Monday, March 30, 2009

The Brookdale Lodge

Entry Updated 2-5-2013

The Brookdale Lodge is located on on Highway 9 in Brookdale (hence the name, amazing, isn't it?) in Santa Cruz County. In addition to a hotel, the lodge also boasts a beautiful restaurant known as the Brook Room, built on top of a natural creek - and the floor of the restaurant has been built so that the creek bed is visible running through the place.

I know that I have been spending too much time performing archaeological survey - I had to go through that last paragraph and replace the word "drainage" with "creek."

The lodge began as the headquarters of the local lumber company in the 1890’s. It passed through different owners, and was a hotel, resort, and currently is both a restaurant and hotel. During the 1920’s through 1940’s it was a hotspot resort and is known to the music world through three different swing-era songs, and known to the rest of the world as a popular vacation spot for the wealthy. Over time, the lodge feel into disrepute, but has been somewhat rehabilitated, and is today known as a local music spot, though no longer as a prime resort.

Local legend holds that mobsters from San Francisco would come to the Brookdale lodge when they wanted to lay low for a while or conduct their business in secret - after all, with the lodge as isolated as it is, law enforcement officials were supposedly rarely seen in the area. These stories are rather surprising, as from 1922 through 1945 the Brookdale Lodge was operated by a Seventh Day Adventist who adhered to prohibition, and was a wildly popular resort location. The period of infamy didn’t begin until the late 1940’s, but rumors of bodies buried under the floor and locations used for murders are a common part of local folklore.

Visitors to the hotel claim to have heard voices and also to have heard scratching along the exterior walls of the hotel - and it has been claimed that these are the actions of the ghosts of mobsters or their victims. Other, less ominous, voices and laughter are claimed to be the residue of the lodge’s good times as a resort. In addition, a previous owner of the lodge, H. J. Logan, had a young daughter named Sarah who fell into the creek in the Brook Room, was knocked unconscious, and drowned. Visitors report seeing and even talking to a girl who matches her description, but who vanishes mysteriously as soon as the person interacting with her looks away.

In the Mermaid Room, a room in which an entire wall is a thick sheet of glass that looks into the hotel's swimming pool, people have reported hearing voices, and clinking glasses, as if there is a spectral party taking place. And throughout the hotel, the sounds of slamming doors and footsteps in empty rooms have been reported.

Room 46 is reputed to be the most haunted location within the lodge. As put in a page on's website:
In the 1970's a wing of motel rooms was built over the spot where once stood the lodge's camping cabins. Room 46 of the motel wing is reported to be very haunted. A woman who worked at the lodge in exchange for lodging has reported that at night objects and shapes would fly across the room. Ghostly ballroom dancers would swirl around leering at her as they floated by. Ghosts would materialize around her bed, their faces sometimes vague and sometimes very very clear. One of the ghosts was a little boy, perhaps 12 or 13 years old, another was a man with his eye hanging loose on his cheek, and still another was a man with a knife wound across his face. Not all of her experiences in room 46 were visual. She also reports that once she felt somebody sit on the edge of her bed and stroke her arm.

Commentary: Okay, a lot of stuff going on here.

First off, there’s the allure of the dark history of a once-popular and glamorous location. That alone would put this place into legend-land without the ghost story aspect. Likely much of the gangland-era story (bodies in the floorboards, murders carried out in a meatlocker to prevent the victim’s screams from being heard etc.) are exaggeration or fabrication. Nonetheless, it makes for a creepy story even if you don’t think the dead are returning.

The ghost stories have three elements – one is a typical scare story that involves voices from beyond reliving their terrifying final moments or, possibly, giving voice to their current terror due to their violent lives or end. The experiences described are typically vague and could be explained by a number of different non-ghostly sources. However, it does make for a good story to tell your date when you are winding your way up Highway 9 – in fact, I highly recommend doing so. Regardless, these stories are typical of places that have a reputation, deserved or not, for violence and shady characters. They are interesting both in the fact that we often turn perceived evil into entertainment, and also because they often reflect two different notions: 1) we assume that places where dirty deeds were done may retain a taint from those deeds (or, perhaps, when we find a place we believe to be tainted, we tend to try to find events to which we may attach the alleged taint), and 2) we see this as consequences of bad action, a cautionary tale, so to speak.

The second type of story involves the general "bumps in the night" that tend to get associated with most historic buildings. This includes the sounds of diners and of hotel residents moving about. Usually these stories are creepy because they are "unnatural", but have little menace implied in them. However, as the story of Room 46 shows, even these stories can take on more disturbing aspects.

