Going Ghost-Hunting at the Sportsman's Lodge, Riverside Mission Inn and Other Places

Here's one story that will make your skin crawl

I’ve always been fascinated by the paranormal. The recent UFO stories in the Patch have piqued my interest, revving up my imagination to invent all sorts of stories. Are there extra terrestrials among us? Will I eventually be abducted? Should I pack a suitcase just in case?

Growing up on Pacoima Court, we often dabbled with the occult. Teresa and I often played with the Ouija Board, conducted séances, and investigated old houses for ghosts. These activities affirmed my belief that there were other entities out there, and probably a few in our home on Pacoima Court.

I remember hearing some scuffling in the ceiling while trying to get to sleep one night. What was it? Ghosts? Rats? The wind? I wasn’t about to grind through the ceiling to investigate. I was better off trying to get some sleep and face the next day.

But since then, I have had several near-encounters with those spirits from the other side. Do I have positive proof that they exist? Not exactly, but here’s one scary story.

It was a Friday in 2008, and we were due in Riverside for a funeral. Rather than hassle with the Friday afternoon traffic, we decided to spend the night at a historic hotel. At the time, it seemed like a good idea.

The Riverside Mission Inn was built late 1800’s, and as you can imagine, there are many rumors about mysterious deaths, hangings, and weird things going on in the catacombs. I wasn’t keen on staying there, but I consented, since it was also a historic monument, filled with charm and intrigue.

As soon as we walked into our room, I got a creepy feeling.  It wasn’t anything tangible, just a thick eeriness that said we shouldn't be there. I parked the thought, and grabbed my camera to take a tour of the premises.  Get me out of this room. I need a distraction.

I roamed the halls looking for interesting architectural shots. Where does that creepy staircase go? Click. When we were invited on a tour of the catacombs, the photographer in me went wild in anticipation of the shots I’d take.

We were led down a hallway behind the kitchen, past the service area where the employees clock in before their shifts. But when our guide suggested we grab a flashlight to enter the catacombs, I felt some trepidation about continuing the tour.

My flashlight started to flicker as soon as we entered the dank hallways. I’ve already had the heebie-jeebies about ghosts and now my flashlight is on the fritz. I imagined corpses hanging from the rafters as I looked up to the street level, knowing I was a good 20 feet below the sidewalks.

Then there was a large bang. I swung around and grabbed my partner who had just jumped toward me.  She knew our guide hadn’t banged into anything, so what was that thud against the pipe? We took a few photos before our guide continued the tour, nervously rattling on about the history of the hotel.

“Do many people come down here at night?” I asked.

“No, not too many...my co-workers don’t feel very good about being down here, especially as the evening wears on,” he offered weakly. I hoped the tour would be ending soon. Thankfully, it was only 6 p.m.

We thanked our guide, and finally got back to our suite. We decided to rest a bit before getting ready for dinner.

“I think I’ll go in this room and catch the news,” my partner announced, disappearing behind a heavy vaulted door. That door seemed like an entrance into something forbidden, but I decided to park the thought. 

“I’m going to take a nap,” I announced, trying to sound light and carefree, but my mind kept returning to that TV room. Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t sleep so decided to join Erika and watch the news.  The room was creepy. I felt like it didn’t want us there.  I felt a draft, but dismissed it to a faulty air conditioning unit since the place was so old. We both left the room and got ready for dinner.

Later that night, I decided to lock the door into that room. Why? I dunno.  It wasn’t until the following day that Erika mentioned that she thought the room had an evil spirit.

“Something just didn’t want us in that room,” she remarked.  No wonder I felt weird.

“Yeah, I felt the same way,” I added.

The following day we asked a few employees about ghost sightings on the property. 

“Well, there’s a couple who comes here regularly to photograph spirit orbs,” she explained, gathering some rags.

“What’s a spirit orb?” I asked.

“Oh, they’re those little those little round fuzzy balls you see in your digital photos…they show up when you try to photograph ghosts,” she explained.  “There are several places at the inn where they’re known to appear,” she added. “Check the fourth floor-that’s where the owner’s sister had a tragic death,” she added before bustling off to clean another room.

I dashed off to the rooms she’d mentioned and took my shots, hoping to catch some orbs. When I got back to LA, I wondered what mystery would be present in my images.

Sure enough, there were spirit orbs in all the locations that were mentioned to me.  One place had about 12-15 of them, many dangling from the ceiling like Christmas balls. Most of them were whitish, but some were multi-colored. A few looked like they were on the floor, zooming or floating in the middle of the room.

One shot taken in the catacombs showed a dark cloud next to Erika and me that made no sense. Neither of us had seen anything like that on the walls while we were down there. My film friends couldn’t explain it either.

Since then, I’ve found orbs in old hotels, cemeteries, historic restaurants, and I even captured several at the Sportsman’s Lodge a few years ago when our family had a party there.

No matter what you believe, it’s a fascinating topic, right up there with the UFOs seen in Studio City.

Perhaps we’re not alone…





teresa mcgrath August 29, 2012 at 08:37 PM
great article mary....i have fond memories of the ouiga board with robbie and daryl armstrong....maggie hook across the street used her board with a wine glass...we had no idea she was into the occult too...loved checking on haunted houses in studio city...the houdini structure always beckoned...we also were told by one of our n.y. cousins that a house was haunted on a trip back east around 1969...i recall we both walked up and tried to get in...that's all i remember...
Mary McGrath August 29, 2012 at 11:29 PM
That was the Amityville Horror House that was shown to us by our cousin, Maureen Griffin. I remember walking up the driveway, and we got scared, because we saw the garage door swing open a bit...I think it had a gravel driveway...
teresa mcgrath August 30, 2012 at 11:55 AM
yeah, maureen...very scary
Richard Niederberg August 30, 2012 at 02:15 PM
THe Mission Inn is one of my favorite locations to just walk around in, especially the catacombs, which I have visited numerous times with neither permission or a guide. I detected Auras surrounding certain items in the various niches of the catacombs. This was an excellent article. Thank You for writing it. I'll have to check out the Orbs.
Janis Flippen August 30, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Fantastic article -- really enjoyed it and I do believe we are not alone!
Mary McGrath September 04, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Hi Richard! Would love to hear about your ghost stories...Glad you got to visit the catacombs also....Twilight Zone indeed!
Mary McGrath September 04, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Right Janis! And don't we both find those old hotels and B&Bs so fascinating...


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