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University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), The Water Street Bridge, The Watering Hole, West Cliff Inn, White Ladies Trail, Wilder Ranch


University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)

The Henry Cowell Ranch, now the UCSC campus, was owned by the Cowell Family back in 1850. Only six months after Henry’s death, Henry and Alice Cowell’s second to youngest child of five, died tragically on the ranch, and her spirit is said to have haunted the town for over a century.

On May 14, 1903, 40-year-old Sarah Agnes Cowell took a trip down to the old Cowell Ranch, where she liked to pick wildflowers. Sarah and the housekeeper were riding a high-spirited horse and buggy across the fields together one day when disaster struck. One of the wheels from the buggy hit a rock, scaring the horse, making it bolt. Tragically, Sarah Agnes flew from the buggy and broke her neck, killing her instantly.

Sarah Cowell death UCSC haunted
Sarah Cowell ghost UCSC
Sarah Cowell ghost UCSC haunted

Sarah’s spirit still haunts the Ranch and has been witnessed on many occasions in ‘The Haunted Meadow,’ also located on the UCSC campus. The first detailed sighting of Sarah’s spirit was reported to the Sentinel in 1975. 

One night in 1971, a group of students were wandering the meadow, when her ghost frightened one of them beyond belief. The student ran back down the trail and met up with the group alleging to have heard distinct footsteps behind him when there was no one in sight.

In 1973, Sarah was spotted in the upper quarry on the UCSC Campus. A student claimed to see her transparent, cloaked spirit casting an eerie shadow beneath the quarry. The local legend of Sarah Cowell’s spirit has been told from generation to generation, likely keeping her spirit alive. 

Sarah Cowell ghost UCSC haunted

The remains of Sarah Cowell’s buggy that she road to her death, UCSC, Santa Cruz, CA

Sarah Cowell ghost UCSC haunted

Another ghost by the name of Lily appears in ‘The Haunted Meadow,’ on the UCSC Campus. Legend has it that the beautiful young transient woman lived in the field in the 70s and died there. Lily’s apparition has been seen a countless number of times walking around the vicinity in either rags, or completely naked.

University of Santa Cruz haunted

On the third floor of Building B at Porter College, occupants have complained over the years of suddenly awakening in the night, feeling as if someone was strangling them. 

The bottom floor of Building B has been condemned supposedly because of reoccurring paranormal incidents. There have been several reports made of objects flying across rooms, random noises, such as voices heard incessantly, along with malicious feelings and energies. The ground floor is known to some students as “The Bermuda Triangle.”

The last notorious haunting on the University’s Campus also took place in Porter College, but in Building A. Years ago, a student hung himself on the fifth floor. It is alleged that he has been occasionally seen walking down the halls of the building. Multiple eye witnesses claim to have seen him in dark pants and a white shirt. 

University of Santa Cruz haunted

I searched for an article of the death, but was unable to trace one (not all deaths are documented in papers). Yet, I did find a few similar deaths, in which other suicides took place at UCSC.:

suicide University of Santa Cruz haunted
suicide University of Santa Cruz haunted
suicide University of Santa Cruz haunted

More articles of deaths and even MURDERS on the UCSC campus:

suicide University of Santa Cruz haunted
suicide University of Santa Cruz haunted
suicide University of Santa Cruz haunted
suicide University of Santa Cruz haunted
death University of Santa Cruz haunted

Additional Information:

-Sarah Agnes Cowell has been seen in the shadows of the trees, mostly in the afternoon or before twilight. She is known to be wearing a long, pale yellow dress and a bonnet.

-“The road up to the University past the entrance is haunted by the ghost of some type of old timer. He looks like a working man from I'd say about a hundred or so years ago, way before they built the campus. I have seen him and so have others I've spoken to. He appears briefly at the side of the road at random times it seems,” a UCSC student claimed.


