In a makeshift “gypsy caravan” across from the post office in the Claremont Village, Girl Scout Troop No. 1094 had warm apple cider, chocolate chip cookies and fortune telling booths set up to welcome those visiting for their annual Claremont Village Ghost Walk.
Fiona Henry, girl scout, has helped her troop with the Ghost Walk for the last six years. Starting off as a fortune teller like many of the younger girls seen inside of their caravan, she now leads some of the tours.
“We made this event that, now, has become this really big event that a bunch of people from different cities will come out to,” Henry said.
The walking tour consisted of six different stops starting with the poltergeist in Some Crust Bakery and finishing with the ghost of the broken-hearted Gwendolyn Rose in Sumner Hall on the Pomona College campus, with each stop consisting of several ghost stories.
Girl Scout Jenna Heskin told the audience of about 20 young girl scouts and their parents the story of the friendly spirit prone to tossing coffee cups, cellophane, slate boards and butter-crème frosting through the air.
Although it is unknown as to who or what the spirit may actually be, Heskin reminded the audience that poltergeists are not mean, nor are they out to get anyone, but they are rather pranksters who seem to enjoy a good time.
“There have been several interactions with this poltergeist and no one has gotten hurt, no one will probably ever get hurt, but the interesting thing is that we don’t know who or what they are,” Heskin said. “We have no idea who it is or when they first showed up. We do know that they’re friendly, and they’re not here to hurt anybody. Next time you bump into Some Crust, make sure to say hi and hold on tight to your coffee cups.”
The second stop was Barbara Cheatley’s Antiques, a gift shop that opened around 40 years ago.
However, girl scouts Merry Aichele and Lucy Chin told stories of the hauntings that had happened in Barbara’s own home, located in downtown Ontario.
Barbara was described as a lover of antiques, having acquired many of the pieces within her personal collection from a friend of hers named Howard around the 1970s.
One of the antiques she acquired from him happened to be a long, narrow wooden box that she had used as a storage place for linens and sheets in her living room.
It was this box that began a stir of paranormal activity, like the sightings of two different ghosts, one dressed in a long, dark wool coat, and the other short, in grey military attire.
“Barbara decided to do some investigations of her own and found that boxes of that dimension and of that material may have been holding coffins used during the Civil War and the first world wars to temporarily hold the bodies of the dead before they were shipped off,” Chin said.
In the 1990s, Barbara had a student from the college stay at her house, to which the student experienced what she described as two ghostly apparitions staring at her so aggressively and intensely that she immediately yelled for them to leave once realizing they were not from this realm.
Another incident a few years later involved two men who were hired to remodel the house. One of the men, Pete, had felt two hands pressed firmly onto his back, however, once he turned around, there was no one to be seen.
“After the remodel in Barbara’s home was complete, the sightings and apparitions of the two ghosts subsided somewhat,” Aichele said. “But Barbara and her family have concluded that these two military-clad spirits, although they’re pranksters, they are very protective of her and her family and they do not appreciate or welcome strangers into the Cheatley home.”
The third stop was outside of a residence that once held several hair salons, a flower shop and is even home to an Airbnb as of today.
Michelle Reinhardt told the story of Timmy, an affluent, eccentric young man who bought the property in 1975 with plans to renovate the building into his own hair salon.
Unfortunately, the renovations stopped abruptly and the lot sat vacant for months until a man named Jim purchased it and began “The Hair Cottage.”
It was here when strange things around the salon began to happen, such as when a hand-held mirror flew off the wall and across the room, or when an employee named Ray began noticing glimpses of an apparition who appeared young with long hair and a long coat.
As Ray began to voice the story, a sales representative for the salon told him who Timmy was, and how he had died of an apparent drug overdose in the desert while wearing his mink coat, something known as a sort of staple piece for the young man.
The fourth stop told the story of Toll Hall, Scripps College’s very first residence hall that was dedicated to their first female board member, Eleanor Toll, who died just a day before she was set to start her new position in 1928.
It appears that the spirits within the Toll Hall have attached themselves to several pieces of furniture, Henry said, such as the massive Persian rug or the big, heavy wooden chair seen in the browsing room.
Henry mentioned that the seemingly haunted chair in the room is no rocking chair, rather, it is solid and heavy, with four wooden legs to help keep it steadily in place.
However, it is this same chair that several students have reported seeing move side to side on all four legs with no explanation.
Similar to the chair, several students have reported seeing the massive, almost floor-length Persian rug within the room just inching across the floor in an almost rippling-like motion.
“One thing can be said for sure,” Henry said. “Even if you’re studying alone, late at night, Scripps College will always provide you with your very own study buddy.”
The fifth stop on the tour was the Mabel Shaw Bridges Hall of Music, which Charles Ketter, narrator, described to the audience as a gift from Appleton and Amelia Bridges, the parents of Mabel Bridges, a student at the college who suddenly died at the age of 22.
When construction of the building began in 1931, a journeyman by the name of Walter was extremely proud to be working on the project, so much so that he was the first man on the site every morning and the last one to leave at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, Ketter described, Walter’s life came to an end as he was working on the rafters above the audience and lost his footing, leading to his untimely, however immediate, death.
There have been several encounters with Walter as he messes with ‘ghost lights’ on stage, pesters performers in their own dressing rooms until they have no choice but to switch rooms, and lingers behind guests as they use the bathroom in the basement.
An outside company has even lent their hand at attempting to reach Walter through the use of EVP, to which the company asked where he was to which, in what appeared to have been a clear and distinct whisper, Walter responded with “right here.”
“Apparently, Walter’s love and passion for working on this project means that he’s still the first person on the job each day and the last to leave,” Ketter said.
The last spot of the night was right outside of Sumner Hall, or, what narrator David Bellman explained, was once the Hotel Claremont in 1887, the oldest building in the city.
It was during this year that Paul and Gwendolyn Rose stayed at the hotel as they were searching for a new home after moving to Southern California from Chicago.
Unfortunately, the move was much harder on Gwendolyn than it was Paul, especially after she found out that he was running around town with another woman, having an affair.
“The stress and embarrassment were too much for Gwendolyn to handle; she was found in the hotel basement bathroom dead from a broken heart,” Bellman said. “It is Gwendolyn Rose who is said to haunt Sumner Hall.”
As the ghost walk came to an end, the shrill voices of young girl scouts could be heard all along the sidewalk as they spoke among one another about the hauntingly spooky stories they spent their evening walking around Claremont listening to, and surely will not be forgetting.
Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.