Sunday, June 7, 2009

The White Lady of Graham Hill Road

A German immigrant living in the hills near Santa Cruz sent away for a mail-order bride from Massachusettes. The man was a violent alcoholic, however, and beat his wife on a regular basis, often forcing her to wear her wedding gown while he beat her.

After a time, the woman decided to leave her abusive husband, and began making arangements for escape. Upon learning of this, the drunkard's cruelty came to its climax, and he drugged her (though some versions of the story say that he killed her and then decapitated her post-mortem) and left her in the house, which he set on fire (some versions of the story claim that she was killed on her wedding night, before she even thought of leaving the man).

After her death, people began to report seeing a luminous woman dressed in white in the woods near the site of the house (just off of modern-day Graham Hill Road near the Ocean Street extension). Sometimes she is simply seen and/or heard as she walks through the woods. At other times she may take violent action against anyone that is unfortunate enough to encounter her (it seems likely that a white ghost said to haunt the Graham Hill Road Cemetery is the same as the White Lady).

Commentary: This is a variation on the White Lady ghost story, found throughout the world (one particularly famous example comes from the region of Bavaria, which mixes elements of the classic "White Lady" legend with elements of La Llarona). Santa Cruz's equivalent is made a bit more interesting by the fact that the area in which it occurs also has many other ghost stories associated with it (such as the stories associated with the cemetery on Graham Hill Road). The origins of the story are unclear, and even the story itself is highly variable - the version given above is the most common on heard, but another origin story for the ghost is similar to that for Christie Ranch on Santa Cruz Island, and features a young woman waiting for her husband, who has died in a shipwreck, eventually wasting away and dying of loneliness.

The location in which the story takes place, a forested area until a few decades ago when a new housing development and a condominium complex were constructed, is a slope at the foot of a hill. On this slope (at least as of a few years ago) is a decaying concrete foundation for a structure that might have been a house. The place has become a favorite location for local ghost hunters, legend trippers, and teens looking for a quiet make-out spot. It is across the street from the cemetery, and right next to one busy road and one eerily quiet road.

Sources: Local Legend, Newspaper, Santa Cruz Wiki, Wikipedia, Internet, Personal Account


  1. Is tha Graham Hill Cemetary mentioned in your blog the same as the IOOF cemetary on the Ocean Street Ext? The "White Lady" story I'm faamiliar with is located in a very sim iliar place. I'm referring to a burn out delapedated old "wharehouse about a mike or mile and a half futher up the Ocean street ext. on the right side of the road. Its my understanding that in the fifties a Santa Cruz police cruiser disappeared there, plus it has been seen with the officer still inside the whole apparition appeared to be semi-transparent.
    I posted the basics of my story on SCGH's fb page.

  2. I believe they are one in the same. It's at the Ocean Street Exit for Highway 17, the same one that you use to get to Graham Hill Road?

    Thanks for the police car story, that is excellent.

    I believe that I have been to the warehouse in question once before, though it was years ago before I knew of the cemetary ghost story.

  3. I'm an ol time surfer from Santa Cruz with lots of exploring strange things in my youth in those days...
    A friend and I had a very scary experience with the white lady in the 60's. I was around 16 yrs old and my friend also. We were at a friends house just on the other side of the freeway on night talking about the white lady and also the ghost at Harvey west park. So the friend and I got a couple of kitchen knives and candles and agreed to go at 2am walking up the road satisfy our curiosity. By the crematorium on the right with the cemetery on the left, There was one street light at the beginning by the big oak tree and mausoleum. It was very quiet with a full moon we could see through the trees up on Graham hill road. As we walked past the crematorium and the big tree there is a slope that goes up and meets graham hill road. We were walking very slowly he kept his eyes to the left and I was looking toward the right up the hill. Just then we heard a twig crack, we stopped and asked each other " did you hear that?" replayed by both yup !. So we continued and heard the crack again, We both stopped and looked up the hill. What we saw scared us both we were froze in place. We could see the moon through the trees and we saw on the hill what looked like a tree, but in that instant I knew there was no trees on that slope. as we were looking we saw vials floating and a hand raise up with what we saw was an axe as the moonlight glistened on the blade, In that instance I had a flash for as if I was looking through her eyes of the entity at us, I could see the road with us standing down with no source of weapons or anything for protection except for the kitchen knifes. in those seconds viewing what I did, all at once we heard the horse go into full gallop down the hill, We both never ran as fast as we did ever. once we made it back to the freeway our adrenaline rushing, we stopped looked back which was about 1/2 mile. we couldn't believe what we saw. My friend wanted to go back, I said what I saw and experienced I said NO, tomorrow we can check it out. So the next day we went back and walked up the slope where we saw the horse with the white lady sitting on top that night. In the dirt we saw and touched 4 hoof imprints and the dirt was still fresh. That was the last time we went there at night. I since moved from Santa Cruz but will never forget that night.