Orange County is home to the best and brightest vacation destinations, but what about its dark and dastardly places? Recognized today for its golden days and fortunate neighborhoods, could there be tragic mysteries or unknown folklore shrouding Orange County’s cities? This forever sunny county certainly has dark tales and dubious allegories that may keep you up at night.
Orange County was officially formed on August 1, 1889. California became a state in 1850, just as the Gold Rush started a year prior in 1849, bringing thousands of settlers to California. Along with the Gold Rush came the railcars. Pacific Railroad built its first local railroad in 1875, continuing the tracks from Los Angeles to Anaheim. It was a raging time of bandits and boxcars as Orange County’s first settlers failed or flourished.
Many hopeful prospectors and rogue trailblazers, from other parts of the country and abroad, arrived with dreams of fortune. Pioneers worked the land and panned for gold. Imagine the harsh conditions, the devastating plights of drought and disease, driving many ranchers and farmers to ruin. And with these unfortunate beginnings come unexplained horror stories and mysterious phenomena present in several cities today.
Haunted houses, specter filled theatres, and rumored filled restaurants and retailers are hidden in plain sight along strip malls and ordinary residential streets. Many deceased Orange County settlers are trapped from crossing over with pieces of unanswered tragedies and portions of themselves left behind eternally. We explore some of Orange County’s haunted houses and locations below.
Red Cross House
418 N. West St., Anaheim
Most believe that haunted means terror and horror, not humorous. There’s a perfect example of haunted humor in Anaheim. Anaheim, Orange County’s first American town founded in in 1857 by German Immigrants. The Red Cross House, a Queen Anne –style home built in 1894 for German immigrant John Woelke and his family, is haunted. It’s a grand three-story home with gables, porches, and a tower gracing its exterior, however, it’s the resident spirit that commands the interest.
As whimsical as the house design is, the resident spirit is found to be more intriguing. He’s a matchmaker not malice maker. It is said that the original caretaker follows visitors slowly upstairs and as the energy grows eerie, the ghost will push the two into each other if he approves of the match.
131 Disneyland drive, Anaheim
It’s for certain that there are many ghosts hovering around the happiest place on earth. Looking beyond the Haunted Mansion, is a scarier story cast members have repeatedly witnessed. Single riders beware. Mr. One Way, a red-haired ghost, trapped in Space Mountain, has been spotted seated next to single riders as the coaster inches up to the top drop. He never appears in any ride photos and mysteriously always slinks out before the coaster ride ends. Few have seen him lingering in line toying with guests while helping himself to their popcorn. Other cast members have spotted Mr. One Way walking through their locker room, looking for attention. Do you suppose Mr. One Way is a guest who is unable or perhaps unwilling to cross over because he is eternally happy just where is?
The Matterhorn touts a spooky tale of its own. The troubled spirit of a woman who met her death on the ride has been often seen at the very spot of the roller coaster where she met her fate.
At the end of the Haunted Mansion is the specter of a distraught young boy. Many have claimed to have seen the boy at the exit, arms crossed tightly in protest, as tears run down his heated cheeks. It’s believed that the weeping boy is upset with his mother for sprinkling his ashes inside the Mansion, an act that he deeply protests.
The Anaheim White House Restaurant
887 S. Anaheim Blvd.., Anaheim
This 1909 historical landmark was the home of Dr. Truxaw and his family. Once a stalely and standout house in the community, nestled among citrus groves, it’s now a posh Italian restaurant sharing the busy boulevard with check cashing strip malls and outdated burger joints. Somehow, the White House is still managing to keep its hidden treasure status and perpetuating its reputation for being haunted.
This restaurant is well known in the Southern California paranormal community for being haunted and having a high level of evil entity activity. Staff and guests have witnessed the apparitions of terrorized children, in their Sunday best, running and shrieking through the dining room trying to escape. Perhaps even more frightful, is the image of a young woman dragging herself, wailing hysterically, throughout the hallway. Gerald S. Reynolds and his team of paranormal investigators went to the Anaheim White House Restaurant to investigate the reported activity in May 2001. That day he and his staff did hear the voices of young children and doors that would continuously move from left to right. It was unexplainable. The most chilling event happened as Gerald finished setting up specialty cameras in a small dining room. He captured a streak of light flash towards him and a beastly growl, he describes as a disembodied grunt, passing by his ear. He was able to catch all this on his video. We played the video each time and our fear grew more intense with each viewing. Super scary!
Fullerton Plummer Auditorium
201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton
Just up the street from the historic Fullerton Train Station, is another place of Orange County’s phantom phenomena. This Haunted place is Plummer Auditorium. The Auditorium is a classic California Mediterranean design and is also the home of the Civic Light Opera. Fullerton is filled with old time railroad tales, and its benefactor, George Fullerton, was instrumental in the founding of this North Orange County Town in 1887.
The true show at the Plummer Auditorium is not any particular hit musical or Broadway play. It’s what’s happening backstage, behind the red velvet curtains, that has stagehands and players fearful. The Plummer Auditorium is widely known across Southern California for its active paranormal encounters. Numerous investigations and psychic researchers have documented EVP (electronic voice recordings) and unusual photographs. The spirit of Louis E. Plummer himself is said to be putting on his own show of flickering lights and disembodied pranks.
Tony Gonzales, long time auditorium manager, has attested to hearing and seeing the unbelievable. He’s seen images still seated in balconies long after the performances have ended. He’s heard demonic voices in hallways when he knew he was alone and believes he was being followed by a small child during his late-night shifts. The balcony seems to be the most active spot for ghosts and specter spotting. Panicked staff, rushing down balconies with faces stark white, was a common thing says Tony.
Psychic researches captured the image of a finely dressed woman of means, ascending up the staircase to the west balcony. She’s rumored to be the beautiful Mexican dancer depicted on the Auditorium’s west wall. Some disagree and feel she’s perhaps an angry spirit, upset that her photo was taken by paranormal investigators. Ghost “Louie” warms up to you, says staff. He eventually, after a few admonishments, will stop spinning the chandeliers or turning off the lights. So many electrical mishaps happen that some paranormal investigators have doubt that it’s all Louie’s doing and point to the Auditorium’s original house electrician. It’s perhaps the electrician who continues to scratch along the staircase walls calling the attention of investigators, like Aimee Aul.
Aimee Aul is a veteran paranormal investigator confirming stories of floating disembodied arms appearing over balcony railings right after scratching. That wasn’t the scariest encounter Aimee confesses to have heard. It’s the floating head and shoulders of a balding man, approaching the infamous balcony staircase, witnessed by the assistant house manager. It’s the staircases that get all the paranormal action at the Plummer Auditorium.
Fullerton Fox Theatre
510 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton
The Fox Theatre is a beautiful Italian Renaissance building and as its iconic roof moniker immediately says old Hollywood Glamour. The 900-capacity theatre was built in 1925 as a chain of Fox theatres and has been rescued by the Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation. It’s currently being restored via private fundraising.
The Fox Theatre originally played vaudeville and silent motion pictures. It was the show place of Orange County for Hollywood premiers. This theater is so haunted, it is included in Fullerton’s annual Haunted Historic Tours. These tours are not just offered during Halloween, they are scheduled year-round. It’s such a hotbed for paranormal activity and ghost sightings, that the North Orange County Paranormal Society frequently investigates reports of ghosts and paranormal activity.
Susan Rhein, who was involved in the restoration, recalls a scary incident. As she was cleaning the graffiti down below, she opened a storage cabinet, and a bright, blue sparkling orb rushed out and past her. She has since become a believer of all the rumors of the Fox being haunted.
Fox Theatre is filled with phantoms who continue to believe that the show must go on. You may encounter ghost Tim. Tim is a young man who hung himself in the women’s restroom. Many believe it was a lover’s plight and he wanted his girlfriend, Sara, to run away with him. Then there’s the story of the bum who got lucky enough to sneak his way out of the cold and into the basement. He lived there until his death. His remains were not discovered until weeks after. This unknown vagabond has never been identified but refuses to be forgotten. It has been believed that he leaves dimes in the third row from the stage and waits for visitors to pick them up. The “finders keepers” winner gets more than ten cents; they get an unwanted visit from the mysterious vagabond. Gerald Reynolds, on his visit to the Fox for investigative research, captures EVP: electronic voice phenomena. Just as he jokes that he will quickly go look for a dime, he was startled to hear a disembodied grunt in his ear! A sudden rush of cold air passed through him.
Villa Del Sol Plaza
305 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton
The Villa Del Sol is a charming 1924 al fresco historic plaza that is one of Fullerton’s most haunted locations. It’s a Spanish Colonial landmark in the heart of Downtown Fullerton with an open courtyard. It’s charm escorts you into another era of Spanish style magic.
This Plaza is a few blocks from the Fox Theatre and the historic Fullerton Train Station. Called California Hotel in 1922, it was claimed to be used as a bordello and gambling place, especially during prohibition. The California Hotel would also host Hollywood royalty like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton during picture premiers held at the nearby Fox Theatre. Villa Del Sol still displays the Hotel California Mural in the plaza courtyard.
The eerie plaza is filled with palm trees and a quaint water fountain filled with coins from luck seekers and dreamers. This plaza is known for its haunted restaurants, stories of morbid tragedies and dark apparitions. What depths of despair prompted Neri Hews Sipe to check into the hotel at 9:40 am on February 10th 1958 and jump to his death from the top at exactly 9:45am? Perhaps it’s Neri miserable soul that haunts the walkways and corridors at Vila Del Sol.
The Villa Del Sol is rife with mystery and macabre at these two locations.
- The Cellar: Opening in 1969, the Cellar is located in the Villa Del Sol Plaza. The basement had several tunnels used by gangsters for running alcohol during the 1930’s Prohibition. The tunnels have been since closed but many guests and employees claim to hear unexplained screams and noises coming from underground and nearby walls. Legend has it that a woman attempted to murder her skirt-chasing husband and committed suicide here. It is also widely known that during the height of the gangster period, many ladies of the evening were murdered and tortured in these tunnels. Employees witness seeing the ghost of a pale man, in coveralls, dissolve right in front of their eyes and have horrifying accounts of attacks from invisible assailants that trigger motion sensors and register on the alarm system.
- Café Hildago: Café Hildago is also located in the Villa Del Sol Plaza and full of spooky spirits and haunted lore. Sam Neil, a resident of Fullerton and member of the North Orange County Paranormal Society, recently did a paranormal investigation here. He caught, on film, a spinning barstool with no occupant to be seen. A murdered victim from the 1930’s is said to be the culprit of unexplained, strange noises and faulty lighting. Late night closing staff claim to have seen shadows enter the hallway to the kitchen. A spirit named Chuck often spooks the ladies in the women’s restroom. Impatient for his privacy, many have reported hearing Chuck pacing and rattling bathroom stall locks.
Old Town Orange
300 E. Chapman Blvd., Orange
Old Town Orange is the heart of the City of Orange. It’s a historic city centered around a charismatic center plaza and welcoming water fountain. Cozy sidewalks are filled with antique shops, vintage boutiques and plenty of modern restaurants. Visitors can take a step back in time looking at the historical building’s designs and original wrap around porches. Along with its historical train station, built in 1910, it has the largest Nationally Registered Historic District. This town certainly has a spooky past with an atmosphere of charming bungalows leading you into a possible Twilight Zone past. Claimed to be one of Orange County’s most haunted cities, recorded or not, Downtown Orange if full of ghosts.
- Antique Station 178 S. Glassell St., Orange
Claimed to be the most haunted store in Old Town Orange, Jason has had 15 years of mysterious happenings at the Antique Station. Jason loves working at the Station and admits it’s haunted. He’s not the only one who has experienced unsettling moments. Shoppers claim of sudden cold drafts in the rear of the store. It’s always the same location and then shoppers dash back to the front of the store, unable to explain the creepy feeling. The ghost of Berite Claypool, the young man who caught fire at the next-door motorcycle shop, is believed to live in a remote back space in the shop. The dogs go barking wild in this one specific spot says Jason. He believes that its the boy unwilling to accept his death. A terrifying incident that Jason has repeatedly witnessed was black, twirling smoke spirits rising from the men’s room sink and vanish away into the ceiling vents. The scariest sighting for him was literally seeing a LP record float around the aisle corner and suddenly thrust towards him and a coworker.
- The Chapman Antique Mall 201 E. Chapman Ave., Orange
“We sell a lot of old people’s things”, claims owner Dennis. He also recognizes that sometimes spirits and specters become attached to their belongings and firmly believes that his antique mall is regularly haunted. Many baffling things take place here and he calmly has just accepted it as a part of his life. He recalls once that merchandise tags suddenly became missing in one area for several years. The tags were securely placed on the items and soon began to disappear. It was unexplainable, later to find the entire stack neatly hidden behind the wooden showcase. Mirrors disappearing and later found in different locations happens all the time. Several shoppers claim to hear footsteps and faint voices as they walk through his store.