The third story, that of the ghostly girl who appears and interacts with guests, is typical of another type of ghost story. Children who die early are often the subjects of ghost stories, and are usually either pitiable – Sarah is sometimes seen crying for her mother – or else cute and charming – Sarah is also often said to be interacting with people in a very friendly manner. The deeper cultural meaning of these stories is not clear, but it likely results from the fact that most adults view the death of a child as a heartbreaking event, even if they did not know the child (I used to visit cemeteries on a regular basis and had to stop going to those that had a section of graves for children, I found the situation too upsetting). In a way, the presence of the ghost, while potentially unnerving, is also reassuring, it lets us think that she will remain an idealized pure and innocent child for eternity, and that perhaps her untimely death was not the end of the story.

Personal Experience: In December of 2009, I had the good fortune to attend a role-playing game mini-convention hosted at the Brookdale Lodge. The games all had a horror theme, so placing them in a haunted hotel was appropriate. The lodge, however, is in poor repair. The guest rooms, which are in a separate building from the rest of the facilities, were actually quite nice, if a bit strange in their set-up (there was no way to use the curtains to keep out the morning light, because the curtains were on windows that didn't get the morning light, curtains hung over the heater, preventing its operation, etc.). The rest of the lodge, though, including the lobby, dance floor, meeting room (which is called the Log Cabin because it is, well, in a log cabin attached to the rest of the building) were in a bad state. Parts of the ceiling had collapsed in, many of the light fixtures were broken, and we were experiencing extremely heavy rains, so leaks in the roof resulted in soaked floors in much of the establishment. Add to this that, due to the storms, the power kept going out, and quite literally half of the time that we were gaming, it was under candlelight or battery-powered lanterns, and you can imagine that the eeriness of the place really began to get to us.

For any other event, this would have been disastrous. For a horror game convention, this was perfect, and we all had a blast - in fact, when power was restored, most of the players clamored for the lights to be turned back off, as we had worked out a tremendous sense of atmosphere with the candles and battery-powered lanterns.

In between evening games, and after gaming had completed for the evening (around 1 AM), we would go exploring the lodge. Exploring the Mermaid Room was especially unnerving. The pool is closed, as is the bar in the room, and the room's floor was covered in water (not from the pool, but from multiple leaks in the roof), and with the lights out, the room had a truly creepy atmosphere. The general consensus was that everyone who entered the room kept expecting to hear a thud from the glass wall, and to see that a corpse had floated through the swimming pool and bounced up against it.

One of my fellow convention-goers ended up in room 46, and he claims to have heard someone clearing their throat when nobody but him was in the room. He was sitting on the bed writing a text message when he heard the sound immediately to his right. He decided that the best thing to do was to act as if he hadn't heard it, and continue with his message.

A couple of teenage girls had been brought to the lodge by the mother of one of them as a birthday gift - they wanted to spend the night in a haunted hotel. They claimed to have heard the spectral party in the mermaid room, as well as to have heard a crash without a source in the room adjacent to the Mermaid Room that contains a stage and dance floor. However, given that one of my fellow gamers had decided to sneak around the place and jump out at these girls and generally make noise, it is open to discussion just how much of the stories that the girls told were their imaginations, ghosts, or rowdy gamers.

I took my camera with me, of course, and took the following photos in the Brook Room shortly after sunset:

These photos were taken within 30 seconds of each other, and I don't know what the white haze is. My girlfriend suggests that it may be my breath condensing in the air in front of the camera, entirely possible as it was rather cold in the Brook Room. It may also have been some other camera malfunction, or the flash reflecting off of moisture in the air (edit to add:  In the years since I first wrote thus entry, I have become a much more proficient photographer, and it's now clear that vapor reflecting a flash is the cause). Basic point - seeing something weird on a camera does not a ghost make, cameras malfunction sometimes, and flashes can create weird visual artifacts. Still, when you are in a hotel with a haunted reputation and you see something like this just as the sun has gone down...well, it kinda' makes you shudder just a little.

The rest of these photos were taken between 1 AM and 2 AM. I wandered through the brook room, feeling a bit creeped out the entire time, and simultaneously hoping that I would get an image of something unnatural, and that my photos would end up prosaic and boring. Well, I got prosaic, but the images do give a feel of what the place was like with all of the lights out:

SOURCES: Local legend, Internet, Internet, Internet, Internet, Internet, Internet, Internet, Internet, Personal Experience, Listing of Newspaper Stories.

Graham Hill Road Cemetery

There is a cemetery on Graham Hill Road in Santa Cruz, near the entrance for Highway 17. People report taking photos of "orbs" (more on this below), as well as having encounters with various ghosts at this cemetery. One particular story holds that pulling a car into the cemetery’s driveway at night with the lights on will attract a violent spirit that is usually described as being "large and white" (yep, The Man even keeps the spirits down).

