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Haunted Glendale, CA – Brand Park & Cemetery

BrandParkCemetery4You’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.

BrandParkCemetery9Just 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.

BrandParkCemeteryParking 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

BrandParkCemetery8 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.

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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.BrandParkCemetery6

For continued, much more in-depth reading into the history of this site & the brand family themselves, check out a great KCET article here.

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Unprecedented Access to One of America’s Most Haunted Houses

The following article contains:

  • News about future ghost tours at the Stickney House
  • First hand paranormal encounters
  • An exclusive look inside the historic site

stickneyhouse1Like many in the Chicago area, my first exposure to the Stickney House, tucked away in rural and picturesque Bull Valley, was Ursula Bielski’s “Chicago Haunts” in the late 1990s. The rich history and the seemingly endless claims of hauntings have proliferated the house and its grounds as much as the story proliferated my curiosity.

As the story goes, in 1856 George and Sylvia Stickney moved into this grand house to start a family and be the toast of the town with the second story of the house serving almost exclusively for entertaining.  However, tragedy struck early and often as seven of their 11 children died very young.  That ballroom, housing the first piano in McHenry County, quickly transformed to a séance room where the mourning parents would try to contact their lost children.

stickneyhouse2My first visits to the site in the early 2000s were merely to view the iconic structure from a distance, to see with my own eyes, the rounded corners and the boarded-up second story windows.  Many feel the rounded corners (note the walls blending into the ceiling in the photo to the right, as well as the rounded wall edges in the image below) being tied to spiritualist beliefs that spirits (particularly negative spirits) could get trapped in 90 degree angles.  There is some debate if this was the reason for the construction, but that is the commonly held notion at the moment.  The second story windows were, indeed, boarded up, presumably to keep away curiosity seekers who were getting strange images of ghosts in the upper floor windows in photographs.

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Walking the grounds one October evening, a friend and I heard a masculine voice groan loudly from behind the door that faces the parking lot.  We were absolutely frozen, but no further activity followed.  That interaction is benign compared to other claims of phantom screams, ghostly dogs, children crying and even shadow figures patrolling the grounds around the house.

After so much infamy, the village moved their offices into the home, partially serve as a built-in deterrent to any trespassers or vandals.  It’s easy to respond to a trespassing call, if you just have to walk out the front door, after all.  At this time there were legends that city employees were forbidden to talk about the activity at the location.  Whether true or not, a Chicago Tribune article from 1995 did a lot to pass along that “company line.” (link: “Bull Valley Home Haunted Only By Reputation.”)

In October 2015 I stopped by again, after a gap of many years.  I could see that the restoration of the building was well under way with the front entrance fully rebuilt.  I entered the front door, explaining that I was a local historian who was interested in the site.  Unlike 10+ years ago, this time I was invited in and could see that the “no corners” theme was carried out throughout the building, including a curved front door, built-in cabinets that blend into the walls and the walls themselves blending into the ceiling.  This time it was the village employees who started volunteering their own paranormal experiences.

stickneyhouse4The following October, just a few weeks ago was even more amazing.  I traveled back to the site with local archeologist Dan Melone.  I re-introduced myself to one of the employees I had met the previous year and after some chatting about the paranormal, he gave us the blessing to go upstairs.  I cannot over state my excitement in this moment.  Visiting a place I’d read about and researched for nearly 20 years, and now I was standing in a location that I’d mentally accepted that I’d probably never set foot inside.  Merely entering the home last year was a huge surprise and now, I was creeping up a very worn, narrow stairway, making my way into the largest room and standing in the room where Sylvia Stickney, her husband George and countess other mediums went to make contact and, make no mistake about it, come to terms with their devastating losses.  The gravity of the history and the location gave me goosebumps.  The feel of the room was tense, though likely just my own excitement radiating off of me.

