Sunday, August 4, 2013

Griffith Park

One of the first places I really love to visit when I arrive in California is Griffith Park.  As a huge fan of James Dean I have tried to go to as many places as I could where I know he had definitely been. The iconic Griffith Park Observatory, was used as a backdrop to some of the most dramatic scenes in Rebel Without A Cause.  There is even a statue of James Dean to commemorate the filming of the movie in this legendary place.  I have been to Griffith Park many times now and I am always in awe.  I like to imagine James Dean slouching laconically on one of the white washed walls.

 It seems however that Griffith Park is rife with many fascinating legends, as well as mysterious and ghostly happenings.
In 1863 a young woman of seventeen, Dona Petronilla, proclaimed a curse on the land when she discovered that her Uncle Don Antonio Feliz had not bequeathed it to her in his will.  She cursed the land and the man that had inherited the land, as well as the one who had assisted the new landowner in acquiring it.  Some believe that the ailing Don Feliz had been taken advantage of on his death bed and in fact this had resulted in Dona Petronilla losing the land.

Following Dona Petronilla’s alleged cursing of the land it has been plagued by disastrous wildfires and subsequent owners died tragic and untimely deaths.  One was killed by bandits in Mexico, one was shot in a local saloon, and of course there was the tragic events around Colonel Griffith J Griffith.

Griffith purchased the land in 1882.  The land was afflicted by droughts and fires and a violent storm during which many believed that they saw the ghost of Dona Petronilla.  In 1891 Griffith miraculously survived a shotgun wound but by then he had had enough and he began to gift free parcels of land to the citizens of Los Angeles. The curse however did not stop and in 1903, a usually sober man, Griffith, in what was described as ‘alcoholic insanity’ shot his wife.  She survived the shooting but Griffith spent the rest of his days in prison, dying in 1919.

The most frequently sighted ghosts in Griffith Park are Dona Petronilla, usually appearing as a woman dressed in white or a woman in white riding a white horse, Griffith or Feliz.  The Crystal Springs Rangers Headquarters is the oldest remaining structure in the park and some believe they have seen Dona Petronilla staring from the window of the adobe.  Feliz’s ghost has been reported near Bee Rock near the old zoo.  Some people even going so far as to say that Bee Rock has a resemblance to Don Petronilla.  Griffith J Griffith has been sighted on horseback. There is also a strange story that in 1896, when the land was transferred from Griffith to the city, many guests were shocked by the ghostly appearance of Don Antonio Feliz.  He sat at a seat usually reserved for Griffith and invited all the guests to dine with him in hell and proclaimed that he had bought an escort of sub demons.  Prank or not the guests exited the building with haste.  There have been rumours that a werewolf stalks the hills of Griffith Park, though there are some that believe that it is in fact one of Don Feliz’s demons.


Some nights people have reported looking over to the Hollywood sign and seeing a young woman taking a leap from the letter H.  The woman jumps and then disappears.  This weird sighting is attributed to a young starlet by the name of Peggy Entwistle.  She apparently committed suicide, leaping from the letter H of the iconic sign plastered across the Hollywood Hills. Following this tragic occurrence in 1932 people have also reported seeing a young woman matching the description of Peggy walking along the trails of Griffith Park as well as smelling her favoured scent, Gardenia.

There was an old zoo situated in the park which rumour has it treated its captured animals in a cruel and inhumane nature.  Because of this there have been paranormal disturbances attributed to the animals that suffered and died in the zoo.
Though this story has no actual proof, there is a legend of a young couple, having been killed by a freak tree falling while making love on a picnic table.  The story goes on to claim that workmen hired to clean away the debris of the  tree got sick, one even dying of a heart attack.  Though no actual confirmation of this story exists there have been numerous sightings of a ghostly young couple in the area where the purported accident occurred.
The Honorary Mayor of Griffith Park, Luis Alvarado reported two sightings of a ghostly figure near the Merry Go Round in the park.  The figure descended stairs and the vanished into thin air before Alvarado’s eyes.
No matter what your beliefs on the strange and ghostly legends of Griffith Park it is well worth exploring !

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Violinist

Over the years I have experienced my own paranormal events.  I default to the understanding they are of a paranormal nature as usual reason and consequential attempts at debunking these occurrences have left me with no other satisfactory explanation. 

