Tag Archives: phantom sounds

Still Not Free: Ghostly Prisoners at the Yuma Territorial Prison

img_6174-edit

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).

battlehillThe 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.

darkcell-lowaasThe 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.

guard-sally

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.

clippingAn 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.

img_6431

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.


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!!


Halloween Gift: A new video (Peg Entwhistle Investigation)

Investigation at the Hollywood Sign on the anniversary of Peg Entwhistle’s suicide.

YouTube, compressed the audio so much that it’s quite hard to hear the Peg Entwhistle EVP.  Please take a listen to a cleaner version here (MP3 format):  PegEntwhistleEVP


A visit to Linda Vista Hospital

By Scott Markus

For those of you who don’t know, my day job is working as a filmmaker (see: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1377864/)

Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts

Whether it be Chicago, Hawaii or Los Angeles, it’s always an amazing experience making a movie on-location (as opposed to in a studio). Now, I do hope to uncover some ghost stories from our many backlots here in CA. I’ve worked on a handful and can’t imagine them NOT being haunted, but that’s a tale for another post (though if you have any leads, let me know).

Today, I unexpectedly found myself at Linda Vista Hospital in East Los Angeles. Not only was I without any ghost hunting equipment, but I was also without a camera (the images you see were taken with my cell phone). What an amazing gold mine this place was – a pure playground of amazing locations from basement to roof.

Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts

I talked to one worker there who came across an (at first) cooperative spirit. After he and a friend heard unexplainable sounds, the man requested that the spirit knock on the wall. The spirit complied. After asking for another series of knocks, only louder, the spirit again complied. Walking towards the source of the sounds, the man came across a doorway that he believed these sounds were emanating from. He asked, “Is this the room you’re in?” This time the response was less benign. He heard a loud scratch on the wall he was standing next to, which was immediately followed by a growl into his ear. Both of these sounds were heard by the man and his friend. As one might assume, they made a hasty exit and did not return again that night.

This location might sound or look familiar to you. In addition to serving as a filming location to literally dozens of movies and television shows in recent years, this hospital was also the subject of a recent “Ghost Adventures” episode (season 3, episode 5 to be exact) and, even more recently, an episode of Paranormal Challenge (season 1, episode 10, which featured the always amazing Ursula Bielski).

Ursula Bielski photo UrsulaBielski_zps5d4d67c2.pngAs you might guess, I fell in love with the location and will be covering it extensively in my upcoming book.  Now is your chance – What do you know about the location?  Do you know any interesting trivia that one can’t easily find on Wikipedia?  Have you had a paranormal experience there?  Have you heard any Urban legends about the hospital?  Do you have any interesting pictures, video, EVPs from the location to share?  Here, I’ll bribe you with more glorious cell phone pictures (click the thumbnails to see them larger) (in order, left to right: operating room, basement-I know the morgue is down here, but can’t say for sure this is the right area, main 1st floor hallway, filming in the rear courtyard, hospital chapel):

Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts - Operating room Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts - basement morgue Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts Scott Markus - Linda Vista Hospital Ghosts - chapel
Oh yeah, and as if that place wasn’t rockin’ enough as it is – they also host a zombie prom dances in the chapel room around Halloween each year.


The Sowden House & The Los Feliz Murder House

By Scott Markus

Photobucket
Once again, a film shoot (for the film “Darling Nikki”) has put me in (more accurately, near) a (potentially) haunted location.  Quite honestly, how could the home where Elizabeth Short was (possibly) murdered not be haunted?  Even if she wasn’t murdered here and even if Dr. George Hodel was not the killer, he was a seriously dark and awful individual.  The other horrors he did within these walls – even short of murder, would leave more than a little negative energy behind.
Photobucket
The house itself was designed by the son of one of the greatest architects of the last century – Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright. This is not the only Wright property to have a sordid past. Of course Frank Lloyd Wright’s own summer home -Taliesin, in Spring Green, WI, was the site of a massacre where seven people lost their lives.  Ursula Bielski writes of this in her book “Chicago Haunts 3.”

The nature of the location – a private home – leads to this being a quiet location.  However, I would assume some urban legends have started to come out about this location.  Have you heard anything?  Please leave comments below!

I’m also starting to look into the so-called Los Feliz Murder Mansion.  As the story goes (more detail here), in 1959 a Dr. Harold N. Perelson murdered his wife, then beat one of his three children nearly to death before committing suicide himself.  All three children did survive….felt the need to find a silver lining here.  Since that murder, no one has occupied the house.  One family has owned it for the past 60 years, but the house has been left eerily undisturbed, allegedly to the extent that there are still board games in-progress sitting on tables waiting to be finished from a game started during the cold war.

I happened to be in the area recently and decided to drive past the property.  Even then, not leaving the car, but driving up the driveway as far as you can go (which isn’t far at all) is a bit of a harrowing experience.

Los Feliz Murder Mansion, Los Feliz Murder Mansion

(Above: as close as I got) I do want to investigate the location professionally and with permission, but I anticipate a tough sell to the hard-to-locate home owner. Due to the elusive nature of this property, even if it was haunted, there aren’t really any possibilities for witnesses to any strange occurrences, but I will ask you, the cyber audience anyway: have any of you heard of any ghost stories associated with this property?

In other news, I attended a Moth storytelling session yesterday and one of the stories that was told was about the ghost of Zelda in West Covena.  This is apparently the ghost of a child from the 1900s who was murdered underground in a spillway (now called Zelda’s Tunnel/Pit/Cave/etc) that is still accessible today.  The ghost story involves, at the very least, the phantom sound of a bell, which Zelda was wearing on a necklace at the time of her death.  Other recountings are more urban legend-y and say Zelda was sacrificed by a cult and will now kill anyone walking through her tunnel (there’s actually a fun retelling of this tale along with a personal….encounter(?) at this site).  Questions to you guys:  Do you have any tales of your own from this site?  Do you have any hard evidence that there was actually a murder here (something that would also tell us Zelda’s last name)?  And, of course, where EXACTLY is the entrance to her tunnel?