I run down what I’ve got coming up, notably moderating a panel at Midsummer Scream (midsummerscream.org) about the CLASSIC nickelodeon horror anthology show “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” with friend and show creator DJ MacHale. Also, I’ll be taking in the largest music festival in the world, Summerfest, with the “paranormal rock” band Sunspot (sunspotuniverse.com). Recently, I’ve been to a ton of haunted sites coast-to-coast including The Nat in Amarillo, TX and Stull Cemetery in Kansas. Subscribe to this YouTube channel and my newsletter at WhatsYourGhostStory.com to stay in the “know!”
Author Archives: scottmarkus
You’ve gotta love a mountain hike that leads to a mostly hidden cemetery! Glendale, CA’s “first family,” the Brands, started a pet cemetery that they themselves began laying themselves to rest in. The nearby family home, library and this cemetery all claim some level of paranormal activity. There are reports of occult activity at the cemetery, though that’s always a red flag for urban legends to me.
Oddly enough, the modern history of this area dates back to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago where Missouri realtor Leslie Brand and his wife visited and were immediately taken by the East India Pavilion.
Just a year later he purchased the small community of Glendale (click on the map image to the right to open the GoogleMap of the location) with hopes of further developing the community and also crafting his perfect, East India-inspired family home. The home, situated at the base of the Verdugo Mountains was named “The Lookout” in Indian, or Miradero. Interestingly, the land he purchased is still outlined and named “Miradero” on GoogleMaps.
The East Indian style home, nicknamed “The Castle,” built in 1904 quickly became the social hot spot of Glendale. When Leslie died in 1925, he donated much of the Miradero land to the city of Glendale, specifically to be used as a library and park. This library was finally opened some 31 years later and continues to operate to this day. The park, with baseball diamonds, is in heavy use.
Sadly, like all too many possibly haunted cemeteries, this one has a history of desecration. Single graves were unearthed on separate occasions with bones of the deceased being scattered about the grounds and skulls stolen. One of the skulls belonged to Miradero architect Nathaniel Dryden.
Parking in one of the main parking lots, walking up the paved Brand Park Drive, keeping Miradero on your right, gaining altitude as you reach the Verdugo Mountain range, you’ll eventually reach a T intersection. In front of you, you’ll find decaying stars to nowhere (pictured left). It’s eerily similar to the present date site of Altadena’s Cobb Estate.
Bear left at the t-intersection and you will soon find the fenced-off Brand Family cemetery, which contains several conventional graves as well as the remarkable pyramid-shaped grave of Leslie Brand.
The trails into the mountains behind the estate still boast scores of ruins from a bygone time. The photo below shows Brand Cemetery as seen from a nearby mountain ridge (note the pyramid in the lower right corner), along with
Below is another stairway to nowhere, deeper within the mountains. While there seems to be a large amount of infrastructure, including old, decaying roads, power line supports and building foundations, researching historical topographical maps to not show any buildings whatsoever. Perhaps these buildings were not built with any official permitting as Brand kept these grounds private, even hidden from civic meddling, as he was a powerful force in Glendale. Unfortunately, this makes dating and identifying buildings in this area quite difficult. Event the cemetery, which has to have started in the early 1920s or earlier doesn’t appear on these maps until 1967.
The most concrete paranormal activity takes place in the library itself where Leslie Brand understandably continues to spend time in his dream home. If that’s a conscious haunting or that of the residual variety remains to be seem as encounters seem to be too fleeting to gleam much information from.
Due to the terrible grave desecration that happened at the family cemetery, one would understand the place being under close surveillance as much as you would understand if there is some amount of unrest here. I do believe that paranormal investigation at this site is important as much as I feel that it’s important to do this investigation the “right way.” Respect the land, the rules and honor the family that helped build Glendale.
For continued, much more in-depth reading into the history of this site & the brand family themselves, check out a great KCET article here.
Glendora’s Bennett House, built in 1905, was purchased by the Daughters of the American Revolution and they found out quickly (during their very first monthly tea party meeting) that they weren’t alone in the home. The visage of a phantom man crashed the party before vanishing. Occupants also talked about hearing sounds of objects moving, but not seeing anything out of the ordinary happening; this seems to be a common residual-type haunting.
