COAST CITIES — Local tales about the supernatural are as old as Wee-La-Me, a mountain in San Marcos thought by Native Americans to be their Garden of Eden where ancestors communicated with the spirits of water, land, rocks, trees, animals and birds. Centuries later, spiritualists arrived in the region, settling in Harmony Grove and, some say, Leucadia. Legends persist today including a belief that Encinitas lies on a spiritual vortex.
One of the most recent and widespread accounts of the supernatural relates to the haunting of the Hunter Steakhouse on Vista Way, which was built on the site of Oceanside’s Buena Vista Cemetery after it was removed in 1970.
“Grading was then done on the property and it is well known that several bodies, unceremoniously left behind, were discovered in the ensuing weeks of early construction,” wrote archaeologist Karen Angel. “Witness accounts relate that the abandoned remains were dumped into or towards the Buena Vista Lagoon.”
Maritza Skandunas is founder of San Diego Ghost Hunters and has been featured on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story.” She has done investigations of the Hotel Del Coronado, The Star of India and Whaley House.
On June 16, 2006, she was recruited to investigate Hunter Steakhouse by a friend who was a regular at the restaurant and friend of the manager.
“We went downstairs in the bar off to the right and there’s a storage room where a man was kind of hostile,” she remembered. “We’d hear a noise like he was throwing things. He didn’t want women there.”
Last week Skandunas and her partner Colleen Rose visited the ladies room at La Paloma Theatre for some psychic sleuthing. Their tools were a digital voice recorder and video camera.
Initially, there was no response to questions the women posed.
“Why don’t you want to talk to us?” Skandunas asked.
“Get out! … Don’t talk to her!” was the answer when Rose replayed the tape.
“This may have been the men’s room?” Rose asked.
“Yes,” was the response.
“What was your last name?”
“Julian,” the voice said.
Afterward, around 11 p.m., Skandunas and Rose drove to Leucadia Roadside Park to follow up on a legend they heard that it was once the site of a spiritualist settlement.
Using an electronic translation and recording device called an Ovilus X, a clear voice identified himself as “Tom Kelly.”
“Colleen and I were sitting there and he knew my name, and then we were asking him who he was,” Skandunas recalled. “It was Dolores Spears, a spiritualist in San Diego who helped my parents get rid of a spirit in our house in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Last year Carlsbad residents Steve Wileman and Misty Oliver founded Paranormalistics. Like Skandunas and Rose, their interest in ghost hunting stems from a childhood experience living in homes later discovered to be haunted. They don’t charge for their services in detecting and eliminating spirits from homes.
Wileman says his most frequent requests are from those who want advice or validation of what they experienced.
“There are a few sad cases where people are afraid to stay, so we go out and try to help them retake their home,” he said.
One of the most serious cases was a demon that occupied a duplex in Oceanside.
“We witnessed a purse sliding across a table when we arrived,” Wileman said. “It was a demonic EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) calling the renter’s name — clearly saying the girl’s name. Things were moving around the house — it was very negative and didn’t want us there.”
After clearing a home of spirits, he said a client’s final request, fearing ridicule, is confidentiality.
Wileman said more and more people are becoming ghost hunters and can do so for a reasonable investment. An Ovilu X ranges from $30 to $229. A Paracorder 667, which detects, attracts and communicates with spirits, costs about $89.
For more information, visit sandiegoghosthunters.com and paranormalistics.com.
A class, Psychic and Paranormal Adventures, is offered Tuesday evenings at the Mystical Dragon, 570 Grand Ave. in Carlsbad. For more information, call Carol Gibbs at (760) 889-9567.