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.

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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.

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 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).

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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.

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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!
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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.

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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!


Hiking and exploring LA’s forgotten Nazi bunker

by Scott Markus

“Murphy’s Ranch” is regaining popularity these days for the time when a radical political group called the Silver Legion set up shop here to prepare to aid in Hitler’s attempt at taking over the world in the ’40s.  The more we associate the word “Nazi” with this location, the more sensationalized it seems.  Make no mistake about it, this location, deep within Rustic Canyon, north of Malibu and within the Pacific Palisades was developed by Nazi sympathizers who supported the cause Nazi Germany was fighting for.  However, how strong the ties between the actual Nazi party was with the Silver Legion are a mystery.  In my uneducated opinion, I think they amounted to little more than a fan club.  The Nazis had their hands full in Europe, they hadn’t yet realistically set their sights on the “sleeping giant” called America.  That said, this location is amazing and the history still completely veiled in mystery.  So much so, in fact, that we had to produce two videos here.

Before we jump into the videos, very important question:  Do YOU have a ghost story about this place?  If so, please leave it in the comments!

In the first video, Connor Bright talks about the history of Murphy’s Ranch.  She also uses the ruins as a backdrop to talk about her recent shoot for AwesomenessTV that was filmed at the Cobb Estate.


In this video, Scott Markus takles the hike itself, showing you the beautiful views and creepy ruins.


Merging with LA Hauntings

For those of you who are “subscribed” to this site (first off, thank you), I am merging my other web site, LAHauntings.com, with this one. The LA Hauntings Tour Company is going into a bit of a hiatus and want to make sure all the posts find a safe second home.

Will LA Hauntings continue?  In some form, yes.  We will continue offering special event tours (we are excited about creating a tour by boat up the coast of southern CA, for example.  And we do hope to stay active in appearing at or creating special events.

WhatsYourGhostStory.com is designed to be a clearing house for ghost stories and haunted locations across the globe. For the next couple of days there will be more focus on LA and California than usual. In the next week, we’ll have not one but TWO videos up about the famed former Nazi camp in Rustic Canyon called Murphy’s Ranch.  I hope you enjoy the stories and video of haunted and spooky California! ~Scott


Haunted Culver City and The Tower of Terror!

In his latest video, Scott Markus takes you inside…

The spooky elevator that inspired the Disney ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (while terrifying Connor Bright)!

The soundstage that once contained the Yellow Brick Road and the backlot where Beetlejuice, Batman, and Gone with the Wind were filmed!

And have you ever wondered if your own house is haunted, but been too afraid to find out? Scott Markus isn’t! Watch his latest video to see the results of the investigation he conducted in his own home!!

Also includes bonus footage of a talented ghost hunting cat!

Be sure to check out more LA Hauntings video on YouTube!

Don’t be shy, click subscribe to have your favorite tour guides take you one haunted adventures, no ticket needed!!


Private Resting Places at Forest Lawn Memorial Park – Glendale

By Connor Bright
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In the last week, Scott Markus and I finally made the trek to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. This Gorgeous and massive 300 acre cemetery is the final resting place of many of the movers and shakers in Los Angeles history. The hilly grounds offering an incredible views of the city they helped build.

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The cemetery was founded in 1906, and operated as a non-profit. The grounds hold three non-denominational chapels. Forrest Lawn was the first “Memorial Park” getting rid of the “unsightly” standing headstones (there are still a few). For a long time they refused black, Chinese, and Jewish internments, now all are welcome. Surprisingly, more than 60,000 people have been married on the cemetery grounds. Forrest Lawn is unique for many reasons, the cemetery holds an art museum, the largest mosaic depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and it the only place in the world with a complete set of reproduction Michelangelo statues, made from the same quarries as the originals.
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It is also a place that has an insane amount of respect for the privacy of their departed tenants.

It is this amount of privacy that makes enjoying the grounds, and paying respects, very difficult. Forrest Lawn does not allow pictures of graves, or anywhere in their many mausoleums’ out of “respect of the property owners”. Many of the crypts and graves are roped off and concealed from those who wish to visit them.

Scott and I both felt this was a little over-dramatic.

The Great mausoleum had more security cameras than an airport, and out of all of the “greatness” only about 10% is open to the public.

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Even crypts that were open-air were locked off. Walt Disney, a resting place I was sincerely looking forward to a moment of silence with, was gated off, his name completely obscured by small trees.

