Ghosthunting Southern California


Star of India

When my husband and I were courting — he lived in San Diego and I lived in Las Vegas — we had our favorite places in each other’s cities in which we hung out. We’d go out to Red Rock Canyon in Vegas and the San Diego Harbor when I visited California. When I flew in on Friday nights, we’d have dinner at one of the harbor restaurants then stroll over to the promenade where the San Diego ...

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Star of India

When my husband and I were courting — he lived in San Diego and I lived in Las Vegas — we had our favorite places in each other’s cities in which we hung out. We’d go out to Red Rock Canyon in Vegas and the San Diego Harbor when I visited California. When I flew in on Friday nights, we’d have dinner at one of the harbor restaurants then stroll over to the promenade where the San Diego Maritime Museum’s (SDMM) armada of ships, boats and submarines are anchored.

The Star of India is the oldest active ship in the world and a California state and national historic landmark. It’s difficult to imagine, but when she was conceived horses were the main method of transport. The once state-of-the-art beauty has survived many eras of technical achievement. Boarding her now, one can easily imagine the absolute freedom of travel ships once provided. She’s everything and more, but there’s just something unsettling about the antediluvian artifact from the mid-1800s that gives me chicken-skin when I pass her berth on a dark night.

When I moved to San Diego, we joined the SDMM and I also found a great many groups to meet new friends with similar interests. I joined the San Diego Ghost and Paranormal Group (SDGAP), and found Dave Hanson, Leader of SDGAP — a great resource for this Southern California paranormal neophyte. SDGAP is also where I met several people who became core members of my own paranormal investigation team, Roadside Paranormal, and the backbone of Ghosts Happen.

Hanson is known as an expert on historic and modern ships and a man who clearly loves being on the sea. The ship’s history is amazing, and if you learn it, it will help you understand what spirits may be walking her wooden planks for eternity.

The Star of India is a full-rigged iron windjammer ship built in the small city of Ramsey (pop. currently 7,309), The Isle of Man on the Irish Sea. In 1863, the ship was first christened Euterpe, the Greek Muse of music and poetry, by Lillian, the whimsical and well-read wife of Captain R. H. Brown, one of the ship’s shareholders. No expense was spared when building her, as Ramsey and the investment company’s shareholders were trying to establish a reputation for building large, quality iron ships.

On November 21, 1863 (historically speaking, two days after Lincoln had given the historical Gettysburg Address), there was a substantial luncheon with tables set for sixty. Great celebration was had as the 202-foot ship glided off the blocks she’d been built upon and surged into the harbor. A promising life’s journey seemed to stretch all the way to the glistening horizon for the stunning Euterpe, but it wasn’t long before a curse took over her future.

The Star of India has had several reincarnations, mainly because she’s been on the sea for nearly 150 years and the lifetime of a company proved much shorter than those of the boats they built and purchased. During her first three decades as Euterpe, she navigated twenty-one round-the-world trips.

She began her new career sailing to India with Captain William John Storry who collided her into a brig off St. David’s Head. Later that trip, members of the crew refused to work unless the ship was docked for repairs (more likely, the men had lost faith in Storry’s ability to lead and wanted to jump ship). The situation soon turned into a mutiny. Storry docked, and had the magistrates jail seventeen of the thirty crewmen. The men were sentenced to two weeks of hard time to set an example, and the ship left the dock with a more cooperative crew. She was repaired at sea and her goods delivered to meet the captain’s slip time.

During her next trip, also led by Storry, she was thrown by a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal. Suffering substantial damage, the ship made it back to port for expensive repairs. She made four more passages to India as a cargo ship for her shareholders, and even outlived Storry…buried at sea from her deck. Then, with the death of her captain and her sale to a new company, her luck seemed to change.

The Shaw, Savill & Co. saw the ship’s potential and purchased the Euterpe in 1871. She spent the next quarter of a century transporting immigrants to New Zealand, Australia, Chile and California. The long journeys were rough on crew and passengers, and often included burials at sea.

