Take the Santa Ana Ghost Walk Tour and Get Spooked

The Willela Howe-Waffle House in Downtown Santa Ana. / R. Nicanor Santana / el Don
The Willela Howe-Waffle House in Downtown Santa Ana. / R. Nicanor Santana / el Don

Taking a step back into the past, the Santa Ana Ghost Walk Tour opens your eyes to the haunted history of the very same buildings that we see across Downtown today.

To experience first hand the horrid hanging at the courthouse, the lynching at the first jail on Fourth Street and many more, you can take a haunted ghost tour just in time for Halloween. Tina Davidson, a Haunted OC docent dressed in a large black feathered hat and a black cloak, leads the way through the infamous streets of Downtown Santa Ana as she gives you details of when people died and how the buildings are still crawling with ghostly activities.

First stop, the famous Old Orange County Courthouse, which was featured in an episode of American Horror Story as an insane asylum, was built in 1901 and now stands on N.Broadway and Civic Center Drive. Thousands of cases both criminal and civil were decided in its courtrooms but one that stands out was the case of Mose Gibson. Gibson attempted to burglarize the home of Roy Trapp in Fullerton.

During the burglary Gibson in a panic bashed the head of Trapp with a hammer while he slept. After fleeing the scene Gibson was caught days later in Albuquerque, NM and brought back to Santa Ana for trial. Once in custody, Gibson confessed to having murdered six other people in the same manner because, he said “a gun made too much noise.” He was the first person to have ever been sentenced to hang in the history of Orange County. Gibson was hung Sept. 24 1920.

The Old Orange County Courthouse. / R. Nicanor Santana / el Don
The Old Orange County Courthouse. / R. Nicanor Santana / el Don

Paranormal investigator Ernie Alonso, the founder of Haunted Orange County, has recorded conversations of current employees at the courthouse who have felt dread, fear and choking sensations when entering certain rooms of the courthouse. The basement where the violently insane offenders were kept is said to be where the strongest feeling of fear will overcome the person who enters.

The next stop is three streets down from the historic courthouse on Fourth and Sycamore St. what is now known as Valencia Jewelery MFG was once the first Santa Ana City Jail supervised by Sheriff Theo Lacy.

The year was 1892 and a man by the name of Francisco Torres was the ranch handler of Modjeska Ranch in Modjeska Canyon, Calif. Allegedly, Torres had a confrontation with the foreman of the ranch, Capt. William McKelvey over a $2.50 poll tax removed from Torres’ pay. Torres was unsatisfied with the pay cut and later returned with a pick handle. The next day another employee of the ranch found McKelvey face down with two gashes on his head and a knife wound to the chest.

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Torres disappeared from Santa Ana and was later found in San Diego.

The Old Orange County Jail is said to be haunted. / Ruby Nunez / el Don

Upon his return to town, Lacy drove his team of horses slowly down Fourth Street, his prisoner in plain view so everyone in town saw that Torres had been captured. During his trial Torres admitted to murdering Mckelvey but pleaded self defense. However, because the foreman was well liked, many people in town were furious and a group of 30 men mobbed the jail and lynched Torres.

On the evening of August 20, 1892, Torres was dragged away from the jail and hanged on a lamppost at Fourth and Sycamore.

Our final stop was the Willella Howe-Waffle House. The house looked frigid and was preserved with its original interior design and furniture still perfectly intact as the day it opened its doors in 1889. Willella was the most prominent female pioneer doctors of Orange County. Because she was a woman, she was not allowed to practice medicine, which resulted in her running her own medical office out of her home.

Throughout her entire career, she delivered over 1,000 babies. They were labeled “Waffle Babies.” One woman in particular, gave birth in the barn outside the home and died right after she delivered the baby. Ellen Marron, a psychic medium investigated the barn and had an indescribable choking sensation. She was left completely appalled and was unable to speak about what she experienced during the investigation, said Davidson before the tour ended.

Ruby Nunez

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