It’s unclear if much activity has taken place in the house since that first encounter with the vanishing man in 1982. It’s not uncommon for paranormal activity to spike when a building undergoes a change (renovations, new inhabitants, etc.). Maybe once the new owners settled in, the spirits settled back down as well.
This is not the only haunted residence in Glendora as John Zaffis, founder of the Paranormal and Demonology Research Society of New England (not to mention that he’s the nephew of famed demonologists Ed & Lorraine Warren) investigated another affected home in Glendora on his show, Haunted Collector. Read more about that story at Glendora Patch.
Do you know of other haunted sites in Glendora? Have you experienced anything yourself at the Bennett House? Were you there at that famed 1982 tea party? As always we wanna hear about it?
At the end of January I was honored to be invited to take part in Chicago Haunting’s 6th annual Dead of Winter event. The weekend-long paranormal & psychic conference was held in the northern rural town of Harvard, Illinois, a stone’s throw from the Wisconsin border and from the iconic Woodstock square, home of the haunted Woodstock Opera House (featured in the book “Voices from the Chicago Grave” and pictured at right) and the backdrop for the classic comedy “Groundhog Day.”
The festivities kicked off with an evening tour of some of the more historic and haunted sites around northern Illinois, which I was invited to co-host along with author Ursula Bielski and archeologist Dan Melone.
(Pictures, clockwise from top, left: Scott Markus speaking at the Dead of Winter Event, Dan Melone & Ursula Bielski speaking during the tour, Melone and Allison Jornlin of Milwaukee Ghosts attempting a psychic experiment, Markus with Wendy Lynn Staats of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast).
Highlights from the tour have to include going to the Mineola Resort and the Stickney House (which we covered in our first newsletter, viewable here). It’s always fun to take people to haunted place to be able to tell the history and legends of a place while on site. It’s even more important to take people to places like this when they are endangered.
There is perhaps no historic location in the US more endangered than the Minneola. The building, constructed in 1884 is the largest surviving wood frame structure in Illinois. While the site is constantly associated with Al Capone as he visited the site on numerous occasions in the ‘20s, it was already an uproarious location decades earlier, around the turn of the century.
As Chicago was trying to clean up the vice-riddled levee district, Fox Lake became the lawless frontier. Nearly all of the resorts were stocked with slot machines and you just know there was little to no enforcement of prohibition laws. In fact, the last of the slot machines didn’t leave the building until a raid in 1952. According to a Chicago Tribune article (cited here), the Mineola was the “most vicious resort” in this burg of depravity. One can only imagine the stories and characters surrounding the long past of this site.
Can you imagine the residual energy left behind from a place like this? What phantom sounds and echoes through time are continuing to clutter up the massive structure?
1930 saw the Fox Lake massacre unfold at Manning’s Hotel, likely a retaliatory attack after the St. Valentine’s Day massacre that resulted in five mobsters shot and three dead. Interestingly enough both Al Capone and his rival, Bugs Moran, had homes on Bluff Lake, a mere seven miles from the Mineola.
There are legends of a ghost boy seen at the Mineola, reported by staff. However, possible activity throughout the building has been largely unobserved. Over the years more and more of the building became off limits as demand waned. The 100 hotel rooms have been closed off to the public since 1963. After 50 years of neglect, the elements took their toll. The domed ballroom collapsed in the ‘80s. By 2012 the restaurant/bar and banquet hall was the only corner of the building still in operation when the building was abruptly condemned.
(Images like the one above are pulled from a drone shoot I conducted in 2015. I will be posting the full video shortly.)
A 2013 survey of the building showed the the core structure was still strong and therefore salvageable. However, each passing storm inches this structure closer to obscurity. There is an organization in place that’s trying to save the site, which is on the National Register of Historic places. To lend your support and offer to get involved, check out their Facebook here.
As is the case with most visits to the site, we were quickly approached by police officers. While we weren’t trespassing (we were walking around the building, staying on the road, as opposed to walking on the porch or attempting to enter the building), we were told to kindly be on our way and there was no further incident. Be advised, if you are to visit this site, do so respectfully and get ready to have someone checking in on you in short order. If you’re not doing anything wrong, you won’t have anything to hide. If you are thinking of breaking in, you will be stopped.
