Sunday, June 24, 2012

On the Paranormal Prowl in Old Town San Diego

 A Night Stroll With the Dead?
El Campo Santo Cemetery
El Campo Santo Cemetery, a Roman Catholic resting place established in 1849, is located at the end of Old Town, San Diego. One of the most well-known persons buried here is Yankee Jim Robinson who hanged from the gallows that were once located on the spot where the Whaley residence stands today. Although hundreds of people were buried in the cemetery, not all the headstones remain. However, watch your step when exploring because metal markers stick out from the ground where bodies were located. Also, take a closer look along the sidewalk and street in front of the cemetery. In 1889 a streetcar line was built and ran directly through the cemetery. Later in 1942, the road was paved. Unfortunately and probably due to the expense, the bodies were not removed. Instead, the gravestones were discarded and the road was constructed directly over the decaying corpses. The city of San Diego has done their best by locating as many bodies as possible and has placed small markers that simply read, "grave site."  As you walk along the sidewalk and road you will see several (approx. 43) of these unnamed grave markers. Thanks to ground penetrating radar, some information was determined and remembrance plaques are posted to honor those previous disturbed. To see list click on grave site markers
Charlie Courtland, El Campo Santo Cemetery, Old Town San Diego
I visited the cemetery three times during my stay, all in the evening or late at night. For me, nothing extraordinary occurred during this time, but the history and desecration of the graves was interesting. Given that the city has made an attempt to preserve what it can and perhaps, in good faith made efforts to right a terrible wrong, they may have amended ties with some of the unsettled ancestors in this immediate area.
Is that a fire on the roof?
There wasn't that night, at least not one we could see!  
The photo above was taken at approximately 10 pm at night with my camera. As you can see, there is a building behind the graveyard area that has lights on, however, it's the blazing 'fire' on the roof that grabbed my attention during our review of photos. Strangely, this appears only in these few photos which were taken consecutively on this evening. It appears the roof is blazing, but I can testify that this was not seen with the naked eye. I was photographing the crosses and white fencing, having no idea that this would appear on the picture. What is the fire-like light on the roof? I'm not certain, but I do know that much of Old Town (especially, the roofs) caught fire. Many buildings burned and several were ruined or re-constructed. 

So, what did capture my attention? It was the hills looming behind El Campo Santo that turned my head. I believe the land on the hillside will tell an interesting story to those who can and/or are willing to listen. I'd proceed with caution though, I don't think all who remain are pleased with what has been done to the area. This is the ground where the old monastery was built and includes the burial sites for the Indians. Most of this land is now covered by housing developments and has been further disturbed by mudslides. I got the sense that unhappy spirits in that general area don't stay put. They wander in and out and often come down the hillside near the area around the El Campo Santo Cemetery.  I would not be surprised if various paranormal sitings, experiences and disturbances have been reported by multiple hillside home owners. There is a strong presence in that region and a definite feeling of being watched will occur at any time, day or night. I advise to be extra respectful of this area and before exploring further, take the time to learn some background history about the monastery and the Indians that previously inhabited the land.
Cosmopolitan Hotel
Footsteps echo along the porch
Between 1827 and 1829 Juan Lorenzo Bandini constructed and designed this residence for his family. Bandini was known as being a bit of an entertainer who loved to host parties.  An invitation to the Bandini's would certainly provide visitors with a lively night of drink, games and dancing. Many parties were still going on well after the sun came up! After the death of Bandini, the house was taken over by the stage manager, Albert Seeley. With some remodeling and additions, Seeley turned the home into The Cosmopolitan Hotel.  In the spirit of Bandini, Seeley made sure the place provided comfort, style, and entertainment for the guests. In 1888, Seeley sold the hotel. It was then turned into a cannery and eventually left to ruin. Luckily, a descent of Bandini saved the property and restored The Cosmopolitan Hotel.  

