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Haunted Alhambra: A ghost story

Happy Halloween from Alhambra Source!

Originally published Oct. 26, 2012

Have you ever heard doors opening and closing on their own or creaking floorboards in your home? Have you actually seen a ghost?

You’re not alone. Many Alhambra residents have had this experience, but are reluctant to tell anyone outside of their closest friends. Let’s take a trip with a psychic though our city and visit some “haunted” houses.

Spirit medium Kelly McMahon’s gift caused her trouble as a child. “I could see people from an early age that other people did not see which caused me to be distracted,” she said. “Adults said it was all in my imagination and everyone thought I had a behavioral problem. One day when I was in second grade I was looking out the window at all of these children running around outside that seemed to glow and my teacher yelled at me to quit daydreaming and slammed a book down on my desk. All of the people I was watching vanished and my gift disappeared.”

Kelly McMahon /Photo by Albert LU

But these days McMahon sees plenty of ghosts in Alhambra. The city is her favorite haunt for spying the spirits that have decided to stay attached to a house.

“The older homes have a lot of natural materials, and the energy from the house attracts ghosts,” McMahon tells me as we start our tour.

We approach a 1916 Victorian home in Alhambra near Chapel Avenue and Mission Road. It was strange that I had never been down this side street and noticed this unusual house straight out of a Tim Burton movie. McMahon tells me the story of a troubled ghost who lived in the house, Sarah M. Taylor. On a previous visit, Sarah appeared to her from an upstairs turret window dressed in clothes from the early 20th century. McMahon sensed that she had killed herself over a love affair gone wrong.

McMahon believes that when someone passes away unexpectedly, they don’t realize they are dead and want to stay where they are comfortable, usually at their home. Sometimes they want to communicate with people by moving objects, appearing, or making noises. “This type of lost soul is common,” McMahon said. “And in the cases of unnatural or violent deaths, the person does not make the transition because they think they are still alive or have some fear of ‘the other side.’”

When she asked Sarah why she stayed in the house, the ghost responded that she would be condemned to hell if she left. McMahon helped her understand her fear by talking to her and saw her sisters guiding her toward a bright light.

“The door is always open for Earth-focused spirits or ghosts to move on, but it is sort of like a friend in a bad relationship. She can go, but for whatever reason her consciousness is keeping her from leaving,” McMahon told me. “If people are having a problem with an older home, I would like to help them."

The Victorian home that Sarah Taylor haunts is not the only one in Alhambra where ghosts have been heard. One Alhambra couple has been living with the ghost of a young boy for more than 20 years. Bill and Melinda Smith* fell in love with their 1920s Alhambra bungalow at first sight. They adored the classic architecture and shady, tree-lined street that seemed part of another time. But soon they noticed that when they left the house, objects moved to different locations. They blamed each other for the "lost" objects and had several arguments over who had moved what and when. It was not until Bill Smith saw the figure of a young boy walking down the hallway dressed in knickers that they knew they were dealing with the paranormal.

"I could see through him and he would pause and look at me as he passed, but I could not communicate with him," Bill Smith told me during the interview. They were not the only ones to channel this spirit. Guests, including a former Los Angeles Police Department officer, have also seen the boy walking the hallway, according to Smith. Bill Smith says he is a curious and open-minded person and never felt frightened by the boy, but realized the young man was troubled. 

The Smiths began to investigate the history of the house. They asked an elderly couple who had lived across the street since the 1930s if they knew of anything unusual about the house, but they denied any knowledge of the boy.

Only several years later, when the Smiths were in the process of refinishing their hardwood floors, did a secret over 50 years old reveal itself. When the Smiths pulled up the old carpet, clearly visible on the living room floor was a stained outline of a boy in a fetal position. The floor refinisher said the stain could only be the result of a decomposing body.

     Boy in knickers circa 1930sWhen the Smiths told the neighbors, they finally confessed the house’s past.

In the early 1930s, the family living in the home had gone on vacation, leaving their teenage son at home. The husband and wife returned to find their son dead on the living room floor after poisoning himself. Smith researched the death and found documentation confirming the story.

The Smiths have resigned to living with their ghost. "I have tried to tell him to find peace and move to the light, but he still remains with us,” Bill Smith said. “We still look for our keys in unusual places when they ‘disappear’ and I still see him from time to time."

Many of us in Alhambra live in an older house and we share the same space with previous generations who have also lived in our home. Each of us adds our own chapter to our house’s story and can only wonder if the previous stories were happy or haunting. We will never know unless a restless spirit pays us a visit. If you hear faint footsteps in the hallway or the door opening in the middle of the night, you might find that you have your own story to tell.

*Editor's note: Names have been changed at the residents' request.

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1 thought on “Haunted Alhambra: A ghost story”

  1. Our 1929 home was haunted soon after we moved in and we experienced many “haunted moments”. Seems we had “visiters” of former owners.”They” were never threatening to us and we never feared them. When we informed our former neighbor who had lived next door many years, she told us about her former neighbors (our past homeowners) and sure enough the former owner fit the description of what we saw and heard. Soon after, “her” visits stopped.