THE INLAND EMPIRE’S BEST GHOST STORIES

My column about the haunted Inland Empire (check it out at sbsun.com/johnweeks) included a number of my favorite local ghost stories. Here’s an expanded anthology of tales, featuring several more that had to be cut for space in the newspaper.

SOBERING ENCOUNTERS: The Mission Inn in Riverside was built in 1903 by Frank Miller, a strict teetotaler who would not permit the selling or imbibing of liquor in his hotel. When he died, in 1935, his family wasted no time opening several bars throughout the establishment and adding spirited libations to the room-service menu. It is said that the indignant ghost of Miller still roams the place, especially in the vicinity of the hotel’s Glenwood Tavern. Guests also have reported a sensation of being pushed from behind by unseen forces while ascending or descending the hotel’s famous spiral staircase.

SPIRIT IN THE SKY: Giant Rock, north of Yucca Valley, was the scene of a reported 1953 encounter between an extraterrestrial named Solgonda and local resident George Van Tassel. The man said he was instructed by the alien visitor to build a contraption that would extend human life. The Integratron, housed in a dome-shaped building, is now a High Desert attraction famous for its purported geomagnetic energy and perfect acoustics. It is open for tours and “sound bath” sessions. Van Tassel died in 1978, while he was still working on the Integratron, but some say his spirit still can be felt there, especially during moments of deep meditation.

THE GIRL IN THE CHURCH: The old First Christian Church in Rialto, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was haunted for years, it is said, by the ghost of a young girl named Kristina. Her father, a prominent local physician named Dr. Merlin A. Hendrickson, bought the then-abandoned church in 1963 to save it from demolition. After Kristina died of leukemia in 1967, at the age of 11, the building was renamed the Kristina Dana Hendrickson Cultural Center in her honor, and her ashes and memorabilia were preserved there, as they are to this day. Her ghost was active there until 2004, when her father died, it is said. Though she may have departed, other ghosts have taken her place. The church contains a busy portal between the mortal and spirit worlds, it is believed. Read more in two books by Rialto historian John Anthony Adams, “The Little Girl in the Window” and the brand-new “Scammers, Schemers, and Dreamers: The Turbulent History of Early Rialto.”

STEAK, SEAFOOD AND SPIRITS: The Sycamore Inn in Rancho Cucamonga dates back to 1848, when it was a small inn and tavern on the old Santa Fe Trail. In 1862, pioneer Cucamonga land owner John Rains was murdered in the dining room there. His wife, Maria Merced Rains, and ranch manager, Ramon Carillo, were considered suspects, but the case was never solved. In 1864, Carillo himself was shot dead on the inn’s front steps. That case also remained a mystery. Today it is said that workers at the Sycamore Inn sometimes will hear strange noises or experience odd sensations, especially in the kitchen and dining room. Interesting footnote: Marilyn Monroe, the actress, is said to have dined at the Sycamore Inn the week before she died in 1962. Another actress, Elizabeth Short, the “Black Dahlia,” also dined there shortly before her death in 1947, according to local lore.

THE LITTLE BOY AND THE BALL: The ghost of a little boy haunts the schoolyard at Mariposa Elementary School in Redlands, according to local lore. He likes to play with a ball at night. You rarely see the boy, but you see the ball, rolling or bouncing along on its own.

THE WEEPING WOMAN: Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery, in southwest Colton, is San Bernardino County’s oldest graveyard. Local legend has it that the place is haunted by a ghost named La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, who searches endlessly for her lost children. Also, on the rural road outside the cemetery, nighttime motorists sometimes see, in the distance, an old man walking his dog. As the motorists draw closer, the man and dog vanish.

LIGHTS IN THE WOODS: Holcomb Valley, north of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, was settled in 1860 by gold miners from around the country. It soon became a bloody Civil War battleground, as prospectors with rival Union and Confederate sympathies started gunning for each other. Old graves and a still-standing Hangman’s Tree are spooky reminders of the past. Ghosts of old miners can be glimpsed at night, sometimes, carrying their lights through the woods, it is said.

THE PHANTOM OF THE PROM: San Bernardino High School is haunted, some say, by a ghost named Vicki Baxter, who returns every four years on the night of the senior prom. She was killed in a late-1920s car crash, on her way to the prom. It is said she also can seen on occasion near the corner of Highland and Waterman avenues, loitering, as if waiting for a ride. The corner is next to Mt. View Cemetery, where supposedly she is buried.

THE GHOSTLY GOURMET: The old Virgina Dare Winery in Rancho Cucamonga, now the site of a commercial and office plaza, used to be the scene of much ghostly activity, it is said, especially in the winery’s kitchen. Phantom sounds and aromas were common. According to local lore, a son of the winery’s founder hoped to start a restaurant on the premises, but died before realizing his dream.

A REAL GHOST TOWN: Calico Ghost Town, eight miles north of Barstow, is a popular and family-friendly tourist attraction, but it’s the site of a hell-raising silver mining town of the 1880s, and some say it’s a ghost town with real ghosts. The Old School House and Maggie’s Mine are places of special interest, ghost hunters say, as is Hank’s Hotel, which is so full of ghosts it has been closed permanently to the public.

THE WHITE LADY: The Glenn Wallichs Theatre at the University of Redlands is haunted, it is said, by a ghost named Marianne, also called the White Lady. She pulls dresses off costume racks, floats luminously above the stage curtain, and disturbs the stage lights. She is supposedly the spirit of a onetime drama student who died in a car crash on her way to a performance.

THE SCENT OF VIOLETS: Bracken Fern Manor, a picturesque bed-and-breakfast inn in Lake Arrowhead Villas, just off Hwy. 18 between the Lake Arrowhead turnoff and the community of Sky Forest, once was a brothel built by gangster Bugsy Siegel. It was connected by an underground passageway to Siegel’s casino and speakeasy, Club Arrowhead in the Pines, located across the street (now known as the Tudor House). Is is said that a prostitute named Violet, who died of a broken heart after a favored client was murdered at the establishment, still haunts the place. Her violet-scented perfume lingers faintly when she passes by.

Have favorite local ghost stories of your own? Email me at john.weeks@inlandnewspapers.com.