This is the room I found most fascinating. Unfortunately, it is blocked off so all you can do is lean through the door and poke your head around. At the time of my visit, the hotel and restaurant were in full operating mode and impossible to thoroughly investigate. However, the archway around the door and the feeling in this particular room were much different than the rest of the hotel. What I sensed during the dining hours was a feeling of joy, happiness and relaxation. In the distance, it was if I could hear the shuffling of cards, old time music playing from an earlier era, laughter and lively conversations. It came in whispers, but was a positive atmosphere, which gave off a light feeling. I would have loved to spend some quiet time in Bandini's card room and perhaps, next visit stay in one of the 10 rooms located upstairs.
This is not the actual house built by Judge James W. Robinson, but rather a replica. The original house was sold to Louis Rose in 1857 and shortly thereafter, the roof caught fire. The place was left in ruins and then eventually torn down. Several other structures were built over the years on the site.  An excavation was preformed in 1987, but nothing was discovered.  The replica was built in the now historical state park of Old Town.  No one is certain who haunts this structure, and it could be any number of previous residents. Reports include:
  • Cloud-like vapor and apparitions who look like people dressed in 18th century clothing. 
  • A Clear apparition of a man dressed in 18th century attire has been seen in the upstairs rooms when the place is closed.
  • Disturbances with electrical such as lights and operating of the elevator.
  • Heavy, loud footsteps upstairs
  • Women's hair being tugged and/or played with.
That's me getting drawn back to the area, just left of this
 restaurant is the Robinson-Rose house 
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this was not a place I planned to visit but during my walk through of the area, on two separate nights in Old Town, I was inexplicably drawn to this house. There was such a pull, that I got agitated that I couldn't go in after hours. The upstairs held a particular interest and if the doors were unlocked, it would have been the first place I'd have began my investigation. Also, both times while pacing in front of the house a notable cold spot was detected.  On a 70 degree night, this icy chill caused goosebumps and shivers. This being the quiet end of Old Town in the evening hours, it was a little easier to read the grounds.  Without entering, I'd venture to say this place has paranormal activity.  Is it Judge Robinson, Sarah or perhaps a member of the Rose family?  That I can not say, but definitely someone or something is lingering in the upstairs area of this visitor information center.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hauntings at the Hotel Del Coronado

What goes bump in the night at the Del?
Hotel Del Coronado

The Hotel Del Coronado is known for many things such as catering to Hollywood Celebs, Presidents, movie films and most notably, being haunted.  The most famous ghost rumored to haunt this wooden-structure hotel built in 1888, is Kate Morgan.  However, she is not the only spirit that has checked in and never checked out of the resort.  Other paranormal claims involve another woman, the ill-fated mistress of hotel builder E.S. Babcock, she took her own life in Room 502 (now 3502) after learning she was with child. Not much is known about the woman.  Her body quickly disappeared leading to the whispers that perhaps her death was covered up to avoid a scandal. A young boy and girl ghost make a ruckus on the back stairway. They've been heard and seen running up and down the stairs and hallways.  A hotel caretaker roams the dining room, while another woman dressed in Victorian clothing has been spotted gliding around the dance floor.  Lastly, a maid who roomed in the now numbered 3519, supposedly hung herself.  

Which room is actually Kate Morgan's has proven to be rather confusing. However, it is agreed upon by most that the current room numbered 3327 is the historic area where she stayed. Today, it is marked by a visibly different room plaque.  This room is visited and photographed by hundreds of guests and visitors each year. Although it is the most famous attraction in the hotel, it is not however, the only room that experiences paranormal activity.

Over the years several paranormal occurrences and/or complaints from guests have been reported and recorded.  Also, special investigations involving parapsychologist and scientific investigation, as well as research, have been conducted. Below, I have compiled a list of rooms and documented information collected from various sources.  I did not personally experience the below accounts, but information is readily available to the public.

Room 3327 - Kate Morgan's room
Moaning and crying in the middle of the night.  A guest's pager later keep getting calls from room 3327 after he checked out. Television turning off and cabinet doors closing to conceal it. A previously unused towel was found rumpled and smeared with lipstick.  Lights flickering and dimming inexplicably. Bed covers being jerked off. A partial apparition appearing of a female head and body.  Guestroom doorknob rattling. Strange electrical occurrences and exasperating phone problems such as ringing, no dial tone, message light blinking when no message, alarm clocks going off -- usually occurring around 4 am. Overwhelming feeling of being watched.  An unusual amount of static interference on the phone line. Noises coming from the room when it is not occupied.

Room 3519
A scientific investigation team documented 37 abnormalities using infrared cameras, monitors of radio activity, magnetic fields, emissions and temperature and humidity fluctuations in a single day.  Their conclusion, a 'classic haunting.' Other incidents include the recording of an ashtray moving, a lamp moving and a glass shattering on the bathroom floor. Also, complaints to the front desk include loud noises coming from the room above and are often described as heavy footsteps and talking.  However, Room 3519 is on the top floor, nothing or no guests would be above it. When this is explained, many guests ask to change rooms.

