Visiting this cemetery has been a goal of mine since I started getting into the paranormal in 1999. The location is a maze of urban legends involving visits by Satan, witchcraft and stairways to the underworld. The very rural site is difficult to research and the
paranormal claims are just about impossible to verify or test as the cemetery is guarded at night. We were able to verify a recent (true) phenomena – the grounds apparently spontaneously combust! While we were there on a rainy day, there were no flames, but we did find random scorch marks throughout the cemetery grounds. (a short video will follow on this one too)
1) Silver Bridge & the TNT area / Point Pleasant, WV
It was a paranormal dream come true to visit the site of the famous 1966-67 Mothman sightings along the Ohio River. Of course, these sightings weren’t isolated. They were accompanied by scores of UFO sightings and something of an invasion by Men in Black who interviewed townspeople and seemed constantly out of place, even being fascinated by ordinary objects like ballpoint pens. The varied phenomena stopped when the Silver Bridge, which spansthe river, collapsed, killing 46 holiday commuters. Upon returning home, Wendy Lynn Staats of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast and the band Sunspot and I filmed a video discussing the differences between the film and the true story – truth was creepier than fiction in this case!
Honorable Mentions (all links go to Instagram):
The Hidden Brand Family Cemetery in Glendale, CA, locating urban legendy-ruins near St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Wadsworth, IL, Presidential Haunted Honeymoon spot, the Mission Inn, Riverside, CA () observing sacred sites and petrographs outside of Tucson, AZ, Molly’s Souper in Upland, CA, Château Marmont, Hollywood & Forgotten Montrose Cemetery, Chicago.
Let’s pick up where we left off on our weird and spooky Tucson to Madison road trip. In part one we covered ghost and UFO-related locations across Arizona and New Mexico, visiting haunted hotels and eating at haunted restaurants. I’m a sucker for classic Hollywood, so I’ll take a moment to again, point out how cool the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM is. If you haven’t had a change to read that article, check out part 1.
Our departure from lunch in Santa Fe’s haunted High Noon Restaurant, sent us east towards the Texas panhandle. In true form, everything really is bigger in Texas… even the Holiday Inn, which boasted rooms as big as convention halls. Exaggeration, yes, but it was some serious bang for the buck.
The next morning, waking up in Amarillo, there was one way to start the day… by hanging out in the middle of a farm field. Cadillac Ranch has been standing for over 40 years just south of Route 66. The 10 cars, arranged chronologically from a ’49 model to a ’64 show the progression of the iconic Caddy tail fin. The original location was a wheat field 2 miles closer to the city, but was moved in 1997 to keep it further from the growing metropolis.
Perhaps most amazingly, the location is still completely free and unmonitored. Curiosity seekers are welcome to visit and explore the oddity as they wish. The original plan wasn’t to provide a canvas for people across the country to leave their mark, but that’s what it’s become. Half used spray cans litter the area, allowing anyone to grab the contraband-turned-art supply and add their own little flair to Cadillac Ranch. After 40 years, I think there’s more paint than metal here. For a great gallery of photographs of the ranch over the years, including the unthinkable – graffiti-free pictures of the cars, visit this site: The Story of Cadillac Ranch.
We didn’t have to go far to visit our first haunted location of the day as Amarillo also houses “The Nat,” a haunted castle from 1922. Well, a castle-style building anyway. It was built to house an indoor swimming pool (“Nat” being short for natatorium), but within four years of opening, the venue was completely repurposed. A dance floor was built over top of the pool and a stage was added. The ghosts that still reside seem to come from this incarnation of the building.
The next 70 years witnessed an evolution of music, hosting big band groups, classic rock groups including Buddy Holly and continuing to book acts all the way to the much more contemporary Dixie Chicks.
Today, however, the building is wall-to-wall antique mall. The upstairs loft, previously a gambling hall (unconfirmed), is the site of frequent cold spots and where a women in white is seen. This woman has a red mark on her front. Amazingly, this has not lead to legends of a woman being stabbed to death here, but rather the victim of a ruthless wine stain.
People have seen a couple still dancing the night away on the dance floor. The room is also the site of easily the most rockin’ residual haunting I’ve ever heard of: a phantom drum solo! The opportunity was too rich, so I had our award-winning drummer in residence, Wendy Lynn Staats of the paranormal rock band Sunspot, take the stage and hang out where the drum kit would be set up. Unfortunately, our phantom performers were not enticed to show off in front of a fellow drummer.
Talking with the clerk, he conveyed a story to us about seeing a woman and young girl walking through one of the aisles around closing time. When he approached to let them know they were closing soon, the two vanished.
This sounds like an active site that possibly got much more active with the addition of thousands of antiques. It’s always possible that cherished objects still have attachments associated with their previous owners. This would be an amazing, but impractical location for a ghost hunt. I only hope the Nat has a good security system with sound; essentially a nightly paranormal stakeout.
Our journey took us to Kansas, which meant one thing: odd attempts to capitalize on the “Wizard of Oz.” Liberal, KS contains a replica of Dorothy’s house and in my opinion that’s a liberal use of the word “replica.” In fairness, we didn’t give the place a fair shot as we arrived at closing time and could only explore the exterior. The kitsch and oddity factor is exactly what you’re looking for in a roadside attraction.
Just across the street, however, was some serious history. It was the estimated location where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado at least temporarily set up shop during an expedition in 1541. He spent more than a month exploring central Kansas looking for a fabled kingdom of gold. Clearly Coronado returned without riches, but also without his guide, who he killed in anger.
