Catching up with local urban legends

Evan Rodriguez, News Editor

Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster and Bloody Mary are all legends that can be found over the entire world, but there are also some urban tales that hit a bit closer to home.

An urban legend has a very loose definition, being a humorous or horrific story or piece of information circulated as though true, especially one supposedly involving someone vaguely related or known to the teller.

While the more well known urban legends are paranormal or creepy, there are plenty of tales that are far more light-hearted. These can range from the Tooth Fairy to the conspiracy that the government are secretly lizard people.

Regardless of whether the legend is more of a conspiracy or borderline mythological, some of these stories can be found within Southern California.


The Haunted Queen Mary

Located in Long Beach, the Queen Mary luxury liner is quite a large tourist attraction year round, however it’s also filled with scary stories and paranormal encounters. There are quite a number of rumors around slamming doors, lights flicking on and off by themselves, and even several ghost sightings in the swimming pool, kitchen, salon, and especially the engine room.

The Char Man of Ojai Valley

Where and how the Char Man came to be is still shrouded in mystery; however there are several rumors that have been around since the 1960s.

Stories say that a man was involved in a terrible tragedy, a fire, car crash, or plane accident and can still be seen to this day. People claim to see his flaming body haunting the Creek Road Bridge chasing anybody who happens upon the road.


Griffith Park

Both the history of Griffith Park, and the supposed curse around the park can be traced back to the early 1900s.

Legend has it that the man who owned a majority of the land that would become Griffith Park had been cursed by a woman that was supposed to inherit the land through her family, but was cheated out of it by him.

Since then, countless people who have owned land in the area have fallen fatally ill, lost their business, or had run-ins with the law. Now, their ghostly presence can supposedly be seen and felt by visitors that enter the park.


Gravity Hill

Throughout the state of California a number of these mysterious “gravity hills” can be found. On these hills, gravity seems to halt its push on the Earth as cars on the hill seem to be rolling uphill.  Supposedly, this change of the natural law is due to a number of fatal accidents that have been associated with the hills and the tragedies have cursed the land and changed the physics of the areas.

The changed physics of Gravity Hill are actually just illusions due to the off-kilter trees, combined with an obscured horizon, but the story behind the hill is far more entertaining.


Turnbull Canyon

The canyon located between Whittier and the City of Industry is said to be home to all manner of terrifying events.

Rumors say that the Native Americans from hundreds of years ago believed the area to be evil.

During the 1800’s, people reported seeing witches and ghosts, while in the early 1900s, cults were said to be operating in the valley as well as an insane asylum located in the area being burned to the ground.

Today, ghost stories are incredibly common, along with reports of crazed people running at people and scaring them, making this story one of the scariest on this list.

The Underground City of the Lizard People

The most ludicrous urban legend? Some insist that there is an ancient civilization of lizard people miles underneath Los Angeles.

The legend begins with mining engineer George Warren Shufelt who, after learning of the secret society from the Hopi Indians, began excavating within Los Angeles, looking for any signs of a subterranean world.

After only a year of excavating, the project was shut down with no given reason and Shufelt himself went missing Since then, there haven’t been any updates on the missing mining engineer or why his project was abruptly shut down.


The Riverside Bridge Monster

Set in our own city of Riverside, CA, a terrifying and classic monster story takes place.

While driving across the Riverside Bridge going across the Santa Ana River, a local man encountered this monster. It was a stormy night in 1958 when the man encountered what is described as “a scaly, skinny, long-bodied screeching creature with a head like a scarecrow”.

The creature had seemingly came out of the river as it swelled due to heavy rainfall and had begun to claw at his door, trying to pull him out.

Before the creature could take him from his car, the man hit it with his car and immediately drove to the police station. However when police investigated, nothing was found.

After the investigation, a second attack happened, very similar to the first one, and only a day later.

Since these attacks, there haven’t been any recorded sightings of the monster, but decades later large footprints were found in the area.


Riverside Community College

The number of alleged paranormal occurrences that have happened within the college is astounding with students saying there are instances of doors opening and closing on their own, the ghost o

f a man in a suit roaming the Quad building, disembodied voices being heard in the Theater, and the apparition of a woman in the lower parking lot near the Automotive Building.

Throughout the college, a number of EVPs, or Electronic Voice Phenomena, can be detected using tape recordings and software to enhance the audio.


The Monster of Lake Elizabeth

While there are at least 10 different Lake Elizabeths in California, the most famous of the bunch would be the lake just outside of Lancaster in Los Angeles.

According to the urban legend, the devil created the lake to put his pets inside and if you swim deep enough, you will find a secret passage into Hell itself. Geographically, the lake itself is located on the San Andreas Fault Line, so this is not very far fetched.

The first reported sighting of the monster of Elizabeth Lake was in 1880, and sightings were reported throughout the next 100 years.

