Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz High, Santa Cruz Memorial, Santa Cruz Mountain Tunnels, The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, The Santa Cruz Trestle, The Old Sporup Sanitarium, The Sunshine Villa, Surf Bistro and Bakery
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
For over a hundred years the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been a place for both the living and the dead to enjoy. Ghosts have been seen walking on the boardwalk even in broad daylight. Two psychics I spoke with both had similar encounters while visiting the historic amusement park. They would pass by a few people and think nothing of it, until they would turn around only to see that there was one less person there.
There are also private tunnels running beneath the boardwalk, which some employees claim to be haunted. Workers have witnessed the ghost of a boy around thirteen years of age running through the dark underground halls, only to disappear seconds later.
At least four untimely deaths have occurred on the historic roller coaster The Giant Dipper since it was built in 1924. All four of the victims stood up during the ride and flew out of the train and died.
The first death occurred on September 21, 1924, when sixteen-year-old Walter Fernald Bryne was standing while the train went down it's first dip. He flew forward in front of the train and was instantly crushed to death.
The second fatal accident happened on March 30, 1943, when nineteen-year-old James Piner stood up and fell onto the roof of the tunnel, where he then rolled off onto a catwalk fracturing his skull, as well as having severe lacerations on several parts of his body. He died at the Santa Cruz Hospital two days later.
The third tragedy took place on July 6, 1958, when twenty-two-year-old Peter Alfred Abila died at the scene after wiggling out from the safety bar and falling 65 feet to the ground.
The fourth reported death I found happened on July 13, 1972, when thirteen-year-old Edward Crooks fell from the top tracks to lower tracks and hit head on by the train.
Walter is said to haunt the roller coaster and has been observed a number of times by former employees and riders. The ghost is usually witnessed at night after closing on the back of the train by ride operators. Tourists have reported sitting next to a boy dressed in older clothing on the Dipper, and he vanishes sometime throughout the attraction. Along with sighting a full-body apparition throughout the years, ride operators have claimed to feel a tug on their sleeves, or a tap on their shoulder when no one is in the area.
Pizza One near the bumper cars has had some unexplainable activity particularly around 2012, when multiple staff members had the same eerie encounter with whom they call, “The Barefoot Ghost”. While closing up for the night, employees would notice bare foot prints randomly appear across the floor at times after mopping.
Neptune’s Kingdom (now a miniature gold course and arcade) was once used as a heated, indoor salt water swimming pool known as the Plunge from 1907 to 1963. At least five drownings took place within the structure. They were all men, and four were teenagers.
The first drowning took place in 1935, when a 67-year-old man named T. Tallaert died of a heart attack while swimming. He was found floating face down in the pool.
In 1937, the second death at the plunge occurred. The victim was 16-year-old Richard Albert Carona from Watsonville, and his cause of drowning was said to be unknown.
In 1958, 14-year-old Raymond Johnson had drowned to negligence after he was caught in an underwater drain.
One year later in 1959, two more deaths occurred together. 15-year-old James Hagan, and 16-year-old Kenneth K. Matsumoto of Castroville, drowned after nearing the deep end without swimming ability.
The old structure is said to be haunted by its drowning victims and leaves an eerie vibe, particularly on the second floor on the wall of history.
A past employee shared with me that he had unexplained encounters on occasion, such as seeing a frightening translucent face in the video monitor in the miniature golf course. Others have claimed to see dark, sinister shadows form and move throughout the haunted course.
Another staff member claimed to have uncanny encounters while working in the restaurant inside Neptune’s Kingdom. Not only did he feel watched when he was alone, he witnessed cooking utensils move and fly off hooks and shelves.
The Casino has been standing since 1907, and in recent years staff members have seen a ghost of a tall man in the laser-tag room. One worker told me that she refuses to close the laser-tag department due to having too many sightings and experiences.
A former employee who worked at the old time photo shop, which was once inside the Casino, said that she would occasionally capture ghostly apparitions in the photographs.
The Cocoanut Grove is another haunted spot at the amusement park. Most reports have been about poltergeist activity that goes on at the Grove after hours, although a ghost of a little girl with blonde hair and a pink dress has been seen on occasion running through the ballroom and dining room during the day.