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The cemetery does provide maps of the grounds, which are sprawling and confusing. We definitely recommend picking one up in the front building. That being said, out of respect of privacy, none of the graves are marked on the map. So you have to do your research ahead of time on who you want to visit, because unless you are very lucky, no one will tell you.

On the lawns, knowing which section a person is buried in is not sufficient. As I said, the grounds are massive; some individual areas are as big as football fields. If you have a crypt number things get a bit easier, but the numbering can be confusing. Scott spent 20 minutes looking for Tom Mix’s grave, with the proper number. Tom Mix is a silent era western star with a connection to one of Scott’s favorite Chicagoland haunts, the Great Escape.
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The confusing layouts and steep hills made me give up on seeing my hero. After seeing Scott’s luck with Mix, I gave up on hoping to find Oscar winning costume designer, Edith Head’s plot. As some of you know I also work as a costume designer and Edith is the designer I would like to aspire to be like. Unfortunately I will have to wait to see where she rests, since this time we only knew a lawn name but not a crypt number, we felt we had little chance of locating her.

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Directional clues are a must for finding an interment location! Finding, It’s a Wonderful Life star, Jimmy Stuart’s grave was easier once we found the clue that the “statue of the man with the arrow” located him with ease!
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Our experience in the Great mausoleum was a little better. Elizabeth Taylor does have a very impressive, very public, and very easy to find monument, a beautiful, tall, Etruscan style angel, right at the end of the hallway at the entrance to the great mausoleum.

The Different sections in the mausoleum are well labeled. However they are also roped off, so the closest you can get to the tragic couple of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard is peering down the hallway and knowing that they are somewhere in the wall just out of your sight. Many others share the same fate.
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After only a few hours of this frustration, Scott and I left. As seasoned cemetery goers, we were both surprised by the off limit-ness and difficulty to navigate Forrest Lawn offered. We also found it hard to believe that people like Michael Jackson and Jean Harlow would want to be buried in a place that discouraged their admirers from seeing them. It felt to us that the original intention of a cemetery- to celebrate the lives of those interred there- was lost within the gates. Perhaps Forrest Lawn felt that in, death, they could provide the isolation and security, its patrons never had in life.
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We do still recommend a visit to this cemetery. Not for the graves, but for the beautiful views of the city and amazing art collection. Some pieces which belonged to William Randolph Hearst. The collection includes an actual Easter Island head, over 1,000 pieces of stained glass, and many American historical artifacts. As well as quite a few replicas of things found in museums all around the world. Check the schedule to see what the traveling exhibit is!


Screaming spectres in Angeles National Forest

On the northern slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains, near Littlerock, California lies an area called the Devil’s Punchbowl.  This area is roughly half way between downtown Los Angeles and Victorville.  It is the site of countless beautiful rock formations and also the site of a terrifying screaming spectre.

I have been in physical therapy recently recovering from a broken hand.  As tends to happen when people find out I am a “ghost guy,” the room quickly filled with first hand accounts.  Of the several amazing stories I heard, I felt I needed to post this one to you guys to see if any of you have had similar encounters in the same place.

A girl named Shannon talked about visiting a campsite as a high school upperclassman in the the summer in the mid 2000s.  While she was trying to tend to a group of kids one evening a mist appeared on the trail ahead of her.  The mist hovered in the air, slowing coming towards her and the kids, who were all terrified.  She could see that the mist seemed to be swirling.  The mist also gave off a faint luminescent glow.

As the mist slowly grew nearer, the shapeless mass, which, at a distance was silent, seemed to scream as it past her and her fellow campers.

It is safe to say that Shannon and her young campers slept with one eye open this night.

The name for the area is obviously the first attention-grabber.  There are so many haunted sites that use the word “Devil” in its name.  When it comes to Devil’s Ditch (site of the crash of 191 in Des Planes, IL) and Devil’s Creek (site of the Grimes sisters death in Willow Springs, IL) the terrible incidents and hauntings occurred long after the naming of the area.  However, when it comes to Devil’s Gate near Pasadena, CA, the location was long considered cursed by the native populations before this area was settled.  One can only wonder how long this area carried with it the name “Devil.”

In this moment, I have not visited this site, investigated it or researched it.  I do, however, want to know if YOU have ever had a strange paranormal encounter in or around this location.  Or do you have any historical information that may help explain the terrifying experience that Shannon had here.  Please leave comments!

Note: If you are doing research, please be mindful that there is a possibly haunted site in Ontario Canada that is also called Devil’s Punchbowl.


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