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Stories especially for Halloween

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Stories especially for Halloween

It's that scary season when we are pestered and vexed by ghastly creatures.
No, I'm not talking about politicians.

It's Halloween, a time when we are reminded that the Inland Empire is a frightful place, and not just because we have howling winds and roaring fires and jarring earthquakes and campaigning politicians.

We also have ghosts.

Lots of them.

The Inland Empire has some of the oldest cities, cemeteries, hospitals, hotels, theaters, churches, public buildings and houses in California, dating back to Wild West days. Of course we have ghosts.

Here are some of my favorite local ghost stories. I hope you'll enjoy them, and I hope you'll share your own favorite stories with me.

THE GIRL IN THE CHURCH: The old First Christian Church in Rialto, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was haunted for years, it is said, by the ghost of a young girl named Kristina. Her father, a prominent local physician named Dr. Merlin A. Hendrickson, bought the then-abandoned church in 1963 to save it from demolition. After Kristina died of leukemia in 1967, at age 11, the building was renamed the Kristina Dana Hendrickson Cultural Center in her honor, and her ashes and memorabilia were preserved there, as they are to this day. Her ghost was active there until 2004, when her father died, it is said. Though she may have departed, other ghosts have taken her place. The church contains a busy portal between the mortal and spirit worlds, it is believed. Read more in two books by Rialto historian John Anthony Adams, "The Little Girl in the Window" and the brand-new "Scammers, Schemers, and Dreamers: The Turbulent History of Early Rialto."
THE LITTLE BOY AND THE BALL: The ghost of a little boy haunts the schoolyard at Mariposa Elementary School in Redlands, according to local lore. He likes to play with a ball at night. You rarely see the boy, but you see the ball, rolling or bouncing along on its own.

THE WEEPING WOMAN: Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery, in southwest Colton, is San Bernardino County's oldest graveyard. Local legend has it that the place is haunted by a ghost named La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, who searches endlessly for her lost children. Also, on the rural road outside the cemetery, nighttime motorists sometimes see, in the distance, an old man walking his dog. As the motorists draw closer, the man and dog vanish. (Today at 1 p.m., a free guided walking tour of the cemetery, at 2001 Agua Mansa Road, will be led by Michele Nielsen, curator of history at the San Bernardino County Museum.)

THE PHANTOM OF THE PROM: San Bernardino High School is haunted, some say, by a ghost named Vicki Baxter, who returns every four years on the night of the senior prom. She was killed in a late-1920s car crash, on her way to the prom. It is said she also can seen on occasion near the corner of Highland and Waterman avenues, loitering, as if waiting for a ride. The corner is next to Mt. View Cemetery, where supposedly she is buried.

THE GHOSTLY GOURMET: The old Virgina Dare Winery in Rancho Cucamonga, now the site of a commercial and office plaza, used to be the scene of much ghostly activity, it is said, especially in the winery's kitchen. Phantom sounds and aromas were common. According to local lore, a son of the winery's founder hoped to start a restaurant on the premises, but died before realizing his dream.

A REAL GHOST TOWN: Calico Ghost Town, eight miles north of Barstow, is a popular and family-friendly tourist attraction, but it's the site of a hell-raising silver mining town of the 1880s, and some say it's a ghost town with real ghosts. The Old School House and Maggie's Mine are places of special interest, ghost hunters say, as is Hank's Hotel, which is so full of ghosts it has been closed permanently to the public.

THE WHITE LADY: The Glenn Wallichs Theatre at the University of Redlands is haunted, it is said, by a ghost named Marianne, also called the White Lady. She pulls dresses off costume racks, floats luminously above the stage curtain, and disturbs the stage lights. She is supposedly the spirit of a onetime drama student who died in a car crash on her way to a performance

THE SCENT OF VIOLETS: Bracken Fern Manor, a picturesque bed-and-breakfast inn in Lake Arrowhead Villas, just off Hwy. 18 between the Lake Arrowhead turnoff and the community of Sky Forest, once was a brothel built by gangster Bugsy Siegel. It was connected by an underground passageway to Siegel's casino and speakeasy, Club Arrowhead in the Pines, located across the street (now known as the Tudor House). Is is said that a prostitute named Violet, who died of a broken heart after a favored client was murdered at the establishment, still haunts the place. Her violet-scented perfume lingers faintly when she passes by.

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