Room 3284
Television turning on at 4 am and then turning off on its own -- also channels randomly change. Two different sightings of the same group, six full-bodied apparitions laughing and dressed in old-fashioned clothes (suspenders and a woman wearing a bonnet) appear.

Room 3343
Claims of strange reflections appearing and changing in the bathroom mirror.

Room 3502 - E.S. Babcock's love nest
Lights sometimes flicker in the room, and outside the door, an icy chill may be felt.

Room 3517
At 3 am loud knocking sounds coming from the coffee table and knocking on the headboard.  Voices heard and whispers waking guests up.

Room 3302 
Once believed to be the room of Kate Morgan.  Paranormal activity and occurrences similar to those above also happen in this room.  However, if it isn't Kate Morgan, then who is it?  No one seems to know. 

Room 3305
Believed to be the room of a maid that befriended Kate Morgan during her stay and reportedly disappeared on the night of Kate's suicide.

Outside in the hallway by Rooms 3302, 3305 and 3315
A notable difference in feeling or atmosphere.  A magnetic like force pushing against or down on the body.  Also the claims of feeling like someone is standing behind you or following closely.  Workers have heard and seen a lady ghost in this area of the hallway.

Lobby Area
Employees hearing muffled conversations when no one is present and the whispering of young girls. A sighting of a misty looking man dressed in 1940's clothes appeared and disappeared.

Hotel Gift Shop
Books jumping off shelves, sales sign slammed down on the counter, a clock fell from the wall twice and another clock flew from the shelf.  Postcards and books 'flew' not just fell from a shelf.

Room 3300
My Personal Experience
June 6 - My first night in Room 3300

It all began before I even made it to my room.  There was a wall of heaviness in the hallway.  It was noticeable in comparison to the light breeziness of the walkway and lobby area.  The only way I can describe it is like walking into molasses.  The closer I got to room 3302, the worse it was.  I pointed out that I did not care for room 3302 and found it very odd.  Something just wasn't 'right' with that room and it didn't seem to be in the proper place. Of course, this doesn't make sense, but that was what I was getting from it.  I also noticed that room 3302 is marked as a disabled room.  This did not ring true at all and I couldn't seem to figure out why it was bothering me so much.  Since the only working elevator in the hotel is the original, and the only way off the third floor is via winding staircases, this caused me logical pause to assume that this room would be very ill-suited for the disabled.  Later on, after reading a review of this room, I discovered guest complaints confirmed my doubts.  They mentioned that room 3302 was so small that when opening the bathroom door, it actually touched the end of the bed. Obviously, this is not set up for disabled guests because a wheelchair could never maneuver in that space.  

Upon entering room 3300 the heaviness followed.  It was very oppressive and I tried to do everything to clear it out, even opening the windows to allow fresh air in.  Bothered by the uneasiness, I didn't stay in the room  very long.  Instead, I went to dinner and a walked the hotel.  At this point, I was a little concerned because I knew it would be difficult for me to get comfortable in the room.

When re-entering the room I noticed the bathroom light was on, which I swear was off when I left.  However, I could have been mistaken and disregarded it.  In the next few hours I was in and out of the room while I photographed other areas of the hotel.  Each time upon entering, I would get to the other side of the bed or in the walk-in closet and the bathroom light would turn on.  I went to inspect the light, switches and had a difficult time getting it to recreate what was occurring.  I asked another person to check the lights, switches for a logical reason for them to trigger on their own and none was found.  Given that there was movement in the room at the time, I had to write this off as odd, but not necessarily paranormal.  

1:15 am photo bathroom in Room 3300
However, at approx. 1:15 am the bathroom light went on. (* The actual clicking of it turning on could be heard). Previously when this occurred, I would go over and switch it off.  Needless to say, I was getting annoyed with the task. Now that the area was under better control, as there was no one moving around, and all was very still and calm for several hours prior to it triggering, I decided to leave it alone.  Instead, I slid off the edge of the bed and grabbed my ipad (I already had my computer up and running).  I slid back beneath the bed covers and began noting what was occurring. I decided not to turn off the light so I wouldn't interfere and contaminate the area. Instead I just sat and observed.  

