Many pioneers of early Los Angeles strived to create a cultured, metropolitan Eden, which ended up serving as a rich irony as Los Angeles quickly evolved into a city connected to everything cutting-edge, from art to media to tech trends. The obvious example is Venice, which strived to mirror the famed Italian canals, but in time, every major c canal was replaced with car-friendly streets, the only remaining waterways belonging to a residential subdivision.
Another example of the early attempt at being so cultured it’s almost pretentious could be Silver Lake. I say this because its first name was Ivanhoe, named in reference to of Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel series, “Ivanhoe: A Romance.” That book series, it should be noted, does include references to witch trials and is credited with how we think of Robin Hood today. Similarly, Echo Park was first called Edendale, likely in reference to the Biblical Garden of Eden
Today, Silver Lake is named after the large Silver Lake reservoir and while it might have its hip appeal, it’s largely overshadowed by its more flashy neighbors including Los Feliz to its west.
The reservoir itself was established in 1907 by William Mulholland and host to a number of drownings, mostly in the 1910s. The victims were primarily children who went swimming unattended. Eventually, the reservoir was more secured, but not for public safety – the neighbors were not pleased by the nude sunbathers the location was attracting. There don’t appear to be any ghost stories associated with these drownings.
Echo Park, meanwhile was the early center of silent era filmmaking, being the home to a number of silent studios in the 1910s and ’20s. 1912 saw the formation of Universal Studios, which was first headquartered here. This is where Charlie Chaplin appeared his first film and where, in 1914, the first feature length comedy was filmed (“Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” the only feature-length Keystone Kops movie, which was directed by Mack Sennett and also featured Chaplin). While filming certainly still happens on location in these neighborhoods, no studios remain here. The largest entertainment venue (of sorts) is Dodger Stadium, which claims a number of ghost stories according to the great book, Haunted Baseball. The hauntings are associated with the countless people and families who were uprooted from Chavez Ravine in order to build the ball park.
Together, with Mike Huberty and Wendy Lynn Markus (both, from American Ghost Walks and the paranormal rock group Sunspot), we decided to take a walk down Sunset Blvd as it stretched from Silver Lake into Echo Park.
Below, see the map of the area with Silver Lake highlighted in blue and Echo Park in Orange. You’ll note Los Feliz in the northwest corner and chinatown in the southeast. Both of these neighborhoods are bordered by the 101 to their south and the LA river to the north and northwest.
Do you have any tips on haunted sites around Silver Lake or Echo Park? Or an interesting piece of local history or a crime story? Let us know with the form below (and scroll down for our photo gallery):
Of course, while I love ghost stories, I want to find anything and everything weird! In late 2020 or early 2021 a Reddit user posted the following question (direct link to this and other interesting articles found at the bottom of this article):
I wish the user shed a little more light on their own sighting. Obviously, they saw SOMETHING, right? Or else they wouldn’t have posed the question in the first place. Fortunately, another Reddit user then shared their own story, which I’m including below:
“I grew up in Los Angeles and yes there’s some sort of creature… I was on a balcony… when I looked up and saw this skinny figure with red hair and clown-like shoes bounding downside the hillside. No joke.” [condensed by me for clarity, but not edited for content]
A second user added this:
My parents saw what they described as a cross between the slender man and the Mothman in the Silver Lake hills area. My mom said the creature looked naked and had smooth skin like a typical alien but had webbed arms that connected to its torso… My parents both saw this thing run down the side of hill towards the street. My dad slammed on his breaks just in time [so] that he didn’t run this creature over. They said this thing froze like a deer in headlights right in front of the jeep. They both got a good look at whatever this was. My mom could see this creature had huge black eyes like an alien… My parents say that… the creature took off up the mountain/hill as if it was gliding up the hill fast! This happened around 1977.
So, over the years, people have apparently seen some strange things in the Silver Lake area. Please do let me know if you’ve seen anything yourself or even in the skies over LA.
Now, a look at Silver Lake…
Taix French Restautant
The most famously haunted location in Silver Lake is Taix French Restaurant, which dates back to 1963 (the company itself dates back to 1927 with their downtown LA location, but this building only hosted Taix since ’63). Despite the moving locations, Taix is considered LA’s oldest French restaurant. The building itself is older, having also served as the site of Botwin’s Cafe.