Year established: 1965

1156 High Street

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 459-4003


Water Street Bridge haunted

The Water Street Bridge

In May of 1877, two men by the names of Francisco Arias and Jose Chamales were hung from the Water Street Bridge for being suspected of murder. It was known to be the last lynching of mixed heritage brought on by a mob of locals. Before these men took the leap to meet their maker, they were given a final shot of whiskey and said their last words.

Since the execution, people have claimed to see ghostly apparitions of the men near the bridge, sometimes hanging. 

Water Street Bridge haunted


Year built: 1870s

Water Street at River Street

Santa Cruz, CA 95060


Watering Hole haunted Santa Cruz

The Watering Hole

The old dive bar was built in 1949 and was known as “Paul’s Bar” until it was bought in the late 90’s and renamed the Watering Hole. It is said that back in the 70’s a woman was raped and killed in the bar’s bathroom. The residual energy of her killing remains near the back of the old dive bar, and her ghost is said to still haunt the vicinity.  


Year built: 1949

2405 Mission Street

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 469-4653


West Cliff Inn haunted Santa Cruz

The West Cliff Inn

Built in 1877 by Sedgewick Lynch, West Cliff Inn was known as the Lynch Mansion (or House) until 1909, when it was used as a sanitarium run by a well-known local woman by the name of Mary Jane Hanly. Miss Hanly had a reputation for having “mystical powers” and treated her patients using holistic remedies. She was said to have once revived a man after he had drowned in the ocean nearby. For years she was known as “The Mother of the Boardwalk” because of her love and compassion in helping others, as well as taking in people who were completely broke. 

West Cliff Inn haunted Santa Cruz
West Cliff Inn haunted Santa Cruz

In 1923, Mary Jane Hanly opened the ‘Hanly Hospital’ on the left side of the Hanly Sanitarium, where surgical procedures were performed without any type of anesthetics or sedation. At times, murder victims were treated at the hospital, dying soon after being brought in.

In 1937, Miss Hanly became very ill and was bed ridden in the hospital where she died on August 31st. After Hanly’s death, the building was donated to the Sister’s Hospital, then used as a poor house, then an office, and eventually dilapidated. In 2004, the structure was transformed into The West Cliff Inn, and ghost stories began to arise. Local legends say a “lady in white” has been seen looking out the top window of the 3rd story.

West Cliff Inn haunted Santa Cruz
West Cliff Inn haunted Santa Cruz

No one knows for certain whom the woman could be, but after investigating the West Cliff Inn, I believe it is the ghost of Mary Jane Hanly; who chooses to stay at the property and just may for all eternity. 


Historical Landmark

Year built: 1877

174 West Cliff Drive

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(800) 979-0910


White Ladies Trail, White Ladies,

The White Ladies Trail

The White Lady who lingers on Ocean Street Extension is not the only white lady in town. (There can be more than one!) There’s several white ladies – (which is basically a woman spirit, glowing white) within Santa Cruz. Anyways, I’ve heard bits of this particular ghost story, but it wasn’t until today that I found an actual newspaper article containing the complete story:

“Legend has it that in the mid- 1800s a traveling snake oil salesman secretly courted two unsuspecting sisters.

When the sisters found out they were both being seduced and cheated the snake oil man was long down the road. The sisters swore off mean and the world in general, living together in a remote cabin in the woods. Some years later a fire trapped them in a house, and they both perished.

Shortly after this tragedy, rumors of sightings began to spread through old Santa Cruz.” – contributed story by Will Hangen, Santa Cruz Sentinel

White Ladies Trail, White Ladies Santa Cruz
White Ladies, White Ladies Santa Cruz

“My story begins on a wet wintry evening at year’s end. Jimmy and I suited up for a ride on White Ladies, wearing our warmest tights and jackets against the approaching darkness.

Dropping in at the trailhead, I snaked through the gloomy woods, ducking under a low branch, or over-hanging brush as I picked up speed … one this particular ride, I suddenly noticed that I was riding alone. This wasn’t uncommon, as I just explained, so I pulled over and resigned myself to waiting for Jimmy.

I walked up the trail intent on hustling Jimmy along, but to my surprise his tracks suddenly disappeared in mid-roll.

