Colma, California

Real estate has always been heavily in demand in San Francisco.  So much so that the town residents passed an ordinance in 1900 outlawing the construction of any more cemeteries in the city, and then passed another ordinance in 1912 evicting all existing cemeteries from the city limits. The dead were sent off to the necropolis of Colma, south of the city.  With most of Colma’s land dedicated to cemeteries, the population of the dead outnumbers the living by over a thousand to one. This has led to Colma being called “the City of the Silent” and has given rise to a humorous motto, now recorded on the city’s website: “It’s great to be alive in Colma.”   It’s also great to meander the impressive city of the dead and visit some of the great luminaries of early California history.

Here’s a great article about the history of cemeteries in San Francisco. (Thanks to Eleanor for the link.)

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (Los Angeles, California)

From Urban Daddy:  “Half the hotels in Los Angeles claim to be haunted by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe, but this is the only one with a view of the Tropicana Bar and Pool. Bonus: the spirit of Monty Clift is known to hold court around Room 928. And nothing is scarier than undead method actors…”

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House (San Jose, California)
The magnificently strange mansion was under non-stop construction for 38 years by a wacky widow named Sarah Winchester (who had been married to one of the Winchester Rifle heirs) who was told by a medium that she had to keep continuously building her house or the spirits of those who had been killed by Winchester Rifles would come after her. So… build she did… an incredibly strange house where stairways lead to ceilings, doors open to nowhere, and the number 13 figures very prominently. Great place!


Salton Sea

Salton Sea (Salton Sea, California)
Celeste thinks this is a sight worth seeing: “Morbid destination recommendation: Salton Sea, CA. It smells like an asshole and looks like a nuclear wasteland. I read something about high levels of ‘sediment’ in the air which can be harmful to one’s health if inhaled. Many of the abandoned buildings are being demolished but the sight is still very eerie and the water is a rust color.”


Folsom State Prison Museum

Folsom State Prison Museum (Represa, California)
California’s second-oldest prison has a small museum which is allegedly quite interesting. “From handcuffs and license plates, to belly belts and newspaper clippings, all kinds of intriguing artifacts are on display — including a pair of guns made by two prisoners in the 1930’s.” – Central Valley Chronicles

Keddie Resort

Keddie Resort (Plumas County, California)
A Comtesse Travelogue!
My rather unsatisfying visit to an allegedly haunted cabin where a gruesome unsolved murder was committed all those years ago… Unfortunately, the cabin has since been razed, but the murder remains unsolved.

Keddie Resort
Plumas County, CA

One day in August, 2001, Stephen O’rourke forwarded me an ‘Emazing X-Mail of the Day’ on a ‘Haunted Resort’ in Northern California: “A 20-year-old unsolved multiple murder still haunts California police. Even more so because the ghosts of the deceased still walk the grounds of the mountain resort where they were brutally killed. New owners are attempting to reopen the once popular Keddie Resort in the Sierra Nevadas, where a mother, her two children and a teenage friend were stabbed to death in 1981. But moans, mysterious slamming doors and the sound of heavy footsteps have caused fear in the hearts of many. A prominent California psychic says that the ghosts of the victims are in shock and most likely don’t know they’re dead.” Stephen suggested that perhaps I could add this to my morbid travels.Of course, being a native Northern Californian, I had to investigate further to see if I could possibly make this journey. I did a search on ‘Keddie Resort’ and found a great article originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle that discussed the murders in detail and I forwarded the link to my friend Grey Wolf who had spent many of his formative years in the mountains, asking him if he’d ever been to Keddie. He replied that he had lived near Keddie and that he had been there a few time, and a classmate of his named Tina had been killed while he was there. He then read the link I had sent and wrote back, “Oh my god! This is the same story! I knew Tina!” I asked him if he could take me up there sometime soon so that we could explore the exterior (and perhaps the interior) of the haunted cabin. He agreed and, along with our compatriots K and C, headed up to Keddie on Sunday, September 2, 2001.Before I discuss any of the details of our trip, I figure I’d better fill you in on the facts of the murder. As I said, the article from the S.F. Chronicle does a great job of discussing the details of the case – so here it is:

Exorcising ghosts of past New owner hopes to reopen resort haunted by 20-year-old slayings

Keddie, Plumas County — It had been more than a year since she ran screaming from the inexplicable, dark things she saw there, yet Ashley Conte still shivered as she stood in front of the battered little house.

