The Point Fermin Lighthouse

The Point Fermin Lighthouse is different from most other lighthouses on the California coast. Instead of standing like a lonely pillar, Point Fermin’s light is part of a Victorian-style house. Point Fermin is one of only six lighthouses ever built in this design and one of three still standing (the others are East Brother in the San Francisco Bay and Hereford Light in New Jersey).

SAM_0048-001

Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first one built in the San Pedro Bay. British explorer George Vancouver named it in honor of Father Fermin de Lasuen, who was father-president of the California missions when Vancouver visited in 1792. The site overlooks the modern-day Port of San Pedro.

SAM_0045

Built in 1874, the Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first navigational light into the San Pedro Bay. Phineas Banning, with the support of many local businessmen, petitioned the Federal Government and the US lighthouse Board to place a lighthouse on the point in 1854. Although the Lighthouse Board agreed funding and land disputes delayed its construction until 1874.

The lighthouse was staffed by federal employees under the Treasury Department and regulated by the US Lighthouse Board. These employees were called Lighthouse Keepers. It was their job to keep the light lit as a beacon for ships, maintain the lighthouse lens, and the general up-keep of the building. Point Fermin’s first lighthouse keepers were women. Mary and Ella Smith came from a lighthouse family and their brother Victor, a Washington Territory customs officer, was no doubt influential in getting them their positions. Why they chose to come to Point Fermin is still a mystery, as the area was quite isolated and barren. In any event, they seemed to get along just fine in their positions for nearly eight years.

SAM_0044-001After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the light was blacked out for the rest of World War II. During that time, it served the US Navy as a lookout tower and signaling station for ships coming into the harbor. Point Fermin was never a working lighthouse again after that.

IMG_0277-001Unlike the nearby Point Vicente Lighthouse, which is haunted by a woman longing for her lost husband, this lighthouse appears to be haunted by the inverse, a lonely male lighthouse keeper carrying the torch (literally and figuratively) for his dead wife. When he passed away in October of 1925 (a couple of months after his wife died), the local papers reported he died of a broken heart. Two months after his death, the lighthouse was decommissioned and the grounds turned into a public park. Not only was he the last man to hold that job, some say he never left, and is still seen (and heard) carrying out his duties, walking around the lighthouse and the lens house.

Interestingly, the ghostly keeper may not be alone there with his feelings of loneliness, sadness, and regret. The adjacent cliff is well known in the area as a favorite spot for suicides (with stories of ghostly figures walking along the cliff’s edge or the rocks below.)

SAM_0029-001In the last two decades, a number of people have fallen to their deaths in tragic accidents and suicides, their bodies discovered far below on jagged rocks at the ocean’s edge. Some who plummeted off the cliffs have survived their falls. Some were victims of gang violence; other cases remain shrouded in mystery.

For as long as San Pedrans can remember, the stark beauty of the Point Fermin cliffs has drawn photographers, model plane enthusiasts and wedding planners. Its’ vistas are known the world over.

IMG_0276-001

(Point Fermin Park was also the site of the great UFO attack of 1942, but that’s another story for another time…)

If you’re already in the area be sure to visit the Point Vicente Lighthouse 8 miles up the road. The views alone are worth the drive!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Advertisements

The Haunted & Historic Whaley House

img_2343When most folks think of San Diego, they picture gorgeous beaches, beautiful weather and cultural and artistic attractions. But for those who have an affinity for the paranormal, San Diego beckons investigation, with its rich and dark past, haunted spots, spiritual encounters and inexplicable events.

The Whaley House may not look like anything special, but it’s been called the “most haunted house in America,” once by Time Magazine, the other by the Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures. So what makes this unassuming, two-story brick house in historic Old Town San Diego such a locus of supernatural activity? This small house has as many ghost stories as it does historical accounts and that does add up to a lot. The moment I heard about the Travel Channel dubbed “most haunted place in America, I knew I had to check it out.

Continue reading The Haunted & Historic Whaley House

The Los Angeles Zoo: Then and Now

The Griffith Park Zoo was originally opened in 1912, amusingly built on the former location of Griffith J. Griffith’s old ostrich farm. It was opened with 15 animals, and due to lack of funding; it opened without any cages, simply stockades to keep the animals in, which were inadequate for several of the species, kept on site.

Stories claim that the history of the zoo was rocky, and it was always struggling. For example, in 1916, the zoo was apparently leaking sewage into the L.A. River, and later during World War I, a meat shortage made it hard to properly care for the animals, forcing the zoo to substitute horse meat for beef, leading to the deaths of many of the meat eating animals, particularly the big cats. Luckily the zoo was free which kept visitors coming.

Continue reading The Los Angeles Zoo: Then and Now

The haunting history of Ortega Highway

A scenic road winding through mountains, pine forests and pastoral valleys, connecting South County and Lake Elsinore, is a crucial link for commuters, and a weekend thrill ride for motorcyclists, and also a dumping ground used by criminals who wait for the cover of night. It is the stuff of mystery novels, a place where people with secrets push them over steep cliffs or bury them under a thick layer of brush.

The 44-mile Ortega Highway is a twisting two-lane stretch that connects Riverside and Orange counties via the Cleveland National Forest — and it has a killer reputation.

Continue reading The haunting history of Ortega Highway

Take in the views from Point Vicente

SAM_6154-001Set on the curve of a steep cliff, where it has stood since 1926, the San Vicente Lighthouse is a historical beauty that continues to renew its usefulness with every passing night. The Vicente Lighthouse has long been one of the area’s jewels. To the landsman, the lighthouse is a scenic delight and continual attraction to tourists, photographers and painters. To the mariner, the lighthouse is an aid to navigation, which marks the northern end of the Catalina Channel on the Pacific coast.

Continue reading Take in the views from Point Vicente

Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die

11181564_10201192354926731_8006679047431279134_n

Virgil Earp, the town marshal, enlists Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday. As they walk down Freemont Street on the way to the O.K. Corral, Virgil hands Doc his shotgun in exchange for Doc’s cane. Doc wears a long overcoat and conceals the shotgun underneath it, as not to frighten the townspeople. In the tense moment that followed, Morgan and Doc cock their guns. Suddenly, Billy Claiborne, who stands away from the area, bolts and runs. Ike grapples with Wyatt, who was about to pistol-whip him. The tension explodes and the fight begins.

Continue reading Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die

Rehmeyer’s Hollow: The York hex slayers

Deep in the heart of Southern York County, Pennsylvania, lies a strange area commonly known as Spring Valley County Park. What’s so scary about a County Park? Nothing really, except the fact that this land encompasses an area famously known as Rehymeyer’s Hollow or Hex Hollow. Rehmeyer’s Hollow, is located in Central Pennsylvania, near the Maryland border. The area was brought to national attention by a murder, that occurred there in 1928. There have been numerous books written about the area, including a 1988 film called “Apprentice to Murder” starring the great Donald Pleasance.  I recommend the film, though it’s difficult to find. A new film called, Hex Hollow: Witchcraft and Murder in Pennsylvania was recently released in 2015.

Continue reading Rehmeyer’s Hollow: The York hex slayers