Ghost Hunters Visit Rockhaven Sanitarium,
But Sorry – No Ghosts!
As most of my readers know, Rockhaven Sanitarium, located on Honolulu Avenue in Verdugo City was a high-end rest home for women with mental disabilities from 1923 to 2006. It was unique for its time in that it was run by women for women. Agnes Richards founded it and ran it until her granddaughter Pat Traviss took the reins. It has a long and honorable history that we as a community are proud of. The City of Glendale now owns the intact but abandoned property and plans one day to turn it into a park or community center.
Our Friends of Rockhaven group has been documenting and celebrating its proud history, as well as maintaining the interiors and giving group tours of the property. Thanks to the generosity and trust of the City of Glendale, we’ve been able to host several groups on tours of the beautiful old grounds and buildings – groups such as historical societies, Glendale city commissioners, even a Girl Scout troop. We’ll be one of the stops on the upcoming Prom Plus Home Tour on December 14. This last weekend, just in time for Halloween, we hosted a group of paranormal investigators on our regular tour.
The tour was actually made up of three different groups. X Paranormal from Apple Valley set the tour up and was joined by Orange County Soul Searchers and Steve Brigati, who hosts a weekly paranormal radio talk show. I’m not exactly sure what I expected them to be like. Maybe I expected Scooby Doo and Shaggy, or the Ghostbusters to pull up in their “Ectomobile.” In reality they turned out to be the most delightful and engaging group of people we have toured so far. They were just average folks, all friends, with wonderful senses of humor and a deep passion for history.
They stressed to me that they were not there to do a true investigation, but to merely enjoy a tour of a fascinating historical site. I in turn told them that I do a weekly column and wanted to write about their experiences, and to please tell me their thoughts and feelings. A true paranormal investigation, they told me, takes many hours. They do historical research on the site to know what they’re looking for. They have to set up cameras and voice recorders for a period of time. Often they will actively try to engage potential spirits with conversation or music. Next comes grueling hours of watching the video and listening to audio for any sign of a response from whatever apparitions there may be.
We had a delightful tour of the buildings and the group was full of enthusiasm for the history of Rockhaven, particularly the section of the tour that talks about the many Hollywood stars that were at Rockhaven. They all enjoyed hearing the stories of Marilyn Monroe’s mother, a longtime resident in the ’50s and ’60s who made a splash in the news back then with a few escapes out a tiny closet window. I have a section of the tour where I tell a few ghost stories that I’ve collected in my years of involvement with Rockhaven (some more imagined than real), and of course this group was very receptive. I always open my story session with the qualifier that Rockhaven was so nice that the residents didn’t want to leave, even after they died. The group heartily agreed that the atmosphere in Rockhaven was so beautiful, so peaceful, that yes, of course, why would anyone want to leave? They explained that that’s why theaters are often haunted. People love being there in life and tend to linger after death.
I was hoping to have some sightings from this group to add to my ghost stories, but alas, nothing jumped out to say “boo!” during this tour. One of the group told me they felt some sadness in one of the rooms but other than that, the place seemed pretty peaceful.
It wasn’t the best atmosphere for ghosts – a beautiful day in a beautiful location. “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” – well, not at Rockhaven anyway!