In 1897, she was acquired by the Pacific Colonial Ship Company of San Francisco and sent on voyages from the Pacific Northwest to Hawaii and Australia transporting sugar, coal and timber.

The Alaska Packers’ Association, San Francisco, purchased her in 1906 and changed her name to the Star of India. She was one of the association’s six iron ships and carried fisherman, cannery workers, coal, canned salmon, supplies and equipment from Alameda, California, to Nushagak, Central Alaska. As the Star of India, she spent the next twenty-three years going to and fro from Alaska to California. A slump in salmon sales proved fatal for the fleet and she spent much of her later years docked. Steam power became favored over wind, then petrol propelled engines become the standard. The Star of India became obsolete. Without the wind in her sails and the waves under her bow she fell quickly into disrepair.

Jerry MacMullen, a San Diego waterfront reporter and visionary and a group of investors purchased the ship in 1926 for $9,000. The Zoological Society of San Diego became involved and planned to turn the ship into an aquarium…that didn’t work out. The idea of a ship museum for nautical artifacts of the ship’s era came to mind when one of the Star of India’s rooms became a dedicated library used by MacMullen. He stored the books there he bought for the sole purpose of learning how to make the ship sea-worthy again (it had been towed to San Diego from Alameda). During the course of the Star of India’s resurrection, MacMullen, enamored with the ship, wrote his own book about her — Star of India: Log on an Iron Ship (Howell-North, 1961).

Money became tight in WWII and plans of raising funds for the ship’s repair failed miserably. The Star of India was again mostly forgotten and became MacMullen’s pet project until 1956 when the Star of India Auxiliary formed and attracted funds for the old ship’s restoration. MacMullen lived to see her become the crown jewel she is today before he passed in 1981.

Knowing a location’s background is key in determining the candidates for a haunting. Perhaps the ship’s ghost is Jerry McMullen himself, protecting her from harm, as he did during a good deal of his lifetime. There are the others — Storry, the captain who died onboard during his service when she was the Euterpe. The immigrants and crew who didn’t complete their journey because of illness or accident are good nominees for tormented spirits, and even a child who perished because of dehydration could be a prime aspirant.

“The ship has had quite a few deaths onboard over the course of her long career,” says Hanson about the Star of India’s darker past. “I work at another historic ship museum, and from what I can tell most all of the vintage ships of any size are haunted in some form or another. They vary in the amounts of paranormal activity…from residual hauntings — non-conscious psychic imprints and ghosts — to earthbound spirits that have crossed over, but decided to return to stay or visit for one reason or another. There is something about having moving water underneath the keel that seems to provide more energy for the ghosts to physically manifest, or otherwise make their presence known.”

There is a theory about the negative ions produced by the ocean (see Negative Ion Spotlight) acting as a feeding trough for spirits who need this kind of high-level energy to manifest. Other than high negative ion count, why are ships haunted?

“Ships typically experience a number of deaths onboard,” explains Hanson. “Unlike a home, deaths occurring on ships were, for the most part, unexpected and sometimes quite violent.”

A violent, sometimes quick death, has a way of manifesting a spirit that may not even realize it no longer has a physical body. If you put yourself into that situation, I imagine you can feel how frustrating that would feel.

During an investigation on the Star of India with SDGAP, our group split into three smaller groups, one group for each of the ship’s decks. Beginning at 9 pm, each group spent an hour or so on each deck, then switched decks until all three groups had an opportunity to investigate each deck. As a medium, I noticed quite a bit of energy around us on the ship, but trying to capture it on electronic devices proved difficult. We did hear unexplained footsteps, but it was difficult to get a bead on where they were coming from. The K-2 picked up some activity. I had several hits on the mid-level of the ship when I asked questions.

