APRIL 1998

In October of 1986, as our newsletter was just getting started, I kidnapped my brother Mike one day and took him on a "Ghost Tour" to the southern-most regions of California. We visited the famous Whaley House, which, amazingly, I've yet to write about - but spent most of the day at a former bath house turned antique shop in Lake Elsinore.

I'd seen the place before, and would again, and Mike was quite impressed, as I recall. I couldn't wait for October to roll around again so that I could devote the second Halloween column (1987) to this wonderful haunted antique store.

Now that we were online, I found I could not wait for another October, and returned to this column to update it and get it out into cyberspace where it clearly belonged . . .

Welcome to my "Web Only" April folklore column. I've been writing these columns for as long as the newsletter has existed - since October of 1986, in fact. My sources for material have come from amateur and professional folklorists alike, as well as books, magazines, and the occasional personal experience - such as the one I'm about to take you into . . .

It's a guided tour, we'll be driving from Torrance, California (home of Book Again) into the heart of Old California - a little town along the ancient stage route - Zorro country.

It's also a reprint of a column that first appeared in our first anniversary issue back in October of 1987.

Now, I'm semi-opposed to reprints in general, but the fact of the matter is that our first decade of issues reached an enthusiastic but extremely local contingent of Southern California book lovers. Book Again is in the city of Torrance, in the "South Bay" region of Los Angeles. Go a mile due west and you'll hit the Redondo Beach Pier, complete with a statue erected to the "first surfer" - a guy Huntington (father of the late lamented Red Cars) imported to the South Bay from Hawaii about 70 or 80 years ago in an attempt to interest mainlanders in the sport of "surfing", so that people would want to ride his trains out to the beach.

I think the idea caught on.

At any rate, we are at Surf City Central - Dick Dale was Orange County (considerably south of us), but at least as many founding surf bands hailed from these waters - including the first surf band to crack Billboard's Hot One Hundred charts: The Frogmen - whose "Underwater" entered the charts in early April 1961, more than seven months before Dick Dale's "Let's Go Trippin'". The Frogmen peaked at #44, and incidentally featured a drummer named Mike Anderson, my uncle, and the webmaster of this very site!

The South Bay also produced a little band called The Beach Boys . . .

At any rate, that's where we are geographically, and where the forthcoming reprint begins its little tour. That's also where our entire readership was based, until a few months ago.

Having breached the cyberwalls of the Web, we find ourselves with an entirely new and vast potential audience, so the idea of recycling some old nuggets from the past is not as heinous a thing as it might otherwise be. Additionally, I now have the ability to include photographs.

This could work out rather nicely . . .

The column which follows concerns an antique shop in Southern California which enjoys Historical Landmark protection and has a rather eerie past (and occasionally present). The surrounding terrain has much to offer and is especially enjoyable in Springtime, hence the timing of its inclusion.

At any rate, on with the show - as I mentioned, this was written and published over a decade ago, and I've got a few extra facts I've dug up in the interim, which I'll be back to share with you after your guided tour.

Have fun!

The Chimes


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 a hallway.

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 for yourself.

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.

Will you?

(-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 Belong.

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 day.

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 deliberately.

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 afternoon.

Points of interest around Lake Elsinore, including wineries, antiques, etc.

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?)