Commentary: This story is your basic “spooky graveyard” story. Other than the allegedly hostile ghost in the driveway, there’s really nothing that marks this story out as particularly unique. However, it is right next to a “white widow” ghost site (which I will write about later), so that’s kind of unusual.

By and large, the nature of the story seems to be little more than fodder for "legend tripping” – the habit of people, especially young people, to go to places where a ghost/demon/escapee from the insane asylum/Ed Koch is allegedly to be found in order to prove their mettle by facing a danger that isn’t really there. The stories describing the danger of the place in question are typically supernatural in nature, although there are exceptions.

As for the "orbs", These are apparent balls of light that appear in photographs of allegedly haunted places. They also appear in photographs of non-haunted places. In fact, they have nothing to do with ghosts. They are a very well-known side-effect of the way that cameras pick up light. When a particle of dust or moisture catches either the ambient light in a room or the light from a camera flash, it will appear as a floating ball of light. Our eyes gather light, and our brains process what our eyes gather, in such a way that we don't see "orbs." However, cameras gather light in a way that they become fairly common in areas with high dust or moisture contents. Wanna-be ghost hunters often point to “orbs” as evidence of spirit activity, but all that they are seeing is a very well-understood and mundane artifact of photography.

Incidentally, I have watched photographers and people with advanced knowledge of optics explain this to believers, and the believers invariably refuse to listen to anything being said and cling to their belief in the notion that these "orbs" are evidence of ghosts.

Personal Experience: One night, a friend and I decided to put this story to the test. We drove into the driveway with our headlights on, and waited.


I switched the headlights to brights.


My friend got out and began shining a flashlight around while I toggled back and forth between bright beams and normal headlights, and honked my horn once.


So, we concluded that the story was, unsurprisingly, nonsense. However, someone that I told this story to insists that the spirit was simply refusing to show itself to someone who was testing it.

Yep, it's a sulking spirit. You'd think that death would serve as a wake-up call to get someone to stop acting like a spoiled 16-year-old, but apparently not.

SOURCES: Local Legend, Internet

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Screaming Woman of Highway 152

Highway 152 runs from Watsonville in south Santa Cruz County to Highway 99 about 30 miles north of Fresno. This stretch of highway is an important route for truckers who transport materials between the San Joaquin Valley and the Monterey Bay.

As the story goes, several years back, a young woman was hitch-hiking along this road, and was picked up by the trucker. The trucker killed her - the details of how, and even whether it was a murder or an accident, change from telling to telling. Sometimes she dies when the truck crashes or drives off of the road, in others the trucker murders here.

However, the stories hold that the ghost of this young woman appears in two ways - a phantom truck will be sighted driving down the road, and she is seen sitting in the passenger seat screaming. Also, it is said that lone motorists driving on the road at night have reported seeing her appear in their car's passenger seat, scream, and then vanish.

Commentary: The version of this story in which the woman appears in the vehicle of the driver seems to be a variation of the vanishing hitchhiker urban legend, but without the voluntary cooperation of the driver and without the coda of meeting a family member of the deceased individual. The story is also curious in that it seems to alwasy creep people out but good when I tell it, but the ghost doesn't appear to do anything malicious, it just appears, makes noise and vanishes. The fact that the ghost seems to simply be in torment and that it appears when we should be safe but are in fact vulnerable (controlling a 1000-pound or more piece of metal hurtling down a road) seems to add to the creep factor.

The version of the story in which the woman is seen screaming inside of a phantom truck seems to be a variation on a common "ghost car" or "ghost wagon" theme present in many stories found throughout the U.S. This version also seems ot be less frightening, due no doubt to the fact that it involves the witness seeing something, rather than having an unexplainable force appear in their safety zone.

SOURCES: Local Legend, Newspaper, Internet

Another View of Highway 152

Introduction and FAQ

Hello, and welcome to Sluggo's House of Spookiness. Although structured as a blog, I don't operate this site as a standard blog. There are three basic purposes to this site:

1) To catalogue the ghost stories that I have collected over the years,

2) To share these stories with anyone who is interested, and

3) To invite readers to submit their own stories to me so that I might expand this collection.

Each entry is structured in a format that includes three or four parts: the story itself, a commentary on the story, some stories contain additional features (videos, special photos, etc.), and a sources section that cites my information sources and links to them whenever they are visible on the website.

While most readers will probably be interested in the stories themselves, it's the commentaries that are the meat of the entries from my point of view. Most stories have something odd or unique about them that make them interesting to me, and the commentary is where I explore this. Sometimes I simply discuss what makes the story effective as a creepy tale, other time I will discuss how it fits into common types of ghost stories, other times I will discuss how hoaxes or exaggeration came to be seen as truth, sometimes I will discuss why common explanations for a particular tale don't seem to fit, and so on. The point is that both those who want to believe and those who are skeptical are welcome, and will hopefully find something to enjoy.

