The gorgeous W.E. (Bill) Mason Carousel at Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos is as historically interesting as it is beautiful. It conceals more than a surprise to two.
Built in 1915 in England, the carousel was made of horses from England and Germany (some horses made by a Frenchman too). It was a long voyage to California - it had to be shipped around the horn (the Panama Canal did not yet exist) and then it debuted at the Panama Pacific Expo in San Francisco (which began in 1915). Following the exposition, it toured around with a circus beginning in the 30s for awhile before finding itself in storage in Redwood City for an untold number of years.
Happily, though, the story doesn't end there. In 1980 the ride was purchased by the town with $50,000 in collected donations, and then it resettled in this sweet spot among Siicon Valley parks. The wooden horses, all hand painted, were lovingly restored over several years by volunteers. Additionally, upgrades were made to the mechanical side too, bringing it up to date. The ride was name after the late Bill Mason, Sr., of the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad fame, and dedicated in 1990.
The carosoul is a great compliment to the park with its train, airplane, open space and play structures, and it's a huge hit with kids and parents alike. Is is truly "living history" right in our own backyard.
Not to worry, parents, the ghost is benign - in fact, benevolent. Nothing scary happens here and it appears that the ghost simply loves the attraction. Some employees have experienced minor events such as noises without explanation and safety belts all mysteriously appearing latched when they should have been loose, and of course, that sense that someone's there or someone's watching when no one is visible.
I was at the park yesterday with Annette Martin, who asked me to introduce her to some of the haunted places in Los Gatos, and this was our last stop. Later this year she'll share her experiences of this visit in an article or book. Not to spoil her story, I'll let her tell "the rest of the story" at that time. (But be assured, she didn't find anything for children or parents to fear.)
2007: There will be no "haunted forest" at Oak Meadow Park this year, as you may have read recently in the news. But there are still plenty of spooky places to visit for Halloween.
One of them is an old ranch house in San Jose's eastern foothills. It is notoriously haunted, and you can tour it by flashlight this Friday or Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, I will continue to occassionally add posts here on haunted spots in beautiful Los Gatos. Visit the blog and click on the category for "Haunted Los Gatos" and you'll see the stories of our hauntings here in this historic part of Silicon Valley.
Would you be interested in a tour of Haunted Los Gatos? I'm collecting stories to post here and to offer on a walking tour in downtown (and perhaps also to assemble into a book at some point).
If you have stories to share of ghosts, hauntings, spirit visits or impressions in Los Gatos, please let me know. I would love to learn more and share the stories, if at all possible. I am especially interested in events and experiences in downtown Los Gatos (near Main Street, University Avenue and North Santa Cruz Avenues), and particularly those happening in commercial or pubic buildings.
Do you have any stories about ghosts in Los Gatos? I would like to hearthem. I'm collecting ghost stories to share on my Live in Los Gatos blog. And maybe someday I will put together a book on the area's haunted places.
So you may be wondering, how did this strange hobby began? (My teens wish I just did needlepoint, or something "normal" instead.)
A few years ago, I began to casually collect local ghost stories because they intrigued me. Next I began to read some books on the subject..then more books. At my office, my manager asked me to share some of them just before Halloween in 2003. To my amazement, the agents in my office loved the stories of Los Gatos's haunted spots...then several discreetly came up to me and told me their own stories of encounters with a ghost.
That's usually how it works - people don't usually share their stories about ghosts unless they think you believe. No one wants to be made fun of.
My interest grew further after a couple of personal experiences and then I began a page on one of my websites devoted to the topic of Haunted Real Estate, and I also got a URL dedicated to the page too: http://www.HauntedRealEstate.com.
At Halloween, and all through October, reporters started contacted me. Then the focus expanded and I had them phoning and emailing me about stigmatized properties too. It's as if this thing took on a life of its own.