Stories of frustration turned to those of inspiration when we drove through the nearby town of Greensburg, KS. The town captured our attention as it was evident from tree damage that a tornado was in its recent past. In 2007 95% of the down was decimated by an F5 tornado (the most extreme on the Fujita-Pearson scale). The tornado itself was wider than the entire city. However, rather than rebuild as quickly and cheaply as possible, the town became the first in the nation to build all of it’s structures at platinum levels according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Greensbug is now known as the “greenest town in America.”
We rolled into Pratt, KS in time for an amazing Midwestern meal at Club D’Est, but unfortunately too late to buy a drink (travel tip: BYOB, box wine travels well).
Starting our final day in central Kansas, we were in great position to visit one of the most famously haunted sites in all of America… but not before one more roadside oddity.
The name “Truckhenge” might make you think you’ll be seeing a replica of Stonehenge created with trucks. However, that would be attributing way too much organizational credit to this site. I hope that doesn’t sound too snarky and judgmental, because this is a “must see” location. As much as this place is an explosion of folkart, it’s also a constant protest against the bureaucracy who wanted owner Ron Leesman to clean up his property, citing that a flood could wash his collection of antique, immobile trucks down the nearby river. Rather than clear them out, he embedded them, turning them into political billboards, none more iconic than the nose-up pick-up truck declaring “Rise up!”
However, the trucks are just a small percentage of the overall experience. Ron himself greeted us when we showed up unannounced. Beer in hand at 11am, he showed us his collection of carvings: dozens of faces he carved into logs. It was clear he had a joke for each and every piece. Peacocks roamed the grounds as we were invited to take a drive. You literally drive through this guy’s backyard along a track, viewing the art he’s created with found items and empty beer bottles and cans. He’s also become something of an amateur archeologist too, having located ice age-era fossils of camels and mammoths in the neighboring quarry. There is no admission fee, nor is there even a donation box.
Within 20 minutes we transport ourselves from an anti-establishment art exhibit to the mouth of Hell itself (well, according to legend anyway). Where do you start when you discuss Stull Cemetery? The rural, out of the way location is one legend heaped upon the next. The church and cemetery date to the mid 1850s, but we don’t know when the first reports of the supernatural started surrounding this area. A 1974 article in the University of Kansas newspaper serves as some of the first hard evidence when it comes to a folklore timeline and the advent of the internet really helped spread stories.
Legend has it that the location is visited twice a year by none other than Satan himself, on the spring equinox and on Halloween night. When the roof caved in on the aged stone church, witnesses there on rainy days observed that no rain would land within the now unprotected church. As of 2002 the church was fully bulldozed, making it impossible to confirm or deny these claims.
There’s the legend of a stairway, always described vaguely as as being behind and to the right of the church. This is a magical portal of some sort. If you toss an item into the the stairwell, you’ll never hear it hit bottom. The few people that have attempted going down the stairs have never returned. If “Eleven” goes missing during season three of “Stranger Things,” this would be a good place to start looking as it’s believed this is the literal doorway to the other side.
Wendy and I spent at least an hour investigating this site with no luck in locating such a staircase or anything in the ground that might indicate a filled-in staircase or foundations. While that sounds like a sure “case closed,” it actually feeds into the well-constructed legend that the staircase only reveals itself on rare occasions. There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to this story as I haven’t found legends to decipher if it relates to a time of day, anniversary, etc. or if it’s the witness themselves who are the key to the stairs revealing themselves. Of course, the likelihood that it’s all manufactured storytelling, is also possible.
However, I’ve come to the conclusion that while stories may get blown up and exaggerated over time, they come from some element of truth. So, where is that truth?
Did early settlers practice séances or other occult practices here? Was a tree on this land used to hang witches? Yes, these are even more of the claims related to this site.
New friends and fellow road tripping paranormal nerds, Greg & Dana Newkirk of Planet Weird made a visit to the site in 2016 and were shocked to see the Stull Cemetery grounds randomly on fire with no obvious cause. It was almost as if Satan had emerged up that mythic staircase and just forgot to wipe his feet before exploring our earthly realm. Feel free to check out their video below, but note that they misidentify the location of the church.
When Wendy and I visited Stull in 2017 is was a rainy day, so there were no flames or smoke. However, fresh scorch marks were apparent and scattered around the grounds. There’s no obvious culprit for this. Note the black marks on the ground in the image below. We will have our own video about this site that shows the burn marks in the future.
Interestingly, one of the few real life documented tragedies to take place in the small town (Stull’s peak population only hit 50 and has since been absorbed by the town of Lecompton) involves a young boy wandering into a field was was on fire and burning to death. When trying to explain a documented paranormal phenomena, one has to cast a pretty wide net based on historical facts. I, myself, have a lot of work to do when it comes to research here. For one, is that boy buried at Stull Cemetery? If so, the connection between his death and the random fires is somewhat compelling. Also, skeptics claim the 1974 article was a hoax that has since gotten out of hand. If that’s the case, locating paranormal allegations in the ‘60s or earlier will be able to debunk the skeptic claims. It may seem funny to debunk the debunkers, but the lack of detail in those claims is exactly what a skeptic would point to, to discredit a paranormal claim. Either way you cut it, facts have to be backed up by documentation.
We love the more recent story too that talks about a local news crew that got permission to stay overnight at Stull Cemetery. Their goal: To debunk the Satan visitation story (or to grab the interview of a lifetime if he shows up). Despite having consent from the property owners and doing work that would ultimately demystify the cemetery, police kicked them out at 11:30. “What are the police covering up?” has been the understandable reaction of the ghost-believing public. Perhaps one day we will start to put some pieces together, whether it’s debunking the claims or understanding the paranormal truths of this area.
Thank you for joining us on our paranormal road trip! We hope the insight from this post and the previous one give you some fun, spooky & weird options when visiting Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Kansas. One last tip – if you find yourself in Kansas City, don’t pass up the BBQ!