One of the events occurred several years ago and is one of two that took place in schools, not a strange coincidence considering I was a teacher for many years.  I use to teach in a Catholic school situated in a building with its origins in the 1930s.  The large, airy classrooms had lead light in the windows imported from Italy and rather thriftily the nuns old wardrobes were used as storage cupboards. Elderly Nuns still lived in the school, in the far end of the wing I taught in and in parts on the floor above it.  The nuns no longer taught but were often seen wandering around the school.  There was a chapel and two classrooms, the nuns bedrooms, a kitchen and a few offices in this older part of the building.  The rest of the school was newer and had been built a little away from the original building.  My classroom had glorious views and above it was an unused classroom and a turret.  The turret room was used for storage and closed up.  

One night a group of five of us were at the school, standing outside in the courtyard.  We had returned from a performance venue to the school, where parents were asked to pick up their children. As it was already dark and late we did not open the locked school but stood instead in the courtyard, waiting for the last, notoriously tardy, parent to arrive. The school was in darkness and we stood chatting in front of the verandah of my classroom, the barricaded turret looming over us.

The  first indication something was not as it should be was when I happened to look up at the small turret window and from within it thought I could see a soft flicker of light.
I knew that no one could get into the room easily and looked behind me to see if perhaps it was a reflection.  I could see no light sources or reflections that could explain what resembled the light cast by a candle. The window was gabled and the more I looked the more I could now see a light flickering from within, against each of the panes.  Just as I was bringing the light to the attention of my colleagues we all heard, at the same time, the mournful sound of a violin.  It was so loud and so clear you could hear the bow as it scraped across the strings, the instrument ebbing and flowing in peaks of what was a most sorrowful melody.  By this point we had all moved closer and were standing directly under the turret, the music playing, it's evocative song undulating and filling the night air as what seemed to be a candle flickering, accompanied it. 

Our attention was momentarily distracted by the late parent as she bustled through the school gate all full of excuses and the music stopped.  Inside the window now there was only darkness. After the parent left we watched and listened but nothing more happened.  We parted and headed home, a sense of uneasiness unspoken between us as the ever sensible principal declared it to have been a trick of the light or perhaps one of the nuns playing the instrument in another part of the building,  though we knew of none of the elderly inhabitants that played the violin.  The principal laughed it off declaring we could check in the morning. 

I was in early and one of the groundskeepers and myself climbed the rickety stairs to the small room in the turret.  It had all manner of school debris piled around and across the door, none of it looking like it had been moved in recent times. The groundskeeper and I shifted some things and with a lot of determination opened the jammed door to be greeted by a room filled with discarded junk, stacked high and across the floor.  It looked as though no one had been in the room for years. We jammed the door shut replacing the items that had been in front of the door and left.

We didn't mention it again, the bustle of school life and no obvious explanation causing us to somehow agree, without saying a word, to just let it go, until one day I found myself chatting to one of the nuns that lived in the convent.  She nodded and assured me that of course I heard the violin and it had been a nun that used to play the instrument but she had died young, she did however still like to come back and play when the mood struck her.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I love Disneyland and I go as often as I can. I remember the first time I walked through the gates of the Magical Kingdom and stood before Sleeping Beauty's castle.  It was just as I had remembered it. I use to see it at the end of every episode of The Wonderful World of Disney which I faithfully watched every Sunday night as a child. In front of the castle the iconic statue of Walt and Mickey beckons visitors forward, bringing you further into the magic of this amazing world.  It may not surprise you to know that Disneyland has its share of unexplained phenomena. 
My favourite ride in Disneyland is the Haunted Mansion.  As you pass through the ornate gates into the beautifully kept gardens you are greeted by a quirky pet cemetery and a white hearse with a ghost horse.  You are ushered to a waiting area in which you are left with jangling nerves, unsure what to expect. Then gothic "doom buggies" take you through the dark mansion allowing you fleeting and frightening glimpses of all manner of spectral happenings.

