The Hunt for Halloween

Sam Barke | New University

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again as the leaves begin to turn, pumpkins start to make faces at us from doorsteps and accepting candy from strangers is suddenly OK. And best of all, finding ways to scare the living hell out of yourself along with your friends becomes a must do on the weekend to-do list. There’s no denying that Halloween rings in a time during which we can embrace our worst fears and have fun with them.

At least that’s the kind of mindset I had myself set into at the start of this month. I had made it my goal to do something legitimately scary this year, but Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios’ Hollywood Horror Nights were a little too demanding on my wallet.

That’s when I decided to embark on a little adventure within the gates of the Hollydale Mental Hospital, more famously known as the Downey Insane Asylum. Why go spend 60 bucks on a simulated asylum maze at Halloween Haunt when you can have the real thing free of charge? And by free of charge, I mean completely abandoned.

The former asylum is boarded up at every door and window, much like the setting in a horror movie.  The grounds are also gated and guarded by passing security vans.

As soon as my friends and I found out about this place, we naturally thought of nothing else but getting in. After doing some extensive research on Reddit and watching YouTube videos, we found many stories and rumors circulating of satanic rituals and ghosts running rampant in the area. We learned that the place used to function as a rehabilitation center until management shut the asylum down.

Why they did so is unknown, but there are many theories ranging from lack of funds, to the patients striking back at their lab-coated oppressors in retribution for the illegal experiences that went on inside. And judging from the looks of the place, we’d like to think it’s the latter.

The night we finally headed out, we snuck onto the premise and managed to find an area of the gate that didn’t have barbed wire covering the top. Perhaps it was the spirit of Halloween finally kicking in, but I thought the place just screamed evil. Decrepit but somehow still standing menacingly, I kept wondering why anyone would even want to keep this place around after so many years. We came armed and ready with salt and hammers to fend off any ghosts or bums that may cross our paths, but what we hadn’t anticipated were the skunks. There were families of them scurrying around the area. By the end of the whole trip, we were more scared of encountering security or skunks than any ghosts.

After that trip, I couldn’t help but wish that these ghost hunting adventures didn’t have to resort to heading out of Irvine. It’s not enough that Irvine seems to ward off students on the weekend, but ghosts as well? Is the OC really lacking in spirit? I looked into any possible locations and was surprised at how many haunted hotspots showed up.

Campus Drive – This first one is uncomfortably close to home as the ghostly sightings are said to occur on the lengthy stretch of road near the wildlife reserve that stretches between Jamboree and University Drive. If you’ve been down that road, you know that driving down that path is scary enough even without hearing that story. Besides the fact that your headlights are the only source of light, fog is also known to consume the road at night – and that’s where the legend comes from. Apparently, a girl jogging down this path was struck by a student who couldn’t see through the fog (in other versions, she was hit by drunk drivers). Legend has it that her spirit now occupies that stretch of road during those foggy nights, targeting men. So if you happen to have the misfortune of crossing that path with a Y chromosome in you, don’t look beside you or in the rearview mirror – she may have hitched a ride with you.

Blackstar Canyon – Located in the Cleveland National Forest, Black Star Canyon has a reputation for its natural beauty and great hiking trails. By day, most people like to hike to the famous waterfall but by night, a different kind of scene plays out. Most people who dare to come at night look out for the abandoned shack that rests in the area or the overturned bus. There are rumors of satanic and even Ku Klux Klan rituals taking place here, along with sightings of hooded figures and strange lion-like creatures. The canyon was apparently once home to Native Americans before they were driven out.

Ghost of Prado – This is probably one of the more well-known of UCI haunts. In a single room of Prado, a hall located in Mesa Court, the ghost of a dancing girl supposedly occupies the room in which she  lived and died.

As the story goes, an introverted girl enrolled at UCI as a dance major. She hardly ever came out of her room unless she was going to eat. Sometimes the shadow of her form would be seen through her window. Her hallmates, however, soon began to notice a rotting smell coming out of her room one day and soon realized that she had committed suicide by hanging herself from the moving ceiling fan. While some say that it was due to the stress of an upcoming recital, other accounts say she was facing depression due to bullying from her peers.

Though the room is said to be unoccupied, some students passing by claim to hear whispering or crying. Others claim to see the form of her shadow in the window, dancing long after her death.

It helps to keep in mind then, for the rest of you Anteaters looking for a thrill on Halloween, that you don’t have to venture far to experience obscure or paranormal chills.