Editor’s note: “That’s SLO Weird” explores the things that make San Luis Obispo County so wonderful and so ... well ... weird. Wondering about something weird in SLO County? Send your tips to Gabby Ferreira at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Its_GabbyF on Twitter.
If you’re looking for a fright or new ghost stories to tell, look no further than San Luis Obispo County. The area is chock-full of haunted locations and local lore mostly rooted in the bloody history of the Wild West.
Evie Ybarra, the Ventura-based author of “California’s Haunted Central Coast,” says the stories of hauntings are “the hidden history of many famous places and landmarks.”
Ever since Ybarra’s mother told her her first ghost story, she’s been inspired to research those stories. In the process of writing her book, published Oct. 8 by Arcadia Publishing, she visited several dozen different locations on the Central Coast — including some in San Luis Obispo County.
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“When I visited the places, they looked so beautiful and peaceful and calm,” Ybarra said. “But once I entered, I felt there was something unusual.”
From haunted hotels and a ghostly graveyard to a mission where a mass murder took place, here are some of the most haunted places in San Luis Obispo County.
This pioneer cemetery is nestled in the heart of Paso Robles wine country, among twisty roads lined with gnarled oaks. It’s quiet during the daytime, but at night people have reported seeing the Pink Lady, the ghost of a woman named Charlotte Sitton.
According to “California’s Haunted Central Coast,” Sitton’s child died and was buried at the cemetery. Bereft over her child’s death, Sitton took her own life. Now she roams the graveyard in a pink dress.
A 2015 Tribune article says Sitton died at age 19 in 1890 and was buried at the cemetery. She can be seen wandering the cemetery every Friday night, grieving for her child, who died of diptheria (or children, depending on the version you hear).
Ybarra said she spoke with several people who told her they witnessed the Pink Lady wandering the cemetery.
“There are so many tales that are similar all across the country and I think every cemetery has their white lady,” she said. “It’s no different on the Central Coast.”
If you go: The Adelaida Cemetery is located near the intersection of Adelaida Road and Chimney Rock Road in Paso Robles. It’s open sunrise to sunset, with no entry after dark.
Tucked in Cambria’s East Village along Main Street, the Bluebird Inn was built in 1880 by George Lull for as a home for his second wife, Mary Inman Lull.
Apparently, Mary really loved the house. Hotel guests have seen her ghost wandering the halls and the garden at night.
Ybarra’s book mentions one woman who couldn’t sleep and wandered around the inn. The guest reportedly saw a transparent woman in a long dress — perhaps Mary — walk through the wall and into the Bluebird Inn’s lounge area.
Built in 1839, the Dana Adobe in Nipomo was once the family home of Capt. William Dana and Maria Josefa Carrillo. Staff at the adobe will conduct haunted tours on Oct. 20, 21 and 28 to talk about the building’s history.
While the tours focus on the adobe’s past, Helen Daurio, a member of the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos (DANA) board of directors, says staff have had encounters with something otherworldly.
Over the years, strange occurrences have been reported involving door alarms going off for no reason and lights turning on and off when no one is there — usually late at night.
Daurio said former DANA executive director Marina Washburn had just started driving home late one night and opened a large cattle gate on the property. The gate shut on its own, so she reopened it, and then it shut again.
“It was not windy and there was no reason for the gate to close,” Daurio said. When the gate shut a third time, Washburn reportedly glanced in her rear view mirror and saw a boy in old-fashioned clothes racing behind her car.
Daurio said a woman who’s come to the adobe several times for psychic readings has sensed that the house is home to happy children.
“There is something here at the Dana,” Daurio said. “There are times things happen late at night and we’re not real sure why.”
If you go: The DANA Cultural Center, 671 South Oakglen Ave. in Nipomo, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.l The Dana Adobe is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Tours are offered by appointment. Call 805-929-5679 or visit www.danaadobe.org for more information.