The building itself if condemned after all, meaning it’s unsafe to enter. Of course, damage to the building itself is also a real concern as we all hold out hope that this structure will live long enough for there to be a chance for a comeback with a new, well-funded owner.
Additional recommended reading, including a couple pictures of the interior can be found here at the NW Herald Website.
Hello! I’ve been traveling a lot and am in the process of getting some videos ready to share with you. First though, I need your help. I’m calling on you, ghost story fans to help me find the perfect location to do an extensive investigation on with a small group of people. Some of them are people you’ve seen in my videos before, some are brand new additions.
We’ll be filming in the Los Angeles area, but if LA and Hollywood are one thing, they are crowded! If they’re something else, they’re loud! So, I’m looking to find a location outside of the heart of LA. A place we could get permission to have the run of the place. It would be a single night overnight investigation. I’m looking for a place that is actively and heavily haunted. It doesn’t have to be a place where people see full apparitions or a place where people get physically confronted, though those would be okay for me too…. Sorry team, but just a place where the activity seems to be interesting and ongoing. If you have a personal experience there, we might be able to get you even more involved with the project, if you’d like.
Here’s a rough map showing where I’m looking. The red locations are potentially good target areas where the blue area is likely locations I’d avoid. So, I’m looking at a pretty big area. From Hidden Hills to Rancho Cucamonga, from the massive Angeles National Forest to further south than this map shows, really.
It can be a private residence, a public place or a company. We just need permission to conduct this one-night investigation. We’re not trying to do anything sneaky here.
If you know of a place within a more populated (blue) area, but you think the building is quiet and isolated enough that we could do an investigation without sound contamination, I’d be all for it. I even have a wish list for places In these areas:
- The Hollymont house just north of Hollywood Blvd
- Themla Todd’s Café and the house she died in, Castillo del Mar
- The Warner Pacific Theatre, one of my favorite buildings in LA, one I’ve never set foot in because it’s been restricted since the earthquake in ’89. I’d love to get in there and try to make contact with one of the original Warner Brothers.
So, if you have leads on any interesting haunted location in any of the cities listed, please drop me a line with any info you may have, the history, alleged hauntings, if you know who I should contact and, maybe most importantly – if YOU have a personal experience there!
At a glance:
- Actively haunted and easy to access prison from 1875
- Site of a deadly riot
- Famous prisoners and an infamous isolation cell
I’ve made countless trips across the California and Arizona desert, entering and leaving Los Angeles. On one of these trips, I ended up taking a very southern route that passed me through Yuma, Arizona. Even just briefly seeing the micro city from Interstate 8, I was immediately taken by its beauty. Trains traversed the Colorado River via aged bridges, huge sand dunes formed the horizon, surrounding the historic western town.
I thought to myself immediately, “I need to find a haunted location here and get back as soon as I can.” To my surprise, the work was done for me pretty quickly. Turning on an episode of “Ghost Adventures,” I could tell from the first establishing shot, “They’re in Yuma!” Sure enough, the episode was about the Yuma Territorial Prison (season 12, episode 8), a captivating, haunted structure that’s 36 years older than the state of Arizona itself.
Soon, I was making my own pilgrimage, heading south from Los Angeles and tip-toeing along the US/Mexico border to make my way to the wild west era prison.
The Yuma Territorial Prison (now operated by the State Park system of Arizona) is open year-round to visitors for a minimal fee (check out the operating hours prior to your visit here: http://www.yumaprison.org/hours-fees-parking.html).
The site is intimate. You are given a brochure at the visitor’s center and told to enjoy. And with that, you are off! The prison was surprisingly well attended considering 1) it’s Yuma and 2) it was a typical day, with temperatures reaching well into the triple digits. That said, there was still plenty of opportunities to explore the grounds alone as most visitors spent their time indoors. The main yard looks out over a canal and to the site of another place that merits future investigations – the location of a revolt of the Yuma/Quechan tribe that resulted in the destruction of two missions and the death of every European male, including the mission’s leader, Padre Graces, in 1781.
It’s hard not to think of the site of a failed Native American revolt that I investigated in Santa Barbara, which yielded the most drastic cold spot I’d ever personally recorded:
The prison, colorfully, and accurately, nicknamed “Hellhole Prison,” saw a tremendous amount of history and colorful characters pass through it’s doors despite only being in operation for 33 years (1876-1909). Those very first inmates were put to work immediately, helping complete construction of their still unfinished new home.