The monster has bat wings, the neck of a giraffe, the head of a bulldog and is at least 50 feet tall.

Spanish missionaries called it lake Laguna del Diablo, and even American Indian legends mention the monster in Elizabeth Lake in their folktales.

Several attempts have been made to build a ranch on the land near the lake, however potential landowners heard screeches coming from the water and had visions of terrible events while they were nearby.

As ranch owners tried to fight the monster, livestock and animals disappeared, followed by sightings of a winged beast flying overhead. These tragedies only continued as people began going missing in addition to the animals.

Since then, the hellish creature has caused local landowners to either sell or abandon their land, and locals to begin spreading the rumors of the monster living in Lake Elizabeth.


Mount Rubidoux

Separating the city of Riverside from Jurupa Valley, Mount Rubidoux stands almost 500 feet, a pillar of fitness and faith.

The mountain also serves as a point of strange happenings as hikers have constantly said they feel as though they’re being watched, or even seeing shadowy apparitions themselves.


Evergreen Cemetery

Evergreen Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in the city of Riverside, meaning it has seen its fair share of tragedies and paranormal events.

Up until it was refurbished a couple of years ago, Evergreen Cemetery was rundown and appeared to be poorly maintained, showing physically the effect of death on a location as spirits are laid to rest.

However, it is now restored to its former glory and you can see the graves of the prominent citizens that have been laid to rest here including city founders and civil war veterans among others.

Evergreen Cemetery supposedly houses a plethora of ghosts, mainly coming from the high volume of deaths that occurred during the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919. Besides the presence of spirits in the cemetery, there are also a number of accounts from people claiming to see some green fog or a green light within the fog.

The cause of this light is still unknown to this day, however accounts still come in from people going to pay their respects for those resting.

Also worth nothing, within the cemetery is an entrance to catacombs that go under the cemetery, however they have been sealed off for years.

Morey Mansion

Morey Mansion sits just outside of Riverside in Redlands and is able to be spotted a mile away.

The 1890 mansion is built in the Queen Ann Victorian style and has been described by many as being particularly gaudy to look at.

It was originally built by David and Sarah Morey, but was once owned by actress Carole Lombard. The Morey Mansion was turned into a bed and breakfast in 1985 and remained so up until 2010 when it simply became a private residence. However, it is said to still be home to the original owners, who both died in the house.

Sarah Morey tragically died in 1901, then David committed suicide not long after her passing. Ever since, Sarah’s initials apparently appear in unexpected places, especially in the ornate decorations. There are also reports of strange orbs and ghostly lights and unexplained hot and cold spots in various parts of the house.

The Mission Inn

The Mission Inn lies at the top of Riverside’s most haunted buildings.

It is not only one of the city’s most famous landmarks, but also is known to be the home to a number of paranormal occurrences.

The Mission Inn is said to be haunted by Frank and Alice Miller, the son and daughter of the original owner, C.C. Miller.

It is claimed that both of them are trapped within the building, now wandering the hallways of the Mission Inn, haunting the rooms and the guests.

Alice’s room up on the fourth floor and Frank’s room in the northeast corner are said to be particular hotspots for the paranormal activity as well as the bridal suite, room number 215 and the catacombs that run beneath the inn.

Guests commonly claim to have heard disembodied singing coming from the halls, as well as light flickering on and off by themselves.

While the Mission Inn is widely believed by some to have some sort of paranormal presence, the staff themselves do not believe any of the rumors.

Danielle Trynoski, the Museum Assistant at the Mission Inn Foundation and Museum, said “Honestly, most of our staff members, really the whole Mission Inn organization, don’t believe that the mission is haunted. I mean at most maybe someone hears a door or window closing by itself, but I mean the building itself wasn’t built correctly leveled so it’s all stuff that is easily explained away.”

This came as a surprise as time and time again online, the Mission Inn was continuously referred to as one of, if not the, most haunted places in Riverside on several websites.

Trynoski went on to recall the most common rumor of a ghost sighting, saying “…a guest was going to their room when they heard a woman’s voice. Sometimes she’s just mumbling and others hear her singing. He heard her singing. This man was stopped on the fourth floor by a woman dressed in old fashioned clothing, similar to how the tour guides used to look. Anyways the story goes that the woman was actually Alice Miller, an old hotel manager and Frank Miller’s sister!”

Trynoski said that a lot of people actually stay at the Mission Inn just to record their own experiences or try to find some sort of paranormal activity.

She even said “I remember a while back there was a television show, ghost hunters or ghost adventures, something like that, that wanted to go down into the catacombs but we declined.”

The mission declined the television offer because she said “…we just don’t allow people down there anymore.”

Whether or not the Mission Inn is actually haunted, or any of these urban legends are true, fill your October and visit some of these spooky sites yourself.

Compiled from: