No matter if the evidence was just a hunch or an actual sighting, the ghostly remnants of times past linger in San Luis Obispo County. Creaking steps, unexplainable coincidences and truly bizarre happenings have made believers out of skeptics.
With Halloween just around the corner, here's a few local ghost stories pulled from The Tribune's archives to get you in the mood.
Read on ... maybe you'll start believing, too.
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On Dec. 5, 1848, 11 people were murdered at Mission San Miguel: four men, two women, four children and one unborn baby. These murders are referred to as the 'Reed' murders, after William Reed, who owned Mission San Miguel at the time. Pictured above is the late Wally Ohles in 2003 inside the room at the mission where it's thought the murders occurred. A man once told Ohles of seeing a ghost of a man wearing a navy pea coat. The ghost was thought to be William Reed, because he always wore his navy coat in the wintertime. Another time a lady who Ohles knew for 35 years was at the mission gift shop. She had her little granddaughter with her, who was about 3 at the time. The little girl came running to Grandma in an excited state. 'What's the matter?' asked the grandma. 'I saw a little Indian boy and he couldn't talk,' the girl said. She said that the little boy had 'an owie on his neck.' An ax, a cutlass and a knife had been used to kill members of the Reed family.
When the calls come, it's usually after dark, and always from room 1007 at the Paso Robles Inn. When 1007 called 911 one night, the ghost tale really took off. At first, inn management wrote the calls off to a phone system glitch. Then, they started joking that it might be a spirit doing the calling, with front desk clerks making log entries to the effect — "The ghost in 1007 called me again." When 1007 called 911 one night, the ghost tale really took off. When police arrived that night, the room, which requires an electronic key to open, was again found empty. To dial 911 from the inn's rooms, callers have to hit 8 and 0 before 911, sources said. "That's not a glitch. That's not someone (just) dialing 0.”
The old Interact Theater at Cuesta College was reportedly haunted by two spirits until an exorcism was performed in the 1980s. "We were putting on 'Damn Yankees' and when it was time for the guy who played the devil to come onstage, suddenly all the lights in the house went red. And that was impossible," sources said. "We didn't have any red lights on the (control) board, and there wasn't a red light in the house. It was not possible for the lights to do that."
It was the spring of 1898, and the Halloran family was driving their wagon to their new homestead along the Nacimiento River. As they started across the high and muddy waters, Alice Halloran held baby Clara tight. Suddenly, the current caught the wagon and it flipped over and over. Caught in the reins, Alice was decapitated and the baby drowned. As the story goes, and witnesses insist it is true, Alice haunts the area that's now near Fort Hunter Liggett, looking for her head and her baby.
Outlaw Jesse James and his brother Frank lived with their uncle in an adobe on the La Panza Ranch east of Pozo for a short time in 1868 after a bank holdup in Kentucky. Travelers along the road which skirted both the old adobe ruins and the Old Oak Grove have reported shadowy horsemen who disappeared into the darkness without leaving tracks, and phantom figures darting in and out of the old adobe ruins. Why should the shades of those notorious outlaws Frank and Jesse James even bother to come back and haunt the crumbling ruins of the Old James Adobe? Perhaps if the ghosts of Frank and Jesse James do from time to time return to the site where once stood the Old Adobe, it is but a wistful seeking to relive what apparently was one of the happier times in their lives.
The San Luis Obispo building formerly home to This Old House and The Clubhouse restaurants is known for having unusual occurrences. People have talked about a glowing presence peeking through the curtains at night, a poker swinging back and forth in the fireplace, a jukebox that would start up on its own. It only played one song, 'The Days of Wine and Roses.' In 2007, Joyce Devantzis, a paranormal investigator and owner of The Crystal Bobcat in Los Osos, volunteered to do a 'spirit' reading inside the restaurant. She uses tarot cards to summarize her feelings while inside the 'haunted VIP' room on the second floor. That particular room has been the sight of many unusual events.
The Cass House in Cayucos was originally built around 1867 by James Cass, an English seaman, who saw Cayucos as a good shipping port in the latter half of the 19th century. He built a pier, a store and warehouse, and reportedly became the town banker, grocer, shipper and lumber yard owner. His land holdings would grow to 300 acres. The house, which had been a testament to his stature in the community and was featured in a 1950s B horror movie, was abandoned for decades before being brought back to life as an inn and restaurant. In 2006, Cass House owner Gary Bagnall described the house when he first saw it as a 'dark, eerie building with bats in the walls.' He agreed with those who though that Cass' ghost was still in residence. 'I could feel someone in the house. He was very sad, not angry, that his house was in ruins,' he said. According to some, Capt. Cass has sometimes been seen or heard playing music at the house.
Spooky happenings in the Biddle House in SLO
In 1987, Bill Letson and his wife, Lia, moved into the historic Biddle House in San Luis Obispo. The house was under construction, and many of the rooms were unfinished. It was a little spooky. But the Letsons weren't worried. Bill, a fireman, described himself as 'fearless' in a 2000 interview with The Tribune. The couple set up house in four of the Victorian's most habitable rooms. One night while the couple sat in the front living room, things started to get weird. Their black lab, Trooper, rose from his spot by the fire and began staring at the couple intently. He groaned and barked. 'Lia noticed he wasn't staring at us, but at a spot about six feet over her head,' recalled Bill. 'Some moth or spider or light reflection, right? We checked. Nothing.' The couple tried moving around the room. Bill tried climbing on the couch and waving his arms toward the high ceiling. Trooper stayed focused on the spot and growled. He began moving around the room, following whatever he saw as it exited into the hallway. After the incident, Lia told Bill the house was rumored to be haunted.
Alice is a young child who reportedly haunts the Pitkin-Conrow estate in Arroyo Grande, which was built by the Pitkin family in 1890 and is now used as a wedding venue. A victim of the terrible influenza epidemic of 1915, Alice is still at home, waiting for her mommy to return. The friendly ghost is said to love cats and can be seen in the tower room window. Over the years different visitors have reportedly heard her laughing, felt her trying to climb on their bed in the middle of the night and has even been documented by a psychic.
Have you ever had stairs that creak? Paso Robles resident Norma Moye said after she bought her 1890s Victorian home on Vine Street in 1975 she kept hearing 'creak, creak, creak' but never did see anyone go up those stairs. One night her daughter said, 'Mom, there's a ghost in this house.' She said he wears a black jacket, a top hat and he's from about the 1800s. A month later, her son came running down the hall and says 'Mother, there's a ghost in this house and he's been banging on my wall!' 'After a while I started to think maybe there was something there,' Moye said in 2003. 'Have you ever had hair on the back of your neck stand up? I started to feel that around my house.'
Adelaida Cemetery is home to the legend of the Pink Lady (or White Lady, depending on the version), also known as Charlotte Sitton, a 19-year-old buried there after committing suicide in 1890. According to legend, Sitton’s ghost, dressed in pink (or white), wanders the cemetery every Friday night, grieving for the two children (or one, depending on which version of the story you hear) she lost to diphtheria in the 1880s.
A ghostly stampede in San Miguel
At the Rios-Caledonia Adobe in San Miguel, a former curator reportedly stepped outside the adobe to find the ground vibrating. He could hear sounds of a stampede. No live cattle were in the area, but research proved a historic stampede roared through the spot in the 1800s. In November 2011, three Ghost Explorers' spent more than six hours at the adobe and said they heard voices and knocks in response to their inquiries, which led them to believe 'something of paranormal nature exists there.'