There are rumours that not all the haunted happenings in this amazing place are created by the imagineers and their marvels. There is a story that the mother of a deceased child approached Disneyland and asked if she could scatter his ashes along his favourite ride, the Haunted Mansion. There are some discrepancies in the story, some saying the woman was allowed to have a small service for her son in Disneyland some saying she was not, but all stories agree that she was forbidden from sprinkling his ashes on the ride. The story goes however that the deceased child's mother decided to sneak his ashes in and she scattered them. Since this took place a small spectral boy fitting the child's description has been seen sitting crying at the entrance gate of the haunted mansion.
One person has actually died in the Haunted Mansion. It is tradition for Disneyland to hold a "Grad Night".  One student decided he wanted to have a closer look at the "Séance Circle" and he climbed out of the doom buggy.  What he didn't realise is that there is a gap between the track and the floor and he plunged to his death. This area known as the Séance Circle in the Haunted Mansion has had some strange occurrences.  A sound engineer working on the area could hear music. At first he assumed that a radio had somehow been walled into the building but no radio announcer ever came on the stream and in the end he had to place a speaker that created sound over the unexplained music.
The famed Matterhorn is rumoured to be haunted by a woman named Dolly.  She had gone on the ride with her children and in the middle of the ride she was so worried about them she undid the seat belt to turn and see if they were safe.  She subsequently fell from the ride and was run over by the next bobsled.  The decline where she was killed has become known as Dolly's Dip.

In the past the Disneyland waterway, the Rivers of America, in which all exotic manner of water craft including the famed paddle steamer the Mark Twain, can be found, was a swimming area.  There have been three recorded drowning in this water way.  Two brothers, and a student on a "Grad Night" at Disneyland, are said to have drowned there. Tom Sawyers Island in the middle of the Rivers of America is believed to be haunted by children that run around the island when the park is closed.  When Disney employees go to the island, after such a reported sighting, no one is ever there.

A few places in the New Orleans area of Disneyland are said to be haunted. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is said to be haunted by a little boy that shows up on security cameras when the park is closed but when the ride is checked he is never there. Unexplained sounds and giggles have been heard in the darkest part of the ride, Transition Tunnel.  The exclusive Club 33, designed like a speakeasy and the only place in Disneyland where alcohol is served is also said to be haunted.


A young man reportedly fell to his death from a ride in Tomorrowland The ride has since been removed.  As he fell from the car he was said to have grabbed at the blonde hair of his girlfriend. His ghost has been known to have manifest itself to blonde girls and apparently tugs at their hair.


It is rumoured that Walt Disney haunts his famed park.  One night a cleaner working in Walt Disney's secret apartment above the Fire Station on Main Street noticed that some lights had been left on.  When she turned them off she is reported to have heard a male voice say "Don't forget I am still here".  They leave the light on now as a tribute to Walt.  A very interesting security camera film shows what appears to be a figure walking through the park.  It looks a little like Walt.....I will let you decide for yourself.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Queen Mary

Moored in Long Beach California, the Cunard ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary is a formidable sight passing it by sea or land. I have been aboard her and in her shadow enroute to Catalina many times and each time I am in awe of this amazing vessel.  Serving as the flag ship of the Cunard Line, from her maiden voyage in 1936 until 1946, the Queen Mary also held the Blue Riband several times and for several years.  This unofficial accolade was awarded to a passenger liner, in regular service, that crossed the Atlantic ocean the fastest.  Strolling along her promenade deck one is reminded of an elegant past. The Art Deco style of the Queen Mary is enhanced by a tribute to an older style with various woods enhancing the interior throughout the ship.

At the outbreak of World War Two the Queen Mary was converted to serve as a troop carrier. She was painted grey and referred to as The Grey Ghost.  On the 2nd October 1942 the Queen Mary accidentally collided with an escort ship called the Curacao.  The collision occurred off of the Irish coast and the Queen Mary was under orders not to stop due to the dangers of U-boats and the fact that the ship was escorting American troops.  Over 239 people were left to die after the collision as the Queen Mary continued on, performing her duty as an escort ship.
Following the conclusion of the war The Queen Mary was outfitted as a cruise liner again and recommenced her transatlantic crossings.  She was retired and sent to Long Beach in 1967, where she serves as a tourist attraction.