The most iconic feature of the prison is the solitary confinement cell, aka “The Dark Cell.” Prisoners found themselves confined within a strap iron cage, in the middle of this this dark cell. The only light came from a small ventilation pipe directly overhead. It was not uncommon for a prisoner to find themselves in the dark cell multiple times. Just check out the rap sheet for attempted murderer AA Stewart, who was sentenced for 4 days for insulting an officer, then another 10 days for disobeying an officer and threatening him. One might think spending a full month in solitary after an escape attempt would break his will, but the rebel had spirit, escaping and disappearing into the desert two months later.
Today, there is talk of a spirit of a child haunting the dark call. In addition to people not feeling alone there, there are reports of being touched by a small, cold hand. See a short video “tour” of the cell at AZCentral here: http://azc.cc/1RS0Nwv
The most infamous single incident at the prison happened in 1887 during an attempted prison escape that left four prisoners dead, three wounded and the superintendent of the prison suffering from multiple wounds from a butcher’s knife that were so severe, the man, Thomas Gates, eventually committed suicide to escape the pain. A detailed step-by-step retelling of the escape attempt can be found here: http://westernamericana2.blogspot.com/2010/06/yuma-territorial-prison-1875-1909-by.html along with a write-up of one of the more famous prisoners, “Buckskin Frank Leslie,” who was once a co-worker of Wyatt Earp at the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone.
Present day, the scene of the blood bath is around the main, green, courtyard. One can even stand in the guard tower, in the footprints where sharp shooter Benjamin Hartlee took aim and gunned down attempted escapees Villa, Lopez, Bustamante, Vasquez. Likewise, you can stand in front of the sallyport where Gates was held at knife point as the skirmish unfolded around him. It was from here that Gates gave the signal to the guard tower to open fire.
For as much as the prison was considered harsh, largely due to the landscape, climate and predatory wildlife of the area, it was actually quite comfortable for the day. The building even had hydroelectric electricity by 1884, a full nine years before people saw streetlights for the first time at Chicago’s 1893 world’s fair.
An interesting blurb in the “Cochise Review” (as re-reported by the “Phoenix Herald”) in 1900 even mentions how successful the prison was at helping criminals rehabilitate from “the morphine habit,” citing the positive change felt by famed female stagecoach robber Pearl Heart.
Indeed, the prison did house a number of the most ruthless female prisoners one could dream up including 16 year-old Maria Moreno, who killed her younger brother with a shotgun blast to the face over an insult and Elena Estrada, who literally cut out her lover’s heart when she caught him cheating.
We see the energy over 3,000 inmates brought into the prison over the years, the hardships they experienced on site and we haven’t even mentioned that over 100 inmates died in prison due to illness (mostly tuberculosis) or other non-violent maladies. You can easily imagine the location being haunted.
I casually asked a very official-looking state employee if he believed in the tales of the site being haunted. He was almost angry at how casually I asked the question. “I hear voices and shouts…. hear my name called to me almost every night when I’m working here alone.” It’s so often that employees of a haunted site, or someone in an official or authoritarian position, will downplay paranormal claims or experiences. It also comes off suspicious to me if an employee is glamorizing the haunted history of a site, as if it’s part of their marketing pitch. In this case, it was neither of those things. It was matter of fact – this place is actively haunted
The Ghost Adventures team caught a particularly engaging vision of a full band performing on stage in the on-site theater. This was captured live by the Infrared, body-mapping Kinect camera. While what they caught was jaw-dropping and the figures truly seemed to interact with the commands the team was giving, it should be noted that the theater was a recent addition, a room built specifically for tourists to watch an informational video. While this doesn’t mean the room can’t be haunted, prisoners were not performing on this stage in the late 1800s/early 1900s, as the show insinuates.
The nearby 115-body cemetery lacks any kind of individual grave markers, merely piles of rock over each body. There isn’t even a plaque listing the names. One has to wonder if this lack of individual recognition is leading some of the dead to continue to make their presence known. That alone, coupled with the residual hauntings that are undoubtedly continue at this historic prison, leads this place to be something of a paranormal gold mine. Phantom talking throughout the cell blocks, the metal clanging sounds of cell doors opening and closing by themselves are not uncommon occurrences.