I haven't sold haunted houses, I kept telling them: I just collect the stories, I read a lot. But I also started assembling information on disclosure laws around the country, about folks who were good at "ghostbusting" or exorcizing a house, places where you could do a ghost tour, haunted hotels... you name it.
Now? It is still expanding, as if self-propelled. In the last month, I had two different people (whom I don't know) email me about wanting to sell their haunted homes. Neither one, of course, is in Silicon Valley. Who'd have thought my hobby would lead here? So it seems I need a spot dedicated to "haunted houses for sale" or something along those lines on the site.
My "page" needs more space. Sometime in the next year, I think it will need to branch out from a single, long page on my ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com website into its own website.
I know there are others because sometimes I get calls. A few months ago, a young woman phoned me and wanted to know where, exactly, the old cemetery was located because her new boyfriend refused to stay with her overnight due to a matronly ghost with an attitude that he didn't belong there. (Her place was not on the old graveyard, but near it. I saw a "for rent" sign outside of her home within two weeks of her phone call to me.)
Some places I really have to wonder about: the Main Street Bridge (there was a lynching there) is one of them. Where was the town's jail? Did the town do executions (lynching aside)? If so, where? What about the mortuary turned single family house on Main Street? (Not the former Chart House.) Anything doing there? I read something on a message board about a ghost off either Guadalupe Mines Road or Hicks Road - any truth to that? Your input would be much appreciated!
So, residents and friends of Los Gatos, I want to ask for your input: where are the haunted places in our fair town? Please call or email me in confidence. I want your story and I won't blow your cover!
Border's, a fabulous store for books and music located in "Old Town", seems to have two ghosts of its own.
The stories about these ghosts are that one is a small boy and one is a man in his 20s or so, wearing jeans, I believe a pullover sweater and a baseball cap.
Who are they? We're not sure. The young man is a complete mystery, at least to this writer. But there is a rumor about the child, that he fell off a balcony when the building was a school. (This was the site of the town's school from the 1880s until the 1950s. Later it was developed into a shopping center. For awhile, the old auditorium was a theater. That spot is now Border's.)
If you ask the people who've worked there a long time about the hauntings, some will say they don't believe, and some will say they've heard things. When it is a matter of the books moving off the shelves, you can argue that they were squeezed in too tightly and were pushed by natural force.
I did, though, meet a few people myself over the years who told me of their own personal experiences in the store. One gal told me that she and two other employees were chatting one day when they all saw the apparition of the grownup spectre out of their peripheral vision. When they turned to look straight on, he vanished. But all three had seen him. And a person I know well had an experience of the child ghost when we visited the store one day which could not be explained away.
And no, they weren't actually scary happenings overall. Just weird. And that is normal for hauntings - they are usually more weird than anything else.
Borders is arguably one of the very best places to hang out in town. There are books, magazines, and papers of course. And there's a coffee bar, with seating both inside - at tables or comfy leather chairs - and outside on a sunny deck. It's got a comfortable ambiance, a bit of history, and that "little something extra". I have never felt that it was a creepy place in the least. If the place is indeed haunted, which I believe it is, they are not bad ghosts. Nothing to fear.
So go to Borders, buy a great book and have a seat in a comfy leather chair. Who knows, maybe you'll learn something about the place...and if so, fill me in!
115 North Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos is once again a "live" restaurant. The lovely old Queen Anne Victorian house has quite the history. First it was a residence, later a mortuary, and eventually a restaurant.
I grew up nearby and as a teen, I just could not imagine eating there. We used to joke about the refrigeration system! Eventually, a wedding reception for dear friends was held within those walls, and in my 30's I broke my vow to never eat in such a creepy place.
And I didn't even know it was haunted!
There are many, many ghost stories surrounding the former Chart House. Some of them are even funny - like the ghost at the bar who likes to ring up huge tabs in the middle of the night - drinks they didn't even serve at the place! (Yes, a party ghost.)