Mission San Miguel
This peaceful mission in northern San Luis Obispo County was the site of a gruesome mass murder in the 19th century. Reports conflict about what happened, but it’s generally agreed that a group of six men killed William Reed, his family, his servants and the family’s guests on Dec. 5, 1848.
Reed and his wife’s uncle purchased Mission San Miguel in 1846 and their family moved into the friars’ quarters of the mission, according to a 1997 Tribune article. The Reeds ran the building as an inn and raised sheep on the property.
One day, Reed took a flock to his father-in-law, Mexican General Mariano Vallejo, to resell to miners who’d come looking for gold.
Reed bragged about the sale, saying he now had lots of gold. Two miners, Peter Raymond and Joseph Lynch, heard his boasts.
On Dec. 5, Raymond, Lynch and a few other men descended upon the mission and killed the Reed family, along with their guests and servants. Eleven people, including an unborn baby, were hacked and slashed to death.
There have been reports of a white figure walking near the rooms where the murders happened, according to a 1981 Tribune article. Other accounts speak of a bloody handprint on a wall that wouldn’t wash off and machinery and tools moving on their own.
If you go: Mission San Miguel, 775 Mission St. in San Miguel, is an active church that hosts daily masses. The mission’s museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $5, or $3 for children. Call 805-467-3256 or visit www.missionsanmiguel.org for more information.
Paso Robles Inn
Beware of Room 1007 at the Paso Robles Inn, where ghostly phone calls have been reported. One time, the room’s phone dialed 911, according to a 2001 Tribune article.
Some believe the phantom caller is J.H. Emsley, the man who discovered a fire at the original El Paso de Robles Hotel, which opened for business in 1891, according to “California’s Haunted Central Coast.”
When the blaze broke out in December 1940, Emsley ran downstairs and told everyone to get out. As soon as he left the hotel that night, he had a heart attack and died.
Only the ballroom escaped the flames. The hotel was rebuilt as the Paso Robles Inn in 1945.
A cook is rumored to have quit after he saw a woman wandering in the inn’s gardens and disappearing. Other sightings include a ghostly little girl in the ballroom that plays with marbles and a doll.
If you go: The Paso Robles Inn, 1103 Spring St. in Paso Robles, features a grand ballroom, gardens, meeting rooms and a steakhouse. Call 805-238-2660 or visit www.pasoroblesinn.com for more information.
Other spooky spots
- Carrizo Plain: Outlaw Jesse James and his brother Frank lived in an adobe on the La Panza Ranch east of Pozo in 1868 following a Kentucky bank holdup. Their spirits are rumored to haunt the area.
- Cass House, Cambria: Rumor has it that Capt. James Cass, an English seaman who built the house around 1867, still haunts the place and is sometimes seen or heard playing music.
- Coffee Rice House, Oceano: Hauntings reported at the home, built in 1885, include blood stains that come back no matter how hard they are scrubbed, apparitions of a man briskly walking around and disappearing and the ghost of a man in a wheelchair and his nurse. The home is a private residence and no trespassing is allowed.
- Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo: Two spirits, a married couple, reportedly haunted the now-shuttered Interact Theater until an exorcism in the 1980s.
- Headless Halloran: As the story goes, Michael and Alice Halloran and their baby tried to ford the Nacimiento River near present-day Fort Hunter Liggett in 1898, and their wagon flipped over. The baby drowned and Alice was decapitated. She now reportedly haunts the area, looking for her head and baby.
- Rios-Caledonia Adobe, San Miguel: A former curator once heard the sounds of a stampede. In 2011, paranormal investigators said they heard voices and knocks in response to their inquiries.
- Sunny Acres, San Luis Obispo: Rumored to be a creepy insane asylum, Sunny Acres was actually an orphanage and later a county juvenile detention center before it closed in the 1970s. The abandoned building is being renovated into Bishop Street Studios, an affordable housing complex.
- Victorian Pitkin Conrow Estate, Arroyo Grande: The home, now a wedding and event venue, is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Alice, a young child who died in an influenza epidemic in 1915. The ghost is said to love cats and has been seen in the tower room window.