Present day, the second floor isn’t one massive ballroom, as is often reported.  It’s been subdivided into smaller rooms, a far more practical use of the space for the numerous inhabitants after the Stickeys.  With the help of the Stickney Restoration Foundation, hopefully the original layout will be firmly identified and restored in time.

stickneyhouse5In addition to the experience we found out the following amazing bits of information:

In time, the village hopes to move their offices out of the Stickney Home and allow the site to function as a museum.  After it’s established as a museum, they will rent the site out to ghost hunting teams for investigations!

There are reports of a Civil War era soldier that is seen in the front room, nearest to the parking lot.  Speculation is high that he died of wounds here after being injured in battle further south.  This would line up with the pained masculine groan I heard come from that room some 16 years earlier.

One village employee relayed the following first-hand account: I am a marine, I saw combat, I was a police officer on the street, but the only time I’ve ever frozen was right here.  Working alone, late at night and a man screamed.  I knew no one was in the house.  It took me a good five minutes to be able to move again.

Dan and I did not wait long to return for another visit.  Shortly after another successful Chicago Ghost Conference, this time held at the haunted Willowbrook Ballroom on Archer Avenue (which tragically burned to the ground a couple weeks after the conference), we brought event organizer, and writer of the “Chicago Haunts” series, Ursula Bielski, to the Stickney House.  She’s an important part of the Chicago ghost lore tradition and, again, the person who, through her writing, first informed me of this location.

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Again, we were permitted upstairs where Ursula, spirit box in hand, began attempting to make contact with whatever entities may still be on site.  Watching this unfold, it again donned on me that this may be the first time someone, other than a curious village employee, was using the séance room to try to make contact in some 150+ years.  In a small way, a historic moment.  While a couple scattered words did appear over the spirit box, we did not get any longer phrases or sentences, which is what I personally look for to push out my reason of doubt against radio interference.

Stay informed right here as I hope to start a working relationship with the Village of Bull Valley, along with Dan Melone and Ursula Bielski in helping raise funds for the restoration efforts and perhaps seperate fact from urban legend at this amazing site.


We’re Starting a Free Newsletter!

Click here to sign up for the official, What’s YOUR Ghost Story Newsletter. We’ll be calling it the, WYGS Newsletter, from now on to save a few breaths.

The first issue of the WYGS Newsletter will premier on Tuesday, October 25th 2016!

These email newsletters will contain updates on famous tales, interesting new stories from new locations, paranormal photos, videos and who knows what other type of fun! They will also only come out 6-10 times per year – we promise not to flood your inbox! Did I mention the WYGS Newsletter is 100% FREE?  So what are you waiting for? Click here to sign up now.

If there is anything we want our readers and fans to know is we respect your privacy, and we promise to never share your information with any 3rd party in any way, shape, or form.

 


First Adventure of the New Year! Spahn Ranch

Scott and I IMG_3827decided to start the new year off right and pick a new creepy spot to visit for the start of 2016!

We often get asked about Manson family locations, and though we do touch on the subject of the murders, and are somewhat well versed, it is not a piece of history we focus on much.

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That being said, when we were talking about the first place to go for the new year, both Scott’s and my first thought was to head up to the remains of Spahn Ranch and hike out to the famous “Manson Family Cave.”

 

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The ranch has been around since 1862 when J.R. Williams received 160 acres after the Homestead Act was passed by the US Government. The land itself is part of the Santa Susana Pass, the main transport road between LA and Santa Barbra during the mission days. The land was used in early silent films and even owned by William S Hart for a time, before finally ending up in the hands of George Spahn.

By the time the Manson Family arrived in 1968, the rancspahngetty2-thumbh was only being used occasionally for TV shows and locals for renting horses to ride around the property for an afternoon. I won’t write much about Manson’s time on the ranch, which is often shrouded in contradictory urban legends. Plenty of other people have done so before me, and in a much better way than I could. You can read LA Curbed’s Post on the ranch HERE

The property burned down in 1970, so there wasn’t much for Scott and I to explore while we were there. We hope to find a map containing the old building locations so we can explore with a bit more direction on our next visit.  If you have such a map, please share!