“Anyone with any brains will never set foot in there again,” she said, mustering all the conviction her 16 years would allow. “You can never change what happened inside. The house should just be ripped down.”

She wrenched her gaze from the twilight shadows creeping onto the boarded up windows. “It’s haunted,” she whispered. “Everybody knows it. Rip it down.”

Whether the terrors Ashley and others say they saw inside Cabin #28 of the Keddie Resort — chairs and bodies floating mid-air, carvings disappearing from walls — were figments or genuine spooks is up for grabs. But what took place 20 years ago this spring is not.

Back then, a mother, her two children and a teenage friend were butchered here in a one-night frenzy so off-the-charts savage that to this day cops don’t like to step inside the house.

The murders ruined this northern Sierra mountain resort, a 3,205-foot- elevation enclave so popular people used to drive hundreds of miles just to eat at its log-walled lodge. In short order, appalled tourists began staying away in droves. And even now — spirits or not — the specter of the killings continues to keep this pretty resort empty.

“It’s spooky, a real ghost town,” said Scott Lawson, director of the Plumas County Museum in nearby Quincy. “Nobody goes there, really. And I doubt anyone will until they find out who killed all those people.

“But that,” he said, eyes going wide, “is the whodunnit of the century around here.”

Twenty years ago, Keddie Resort was in the latest of many heydays dating from its founding in 1910, a placid getaway where you could rent one of 33 rustic cabins or a room in the hand-crafted, two-story lodge. The streams had great trout fishing, and pine-studded trails beckoned all around.

The Keddie Lodge restaurant was packed most every night with customers who came from as far as San Francisco to dine on barbecued bear ribs, sherry- basted racoon steaks — all shot locally — and fine wines.

“It was always a special, pretty place to go, a real draw,” said Lawson.

Then came April 11, 1981. Sometime between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. that day, 15-year-old John Sharp and his buddy, 17-year-old Dana Wingate, were seen hitchhiking from Quincy to Keddie Cabin #28. John had been living there for months with his 36-year-old mother, Glenna Sharp — and once the two boys walked through the door, police say, the horror began.

A pair of killers either went in with the boys or were waiting with Glenna Sharp, and they tied up all three with duct tape and electrical wire. Soon after, John’s 13-year-old sister, Tina, showed up and was bound, too.

What followed was a night of torture.

By the time the killers left 10 hours later, they had used steak knives and a claw hammer to such effect that the victims were barely recognizable.

“Whoever did this stabbed the victims so violently they bent one knife totally double from the force,” said Sheriff’s Patrol Commander Rod DeCrona. “They stabbed and pounded on everything in sight — the walls, the people, the furniture. Everything.”

He shuddered at the memory of first walking into the murder scene. “There was blood sprayed absolutely everywhere,” DeCrona said. “You knew right away we were involved with a psychopath.”

The carnage was only discovered the next morning by John’s 14-year-old sister, Sheila, who had been at a sleepover next door. To the enduring surprise of police, nobody outside the charnel house had heard a thing.

And the mystery only deepened: Not only was the body of Tina, most likely killed at the scene, missing — but three near-toddlers sleeping in one bedroom had been amazingly left untouched.

Tina’s severed head was found three years later by a bottle-digger, 50 miles downhill at a waterfall. One of the children in the bedroom — two were Sharp brothers, the other a play-pal — remembered enough so police could make a sketch of two killers, but the boy was so young the picture’s accuracy is considered questionable.

Thousands of leads and suspects have been picked over since then by deputies, the FBI and state investigators — but nothing panned out, DeCrona said. A timeline of the case dominates three walls of the sheriff’s office, tips still come in, and DNA samples were sent to the state crime lab just two months ago, but nobody’s holding his breath.

“Usually in a crime like this, the killers get sloppy and leave more behind, ” said DeCrona, sighing. “I wish it were that simple. We have no motive, no suspects.”

Dana’s father, Gary Wingate, thinks there were so many police agencies involved that they “stumbled over each other and fouled up the case.” But he tries not to stew about it. He never even calls the Sharp family — who declined requests through intermediaries to be interviewed.

“Nobody has the faintest idea who killed my son, so I long ago had to let this thing go or it would eat me alive,” said Wingate, who lives near Quincy. “I don’t think about it, I don’t go to that ghost town and I have no idea if ghosts exist there.