Within a few seconds, loud bangs followed by the room door shuddering and rattling, began. Being an older place, the Victorian style doors are heavy and also have a notable gap beneath the door where it is easy to observe the hallway light.  During the bangs and rattling, I did not observe any blocking or movement in this light which would cause me to believe it was pranksters or guests moving about in the hallway. The bangs were so loud that I would jump every time, not necessarily because I was frightened,  but because they startled me.  However, at this point I did not get up and check the hallway because I still did not want to disrupt the area around the bathroom.

Feeling a bit spooked I decided to turn on the television with the volume off.  As is my habit, I tuned in to CNN.  Not so much for the reports, because I could not hear a thing, but more for the ambient light. However, the television did not stay tuned to this channel for long and for some reason kept flipping stations on its own until it defaulted to the Coronado history preview featuring Kate Morgan.  I would tune it back to CNN, and this would occur again.  After the third time, I asked whatever was doing it to stop.  Not only did the television stop flipping channels, but at 1:31 am the bathroom light turned off by itself. (*the audible click of the switch was heard).  

All was quiet in the bathroom and television department, but the intermediate bangs on the door and rattles continued.  With the bathroom light now off, I decided to focus on the door.  I was ready to discover the true cause of this annoying noise.  Nothing appeared through the peephole and when opened following a bang no one was discovered in the hallway - walking, or entering or leaving a nearby room.  It was after 2 am in the morning and all was rather quiet (except for the bangs on my door!).  This continued until 4 am.  I could not determine a natural cause for the events I experienced.  Exhausted and unnerved I tried to fall asleep.  Every so often a bang would startle me awake, but by now I was too tired to care. 

The next morning I woke around 9:30 am.  I was resting on my stomach (wide awake) and trying to convince myself to get up, eat some breakfast and head to the pool area.  The sun was shining through the window and the room was warm and comfy.  It had been a long night and I was deciding what questions I'd ask the front desk, noting about bathroom light, banging noises and any other noise complaints from that night.  I lounged until about 10 am when something hit my feet and yanked on the folded extra blanket that was across the end of the bed.  My first thought was that something fell off the ceiling fan because whatever dropped on my feet was heavy (similar feeling to when someone tosses the remote control or a paperback book).  I turned over and sat up.  I saw nothing.  I got out of bed and did a thorough search and inspection of the area.  Again, nothing.  I know what I felt and experienced, but I couldn't find any natural explanation.  I had honestly expected to find something on the floor by the bed, but when nothing turned up, I simply said, "Alright, alright....I'm getting up."  I put on my bathing suit and cover up.  To the pool I went.  It didn't take long for me to fall sleep outside beneath an umbrella.  

After my sunbathing nap, I ventured to the front desk to ask my questions.  The Hotel Del Coronado embraces the paranormal, so I was hoping I wouldn't get strange looks from the staff.  My first question was were there any natural or logically reasons for the bathroom light to be turning on and off by itself?  I assured them no movement had occurred in the area, I was snug in my bed.  I also suggested that I'd be more than happy to allow someone in the room if they wanted to inspect the electrical.  Note: The rooms in this wing of the building have been recently and completely renovated/updated making i it highly improbable that wiring was an issue.  I also mentioned the banging and rattling until 4 am.  No one else on the floor complained about noise, bangs or rattling that evening -- or pranksters going up and down the hallway. In fact, after listening to my questions and accounts, the front desk girl simply said, "Oh...that's the ghost. She is a nice ghost, though.  Everything you experienced is commonly reported. That seems to be what she likes to do."  Then she asked if I'd like to switch rooms.  I decided to stay.  Although, I really wanted to get a goodnight's sleep, I wanted to see if the activity would continue.  That night I was ready and prepared to record.  However, the feeling and pressure in the room had completely changed. The heaviness was no longer present and it felt very calm and 'normal' for a lack of a better word.  The next two nights the bathroom light stayed off, the television behaved and all except for a few early morning bangs, the place remained quiet. The activity and experiences that occurred on my first night, did not repeat.

Here are the excerpts of my facebook postings from my first night in Room 3300, June 6, 2012

Original post:
1:15 am... Okay it's 1:15 am and the bathroom light just turned on again by itself. Getting annoyed that I have to keep getting up to turn it off. No sleep tonight.

1:17 am ...Things are getting noisy. I think I've jumped three times in the last five minutes. Lots of bangs. Kinda of nervous at the moment.

1:21 am I was actually still up working on a post about Old Town San Diego. I was wide awake when the light went on again. Third time since I checked in. I don't have an explanation on what would trigger the light switch in the bathroom. I'm just sitting in bed staring at it....