“Are you with us?” (light at 5), Yes.
“Can you leave here?” (Confused responses)
“Are there more than one of you?” (light at 5), Yes.
“Can some of you leave?” (light at 5), Yes.
“Are there some of you that can’t leave?” (light at 5), Yes.
“Are you dead?” No lights.
“Are you hurt?” No lights.
“Were you a passenger on the boat?” Confused responses.
“Were you a crewman?” Confused responses.
“Are you thirsty?” (light at 5), Yes.
“Can you see me?” (light at 5), Yes.
Then the device became unresponsive.

Trying to record EVPs, we thought someone was knocking in response to our questions, but it was just the pistol shrimp snapping their claws closed and making loud sounds. In the lower decks you can hear the shrimp going all night long.

As far as collecting uncontaminated EVP’s on the ship — good luck! Chances are you will hear street noise the entire time, as the harbor is packed well into the early AM with rabble-rousers and drunks. You’re also right next to an airport. Your best chance is conducting investigations on a weeknight.

During my investigation with SDGAP, the ship had an elaborate pirate exhibit on display so there were pirate mannequins everywhere, which made for a surreal lights-out investigation. There were places on the ship where I experienced a deep feeling of despair and I credit that feeling to the people who died onboard, as much of it is residual energy. In some areas of the ship EMFs were relatively high, which made using a meter nearly useless. EMF could have contributed to some of my own morose feelings I experienced on the ship on the lower decks. I also felt several entities watching us, but dodging contact.

These incidents I credit to “shadow people” (see Shadow People Spotlight). I don’t believe any entities on the Star of India have malevolent intentions, but are instead, simply observing us. I had two episodes on the 'tween deck near the bow in which I felt someone poke me in the ribs and neck, although no one was close enough to me to have done so.

Hanson has conducted several investigations aboard the ship and he’s encountered some unique experiences working with a medium on his team. “I’ve heard some unexplained sounds, but not gotten anything definitive on any of my instruments,” says Hanson of not being able to catch physical evidence on the Star. “I've been present when mediums in the group have reported that a spirit is trying to communicate with me, but as I’m not very sensitive to such things, I could only take their word for it.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Sally Richards has done something amazing. Her book is a totally fascinating read—in it we meet real people, telling real tales of really strange phenomena. It’s not a scholarly text or dry accounting or a namby-pamby hit-or-miss retelling of what might’ve been a ghostly encounter—these stories resound with gritty authenticity and amazing first-person reports of real encounters with the paranormal. I recommend it to skeptics and believers alike.”
-- Melissa Martin-Ellis, Author of The Everything Ghost Hunting Book & 101 Ways to Find a Ghost

“There are voices out there if you listen. This book could show you how.”
-- Frank Sumption, Creator of Frank’s Box

“I love how the history is introduced into the storyline, for it adds that much more of intrigue in each chapter. I find it compelling to witness in words, what the individuals did in real time. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sally Richards work and the prestige in which she demonstrates through words for all to see. Loved it!” -- Robbie Thomas, Psychic Profiler & Best Selling Author

“Sally Richards takes the reader on a historically haunted tour de force with this utterly engaging paranormal travelogue. She brings us up close and personal to the spookiest places Southern California has to offer in a book that will fascinate, inform and entertain.” -- Marie D. Jones, Author of PSIence: How New Discoveries in Quantum Physics and New Science May Explain the Existence of Paranormal Phenomena

“Sally Richards takes the reader on a supernatural journey though some of the most haunted places in all Southern California as she uses her mediumship gifts and research skills to bring to life the better known ghosts of the Golden State. Her insights and travels bring life to the haunted history of California and the landmarks of her paranormal past. A must read for anyone interested in the—how should I say? Different side of the state, and her book should be part of anyone’s collection on the specters of the west.” -- Richard Senate, Author of Ghosts of the California Missions

“Our friend, Sally Richards, through intensive research and paranormal perseverance, has created an impressive new book covering 30 haunted California destinations including some of our personal favorites. Follow her apparitional adventures from place to place as she serves notice that there is life beyond this plane of existence. It’s a must read compendium of ghost stories that will chill and thrill every researcher. Once you start reading, you can’t stop! Happy Haunting!” -- Authors Rob and Anne Wlodarski, Ghost Publishing

“Even readers not interested in local history will be deeply entranced by Sally Richards’ Ghosthunting Southern California. Richards’ writing is lucid and her knowledge deep. The combination makes for a compelling read as Richards and her trained paranormal team probe the unknown and mysterious. This is great stuff!” -- Linda L. Richards, editor & co-founder of January Magazine and Author of The Indigo Factor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578605156
  • Publisher: Clerisy Press
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Series: America's Haunted Road Trip Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 945,051
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Author Sally Richards had a near death experience at the age of eight. Years later she experienced her second near death experience when she was hit by lightning during a severe storm before Hurricane Katrina. Richards then set out to learn about this phenomena and other paranormal activities. She became a paranormal investigator, searching the globe for haunted locations, amazing stories, and unquestionable evidence. Richards serves as a visiting medium in Lily Dale, NY, during the summer months where she reads gallery-style to hundreds of visitors giving messages from the sacred stump in the forest where mediums have given messages for more than 100 years.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiv

Welcome to America's Haunted Road Trip xv

Introduction: What Came Before, What Comes After 1

Old Town San Diego 11

Chapter 1 Four Winds Trading Company Old Town San Diego 12

Chapter 2 Creole Café Old Town San Diego 19

Chapter 3 El Campo Santo Cemetery Old Town San Diego 27

Chapter 4 The Whaley House Old Town San Diego 35

Spotlight On: What Are Ghosts? 45

Downtown San Diego and Surrounding Area 49

Chapter 5 Calvary Cemetery/Pioneer Park San Diego 50

Chapter 6 Mount Hope Cemetery San Diego 59

Chapter 7 Cabrillo Bridge San Diego 69

Chapter 8 Proctor Valley Road Chula Vista 78

Spotlight On: Shadow People 84

Northern and Eastern San Diego 89

Chapter 9 San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park San Pasqual Valley 90

Chapter 10 San Pasqual Cemetery San Pasqual Valley 99

Chapter 11 Ghost Rider of State Route 67 Lakeside 108

Chapter 12 Los Peñasquitos Creek Arch Bridge Poway 113

Spotlight On: Communicating with the Dead-ITC and IVP 122

The Anza-Borrego Desert and Surrounding Area 127

Chapter 13 Warner Springs Warner Springs 128

Spotlight On: The Curse of Warner Springs 137

Chapter 14 Julian Jail Julian 141

Chapter 15 Blair Valley and Pictograph Trail Anza-Borrego Desert 148

Chapter 16 Vallecito County Park Vallecito 157

Coastal Southern California 167

Chapter 17 Hunter Steakhouse Oceanside 168

Chapter 18 Star of India San Diego Harbor 176

Chapter 19 Hotel del Coronado Coronado 188

Chapter 20 Santa Catalina Island Santa Catalina Island 199

Chapter 21 Summerland Summerland 207

Spotlight On: Negative ions 217

Orange and Los Angeles Counties 219

Chapter 22 Queen Mary Long Beach 220

Chapter 23 Warner Grand Theatre San Pedro 230

Chapter 24 Linda Vista Hospital Los Angeles 239

Chapter 25 Heritage Square Museum: Hale and Octagon Houses Los Angeles 248

Chapter 26 Cobb Estate and White City Resort Altadena 257

Spotlight On: Poltergeists 272

Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties 275

Chapter 27 Rancho Camulos Piru 276

Chapter 28 Glen Tavern Inn Santa Paula 286

Chapter 29 Mission Park Jail Santa Barbara 293

Chapter 30 James Dean Memorial Junction Cholame 299

Spotlight On: Mediums and Psychics 310

Resources 316

About the Author 336

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