Employees have claimed that chairs move around and get stacked on their own and security guards hear strange disembodied sounds such as a harmonica playing late in the night.
Some employees and locals claim the Cocoanut Grove is haunted by the ghost of a man named “Woody”.
Santa Cruz High
Santa Cruz High School was first established in 1897. On October 1, 1913, an unexplained fire broke out on the 3rd story of the main building, which left the structure unsalvageable. Rumor has it that the body of a young girl was found a few days later after the blaze near the school’s theater. Some believe the girl’s death and the fire is what made ghost stories begin to transpire. According to local reporter Fiona Lyon, there have been sightings of both men and women of all ages seen on the premises.
“Almost every upperclassman or staff member I spoke with recounted a chilling encounter with the ghosts; or at least had heard an unearthly tale passed down from another student.” – Fiona Lyon, reporter for the Trident News
The elevator is said to be haunted by an old unknown woman who is claimed to yell at students.
Along with the school being haunted by some crazy lady, as well as former students, and a middle-aged gentleman; the gym is rumored to be haunted by a little boy, which is known to bounce basketballs around.
Mel Martinez, the school janitor who works graveyard shift claimed to have several paranormal encounters that leave him with goose bumps. On one occasion while working on the 2nd floor, he saw the reflection of a teenage couple walking toward him. He quickly turned around to find no one there. It startled him so badly, he dropped everything and ran out of the school without locking up. Mysteriously someone else was said to have locked all the doors and windows, and even hit the lights that night.
Santa Cruz Memorial
Malicious paranormal activity is said to occur at night in the old, colossal Santa Cruz Memorial. Built in 1862, this cemetery definitely holds lots of history … and corpses. Along with housing a mortuary and mausoleums with halls full of graves, it is believed that the spirits of some of the deceased roam the 25-acre property.
The most common legends consist of seeing faces on tombstones, shadows stirring overhead, and hearing unearthly voices in the dark. Orbs can be seen by the naked eye, along with full body apparitions.
Several ghosts that have been spotted tend to be in Victorian-style attire. Some have sighted spirits who look homeless as well. (There was a homeless camp next to the cemetery for years where many destitute people perished.)
A ghost that has been seen most frequently is known to wear overalls and hold a shovel. Some locals believe he was once a groundskeeper for the cemetery.
Some attest that spirits from the graveyard tag along and hitch rides with visitors back to their residences. Two local sensitives claimed to have had the same experience several years ago. Ghosts followed them home from the cemetery and both of their houses were haunted for months afterward.
In 2015, while driving past Santa Cruz Memorial with local psychic Shelly Crowley, she noticed a group of spirits near the fence.
“I see three women dressed in Victorian clothing,” she stated. “They are standing right at the fence and waving to us… Do you know them, Aubrey?”
“Possibly,” I said. “I do communicate with spirits there, and have visited Catherine Logan’s (wife of first owner of Brookdale Lodge) several times; so maybe it's her.”
Shelly smiled and nodded.
Santa Cruz Mountain Tunnels
The tunnels in the Santa Cruz Mountains are known hot spots for ghost hunters. In 1879, a tragic incident occurred at the Laurel and Wright tunnels under Highway 17, killing 32 workers. A gas explosion blew some of the miners to bits making it impossible to recover the remains of each victim. Many of the workers’ remains are still there today, more than 100 years later, now buried beneath the soil.
