We gave a private tour tonight to a small group of people from West Covina, CA (our tour company is LAHauntings, part of the American Ghost Walks family). Since I had a little time before the tour, I decided to see what kind of research I could find on the haunts that West Covina has to offer. The location that seemed to jump off the page is a haunted park that goes by the name Galster Park. The authors on a number of sites seemed to speak of great reverence for this location as a very dark and scary site.
Everyone seems to be in agreement that bodies are commonly found at this location and this was the “hunting grounds” for a pedophile murderer who committed their crimes in the 1990s. Additionally, this is a common place for gang activity. One site event went so far as to call the park a gang initiation rite – if they can stay there for an entire night, then they’ve sufficiently proven their courage.
However, from there, the reports went in a million different directions. If there was a serial killer operating in this area as little as 20 years ago, there should be quite a large number of easy-to-find newspaper articles on the topic. Moreover, it should be common knowledge whether or not this killer was apprehended (some sites claim the killer is still at large while others state the nameless killer is locked up).
So, the name of the game is now research. I’ve been digging through a lot of digital dust looking for leads and want to share with you what I’ve learned so far. If you know more, please chime in, in the comments below.
FACTUAL moments in the dark history of Galster Park:
* June 2, 2013: Yes, VERY recent! A man was found hanged at the south end of the park, an apparent suicide. This death is so recent that it is certainly not responsible for the past claims of hauntings, however this is something that investigators can now use when conducting EVP sessions. Link to the article here.
* 2006: I need more information on this crime. It seems as though Benjamin Cruz shot and killed Danny Hernandez. I’m not yet sure if a dispute happened at the park, then the killing happened at a different location. The other options could be 1) the murder happened at the park or 2) The murder happened off site & Danny’s body was found at the park. Details are still needed. What is clear is that Benjamin Cruz is currently serving a 65-year sentence for the crime. He was sentenced in January 2007.
* 1978 – 1981: Unrelated to any crime, the park was closed for a few years due to budget cutbacks. During this time, this would’ve been a prime target for people looking to do bad things and get away with it. Chances are, though that the extent of these bad things was selling drugs, vandalism and/or using it as a place to sneak off to for underage drinking.
Other possibly-related West Covina crimes:
While these crimes do NOT revolve around Galster Park, I am looking for other crimes that could’ve helped inspire the current urban legends:
* 1980: There was a highly publicized murder case involving the death of a 10-year-old boy (I attempt to leave out the names of victims and criminals when possible). His body was found at the house of his killer and his killer did come to justice after several trials and appeals. I include this story because of the attention it got, the age of the victim matching the urban legend and the fact that the final trials relating to the murder finally concluded in 1989. Again, this is far from an exact match, but perhaps some exaggerations over the years bring us to the urban legend at hand.
* 1991: The “Mall Murders” – You cannot consider this a case of a “serial killer” per se, however there was a crime spree in West Covina that resulted in a string of homicides. The killings were preceded by people being kidnapped while using an ATM. Sometimes the victims were released, however five random people were killed in cold blood. In the end, a four-member “crime family” was arrested and convicted of the crimes. Three of the killers received life in prison without the possibility of parole, while the ringleader was sentenced to death (he is still alive as of this post, however). Link to article here.
CONCLUSIONS (so far):
While it is very easy to find a disturbing number of murders associated with West Covina, my preliminary searches returned zero results that accurately match the legends that are found throughout the internet. We have the recent suicide and we have the 2006 shooting that may have somehow involved Galster Park. However, I think it’s fair to say that we can close the book on the “child serial killer” story. If something paranormal is going on at this park, we need to find a different reason or look back deeper in the archives than the 1970s. For the record, I was browsing articles that reached into the 1950s. Perhaps we can look to see if there is any history of Native American battles, for example.
In the meantime, please let me know if you’ve had any interesting experiences at this park. If you have intriguing pictures to share, I will gladly post them here as well. Thanks for stopping by and if you do visit this park on a paranormal expedition, please use caution as this may not be the safest of places after dark. Of course, you may also get fined for trespassing as the park closes at sunset.