Being a haunted restaurant, naturally, Richard Carradine of GHOULA/ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles, naturally has the best write up on the haunted history of the location. It’s worth a read in full, but I will mention that the Taix is the location of disembodied voices, including when a live band is set up and apparently an unseen spirit takes the opportunity to talk into a mic with the spirit voices coming through the speakers. There is also the visual apparition of a man in a white shirt seen in the basement and kitchen. Who exactly this man is, isn’t know. Is he connected to the family that owns Taix, or might he be connected to the site when it was Botwin’s Cafe? Investigations are certainly needed.
Have there ever been paranormal investigations here? Let us know! We’re also happy to be the first
We’ve got a good news, bad news situation here. On the plus, we do have conformation after talking with some employees here that this location IS haunted. Unfortunately, we’ll need a follow-up article here as we are still in the progress of gathering and researching the reports. If you’ve encountered something other-worldly here at the corner of Sunset and Mohawk, please do let us know. We will say that this bar has a nice, lively vibe… relaxed, but not a dive. It’s a nice sweet spot of feeling upscale without being snobby. Also, wine drinkers will appreciate the friendly and knowledgable bartenders.
In the meantime, we’ll continue our stroll/gallery down Sunset…
You’ve gotta love a dive bar (at least I do). That’s why I was a little disappointed to step inside and find that the Gold Room is actually a pretty nice place. An older bartender with… “character” wretched a gruff “No!” our way when we asked if she’d ever seen anything odd or heard a ghost story about the bar. A quick search did reveal a knife fight/stabbing happened here, though I don’t believe anyone died in the event. While the Gold Room has been here since the ’80s, the building that houses it certainly has a deeper history.
One other thing worth noting – I saw a pile of board games staked up in a corner for patrons to play. If this was my neighborhood, this could very easily be a regular hang for this board game nerd.
Spirit House of Echo Park
Okay, I’ll be honest, based on the name alone, I really hope the Spirit House is haunted. Unfortunately, the business was closed the day we day did our stroll down Sunset, so we weren’t able to bend an elbow at the bar or the ear of a regular, so we’ll have to circle back on this one. However, if you know of anything, please do drop us a line!
Peering in through a window, the place looks like a lot of fun (note, you will see a human form in the photo below, but rest easy – it’s no ghost, just a worker getting some tasks done while the doors were locked.
The Nayarit Restaurant / The Echoplex/Echo Nightclub
love that, while this location went from a beloved restaurant to a live music venue, it’s former identity remains. The signage “Nayarit Restaurant” looms massively over the small signage for The Echo. The location was an authentic Mexican restaurant run by a new-to-America Mexican family (shout out to Doña Natalia Barraza, not only a minority business owner in the ’50s, but a female minority business owner who ended up launching three restaurants, with the Nayarit being the biggest success) from 1951-1976, with Doña passing away in ’69 and her daughter taking control. The restaurant changed ownership once, still operating until 2001. ’01 saw the re-launch of the site as a music venue. While it’s current incarnation as ‘only’ run for 22 years, it did survive COVID, which is more than could be said of some of my other favorite venues.
I remember visiting and photographing this site probably in the early 2010s, which is something I would’ve done due to a ghost story. For the life of me, I now can’t find any notes or sites discussing paranormal activity at The Echo. The search will continue, but if you have any tips – please let me know. I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear if Doña is still here making her presence known, either because this is a place she loved in life or because she’s not thrilled about the new direction of the building. In addition to wanting to hear ghost stories, interesting facts, local histories, etc. about this site, one other burning question remains: What does “Nayarit” mean? It does not pop up in a Google Translator and if I’ve exhausted that resource, I’m really lost. Finally, in the further reading (bottom of page), treat yourself to a read of an essay written by Doña’s granddaughter to really feel the historical significance of the restaurant.
Jensen’s Recreation Center
“We’re looking for haunted locations in Silver Lake and Echo Park.”
“Have you checked out Jensen’s Rec Center?”
“We know of it, but haven’t heard any stories about the place. Have you heard something?”
“No, but it just seems like there’s probably something going on there.”
It’s kind of a bummer getting that response after asking for stories, but it was a common refrain. Most visually interesting, older buildings probably have a similar vibe… that something “must” be going on there…. just because.
With the hope of people coming out of the woodwork to share their unexplainable experiences, I’ll start my historical research anyway. Jensen’s was built by brick manufacturer Henry Christian Jensen, who loved opening other businesses as his brick-making company grew. He also opened theaters in Glendale, Pasadena and Echo Park.
The Rec Center was built in 1924 with shops on the first floor, a bowling alley in the basement, a second floor pool hall, plus 46 apartment units on floors 2 & 3.
