Oh, hello there . . .
I've been . . . expecting you.
A little matter of a - - guided
tour, I believe? Yes, that was it. Well, there's no sense in
delaying our journey any - after all, there's time a-plenty for
sleeping in the grave . . .
The first thing we need to
do is Head East, get ourselves away from all this noisy distracting
civilization! You want to get over to Artesia there, yes, that's
it - and keep right on going on to the 91 Freeway - we'll just
set our sights due east as the crow flies till things quiet down
a bit . . .
That's better, after a spell
the road has a way of lulling you into a sort of half-slumbering
daze, a nice receptive mood, if you take my meaning .
. . after all, we'll be travelling a bit through time, as well.
No, you mustn't scoff - I'm
DEADLY serious. Look, take this offramp - we're going to head
south on Interstate 15 now, south through slowly rising hills,
south away from the desert, south into Old California.
You see, I-15 between Riverside
and San Diego is the modern concrete descendent of the old stagecoach
trail used hundreds of years ago to convey early Californians
from San Diego to Los Angeles. Look around you: this is the real
west, pardner, still desolately with us, its brown hills peppered
with silent desert foliage bearing mute witness to centuries
of European encroachment . . . the hot sun scorching all below
- as you feel the miles thunder by it doesn't take much to imagine
you've somehow breached the silken walls of time, and now roll
through the golden west of the mid-1800's . . .
As disinclined as I am to disrupt
this golden reverie, I'm afraid that this era, the Old West,
will have to wait its turn. Take this turnoff here, the one pointing
toward Lakeshore Drive - we're going to Lake Elsinore.
It's a relatively serene lake
these days, a far cry from March 1980, when floodwaters threatened
to engulf the town (and in fact did overrun the local cemetery).
The town of Elsinore today is your basic quintessential Small
Town, fathers in never-ending battle with the dry desert climate
for the life of their lawn, children racing dogs, cars from other
times sprawled in rusting majesty in forgotten yards . . . only
the occasional video store reminds you what year this is.
Now you see it: a two-story
colonial building of whitewashed redwood, complete with a State
Historical Landmark sign perched to the left in case the odd
passerby had failed to note the significant age of the place.
You have arrived.
You are in front of The Chimes.
It was built over a century
ago atop one of the many hot springs the area is noted for, only
back then it was called the "Crescent Bath House",
and was THE place for soaking oneself from the late 1800's to
early this century.
You park, and leisurely stroll
across the quiet small town street, and into the building. Inside
it is, of course, much cooler, and you feel as if you've entered
another world. The bath house is now an antique shop, and a shop
filled with the most wonderful curios. Here you will find a vast
plethora of "depression glass" vying for space with
figurines from long ago, here the treasures of a hundred attics
lay in final repose, awaiting their fate.
Behind the counter a woman
waits. You tell here what you have come for - she only looks
at you for a moment, smiles slightly, and says "Some people
feel something, others . . .", and, trailing off, she turns
her attention seemingly away, and you stand alone in front of
Down the hallway you go, past
mannequin-strewn recreations of turn-of-the-century bathhouse
rooms, past shelves of dusty paperbacks and unnamable curios,
to the rooms in the back.
There are several rooms which
open into this hallway, including the one filled with old clippings
concerning the history of Elsinore and of The Chimes, another
filled with old kitchen devices, and between the two a rather
ordinary room, with a child's mannequin tucked securely into
bed. She stares at the ceiling, smiling. It is not necessarily
a nice smile. There is a room beyond.
There are other rooms identical
to this, all filled with rather unusual looking mannequins in
a variety of poses. They are here ostensibly to remind you of
the building's historic past.
You venture a step into one
of the just-mentioned rooms, and then something stops you: a
feeling that you might be . . . intruding. A furtive glance assures
you that no one is in there, and yet -
The smallest pretext for vacating
is quickly seized upon, and back you hurry to the front, where
the proprietor is now only too glad to relate the ghastlier side
to this building's history, now that you've felt its presence
Back in the 1930's (the story
goes) a group of teenagers decided, for a lark, to go for a night
swim, back when it was still a bath house and the back yard contained
an open pool. In those days security was not what security is
now, and the pool was easily breached.