Would the scenes within the tunnel and about the entrance be faithfully pictured, it would send a thrill of horror through every reader of the Sentinel. The stench of burning flesh, combined with the escaping gas, is almost overpowering anywhere near the portal. The cabins are filled with mutilated Chinamen, some shrieking with the excruciating pain they are undergoing; others praying in their native tongue to their countrymen to kill them and put an end to their suffering, or beseeching the God of Fire to have mercy upon them and cease his torments. In most of the cabins, tapers are burning, the perfume from which serves somewhat to temper the sickening odor of roasted flesh. (“Fatal Explosion,” The Santa Cruz Sentinel, Page 2, Nov. 22, 1879) Yet in January 1880, the company brought a new crew of Chinese workers to finish the cursed tunnel. They burned incense and etched prayers upon the support timbers prayers to drive away the devils. Yet the curse proved too powerful. The terrified men refused to enter the tunnel, let alone finish the project. –Ryan Masters, “Horrors of the Summit Tunnel,” hiltromper.com
Another disastrous incident occurred only a year later in May of 1880. A train travelling at high speed flew off the tracks near the Wright Tunnel. More than half of the 125 passengers were thrown from the railroad, killing 15 and severely injuring 50.
It is believed that these two catastrophic occurrences are what caused paranormal activity to transpire. Legend has it that the ghost workers have been haunting the tunnels since soon after their horrifying deaths. The first documented report was in 1890 and printed in the local newspaper, where a Santa Cruz resident spoke of seeing 30 ghosts walking out of the Wright Tunnel.
Many ghost hunters have observed orbs, light anomalies, apparitions, and EVPs from the tunnels’ entrances. Sounds of screaming, crying, and moaning have been recorded by various ghost seekers. Other paranormal enthusiasts have captured amazing EVPs of what sounds like the “ghost train” near the Laurel Bridge, where no active trains currently travel.
SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAIN TUNNELS
Year built: 1879
Laurel Road at Schulties Road
Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History
Established in 1996, the Museum of Art and History was once the site of the old county jail until the early 1980’s. Residual energy lingers there from former inmates, as well as some of the historical artifacts that are within the museum. It is also claimed to be haunted by ghosts, according to a Sentinel Cruz Sentinel article from 1998.
Museum director Chuck Hilger shared some of the hauntings that take place at the Santa Cruz Museum. “Every once in a while, we get some strange noises and some strange sounds, which we don’t know where they come from or why they occur; and they do occur,” he shared. He also pointed out that a certain large, heavy door has been seen and heard opening and closing on its own.
Some of the unexplainable activity that occurs there, such as electrical shortages is blamed by spirits from when it was once a jail. –The jail where notorious serial killers, Edmund Kemper and Herbert Mullin stayed, their cells adjacent to each other.
Former receptionist Kirsten Kvam is also a believer in the museum being haunted. “It’s something about the building. When you’re on the third floor, it always sounds like there are doors opening and closing and there’s nobody there,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 12, 1998.
Kathleen Moodie, a museum curator shared how they were planning on honoring the spirits of the museum for the upcoming Day of the Dead event in 1998. “There have to be spirits because we have all these artifacts that probably belonged to people and are infused with their auras,” she shared with the Sentinel.
This particular museum holds an abundant amount of energy, I think. Being so sensitive to energies, it can be almost overwhelming for me in there at times; to the point where my knees get weak, I break into a sweat, and I have trouble breathing. Any empath will know what I’m talking about. This place has history.
SANTA CRUZ MUSEUM OF ART AND HISTORY
Year built: 1890
705 Front Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Santa Cruz Trestle
Built in 1904, the Santa Cruz Trestle is believed by more than a few locals to be haunted by a number of spirits. Allegedly, over the years people have fallen or jumped off the bridge to their deaths. Several of them seem to stick around the vicinity. Some sensitives have felt the heavy residual energy at the bridge, left behind from lives being cut short too soon.
Two psychic friends of mine had uncanny experiences while walking the Santa Cruz Trestle at night.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been there. I felt a lot of uneasiness and like I was going to get pushed over. I felt very insecure. There’s one energy that’s the most prominent and there’s this feeling like someone is playing a mean game, if that makes sense, like a bully. He has a dark, evil smirk, and is wearing a hat. He brings death, that’s for sure. There’s more than him; he’s just the strongest and the loudest. The other spirits that are trapped there are afraid to come forward,” my friend explained.
In 2012, I walked across the bridge with another friend who is very tuned-in. When we got to the middle of the trestle, he stood there in silence and looked a little uncomfortable.
“What’s up?” I asked him.
“Someone is telling me to jump,” my friend exclaimed.
