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Monday, January 29, 2018

Southern California Vol. 10 - Haunted Black Star Canyon

 Haunted canyons?  Seriously, Cary?  

Well, before you start giving me crap about this post, you should google Black Star Canyon.  You'll see that it's considered one of the most haunted places in Southern California.  A few paranormal shows have taken trips out at night to try to document activity.  In fact, it gets a whole five pages devoted to it in Greg Bishop, Joe Oesterle and Mike Marinaccci's Weird California (a personal favorite of mine).  

It also happens to be a beautiful hiking spot and is less than a half hour from my house.  Now, I'm going to just go ahead and say here that I've never experienced anything weird in Black Star Canyon myself, but I have two good friends who have.  I'll tell you their story in just a little bit, but first let's talk about why people think Black Star Canyon is haunted in the first place.

In the 1830's, the canyon was the site of an armed conflict between Native Americans and local trappers.  It was around this time that rumors of the canyon being haunted began.  In 1899, the canyon was the site of a murder that took the county by storm.  Three men got in a gunfight over a horse trade gone wrong.  When the shooting stopped, one man was dead and the other two turned themselves in.  Again, rumors swirled that the ghost of the dead man still traveled the canyon.  

There's also the story of a busload of children that went off the cliff on a steep canyon road, killing everyone inside.  Supposedly their ghosts also travel the canyon.  To make matters worse, there are some very real dangers in Black Star Canyon.

First, there are the "squatters".  Now, whether these people are really squatting or not is debatable, but there are multiple reports of people who live in a house near one section of the trail who love to chase off hikers by shooting shotguns over their heads and threatening them.  There's also the possibility that you'll run across a mountain lion.  In case you're thinking that's not a big deal, note that the sign above makes it a point to tell you that "your safety cannot be guaranteed".  They aren't joking.  In the last decade there has been at least one death of a mountain biker by a mountain lion who stalked and ambushed him on his morning ride.

The trail is also rife with "No Trespassing" signs since anything off the trail itself is private property. 

So why do people go?  Well, because of the waterfall.  It's one of the most beautiful in the area and while it's not very easily accessible (you'll have to climb over some boulders and cross some water) the destination is totally worth it.

Which brings us to my two friends.  I'm not going to use their names at all because they have no idea that I'm writing about this on my blog, but I'll say that I work with both of them.  They are avid hikers and on this particular day, they went with their families.  It was a weekend and early in the morning.  They parked and began walking the trail when one of them and his wife began hearing a strange crying sound.  They were ahead of the other friend and his family so they stopped and waited for them to catch up.  

When the whole group was together, they all listened for the sound and every single one of them heard it.  They described it to me as sounding like a woman or a young child crying, sobbing on the trail above them.  They called out to see if anyone was up there but no one answered.  Instead, the "crying" started again.  They called out one more time but then the sound stopped. The one who heard it first told me that the sound was so creepy, the hair on his arms was standing on end.

They waited a while longer, calling occasionally, and the sound never started again.  They decided to continue on to the falls.  The rest of the hike was uneventful and on the way back they asked other hikers they passed whether they had heard anything in that section of the trail.  No one had heard anything other than bird calls and normal forest sounds.

Now, neither of these men are prone to embellishing things.  Also, they both told me this story separately, without the other there to help them "remember".  Their descriptions were almost identical with one of them telling me, "It was seriously f__ing creepy."

What did they hear?  Who knows?  

It could have been an animal.  It could have been one of the "squatters" messing with them.  The bottom line though is it was an unsettling situation in one of the most notoriously eerie locations in Orange County.

Are you feeling like you want to do something weird also?  Well, you're in luck.  I've got a pretty creepy book out called The Wash. You can read it from the safety of your own home and not have to worry about squatters shooting at you.

Until next time, stay safe and stick to the trail. 


Lisanne Harrington said...

Sounds like so much fun! I've never even heard of this canyon.

Wish I could hike again...

Anonymous said...

I stopped hiking Whiting Ranch after the guy got eaten by the cougar, and the woman got tore up by one shortly after. This was a 5 minute drive from where we lived at the time. I have never heard of Black Star Canyon until now. We used to hike Holy Jim trail, but you had to work to get there. Seeing the guys with automatic rifles protecting their illegal grows in those mountains put an end to that hike. Forget the haunted factor, you have to worry about the sketchy human factor. Hike safe!

Cary said...

I totally agree about the sketchy human factor. I have another friend at work who does a ton of trail biking. He and I were talking about this column this morning and he said the last time they biked Black Star Canyon, one of the residents tried to run them over in a pickup truck. He said he'll still ride the trail (he grew up out here and feels like it's as much his as anyone's), but he said he's on high alert on certain parts of it.