With as many as fifty people purported to have died on the Queen Mary while she served as a cruise ship and over 239 due to her collision with the Curacao, it is little wonder that the ship has been the site of many strange and unexplained phenomena.  I personally felt uncomfortable in the Engine Room and had to leave after a minute or so.  People have reported seeing bright lights and the ghost of a man. On July 10th 1966 a routine fire drill ended in tragedy with one of the crew, a John Pedder, being crushed to death in the engine room door.  It is his ghost that is said to be seen in this area called Shaft Alley, wandering along and vanishing into the very door he was crushed in.
The pool area is said to be haunted by a child called Jackie.  She has been clearly heard answering the questions of the many paranormal investigators that go to the Queen Mary.  There are conflicting reports about the way that Jackie died, some believed she drowned while others say she broke her back when she fell off a staircase railing after a large wave hit the ship.  Either way the little girl has made her presence felt on the ship, even leaving wet footprints in the pool area and singing and speaking to tourists.  The pool area is also said to be haunted by two women, one that died in the the 1930s and one in the 1960s.  They are often seen walking around the pool area in bathing attire appropriate to the era in which they lived.

The sound of tearing metal, banging on the side of the ship and a chorus of screams coming from the water have been reported on the Queen Mary. This strange and unexplained phenomena is attributed to the ships collision with and subsequent inaction to assist the crew of the Curacao.  It is believed that many of the crew survived the collision and died in the wake of the retreating Queen Mary, drowning or being eaten by sharks. 

There is also a more sinister set of entities reported to have been filmed, photographed and seen on board the Queen Mary.  Many paranormal investigators believe that the change rooms at the back of the pool area have a "vortex" of energy, some of it very dark.  It is said that a girl was raped and murdered in one of the change rooms.  The link below was a small film made by the American Paranormal Research Association (APRA) have a look at what is sitting on the floor in one of the change rooms, accidentally filmed as the camera makes a sweep of the area.

There is no doubt that a trip to the Queen Mary is an amazing experience and standing on her deck you are reminded of a bygone, more glamorous time.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dornoch Castle and Cathedral

A few years ago I stayed at Dornoch Castle in Scotland.  A beautiful 15th century building, with thick walls and the look of a fine keep, originally it was used as the home of the Bishops of Caithness. The castle has, over the centuries, served as a courthouse, a prison and a school.  Dornoch Castle is believed to be haunted, its walls reputedly shaking at several historical events, and the ghost of a sheep thief, Andrew McCornish, imprisoned in its dungeon, is said to roam the castle. Strange lights, noises and figures have been reported by those working or staying in the castle.  It was not, however, in Dornoch Castle that I saw something strange, but rather at the Cathedral across the road from it.

I had a friend going through marriage problems, and he kept phoning. The walls of the castle at Dornoch are so thick that I was having trouble with my phone connection, and so on a dark, starless night, I headed out to the grassed area between the castle and the Cathedral to take my phone call.  Feeling a little exposed, the large castle looming behind, the ancient Cathedral and its graveyard in front, I sat on the park bench, put my feet up and rested my back against the arm of the wooden bench.  It was all going well and I was making the right consoling comments, knowing my friend would be back with his wife by the morning, when my mind drifted and I started to look at the graveyard. 

The Cathedral was built by a bishop called Gilbert de Moravia, at his own expense.  The first recorded service was held in 1239.  The original building was burnt to the ground, most of it destroyed, and Gilberts tomb was desecrated in 1570, during a clan war.  Restoration commenced in 1616 and was completed between 1835 to 1837.  Gargoyles that cling to the building, are believed to be evil spirits trapped in stone by the tolling bells of the Cathedral.

It was as I sat watching the Cathedral and the graveyard just beyond its low stone wall, the high headstones visible above the edge of the wall, that I saw a flicker of light from what looked like the ground of the graveyard. I sat up a little fascinated by what I assumed must be a light show of some description, perhaps in place to entertain the tourists.  Though at the time, in the dark, sitting between the two edifices my brain could not understand why the ground of the graveyard would have lights.  I sat nodding, the phone propped against my ear, just listening, my glance now concentrated on the darkened graveyard when again a flash of light, reaching higher into the air this time, illuminated the tombstones. I stood up, the phone still at my ear but my full attention on the graveyard.

I looked for a car whose headlights may have somehow breached the stone wall around the graveyard, but the quiet street was empty.  Now I told the person on the phone to hold on a minute and then a large burst of light shot up, a greenish tinge to it.  I stood fascinated but not really frightened, the light ebbed and dissipated and I headed inside apologising in advance for the possibility of the phone cutting out.

In the cold morning light I looked for a single explanation, ground lights, remnants of some sort of firecrackers, anything but there was nothing but a peaceful feeling of the extraordinary.  I have a friend who is a practitioner of Wiccan and I told him and he chuckled a little and said even the spirits like to get your attention sometimes.  Maybe he is right.