Mysterious Island: The Ghosts of Catalina
With Halloween just around the corner, it should be no surprise to anyone that, for this issue, “Mysterious Island” will turn to some of the Island’s most legendary ghost stories in none other than the legendary Avalon Casino.
Many of these stories revolve around the Mezzanine level between the downstairs theater and the upstairs ballroom, specifically the area around the women’s restroom on the building’s west side.
Chuck Liddell recalled an episode that occurred several years ago when his then—16-year-old nephew Arthur, a tour guide at the time, was playing “tail end Charley” on one of the day-time tours. It was Arthur’s job to follow behind the tour group to make sure no one lagged too far behind or tried to hide someplace.
As Arthur’s tour was finishing with the group heading back down the ramps to exit the building, Arthur noticed a “middle-aged man” with an old-fashioned camera hanging around his neck. The man was dressed in the typical tourist garb of the 1950s, with Bermuda shorts, sandals with socks, and a bright Aloha-style shirt.
Arthur informed the man that the tour was ending and that he needed to exit the building. The man didn’t seem to acknowledge Arthur’s presence and said nothing to him in response. In fact, the strange tourist seemed to be looking “right through” Arthur, he said.
The man then turned and walked into the women’s restroom with Arthur in pursuit.
Well, maybe he just needs to use the restroom, thought Arthur to himself, even if it was for the wrong gender.
Arthur decided to stand guard at the entrance to the restroom—the only entrance or exit—and wait.
After about 20 minutes, Arthur grew impatient and went into the restroom to look for the man, who was nowhere to be found. This sent the young Arthur into a near-panic and, according to his grandmother, Carolyn Renton, “he ran all the way up the hill to home. He actually was white-faced and shaking,” she said.
After much consolation, “Uncle Chuck” was finally able to convince Arthur to finish up the season and continue working in the building.
On another occasion, a friend of mine named Brian was walking past the same women’s restroom with a Casino employee when they distinctly heard the disembodied voice of a woman yelling “get out!” They did.
While most of the building’s well-known ghost stories revolve around the Mezzanine level, the theater area on the building’s ground floor nevertheless has its own tales to tell.
Another story of Chuck’s involves the theater lobby. He was standing at the snack bar in the lobby when he first noticed a man walking in his direction out of the corner of his eye. Before he could utter anything to the stranger, the man literally walked right through the wall separating the lobby from the inside of the theater. This was something he saw straight-on, not out of the corner of his eye.
Even stranger, or perhaps appropriate, Chuck noticed the man’s attire was decidedly old-fashioned—very old-fashioned—dating back to about the World War I era or perhaps the early 1920s.
What’s interesting about the period of the clothing is that the modern-day Casino was not even built until 1929. Its precursor was known as the “Sugarloaf Casino” and had a much more open interior than today’s Casino. Perhaps in the era in which this spectral gentleman lived, there was no wall in that particular location.
A couple of friends of mine had another unnerving experience in the theater’s lobby. Dave and Linda had just entered the lobby from the theater after watching a movie when Linda went into to the sitting area of the women’s restroom to freshen up in the mirror.
Dave contented himself with sitting and waiting on one of the vintage couches lining the lobby’s black walnut-paneled walls.
When Linda emerged from the restroom she was as “white as a sheet,” according to Dave.
“Did you just see a ghost or something?” joked Dave. It turned out his “joke” was no joke at all.
Linda then related to him how she had been brushing her hair in the mirror when, only 2 feet from her, the “translucent” figure of an elderly woman in a long white robe floated by her and out into the lobby.
Evidently, no one else saw the apparition enter the lobby, so perhaps the spirit only allowed Linda to see her.
The experience was somewhat traumatic for Linda, who—like many non-believers who have a paranormal experience—instantly became a believer.
Who was this ghostly woman? Theater employees and Island residents have long told stories of an elderly woman haunting the women’s bathroom area. Normally, there is no exchange of information or even acknowledgement of the presence of the living on the part of the spirit.
Some, however, have reported the woman sometimes asks, “Where is my husband?”
A young girl of about 5 or 6, the daughter of an island resident, once said this ghostly woman appeared to her and bent over to whisper in her ear “Where is he?”
Is this the spirit of the same woman who haunts the women’s restroom on the Mezzanine level? To date, no one knows who she is, or for that matter, who—or where—her lost husband is.
Got a weird story about Catalina? Send it to us at email@example.com or mail it to Mysterious Island, c/o Catalina Islander, PO Box 428, Avalon, CA 90704.