With Halloween approaching, we thought it was time to delve into the haunted history of L.A.'s restaurants. Who better to tell us then Richard Carradine, co-founder of G.H.O.U.L.A. and Spirits with Spirits, the loose local group of ghost obsessives who meet every month over drinks and eats to discuss hauntings in our taverns and diners. Enjoy our interview as Richard, who has investigated over 200 haunted worldwide locales, tells us about the guests we don't necessarily see while knocking back drinks and dishes at Edendale Grill, Patrick's Road House, The Roosevelt, Carlito's Way, and The Queen Mary. And if you know anything about that secret haunting in our oldest Tiki bar or any other good ghost stories, give us a holler in the comments. We're just dying to know more, muhahahaah!
GS: Hi Richard, how did you start Spirits with Spirits?
RC: My partner and I realized that Los Angeles didn't have any kind of a "ghost club." There were paranormal investigation teams, but they were closed to the public. There was no organization open to anyone with an interest in ghost stories. So we created one. The idea of meeting at a "haunted" location seemed like a natural, but which one? So, meeting every month on the 13th at a different haunted bar or restaurant just made sense. It would not only be a chance for all of us to get together in a casual environment, but also a good excuse to explore the city.
GS: What goes on at a typical meeting of Spirits with Spirits?
RC: There is no set agenda or presentations. It's basically a "manifestation mixer." We research the history and the ghost stories connected to the establishment, and post them online so everyone attending has a starting point for conversations. After that, they go where they go. People tell their own experiences with the after-life, or share information about known, and unknown, haunted locations. We have had people show up at past events who previously had no interest in ghosts, but just saw this as an excuse to visit restaurants that they had heard about.
GS: What do you consider L.A.s most haunted establishment?
RC: You can't beat the Queen Mary. Not only is the 1930's art-deco bar worth a visit, but the ship is filled with history and ghost stories at every turn. Although there are dozens of ghosts that are said to haunt this place from every era, my favorite involves an incident that took place in one of the suites. It is said that a man went crazy out at sea, and killed his whole family. After he stabbed his wife, his children hid under one of the beds. The father then held his knife under the bed, and slashed it back and forth, killing the trapped children together where they laid. Ever since then, people standing next to the bed have felt small hands reach out from under the bed and grab their ankles for help.
Then, there are restaurants and bars that are in and of themselves haunted. A great place is Patrick's Roadhouse. Not only is it a great place to get a burger, but it has a long history of ghost stories. The narrow restaurant was previously a hot dog stand, a motel, a brothel, and a trolley station. One of the most common ghosts is that of a former prostitute, but the story I like most involves the ghost of the former owner who supposedly kept appearing to give the chef disapproving looks. The continuous ghostly brow-beating over his skill as a cook was the reason given for his eventual resignation.
GS: Has the group experienced anything paranormal while meeting or shortly thereafter?
RC: Silver Lakes Edendale Grill occupies a former 1920's fire station that is filled with stories of phantom firemen going through their rescue rituals. On the night we visited, several digital pictures revealed "orbs" in the dining area. These fuzzy circles are very controversial in the ghost-hunting community. Some believe they are proof of present spirits. Some say they are just illusions created by dust or moisture in the air. One skeptic at the event voiced his disapproval, pointing to the more "scientific" explanation. Wanting to prove him wrong, the photographer pleaded to the spirit she believed to be in the room to place an orb on the skeptic's head, and proceeded to take his picture. In the photo, there is an orb exactly where she asked the spirit to place one. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
Occasionally psychics join our festivities, and experience visits from other realms that are not seen or felt by the rest of us present. One such claim was made at the famously haunted Hotel Roosevelt, where a psychic said he saw a janitor walking up and down the hall near the restrooms. He didn't understand why this man in uniform kept staring at him, until he realized that no one else present could see the apparition.
GS: What do you think is L.A.s creepiest restaurant, ghosts or not?
RC: There is a very small neighborhood tavern located in a non-descript strip-mall in the San Fernando Valley called Carlito's Way. There is nothing about this watering-hole that would make you look twice at it. However, one of the previous owners murdered his wife inside its walls, and before the strip-mall was built, a slaughter house for a poultry farm stood on that location. When you walk through the doors, there is just something not right about this place. You can feel the heaviness in the air. It is starkly decorated, and dimly lit. The employees and regulars claim to see sinister-looking "shadow people" appear on the walls late at night. The bartender told me a story that one night, the flame from one of the small table candles grew to about a foot and a half creating a still column of fire. It then went out suddenly, and was witnessed by everyone at the bar that night, who all thought it would be best to call it a night, and go home.
GS: Does the group have a fantasy meeting place that they'd kill to go to?
RC: There is a famous Tiki bar in Los Angeles that is one of the oldest, continuously operating such Polynesian-themed tavern in Los Angeles, if not the U.S. I heard from a friend that it was haunted, but he didn't know the story. So, I went there one day, and posing as a curious customer I asked if there were any ghost stories or legends connected to the place given its history. The bartender immediately said "no," but a drunken patron sitting next to me overheard my question. He blurted out that it is indeed haunted, and called over a woman I should talk to with a great story. Witnessing this, the bartender made an angry announcement that no one in the bar was to talk to me. My drunken friend got scared and shut up. The bartender then repeated to me that there are no ghost stories connected to the bar, and asked me to leave, which I did. Ever since that incident, I've been dying to know what this story is that the management doesn't want known. I would love to take our group there, if I could only get someone to spill the beans.
GS: What are your plans this Halloween, Richard?
RC: I know this sounds boring, but I never go out on Halloween. Maybe its the masks and costumes, but people tend to go overboard with their partying. In Los Angeles, there is a lot of drunk driving accidents that night. I prefer to stay home and be safe. I'm trying to put off becoming a ghost myself for as long as possible.