When dining there one Christmas eve about 5 or 6 years ago, I asked a few of the people working there if they had any stories. I got an earful, but my children got a bit freaked out - and we found that later going to the basement to use the restroom became a hurdle of insurmountable heights. (I have now learned NOT to ask about ghosts in front of my kids, especially if the bathroom is in a particularly remote area. They are teens now but still don't appreciate Mom's hobby.)
Anyway, the Chart House did serve great food, and there was no shortage of ambiance, but it just could not seem to make much of a profit, so after a decade or more, it closed. I do believe it's due to the locals knowing its history. The next tenant in was also a restaurant, and it was named Chart's. It did not have a very long run, however. It closed and once again the "for lease" sign went up.
I did a quick peek at Google on this spot earlier and discovered that a tourist did a U-Tube Video of the former Chart House between the last tenant and this one.
So a new chapter begins as the spot once again opens as a restaurant. I don't know what type of food is served there, but ... I'm dying to find out.
When people first hear that there are ghosts in Los Gatos, they want to know - right away - where they are! The old cemetery location doesn't surprise them, at least not once they hear that there's a former graveyard that now has shops residing there.
But aside from a final resting place, where else are there ghostly sightings and activities?
One of them is the popular Los Gatos party destination, The Opera House. Apparently it's just too much fun to leave! Seriously, the ghost there is said to be a woman - she has been seen and heard so many times, by so many people, that it is one of the few spots absolutely not in doubt to be inhabited by a spirit of a former human being. One of the most remarkable things is not just that she has been seen and heard, but that she has even been photographed.
But not to worry, whatever her name is (there is some dispute about that), she is known to be benevolent. I spoke to several employees there myself a few years ago. Those who'd had an experience of her (not all had, but many did) all claimed that she was kindly, protective. One told me that this gal has a conscience. The worker wanted to sneak out early but amazingly, the door was unable to be opened until her shift was over. Scary? The woman I spoke with said no. "She was not about to let me leave early - this is a ghost who's ethical", she confided.
So I thought you folks might like to know about some of our haunted spots, right here in beautiful, charming, upscale Los Gatos. There are so many stories that it's hard to know where to begin!! Today I will address just one of these interesting locations. More to follow in later entries, I promise! This will be "Mary Pope-Handy's Los Gatos Ghost Tour".
Cemeteries tend to give people the creeps, so let's start there. If you are local to Los Gatos, you probably know that the Los Gatos Memorial Park is actually in San Jose, with a Cambrian Park zip code, out on Los Gatos-Almaden Road. How did that happen? Well, usually you want the burial grounds to be a little bit out of town, right? The Los Gatos Memorial Park began in 1888 (first burials in 1890) and was initially called the Los Gatos Cemetary. By the late 1800's, Los Gatos had expanded such that the in-town graveyard was just too close, so it was decided to move folks from their final resting place to a "more final resting place" out in the country. (It has no website, amazingly, but you can see great photos of this park by visiting an "unofficial" site at www.LGMP.com.)
Where was this old cemetery? It was located at the corner of Highway 9 and North Santa Cruz Avenue and bordered roughly by Village Lane and the old train tracks. (The land for the train is now the long parking lot parallel to University Avenue and North S. Cruz Avenue. As an aside, North Santa Cruz Avenue was called Cemetery Lane easy of Hwy 9 then!)
Blog entry by Mary Pope-Handy,
Los Gatos Enthusiast,
Los Gatos & Silicon Valley (San Jose area) Residential Real Estate Specialist and
Realtor, CRS, ABR, SRES, ASP, CNHS, RECS, E-Pro, www.PopeHandy.com Do not use without permission, please.
A blog about Los Gatos real estate, homes, houses, condos, townhomes, housing market, neightborhoods, history, events, businesses, parks, schools, photos, issues, and lifestyle by Mary Pope-Handy, town resident, enthusiast and Realtor.
Realtor, CRS, CIPS, ABR, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Road Los Gatos, CA 95030
BRE # 01153805