Unfortunately, one of the boys
dove in, and never came back out.
The bath house was promptly
closed, the pool filled in (they'll show you where it lies buried),
and eventually the building became the non-assuming antique shop
you see today.
You've been luckier than many.
Some have experienced a horrible smell, others have been unable
to enter the room at all, still others have felt a rather sharp
tap upon their shoulders . . .
The proprietors claim to be
used to their "roommate", but confess they don't much
like to be in the room alone.
The Chimes is located at 201
West Graham Avenue, Lake Elsinore. It is (or was) open from 10-5
on Saturdays, and 11-5 on Sundays.
There are other stories of
similar "accidents" relating to its bath house days,
and there are other ghosts, as well. Be sure to ask - you wouldn't
want to miss anything, would you?
The above is all true: I have
personally brought several people to The Chimes (most recently
my brother Michael), and asked each of them to find the haunted
room on their own - they all have.
(-Joe Nolte, October 1987)
As promised, I've got a few
things to add to our little ghostly tour.
First, I was rather cryptic
in alluding to stepping into "one of the just-mentioned
rooms" - the room I referred to was, somewhat obviously,
the one with the eerie child mannequin reposing. Upon entering
that room on my first visit I felt a distinct chill and became
increasingly ill at ease. Several companions have shared this
feeling, while others noticed no such feeling, yet admitted to
a distinctly foul smell in the room.
Aficionados of Things Haunted
will recall that a foul smell is a very common apparitional manifestation.
I can assure you I smelled nothing out of the ordinary.
It was this room that led to
the "room beyond" I alluded to. It's amusing in retrospect
that I gave that other room so very brief a mention - I recall
feeling relieved that, based on the Chill Factor, I'd found the
"haunted room" and didn't need to venture further.
At the time of the initial
appearance of this column, I was under the impression that the
room I was in was indeed the haunted room. I subsequently learned
otherwise - it was in fact that Other Room - the room Beyond.
I'd like to tell you what I felt there, but to this day I have
been unable to do more than set foot in the thing for a second.
My feeling was that I was trespassing, that I was about to enter
an area that didn't belong to me - an area in which I Didn't
That room is also the one where
various employees have felt tapping on their shoulders, etc.
It is also probably not haunted
by the teenaged swimmer.
For there are at least two
other ghosts: One is that of a middle-aged man, who is occasionally
seen sitting at a desk in a room at the front of the place. The
other is that of a young boy, who was found drowned back in the
establishment's bath house days, in the exact location of today's
"haunted room". Evidently, the child was actually the
victim of foul play, and thus haunts this unhappy spot to this
I recall standing in the hallway
with my friend Tim, looking at an aircraft mobile, and hearing
Tim remark "Gee, if I were a young boy I'd probably
like to play with that." About ten seconds later, the mobile
started turning, around and around, all by itself - slowly and
There was, needless to say,
no breeze of any kind - and none of the other mobiles were moving.
We left the hallway pretty quickly after that.
I haven't been to Lake Elsinore in many years, so I don't know
how rustic it's managed to remain. For those coming out to this
area, or those already here, however, I'm pretty sure you could
do a lot worse than to make a day of it and head out to Lake
Elsinore. The Glen Ivy Hot Springs are the modern day equivalent
of the Crescent Bath House and offer the ultimate hot springs
experience, and nearby you'll find horseback riding, wine and
cheese tasting, and of course lots of antiques.
As usual, I'm including a few
links. As far as I can tell there is nothing on the WWW
alluding to the Ghosts of The Chimes (until now, that is). The
following should be of some interest, however.
And thanks again for tuning
in, and I'll see you all in May.
To learn more about The Chimes, click here.
At last - Glen Ivy Hot Springs
have their own site! Unfortunately, it's in its infancy - check
'em out, though - there are not many better ways to spend an
of interest around Lake Elsinore, including wineries, antiques,
This is a site based in the Lake Elsinore region (Corona, actually)
that plays host to "True
Ghost Stories" . . . I stumbled upon it quite by accident
and after perusing some of the tales I recommend that you NOT
access this page when alone or after the sun has set - some of
these stories are among the most chilling narratives I've ever
run across. (Where were these guys last October?)