1:29 am Omg now my TV is going all wacky. I turned it on to put myself at ease. I need to calm down. The stupid thing keeps resetting and flipping back to the Coronado history preview.

1:31 am  Um...the bathroom light just turned off by itself. Alrighty then....Guess whatever it is is done using the restroom. Goosebumps....

2:02 am My computer battery just completely drained. Had to get out the extension cord and plug in.

All in all my stay at the Hotel Del Coronado was exceptional.  My impression is that paranormal activity is present in the original area of the hotel and is not contained to a few rooms.  Even if you don't have a reservation for the famously documented haunted rooms, you can expect an experience to occur.  The ghosts roam freely from room to room (of course they have their favorite spots), but are attracted to various guests and events.  My advice, be polite, respectful and kindly ask for bothersome activity to cease.  Switching rooms may put a nervous guest at ease, but I don't believe it will stop most paranormal experiences.  If it is the guest attracting interest and curious ghosts, they will simply follow. 

I'd love to hear from any other guests of room 3300 or those who stayed in the original Victorian part of the hotel.  Please leave room number or place of experience.  Information can be shared in the comment section, or if you prefer, email me at

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hold the Haunted Tequila! Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego
A quick search of haunted places in San Diego will produce a list that includes a few buildings in what is now referred to as "Old Town."  Next door to the famous Cosmopolitan Hotel previously owned by the party-loving Juan Lorenzo Bandini, sits the quaint adobe-style El Fandango Restaurant.  Decorated from the time period estimating between 1846 through 1856, this costal desert structure provides an intimate dining experience. The fireplaces keep diners warm on breezy nights and the margaritas are possessed by a spirited tequila! After a couple of these you just might think you've seen a ghost!

Why is the El Fandango listed as a haunted site to visit? 

The restaurant is built on the land previously owned by Jose Manuel Machado. Machado built a home for his family, which unfortunately was destroyed by a fire in 1858. Machado is a noted historical figure because he was one of the first soldiers stationed at the Presidio of San Diego.  

Paranormal claims include the repeated siting of a ghostly woman wearing a Victorian-style white dress. The woman is seen drifting through the building, sometimes passing through walls and closed doors. Her expression has been described as sad, or possibly angry. However, this figure does not interact with the living, she simply repeats a series of movements that support the conclusion that this is likely a residual, rather than intelligent haunt. There is no way of truly identifying who this woman is, but some investigators and historians guess it is a lady who worked for the Machado family and perished in the fire.  

silvaAnother popular theory which is also plausible is the woman is an ancestor of the Machado family, or perhaps even Senora Maria Antonia Machado de Silva. In 1846, when the United States captured San Diego, Senora Maria ran from her adobe to the center of Old Town plaza and saved the Mexican flag hanging from the flag pole. She may be lingering, still protecting the home she loved and the land the family claimed. 

My experience at the El Fandango included a delicious meal, Carne Asada and Fandango Platters accompanied by a tasty strawberry Margarita.  I dined beside the outside adobe fireplace and enjoyed the attentive service staff. The patio was peaceful and while I was present, nothing paranormal occurred. Afterwards, I spent some time wandering through the interior while trying not to disturb other diners.  I found the inner atmosphere to be quite different from the breezy patio.  The low ceilings, dark wood and sectioned rooms (including decor) will catapult visitors back in time.  Although still a wonderful experience and place to eat, it was much heavier inside especially in the room with the fireplace. I was not as at ease in this area.  In fact, it made me rather uncomfortable. Did I spot the woman in white? Sadly, not this time...but given the history of the land I don't doubt the reports.  

Even though the main focus of the evening was toward the El Fandango, another building was beckoning me to visit. I hadn't planned on passing by the Robinson-Rose house, but I'm afraid whatever was drawing me towards it didn't care very much about my schedule. I wish the museum had been open so I could have investigated further, but at the late hour, the place was shut up, tight.. All I could do was hang out on the porch and peek through the windows.  However, ever time I ventured away, I was annoyingly drawn back to this area of Old Town, but with limited access not much could be determined. Like the El Fandango, the Robinson-Rose house was destroyed by a fire in 1874. Paranormal claims include hearing footsteps, hair being pulled, flickering lights and an elevator that reportedly runs on its own.

If you're in Old Town and are hungry for some Mexican food, why not give El Fandango a try and afterwards, take a stroll around the park and pass by the Robinson-Rose house.  I'd love to hear if anyone else has had experiences in this area!

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