“But I do know this. There is evil in this world, and evil was in that house that night.”

Ashley Conte and her neighbors think the evil is still there.

People began to shun the resort after the killings, and within a year it was empty. The owners put Keddie up for sale in 1984 for $1.8 million — and nobody bit.

Over the next decade or so, it rotted into a refuge for squatters and hobos, and the county condemned most of the buildings. But in the past few years longtime owner Gary Mollath has gone on a furious restoration campaign that has the old resort looking pretty much as it did in 1981 — sans people.

He’s rented out a couple of the best cabins, and says he hopes to rehab the rest enough to reopen in a year.

But first there is Cabin #28 — dubbed “The Murder House” by locals — to contend with.

The condemned building’s yellow-and-white paint is flaking, doors are nailed shut and most windows are covered with plywood. Bums and kids — including Ashley, Mollath’s stepdaughter — have often broken in for kicks, but by several accounts they all flee in a hurry.

Ashley said that aside from seeing murky forms and rocking chairs in the house, she once saw a pitchfork and the word “no” carved in the kitchen door. “When we went back a half-hour later, the words and the pitchfork were gone,” she said.

Other locals, including 22-year-old Forest Jones, said they heard moans, doors slamming and footsteps when the house was obviously deserted.

Others don’t buy all the spooky stuff.

“I hate it when people call this a ghost town,” said Lynn Seavy, 46, who lives next to The Murder House. “Keddie is a nice, peaceful place where you can hear the wind in the trees. I wish people would get over what happened.”

Mollath’s solution is just as his step-daughter suggests.

“That house has been such a negative point for so long that I intend to tear it down and put a park there,” Mollath said. “Then I’m going to open this place back up and cater to groups — with people traveling closer to home now, I think the timing will be just right.

“I want people to come and say, ‘Wow!’ when we start up again. Not be scared.”

Before he flings open the gates, though, he’d better do more than just raze The Murder House, maintains Annette Martin, a psychic in Campbell who advises police throughout the nation on murder cases.

The trouble in Keddie, she said, is that because the mayhem was so abhorrent, the victims’s ghosts are probably in shock and don’t know they are dead. So even if their house is demolished, “they’ll still be there, hanging out.”

“We often find this type of poltergeist activity in cases like this, especially if people were chopped up,” said Martin. “My guess is that the ‘no’ the girl saw was the victims still trying to say ‘no’ to their killers. There is unresolved business there.”

The only way to cleanse the area of spirits, she said, is to have someone spiritual perform a healing ceremony after the house is gone.

“Otherwise, whatever is in its place will be haunted,” Martin said. “And it will stay haunted.”

Okay, obviously you know that this article annoys me because… WHY ON EARTH WOULD THEY WANT TO TEAR DOWN THE HAUNTED CABIN??? They could much better use it as a tourist enticement! “Come stay in the Haunted Cabin – we dare you!! Muahahahahahahahaha!” They could have Halloween parties there! They could charge admission! But instead, they want to tear it down and ruin everything. Typical boring people.

[Does the preceding paragraph grievously offend you? You’re not alone. – Comtesse]

Okay, now that I’ve finished my rant, let me continue my tale. So, we drove up Highway 70, through the beautiful Feather River Canyon, up to Keddie Resort. A short drive down Keddie Resort Road and we were in the midst of a large number of cabins, most in disrepair and featuring ‘Condemned’ signs on the front door. We were a bit disappointed – and surprised – to find that cabin #28 is actually located right in the middle of a group of cabins, several of which seemed to be occupied. I was expecting it to be tucked away in some dark, deep secret place where we could snoop in peace, but that was not to be. I also couldn’t help but wonder how such savagery could be inflicted on several people for several hours right in the middle of this inhabited area and nobody outside heard a thing? Pretty strange…

We parked the car and got out and I began to photograph cabin #28 when a rather scary looking shirtless rednecky guy came meandering over to us. “Can I help you?” he asked. We said that we were just looking at the old cabins and asked some innocent-sounding questions about when the resort was going to be opened up again, etc. hoping to throw him off-track. (We figured that if he knew we were only there to investigate the haunted cabin, he’d shoo us away for sure.) We asked if he minded if we look around and he said no, so we wandered off around some other rundown cabins, before sneaking back up to #28 and taking some more shots.

