State’s Urban Legends: California

I was born in California. You want weird? You go to California. You want some great urban legends? Yeah, the Golden State has a few of them too. (No, I am not one of them either.)


California’s A-List Haunted Hotel

The Roosevelt Hotel might be the most glamorous haunted hotel in the world.

California’s haunted celebrity hotel.

If you weren’t old enough – or fortunate enough – to have met Marilyn Monrow or Montgomery Clift in person, fret not. Just book a room at the Roosevelt Hotel near Hollywood and you just might bump into those two famous icons yet.

Oh yes, legend has it that Marilyn pops up in a full-length mirror near her poolside suite from time to time. Montgomery can be seen reciting his lines in a hallway.

But if movie stars aren’t your thing, then listen carefully and you might hear trumpets playing. Just don’t go looking for the band however, they are spirits too you see. Hey, ever since the place opened people have been dying to get in.


Turnbull Canyon

After you check out of the Roosevelt, head toward nearby Whitier and check out Turnbull Canyon. About 50,000 acres of all sorts of urban legends and material for stories of urban fantasy lay within.

The native tribes that once lived in the area called the place “Hutukngna” – the place of the Devil. Many that chose not to convert to Christianity were killed here. The place was a popular haunt (sorry, couldn’t resist) of the spirits of children ritually sacrificed by witches and Satanists.

And it appears those ghosts are reportedly joined by the spirits of over twenty children who allegedly died in a plane crash in the canyon back in 1952. I say allegedly because no record has been found of such a crash. Hey, urban legends have to get their start somewhere.

Mix in an insane asylum that managed to claim one last victim years after it was closed via an electrocution via a dead line, cults hanging out in the canyon, alien encounters and a myriad of other strange happenings. In short, drive by, stay in the car, look around quickly and then drive on because nothing good ever happens in this canyon.


The Char-Man

Hop on the 101 after you leave the canyon and a couple of hours later you should see an exit for the city of Ojai in Ventura County. It’s a nice place, not far from the Pacific Ocean. It’s also home to a somewhat gruesome urban legend.

In 1948 a father and son were terribly burned in a house fire. The injuries drove the son to madness and he murdered his father. When police arrived on the scene they first assumed both men had died because of the severe burns both had suffered. They knew the son had committed murder as he had flayed and hung his father after the fire.

But to their surprise the very charred son got up and fled before they could cuff him. In the decades since “The Char-Man” is reported wandering about the nearby woods. Occasionally he approaches campers or pretends to be a hitchhiker before attacking.  Think twice before pulling over to pick up the next hitchhiker you see.


The Patient With Alien Blood

I told you California is weird and this last legend pegs the weird-o-meter.

Back in the 1980s a woman was wheeled into a Riverside emergency room and the ER doctor ordered a sample of her blood to be drawn. As soon as the needle went in, a strong, foul odor filled the ER and the woman’s skin took on an oily sheen. Over twenty staff hit the deck, overcome by the odor, and the ER was evacuated.

A small team stayed behind in what proved to be a futile attempt to save the woman. Of the affected medical staff five spent the night in a hospital bed, one was hospitalized for 10 days. The worst case was a two-week stay in intensive care followed by months of recovery for one staff member.

You want the weird part? To this day no one – at least officially – has been able to say with 100% certainty what triggered this event. Some say it was “group hysteria”, others say there was a potent toxin administered to the woman before she fell ill and was rushed to the ER.

Or maybe the patient wasn’t human at all and her “alien blood” was to blame? I told you, we do weird like no one else in the Golden State.

Previously: Arkansas

Next: Colorado

About the author

Richard Paolinelli