Actually, to call this excursion a hike is more than a little exaggeration.  It’s really not a hike at all! After reading a few blogs and our with our previous experiences hiking to other creepy spots, we expected a lot worse. We were warned about Poison Ivy and Rattle Snakes, and though we didn’t see any, I’m sure it is still a danger! IMG_2633

The path is narrow, but fairly direct, it’s also littered with morbid little reminders of where we were.  (To the left is an example: a displayed modern picture of Manson; green little skeletons dot the area)

We found the cave quickly and took our obligatory selfie (up at the top). We were surprised to see that there were quite a few other people there. We talked a bit and then went back to poking around the property.

People often report paranormal goings on at Spahn Ranch, which seem to be mostly residual in nature. Scott and I did not do an investigation on the property on this visit, so we don’t have anything toIMG_2655 add on to the subject.

We didn’t spend much longer at Spahn Ranch, before heading back to our car, but we took pictures of a few items.  There are plenty of pieces of building material, plates, car parts and more that require more examination to properly attach to dates.  That said, we felt satisfied with our first adventure of the year!

 


Woodstock and the Stickney House

We were planning on resting and laying low today, recovering from our awesome weekend at the Chicago Ghost Conference….but around 2 o’clock we decided we couldn’t just sit around any more, so we decided to go on the hunt for some things we’d always wanted to see!

Turns out that one of Mickey Cohen‘s bodyguards is buried in Woodstock, Illinois! Johnny Stompanato, a strongman in the LA mafia and lover of Lana Turner, was from the small town. Stompanato was stabbed by Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane, a crime that was later ruled as self defense. His body was taken back to Woodstock after his passing and he was interred at Oakland Cemetery.

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The cemetery is old and beautiful, and also the final resting place of Dick Tracy creator, Chester Gould.

Unfortunately, Scott and I were not very successful in locating either of the graves (if you have directions to where they are let us know!)

We did however find lots of great old graves, and even saw some great wildlife.

unnamed-3  (can you believe this picture is real?? I still can’t and I took it!)

They even have a small pet cemetery with a bunch of sweet send offs for fur babies!

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It was a great place to spend an afternoon.  It was very restful and there were plenty of other people and their living pets walking around too.

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After the cemetery we headed into downtown Woodstock, which is super cute, and also where they filmed “Groundhog Day!”

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After a walk around the town square and some much-needed hot coffee, we headed over to the Stickney House.

The Stickney House was one of the locations covered by Scott in his book, “Voices from the Chicago Grave.”

Built in 1856 and located in the Village of Bull Valley. George Stickney, his wife Sylvia, and their family were the original residents. The house was built without any 90 degree corners.  The Skickney’s were spiritualists and believed ghosts could become trapped in such spaces. Of the 10 Stickney children only three survived into adulthood. The family held many séances in the house trying to contact the children that passed away.  Some believe that perhaps it was Sylvia’s inabilities as a medium or cultists who moved into the house in the 1970s that have caused the home to become very haunted.

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The house has gone through much renovations since we last saw the house. Thanks to the local historic society and the Stickney Foundation. The interior and exterior are both being restored to the houses original state, and I have to say, it looks fantastic!  Note in the photos below the continued use of rounded edges – even the front door itself is curved.

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From the Stickney House, we were directed to the small cemetery down the road where the family was buried. It was starting to get dark, but as we stumbled around by cell phone light, we eventually found the family. A few of the tombstones were missing, and some of the others were damaged, but overall they were in great shape considering their age.

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There was an oddly large amount of traffic on the road, considering how far out of town we were. Still, we decided to do a small EVP session at Sylvia‘s grave.

unnamed We haven’t reviewed our recording yet.  Once we do, we’ll definitely let you know of any findings!


Ouija Board Question

Question: Just wondering how do the spirits control the oujia bored!? I am really interested in learning about this kind of stuff. — Maria

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