The prison’s history continued after being a correctional institution. The campus become Yuma’s High School, a fact they continue to celebrate today with a wonderfully themed school shield and their team name being the Yuma Criminals. Then, one of the structures was converted into the county hospital. Later, during the market crash, countless homeless persons relocated here to live. So, even after the prisoner’s had moved out, there was still ample possibility for “new” hauntings to take hold.
A visit to the Yuma Territorial Prison is a can’t miss adventure for anyone interested in history, the wild west or haunted locations. It should also be noted that the women’s cells were destroyed in 1923 when the Southern Pacific Railroad expanded into the area. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there are additional hauntings here, just outside of the current walls.
For my day job, working with the International Screenwriters’ Association, I asked our membership to tell me what they feel is the most well-written supernatural movie. I defined this as ghost story movies, demon, exorcism, possession and witchcraft movies. I posited the same question on our WhatsYourGhostStory Facebook page. (Also, if you are a writer, I highly suggest clicking the logo above and joining our free online community for writers) The plan was to then do a blog post on the leading vote-getter, YOUR favorite supernatural script:
Well, the many votes are in when it comes to your picks for the best written supernatural movie. I have to say, my favorite thing about how the open voting went was what a wide range of films and eras were covered. However, the stand out winner was “The Sixth Sense.” I was a little surprised that “Exorcist” or one of my personal favorites, “Poltergeist,” didn’t get more love. That said, it’s hard to argue against “The Sixth Sense.” For one, it was a box office sensation, bringing in $672.8 million internationally in 1999. Domestically, it did nearly double the business as “The Matrix” in the same year, so you know it reached a lot of people.
“The Sixth Sense” set the bar during a great a year for supernatural films in America. Its $293.5M domestic take easily beat experimental indie phenom “The Blair Witch Project” ($140.5M), “Sleepy Hollow” ($101M), “The Haunting” $91.4, “Stigmata” ($50M), “House on Haunted Hill” ($40.8M) and the tragically unheralded “Stir of Echoes” ($21.1M).
Honestly, this might be a hall of fame year for spooky cinema. So, how did “The Sixth Sense” stand out in such a crowded pack?
We’ll all jump to that “you gotta see it to believe it” twist, which M. Night credits to great storytelling in an episode of DJ MacHale’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark.” Listen to DJ talk about “The Sixth Sense” with ISA’s Max Timm by clicking on the image to the left (the portion that discusses “The Sixth Sense” starts at 53:30).
However, that twist is meaningless if we haven’t gotten fully involved with our characters. Even in the trailer, you can see a tremendous amount of character development and you get a feel, not just for the adventure that the characters are embarking on, but how they are handling the challenges that they’re tasked with. Re-live that trailer here:
Even from the trailer, a you can see the characters dealing with the weight and difficulty of their challenges. Of course, you can’t deny the quality of the acting performances as well.
While the premise, the world and the depth of the characters are important, there are a million times where this film could’ve fallen apart. Writer/Director, M Night Shyamalan talks about how he early on had to establish the “rules” of the story to make sure continuity and believability tracked throughout the script.
This is a great way to think about approaching any script. “The Sixth Sense” has an element of fantasy in it because we are dealing with the supernatural and concepts that are only theory. So, it’s easy to see how the writer would benefit from creating a set of rules for their story and character to live by. But why limit it to fantasy? Our stories and characters all have plot hurdles and personality flaws that they need to address before the story can end and the character arcs can complete. Why not think of our scripts in the terms of “rules that cannot be broken” unless some other need is addressed that allows for change to happen logically?
Whether it’s “The Sixth Sense,” “Ghost Story,” “The Changeling,” “The Innocents,” “The Eye,” “The Others,” or one of the other great supernatural films, the only real difference is the setting/world/arena and the specific second act adventure activities. Otherwise, it’s all about solid script writing as usual.
Editor’s Note: My personal top five favorite supernatural films include the original Thai version of the Pang Brothers film “The Eye,” “Poltergeist,” “Stir of Echoes,” “The Conjuring” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”