- It is also known as “The Lost Boys’ Trestle” after it was used in a scene in the film, The Lost Boys, 1987.
SANTA CRUZ TRESTLE
(AKA THE LOST BOYS’ TRESTLE)
Year built: 1904
(Off Beach Street)
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Old Sporup Sanitarium
Built in 1931, the mansion was named the Casa De Montgomery, after the uncle of Hollywood’s Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched). As a child, the actress spent several summers there with her family.
In 1934, Mrs. Anita Sporup Lanklois bought the (once) 32-acre estate and opened a sanitarium there for the mentally ill.
In 1957, her son, Doug Sporup took over the facility. It was sold again throughout the years and unfortunately closed its doors in 1978, leaving many mentally ill people with nowhere to go.
After it closed, many transients stayed there, until it was bought in recent years. Several locals have spoken about this particular building being extremely haunted. Most people who set foot on the property can feel they’re not alone, as if some of the troubled patients never checked out.
A local who lived there for several months in the mid-eighties said that there was (is) many spirits who occupied the structure. “You could feel all kinds of different energies just walking from room to room,” he explained to me.
What frightened him the most, and wouldn’t go near, was the well on the property; which gave out very strong, malevolent vibes. “You only got to look down that once, and you’ll never want to again.”
(THE FORMER) SPORUP SANITARIUM
Year built: 1931
4573 Branciforte Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95065
**PRIVATE PROPERTY -- NO TRESPASSING!
The Sunshine Villa
The Sunshine Villa, previously the old McCray Hotel, holds plenty of history within its walls and surroundings. Before the classic Victorian was built on the property in the 1860s, and became a hotel in 1879, the Ohlone Indians performed sacred rituals there and utilized it as burial grounds. For almost a century, the property was incessantly bought and sold, and was abandoned for almost a decade. Police reports state that while the Sunshine Villa was condemned, it was occupied by drug dealers, homeless people, and cultists. The cultists are said to have held satanic rituals throughout the building.
Notorious serial killer Herbert Mullin resided there as well back in the late 1970s, during the peak of his killing spree. Mullin was known to practice satanic rites in the tower above.
It was in the 1960s when the old McCray Hotel re-opened that claims of ghost sightings began to arise. Former employees claim to have been touched by an unseen force while working within this aged structure. Another local claimed that while living at the hotel he would see a blue mist materialize in room number 2. Windows and doors are said to open and close on their own, in addition to unexplainable sounds and footsteps. Housekeepers and other staff members have reported, “Cold presences, mysterious blue lights, and the voice of women calling from the shadows,” according to a Metro Santa Cruz article in 1999.
A friend of mine once worked at the Sunshine Villa and encountered a couple unexplainable events, such as a light turning on and off on its own when the room was unoccupied, as well as being touched.
“One time I was walking the food cart down to the dementia floor and I felt like something was gently pushing my lower back for a couple seconds. I had also heard a story about a woman in the dementia ward who had never really spoken before, just moaned, but one night she woke up and yelled a man’s name, the name of the resident who used to live in that room who had passed away there.”
A local psychic feels that the spirit of a woman is trapped in the Sunshine Villa where she was murdered long ago. The sensitive believes that the woman’s death was covered up somehow and she is still waiting for someone to help her uncover her murder ... and her body.
Today the Sunshine Villa still remains on Beach Hill, presently as a retirement home for the living … and the dead.
-The creepy old McCray Hotel was the inspiration of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho, 1960.
(For more information on Alfred Hitchcock and his former haunted estate, see the “Hitchcock Estate” story in the ‘Scotts Valley’ section of this website.)
Year built: 1860s
80 Front Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
** PRIVATE RESIDENCES – NO TRESPASSING!
Surf Bistro and Bakery
According to hauntedplaces.org, the bistro is said to be haunted by an old Canadian Freight train hopper who was once a regular at the location. His ghost has been claimed to be witnessed within the establishment at times by both guests and the current owners.
Other paranormal activity includes hearing a disembodied male voice at times, and witnessing objects move on their own.
SURF BISTRO AND BAKERY
Year built: 1949
415 Seabright Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95062