Our Haunted Home in the Vanderlip Estate
Location: Palos Verdes, California
Date of Encounter: 2006 and 2010
In my opinion, California is one of the most haunted places in the world. Its history is no doubt one of greed and sadness, whole tribes of people like the Tongva ravaged by disease, slavery, genocide, and deculturalization at the hands of the white man and his “moral” cloak. Both my mother and I have a heightened sense of spirits, both good and bad, and have had many interesting encounters of which many may be skeptical. Regardless, when one experiences things first-hand, they tend to be more understanding, and so I hope you find my encounters with spirits interesting.
About six or seven years ago (I was around 12 at the time), my mother and I lived in the Vanderlip Estate of Portuguese Bend, a place of urban legend and mysterious happenings. Frank A. Vanderlip bought the Palos Verdes Peninsula back in 1913, and began construction of the Vanderlip Estate within the year. There is a large mansion in which he and his family lived, and several other surrounding buildings. It is said that his daughter, Narcissa, fell in love with an African American, and bore his child, which was at the time an abomination. Outraged, her father locked her away in the asylum he had built across the road, now called “Narcissa Drive,” and murdered her lover and child. It is also said that not long after, he murdered his entire family and their two dogs, and buried them in the walls of the mansion, then hanged himself from a beam in the living room. Some say they have seen the ghosts of the family members in the windows of the mansion, and have heard the cries of the children and barking of the dogs. Whether or not this is true is debatable, as there are no known historical accounts of this happening. But I will leave that to your judgment. What I can confirm is that this place is cursed by something dark.
Experienced psychics will tell you to stay away from this area, it is not something to be tampered with, and I don’t disagree. My mother and I lived in the farthest building up the hill, “Casa Azul” which is, as the name describes, a blue house. All of the homes in the Estate are Spanish styled houses of a somewhat lavish design, each with a unique name, indeed very beautiful and not seemingly sinister… not during the day anyway. Whenever my mother and I would explore the grounds, we could feel the presence of spirits around us, usually content and peaceful. But as soon as the sun would begin to set, we could feel the change come over the land, as if the air was constricted and something was lurking in the shadows that did not mean well.
In our home, we would experience things all the time, and it didn’t really frighten us. Events like: screen doors opening and shutting when there was no wind, footsteps running on the tiled floors, objects taken and left in peculiar places. One time my mother’s white gold hoop earrings went missing from her jewelry box. The next evening on my way back from the Greek pillar ruins, I felt something behind me and ran as quickly as I could down the hill. I stopped and turned to confront it, and there was nothing there. But when I turned around, there were the earrings in the middle of the path, just in front of my feet. The hairs stood up on my whole body, and I picked them up and ran back to the house. On another occasion, I was sitting on the couch in the living room, reading quietly, when I heard something walk behind me and tenderly grab my hair, which was hanging over the back of the couch, as it walked past. I thought it was my mother, but when I turned no one was there. I remembered then that she had been sleeping for over an hour on the bed across the room, and I realized that I had been touched by a friendly spirit.
Other things occurred in that house, like tipped over drinks (spirits like offerings) and broken dishes. The bathroom sink would randomly turn on, and beds would be unmade when we got back from hiking or days out. We heard laughter and cries, people whispering in other languages, and sometimes we would hear someone calling our names, but no one was there. We could also feel something watching us while we were sleeping, hovering over us. There was also a ghost cat that lingered there who I called Daisy.
Sometime later we were forced to move back into the house I had lived in in since I was five, with my grandmother. She is a skeptical woman, an Episcopalian who doesn’t believe in the supernatural. But many things have happened to me in that house. I have seen my deceased grandfather, a man who I never met or saw a picture of, since he died in front of my mother when she was eight. The first time I saw him, I heard a high pitched ringing in my ears, and when I looked through the back window of the study, I saw the cloudy gray figure of a man in 50’s style clothing, thick rimmed glasses, and hair combed back. He looked at me for a few seconds and then he was gone.
I saw him again two years later, only he made himself more present. He was less transparent, standing in the hall of the living room wearing a blue sweater, tan shorts, and the same thick rimmed glasses with combed back hair. When I described him to my mom, her face went slightly pale and she showed me the picture of him, telling me who he was and what had happened to him. We were both amazed. Other spirits dwelled in that house, and still do. Spirits of Tongva, spirits of things that were never human, and deceased relatives. My mother and I often smelled floral perfume and clove cigarettes, at random times, and she was certain it was her grandmother’s sister, Dorothy. My own grandmother, a S’klallam woman named Gloria who was my father’s mother, would watch over me, on and off, and still does. I know this, because when she’s present everything gets quieter and I get a static ringing in my ears, accompanied by the strong smell if cedar. There were good and evil spirits in that house, the bad were tall wispy shadowlike figures who would hover over you when you were sleeping, looking at you menacingly. They were energy stealers, much like the dementors of Harry Potter, who hated good things and Sage smoke. The good spirits were ghosts of the Tongva, who my mother and I could feel constantly. Some felt lost, others scared and sad, and some angry. I think we intrigued them in some way, they would give us signs to make themselves known. We would ask to find beads, bowls, or shells, and they would appear. Sometimes I would have to make a bed on the floor so my mother could sleep in my bed when she would visit, and on two separate occasions, I was moved. It was always the same position. I would be sleeping next to the closet with my feet pointing toward the direction of the ocean, which was a ten minute walk away. When I woke up, I would be at my mother’s left side, laying horizontal to the ocean. The blankets were folded neatly underneath me, and I would wake up on my back (I sleep on my side) with the blanket laid neatly on top of me.
After reading about the spirits of Hawaiian soldiers, ” The Marchers,” I came to the conclusion that where I was laying must have been a sacred path, and the spirits continue to walk that way. To give you a visual idea, we lived right next to the Lunada Bay Canyon, which stretches from the top of the hill in Rancho Palos Verdes all the way down to the ocean’s edge, though the portion between our house and PV Drive West was filled in and made into a storm drain. Still, as Jim Morrison said “the streets are fields that never die.” I am a firm believer in ghosts and spirits, and I can tell you that everything I’ve said is true. Whether or not you believe me is your own choice, but if you keep an open mind, you might have a few stories of your own to tell.