I searched the bushes and a few deer trails. With mounting worry, I spent 20 minutes yelling and searching, then rode down and looked around the trail’s end to see if Jimmy had veered off another trail branch. Nothing.

… Just when I decided to call the fire department and get the pros involved in a real search, to my amazement who should come riding down the road but a very bedraggled Jimmy.

Half mad, half overjoyed, I asked him what happened, but he refused to say a word. 

White Ladies, White Ladies Santa Cruz

The Victorian ghosts crossed the trail and stopped 50 feet away. Jimmy totally freaked out and headed back up the trail. When we neared the top, the apparitions were hovering in the mist, more vague shapes and luminescence than anything tangible.

Finding an alternate deer trail, he thrashed through the woods, trying to discover a route free of the ghastly presence; but at every turn, he sensed he was being followed.

… We never rode White Ladies again.

The scariest part of the whole tale is that now there’s a housing development going up on the very spot where Jimmy claims to have spotted the White Ladies for the first time.

The trail is in the process of being destroyed, but my hunch is that the White Ladies aren’t ready to go gently into that good night.

… It got me thinking: What if some drowsy homeowner, months from now, goes downstairs to put on the morning coffee and finds the White Ladies drifting around in her brand new kitchen?

It makes you realize that every piece of land everywhere on earth probably has some kind of history – some kind of psychic baggage leftover from the past.”  –Will Hangen, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 2001


(Formally off of Graham Hill Road behind the Graham Hill Showgrounds)

Santa Cruz, CA 95062    


Wilder Ranch haunted Santa Cruz

Wilder Ranch

Before the historic ranch was used as a dairy farm, the land was known as Rancho Arroyo del Matadero, and later on named Rancho del Refugio. The property was occupied and used by Ohlone Indians as slaughtering grounds for cattle until 1854, when a man by the name of Moses Meder bought the land and created a dairy farm.

In 1871, The Wilder family took over the ranch and created a new and updated creamery. For almost a century, the Wilder Family resided on the land and maintained the business until 1969. In 1974, it was taken over by the California State Parks.

Wilder Ranch haunted Santa Cruz

Several of the aged houses and ranch-style buildings from the mid to late 1800s still stand on the property today, keeping the old-time spirit alive. I spoke to a docent at the ranch and asked if she had ever heard of any ghost stories or sightings that had taken place there. “We do have a resident, but he’s only seen on certain days,” the elderly woman, dressed in Victorian attire, replied. She also senses energies around the ranch, particularly inside the Wilder’s former house.

The cow barn built in 1850 is also haunted, and an apparition of a middle aged man has been witnessed standing in the stalls.

Wilder Ranch haunted Santa Cruz

In 2014, using some of my ghost hunting equipment (pendulum, Ghost Radar and flashlight); as well as my senses, I spoke to a spirit in the cow barn who claimed to have died at the historic Ranch. He confirmed that he was a Wilder, and that he had passed away on the property after an accident in his 30’s. His energy was sweet and relaxed and he seemed content with still being at his family’s old estate.

I spoke to a Wilder Ranch historian and told her about my encounter and conversation with the ghost in the barn. “That sounds just like the Wilder’s grandson, Billy Wilder, who died here after a hunting accident,” she shared with me. The historian then brought me over to the Wilder’s Family Tree in the park’s office and showed me who she was referring to. There, it stated:

“Williamson (Billy) Wilder -1926 to 1963” (36 years of age)

(-Note: he told me he had died in his 30’s, as well as being a Wilder, and dying there.)

“That’s got to be him!” the historian said to me with confidence.

After my paranormal investigation at Wilder Ranch I looked for articles on Williamson “Billy” Wilder’s death; and found that on January 6, 1963, he accidentally shot himself in the chest with his 20-gauge automatic shotgun while climbing through a barbwire fence. 

Wilder Ranch haunted Santa Cruz


Historic State Park

Year established: 1871

1401 Coast Road

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 423-9703



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