The Rec Center operated into the ’70s – a nice run approaching 50 years. Sadly, more detailed information beyond what I’ve already stated is hard to come by. I know the bowling alley has been gone for a long while now, but what a great re-addition that would be! I’ve located a historical photo that was presumably taken in the 1950s or earlier (pictured, right). It reminds me of the underground Biltmore Hotel pool, which would’ve been constructed in the same year.
The apartments still exist in the upper floors, so it would be great to hear if any current or past residents have had any paranormal experiences in the 99 year-old building. You’d have to imagine that a century’s worth of habitation that a number of people have passed away on the premises (not that it’s required for a haunting, but it helps!). Fortunately, to fill in some knowledge gaps, we can just stop over next door to the Time Travel Mart to grab what we need as we go back in time to see the history for ourselves.
The House of Intuition
What can be better than a haunted Mystic shop?
The House of Intuition provides what any new age practitioner could need: A wide variety of tarot decks, precious stones and candles for any need, and even classes on all aspects of the world of magic. Also, it’s housed in a haunted house. The owner of the house was a local lawyer who seems to still make his presence known. In an act of appreciation for using the house, the current owners have placed a sort of alter to the former homeowner. They also haven’t changed much of the house itself. Though there’s merchandise for sale in most rooms, it’s still plainly clear which room was the kitchen. Basically, they set up their shop around an existing house, rather than gutting the structure and rebuilding it from the inside. Based on the theory that ghosts like to inhabit locations they visited in life and places that are familiar, it’s easy to see why the former owner’s spirit seems to be a peaceful presence, hanging out at his old house.
You may have heard of this shop as there are now House of Intuition stores across LA (including Pasadena, Santa Monica, North Hollywood and many more) and in a few other states, however the Echo Park location is their flagship store.
On the far west side of Silver Lake is likely the most famously haunted location in the area – the El Cid. The name comes from the fact that there are few characters, so they could save money on the sign (seriously). Though the location has a history that dates back over 100 years and the land it’s on was host to silent film shooting locations, we will focus on the property since it’s been known as the El Cid.
Okay, I immediately take that back as I have to point out the location was once a restaurant called the Jail Cafe. Yes, a jail-themed restaurant where the wait staff wore typical back and white stripped outfits and the booths were in little jail cells. What more of an escape could you want from your daily life than to be in a place were escape was impossible?
The El Cid came into existence in 1963 as a flamenco dancing hot spot. Though the musical acts that perform here now are much more varied, the bar/restaurant/venue still holds on to its flamenco roots. With constant events, catering to a diverse audience, it’s not uncommon to have lines out the door and down the block on random nights of the week. This 70 year-old hot spot appears as hot as ever.
Also, it’s apparently as haunted as ever.
Like Taix, the stage is one of the more actively haunted locations within the building, with a phantom guitarist still noodling away into infinity whether there’s a live audience in attendance or not.
I first learned about the El Cid thanks to Richard Carradine‘s Spirits with Spirits GHOULA meet-ups. It was incredible walking into such a unique place with an equally rich history. I’ve had the privilege to bring other friends to this location to blow their minds as well.
In more recent years, the hauntings here are attributed to the phantom movements of flamenco dolls who are housed in cases here. Allegedly, these dolls appear in different cabinets from where they were originally placed and observers have seen dolls breathing and even following patrons with their eyes as people walk past. As this wasn’t something discussed when I first learned about the location, I do have to wonder if society’s more recent fascination with haunted objects (specifically dolls – hello, Annabelle!) might have lead to people to project some phobias onto these objects. Or maybe we’re just a little more aware that a supposedly inanimate object might not be as lifeless as we hope.
- Reddit thread on strange beings in Silver Lake: https://www.reddit.com/r/Humanoidencounters/comments/lds9oo/silver_lake_los_angeles_area/
- Eric Brightwell’s well-researched look at drownings in the Silver Lake reservoir: https://ericbrightwell.com/2021/10/20/ghosts-of-the-silver-lake-reservoir/
- GHOULA’s “Spirits with Spirits” about Taix: http://ghoula.blogspot.com/2013/01/januarys-spirits-with-spirits.html
- GHOULA’s “Spirits with Spirits” about the El Cid: https://ghoula.blogspot.com/2013/11/
Do you have any tips on haunted sites around Silver Lake or Echo Park? Or an interesting piece of local history or a crime story? Let us know with the form below: