The Historical Society of Pomona Valley presented its annual night tours of the abandoned Spadra Cemetery Halloween weekend.
Every 15 minutes a new group of 10 visitors would pass the gates to meet their assigned tour guide.
“Cemeteries and Halloween go together and the idea of having a cemetery tour on Halloween really makes a lot of people happy,” said Deborah Clifford, president of the Historical Society of Pomona Valley.
Once the tour began visitors walked down a gravel road and across train tracks lined with tall trees. The tour guide Carson Binnitt said the hill filled with old trees that towered over the cemetery was known as Elephant Hill, and has remained intact since the 19th century. He added that the cemetery was created because during the 19th century to be buried in a Spanish grave, you had to be Catholic. The owner of the land, Louis Phillips, donated the land to Protestants.
Some of the stories of the people buried in the cemetery include a woman named Pearl Scott Hopp, who is buried with her baby. She was married at 19 to a man 10 years older than she was. After her baby died, she struggled with depression and started an affair with one of her workers. Her grave is known as the “Juliet grave” because she committed suicide with the man she was having an affair with and left a note asking to be buried together but her husband refused to grant her wish.
Other people buried here include the entire Phillips family and the Porter brothers who lost their family at a very young age and instead of being separated, they decided to raise each other and now lay buried next to each other.
Jennifer Williams, vice president of the Historical Society, said they are more of a museum-oriented organization but also focus on document archives and the preservation of their seven historic sites and museums.
“We’re trying to make sure that the history of the Pomona Valley is something that is accessible to folks and meaningful to people,” Williams said.
Among their historical sites is the Phillips Mansion, which was home to Louis Phillips in the 19th century. Phillips was once believed to be the richest man in Los Angeles Country according to the Historical Society of Pomona Valley website.
Clifford said the tour is a historical tour and gives a taste of what life was like in the Old West.
She said she thinks the tour is popular because some people enjoy being at places considered to be creepy at night especially on Halloween.
“We’ve got some great old stories,” Clifford said. “Even if they don’t like history there are very few people who don’t get into it by the time we’ve finished our tour.”
Menna Rodriguez, Rowland Heights resident, attended on the tour with her mom and said she had been there before as a teenager but never knew about the history of the cemetery.
“I loved hearing about the history like all the backstories of the actual people who were buried there,” Rodriguez said. Her mom, Liz Davenport, said she heard about it through people’s stories of breaking into the cemetery and wanted to experience it herself.
“I’ve always, always wanted to come here to see what it’s like because I knew it was here,” Davenport said. “It’s just such a beautiful cemetery and I also love listening to all the different stories about the different families,” she said.
Araceli Macias can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.