In addition to things that go “bump” on the road, you may
find your favorite dirt road has things that go bump in the night as
well. Mike Marinacci’s “Mysterious California” includes several of
our frequent haunts, and I have personally heard a few ghost stories as
Off roaders are not the only ones who enjoy the
Southern California. Marinacci lists it
as not only the largest park in California, but also the most
Spirits of Borrego
Nearly everyone is familiar
with Peg Leg Smith’s legendary lost gold mine that is memorialized
four miles northeast of Borrego Springs at the end of
Pegleg Road. Many have chased
their dreams looking for his lost mine. During that same time, the
Borrego Badlands was haunted by the ghost of an old prospector who was
owner of the appropriately named Phantom Mine. His eight foot skeleton,
with a lantern light flickering in his bony chest, is said to roam the
desert, chasing intruders off his claim.
In the Carrizo Wash, a stagecoach pulled by four mules, travels
along the old Butterfield Stage Road with no passengers--just a ghostly
driver. Back in the 1860’s, a stage disappeared after its driver was
held up by bandits and killed for a box of gold. Wheel ruts are said to
be seen in the soft sand after the stage has driven by.
Vallecito Station is haunted by the Carrizo Wash stage ghost and
a few others. A phantom white horse has occasionally been seen galloping
down the road, as well as the ghosts of two Texan duelists who killed
one another. In 1869, an eastern bride traveling to Sacramento
to meet her fiancé
fell ill at Vallecito and died. She was buried in the bridal gown found
in her trunk. Known as “The Woman in White”, some say she can be
seen pacing the adobe grounds even today.
In addition to ghosts and phantom miners, a Viking ship may lie
buried in rocks and soil in a canyon above Agua Caliente Springs.
Bigfoot has been occasionally spotted near the Borrego Sink. Ghost
lights, or as old miners called them “burning balls”, have lit up
the night skies over Oriflame
west of Butterfield
Ranch for years.
If you’ve been on our Mojave Expedition in the El Pasos and Last
area of the Western
Mojave, you’ve seen Burro Schmidt’s Tunnel. When owner Tonie Seger
was alive she would gladly tell you of the time old Burro Schmidt’s
presence was felt in the tunnel and told her not to go any farther.
“Go back…go back..,” it warned. Tonie herself passed away a few
years back. There are no reports of Tonie haunting the tunnel as Burro
Schmidt did, but there a rumors that the ghost of her oversized
Doberman, Coalie, still leads tours of the long tunnel to nowhere.
In the Spring of 1991, Roger and I ran into some Randsburg locals
while playing sweep for an ECO4WD tour. They claimed to have video of
UfO’s flying around the ancient Indian sites on Black
Mountain. In his book “The
Secrets of the Mojave”, ‘Branton’ talks more about these UFOs in
the area, as well as hidden underground tunnels, giant automatons, and
magnetic anomalies in
At the mouth of Goler Gulch, also known as the Little Jack claim,
we always honk our horn to our late friend, Steve Nye, who first
conquered the greenstone with us long before we envisioned doing tours.
If Steve has a ghost, it’s surely there. We wouldn’t visit Little
Jack without paying tribute to Steve.
Also of ghostly interest along the areas visited in the El Pasos,
are the remains of Chinese mines buried in the tunnels of Bonanza Gulch
by jealous white men. Do their ghosts haunt the gulch? Della
Gerbacht’s Camp at the top of
has been gone for a
few years now, but her ghost
may still roam the canyon with her phantom shotgun, so care should be
taken not to get hit by one of her potshots when exploring the area.
Ghostly Ghost Towns
’s Best Ghost
Towns, Phil Varney, aptly defines a ghost town as “any site that has
had a markedly decreased population from its peak, a town whose initial
reason for settlement (such as a mine or a railroad) no
longer keeps people in the community. A ghost town can be totally deserted…it can have a resident or
two…..or it can be a town with genuine signs of vitality.” A town labeled “ghost” by Varney’s definition, may not
necessarily have a ghost, but there are certainly ghost towns with
reports of ghostly inhabitants.
High in the Inyo
near Lone Pine, the
ghost town of
has had it’s share
of mysterious and ghostly stories. In its heyday, eighteen tons of
silver-lead bullion were transported across the desert each day. Some
ingots from the famed mining town were reportedly lost and buried near Red
Canyon, never reaching the
pueblo of Los Angeles. Some stories tell
of a small steamer, also carrying 83 pound bars of
that was swallowed by Owens
and never seen
Today, overnight visitors to the restored ”bed and cook your
own breakfast” ghost town, can opt to sleep in the ghost room of the
bunkhouse or the Belshaw House and wait for a visit. Things have been
said to be re-arranged on dressers, ghostly ladies have said to have
taken up residence in old wooden trunks, and children have said to have
been pinched by ghosts while posing for pictures in one of the bedrooms.
Alphonse Benoit, the ghost of the Inyos, has appeared in the
screen of the American Hotel on occasion, creaking footsteps are heard
going up and down the narrow old stairs at night, hotel kitties screech
out for no reason and at least one was seen flying out of a ghostly
plastic bag from the kitchen and hightailing it down Main Street.
The famed ghost town of Bodie is particularly noted for “the
Bodie Curse”. On display in the museum are confessional letters from
people who have met with various misfortunes after “acquiring” even
the most minute item from the grounds. There are also stories of many
ghostly hauntings in several of the buildings throughout the town.
Various park ranger families that have occupied the J.S. Cain house over
the years, have reported that the bedroom door opens and closes on its
own. Many sleeping over night in the Cain bedroom have been awakened
with feelings of suffocation and realized the ghost of a
heavy set Chinese maid was actually sitting on them.
An old woman’s ghost is often seen sitting in a rocking chair
as she knits an afghan at the old Gregory House. The aroma of Mrs.
Mendocini’s Italian cooking sometimes permeates the air in and around
the old Mendocini House. One father visiting the grave of
the three year old “Angel
of Bodie” in the cemetery, noted that his daughter giggled as she
played with an unseen entity.
The Chemung Mill, accessed from a dirt road northeast of the
present day town of
Bridgeport, stands tattered and
torn today. Ghost towners setting up for Saturday overnight camping at
the sight usually find their attempts thwarted by the poltergeist that
lives there. An internet acquaintance of mine waited for the an
interesting gray cloud to position itself over the mill for the perfect
picture during a day visit. His camera suddenly flew off the tripod and
crashed into several pieces on the ground, serving as another stern
reminder of ethereal beings. Ghostly spirits can be felt at the
Victorian Hotel in the living town of Bridgeport, as well.
As you travel along your favorite dirt road haunts this fall,
take a closer look around you, particularly as the sun goes down. You
never know what may be lurking in those desert and mountain
moon-shadows. Those shakes,
rattles and rolls you experience may be more than Roger, Marty and I on
the same trail in front of or behind you.
, Strange Places and
Phenomena in the
’s Best Ghost Towns
Secrets of the Mojave
Arts & Sciences Enterprises