The unfortunate thing was that the front windows were boarded up, and the side windows that would look into the living room – which I suspect is where the murders took place – were too high for us to reach. There was a back porch, and C went up the stairs and looked in but there was no good view in from there either. The only window that I could actually look through was on the left side of the cabin, and it looked into a bedroom. But, you know, with someone watching us there was only so much snooping we could do.

We actually drove away after getting only a few shots and went to nearby Quincy to get some refreshments at the Polka Dot (a crummy little ice cream & burger joint) and discussed our strategy. We decided to go back again and try to get some more shots. This time we also explored the outside of the Keddie Lodge and wandered around the outskirts of more of the cabins to try and look less “suspicious” before we wandered back up to The Murder Cabin again. This time, however, after only getting a few shots, the scary guy caught us and asked, “Is there any special reason you’re focusing on this cabin?” C responded, “We heard a rumor that there was a murder in this house.” “Several of ’em,” he replied. “But the owner doesn’t like people taking pictures of it.” That said, we were officially heading home, frustrated at not being able to get a better view inside. I swear, why don’t they sell admission to the place instead of shooing us off? It would be much more lucrative! At least I was happy to have gotten some pictures of the cabin before they tear it down.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the pictures:

Cabin #28 -The “Murder” Cabin

Through This Door, The Killers Came.

The poor cabin has been condemned.

Another view, showing the surrounding cabins.

A back view of the Murder Cabin.

A shot using flash through the front left window – kind of a ghostly effect, isn’t it?

Here’s a shot without flash, catching the reflection of the cabin behind me… also kind of a cool effect.

I finally (somehow) managed to get an unobstructed view into the room. I tend to think the murders occurred in that front room through the doorway…

Here’s another shot in the room – the dirty window sure made for a great effect!

Here’s a nice view of the back left window – you can see the beautiful scenery reflected quite well.. but not much of the interior…

Another shot of the back of the cabin

Looking inside the back window… If you use your imagination, it almost looks like blood on the door, doesn’t it? Creepy…

I thought that the blue streak in the foreground of this final shot was creepy… until Grey Wolf pointed out to me that it’s just my car window. Oh, how disappointing!

The Keddie Resort Lodge sign…

The Keddie Resort “Club” sign… It’s definitely seen better days!

On our way out of the area, we also stopped at the Paxton Lodge which is also supposedly haunted by the ghost of a miner who was chopped up in the basement (or something like that). However, the lodge is still occupied so I didn’t feel right snooping around there. I took a single solitary snap and we were on our way…

If anyone has been able to get ahold of some interior shots of the Keddie Murder Cabin – please send them my way! I’m still very disappointed that I wasn’t able to get some juicier shots, but I’m grateful to have been able to see the cabin while it’s still standing.

UPDATE 8/26/06

Cabin 28 is no more! Yes, tragically, I have recently found out that the cabin was razed in the summer of 2004 in an act of senseless brutality! Be still my bleeding heart…


L.A. Gang Tours

L.A. Gang Tours (Los Angeles, California)
Tour all of the infamous gang sites in Los Angeles: the L.A. County Jail, the tagging collection at the L.A. River Bed, the Metropolitan Detention Center, Skid Row, the Symbionese Liberation Army shoot-out site, Florencia 13 (site of the Zoot Suit Riots of the ’40s), Florence Avenue (site of the Rodney King Riots), and more!


Playland Not-At-The-Beach (El Cerrito, California)
Recommended by Riley: “If you’re in the Bay Area, don’t miss this new nonprofit attraction. We loved it, and were sorry to leave at closing time. Fortunately I live in the area. It has lots of scary-creepy sideshow monsters and freaks of nature, and a terrific ‘Slayland at the Beach’ model diorama, of about 8 windows, with lights and moving parts. Even better if clowns scare you. Regular admission is $15.00 but you can play pinball and many carnival games for free. There were many games I never heard of, although I’ve been to San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique. One 3-D pinball room is dark, and you appear to float on a many layered floor. There are spider-women and other creepy images, and a mummy in a case. This place has a lot of association with Anton LaVey, as he lived near and loved Playland and the Sutro Baths, as well as working at carnivals that have featured exhibits, such as Sells-Floto. Don’t forget your camera – there are no restrictions on photos.”