Also, as I started this blog to catalogue my stories, entries are frequently updated as more information is gathered, photographs taken, outside resources located, etc. With each entry subject to change, check out your favorite ones from time to time to see if there is something new.

Below are the frequently asked questions (FAQ), which will be updated:

Q: Do you know who owns haunted property X?

A: If I know who owns a property, and I feel that it is appropriate to post that information, you will find it in the main post. Generally, I will post ownership information if the place in question is both a business and is owned by a company or a single large landholder (so, if a strip mall is owned by Warren Buffet or the Pepsi Corporation, I'll post that information), but I will not post ownership info if it is owned by a small property owner (such as a local individual or family) or if the location is somebody's home. Basically, Warren Buffet can afford to deal with you should you get caught trespassing (which you shouldn't do), but the smith family down the street may not have the money to do so. So, if it is not posted in the main entry, I either do not know the ownership, or I do not feel that it is appropriate to put that information in this forum and I will not email it to anyone.

Q: Is it alright to comment on old posts?

A: Absolutely, please do so. As stated above, I view all entries as living and open to revision - feel free to comment, and I may incorporate your comments into the body of the entry.

Q: Why are comments moderated?

A: Primarily because I figured that visitors to a ghost story blog wouldn't be interested in reading the Viagra ads that were getting posted in comments before I changed the moderation settings. Partially because a few inappropriate comments (see below) were posted and I had to deal with them.

Q: Why didn't you publish my comment?

A: It might be one of two reasons: 1) the comment didn't come through to me (Blogspot is good about alerting me to comments needing moderation, but it may slip up on occasion), or 2) the comment was inappropriate. Comments are considered inappropriate if they are off-topic (the commenter wants to talk politics and not ghost stories, for example), if they are abusive (if you are more interested in name-calling than in discussing an issue), or if they are needlessly offensive (you are making racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted comments, etc.). Of course, I also reserve the right to publish inappropriate comments and to provide my own sarcastic responses. So, if you want to be abusive, remember that I have several siblings and alot of practice with comebacks and I get to decide what gets published here.

Q: Do you even believe in ghosts/the paranormal?

A: I have always felt that this question indicated that the person asking misses the entire point of this site. I am less interested in the question of whether or not ghosts, demons, spirits, monsters, etc. are real than I am in the stories themselves. So, first and foremost, I am interested in these stories as stories, and I have been known to tell stories that I know for a fact are false just to creep someone else out. Whether you believe or not, ghost stories are a wonderful part of our folklore.

But, if you insist on an answer, then I will oblige. I believe that people have weird experiences that they do not understand. That doesn't mean that these experiences can't be explained, but the person having them doesn't know the explanation. Many ghost stories become easily comprehensible when you understand how our eyes function, how our brain processes sound, what happens to us physiologically when we sleep and when we wake up, etc. I often hear people speak as authorities on the paranormal who, when quizzed, know little to nothing about how human perception works, which means that they are talking without even the most rudimentary knowledge of their subject. That is just plain dishonest.

Some experiences, however, can't be easily explained. Even when you account for weird perceptions and even people just making stories up, there are some truly odd stories out there. Will the explanation be paranormal? Perhaps, but until the explanation is truly found it is simply dishonest to claim that it will be anything in particular. In other words, if you don't know what caused a phenomenon, that doesn't make the phenomenon a ghost, it simply makes it unexplained.

So, I don't rule ghosts out, but we need to keep a sense of honesty and perspective and not assume that we know something that we don't actually know. However, I always go with probability, and if an event sounds an awful lot like a well-known natural phenomenon, then I will probably point that out.

Q: Do you want to hear my ghost story?

A: ABSOLUTELY! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD YES! If you have a story - whether a personal experience or a local legend or something that your grandmother told you - I want it. Please, email it to me at

Q: Do you have any stories from my location?

A: Possibly, and feel free to ask. However, you are in a better position to gather stories for your local area than I am. If you do find anything good, though, please pass it on. I'll make sure that you get credit should I write a post about it. And if you find anything new that I should add to existing entries, please let me know.

Q: why don't you post more often?

A: Because I have a more-than-full-time job, a family, several other hobbies, and a large network of friends and extended family. In other words, I'm a busy monkey.  I have very little time these days, as much as I would like to post more. So, yeah, I now post sporadically, sometimes once a year, sometimes once  a month. I have a backlog of partially-written entries that are in various stages of readiness, and when time allows I work on them.