- The Army Navy Store 131 S. Glassell Street, Orange
The ghost of Bertie Claypool is said to haunt this store and the next-door Antique Station. In 1914 it was a motorcycle shop and a teen-age boy dropped gasoline on a lamp and started a fire. Sam ran out engulfed in flames and perished in the front of the shop. Many claim to have seen a “burning boy” running around in the circle.
- Rutabegorz Restaurant 264 N. Glassell Ave., Orange
We were having a bite at the Filling Station, discussing haunted places nearby, when the waitress said that Rutabegorz is the most haunted restaurant in Old Town. Employees have reported seeing two children and an adult walk through the dining area checking in on the diners. Confirmed by a former owner, the ghost of a young boy befriended his children and the family soon became accustomed to interacting with the friendly spirit.
Shannon, a server at Rutabegorz, has had several encounters while working. The most frightening was the time she tried to enter the restroom and when she tried to turn the door knob to enter, someone or something from inside, began to aggressively tug back. It ultimately let the grip go. She expected to see someone walk out, but there was no one inside the restroom. Another frightful experience came from a busser who was ending his shift, when suddenly one glass window started to rattle loud and abruptly. It was just the one he said, although there were several other windows in the room.
- Royer Mansion 307 E. chapman Ave., Orange
Built in 1902, the Royer Mansion was also a funeral home in the past. Can anything be more perfect for a scary story? The image of Ann Royer is often seen roaming back and forth on her balcony. She is said to be the favorite daughter of the family, and died in her bedroom as a teenager. This haunted house has visitors claiming to feel cold spots near the staircase and hear footsteps alongside their own. A former owner claims he saw a glowing light rise up the staircase and turn into a young lady in a white robe. She then suddenly appeared at the foot of his bed and tried to seduce him. The young lady suddenly turns into a skeleton and laughs as the man tires to flee. The woman then disappears in a ball of light through the roof.
San Juan Capistrano
Los Rios Street
Dating back to the 1700’s, Los Rios Street is the oldest occupied neighborhood in California. It sits next to railroad tracks on the edge of town. Residents of this neighborhood are subjected to frequent entity sights, full bodied apparitions floating along sidewalks, and unexplained paranormal activity inside their homes. The sudden smell of tobacco permeating homes became so common, that residents decided to name this mystery as the ghost of “Tobacco Tom”.
The Lady In White ghost is often appearing as the fog begins to fill Los Rios Street. She’s seen as a temptress with ebony hair, luring those she sees to follow her beyond the pepper trees. Legend has it that the beautiful young woman was jilted by her lover and died at his door from taking poison. The ghost of Albert Pryor, of the Pryor Museum, has been seen in his rocking chair on the front porch. Chanting and strange lights are a regular occurrence along the streets of a what is considered to be the most haunted city in the world.
You can take a waling tour of Los Rios Street and other nearby haunted places with Haunted OC.
Black Star Canyon
Black Star Canyon Road, Silverado
Black Star is a beautiful canyon of calming nature and wilderness trails that turns dark and desolate when the sun goes down. It’s the perfect backdrop for menacing ghosts, unrelenting spirits and malicious macabre. It’s Orange County’s most horrifying location of sinister suffering.
Filled with tormented ghost and damned to hell entities, this Canyon is not for beginning ghostbusters. Considered a demonic location, many people confirm the stories of it being a cult location, the scene of school bus crashes, and cryptic sightings. This Santa Ana Mountain Range is the site of the 1831 Massacre of the Shoshone Horse thieves by ranchers. It was also the site of the 1879 Black Star Coal Mining Company, imagine how many miners tragically lost their lives. This Canyon is rich with the haunting history of an early Orange County. It’s considered a paranormal grab bag. Every kind of paranormal experience is said to be had here after midnight.
These locations are open year-round so why wait until Halloween to be thrilled and spooked. It’s a clever, cool and engaging “something to do”. Most locations are free and no souvenir’s necessary. This is definitely a unique date for those looking for something beyond dinner and a movie. Be sure to end your date at the Anaheim Red Cross, ring in your pocket, and after you get the ghost groundskeeper’s approval, have your marriage proposal ready.
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Cindy is an OC native fond of PCH road trips to places like Santa Rosa or Carmel. She’s a mother of three spending her free time baking apple pies, cooking green enchiladas, and listening to 80s music. She’s a beach girl at heart and Cancun is her go to paradise.