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Guest: Riverside Ghost Hunting
Mission Inn Hotel showing the haunted fourth floor, Riverside
Haunted fourth floor looking toward Aunt Alice's room

Going Ghost Hunting at the Riverside Mission Inn
Story and photos by Mary McGrath

've never been totally comfortable staying in old hotels. Maybe it was because I played with the Ouija board too much as a child, or perhaps I read too many Stephen King novels, but old places fascinate me and give me the willies. Plus, I have a very active imagination, which doesn’t help.

My partner and I were due in Riverside, Calif. for a funeral and so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to indulge my fascination with the macabre by spending the night at the Mission Inn Hotel, a historic hotel rumored to have ghost sightings, haunted rooms and a series of dark catacombs. On a less creepy note, the hotel has also served as a destination for celebrities like Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Judy Garland. It has also seen its fair share of political guests, like Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Taft and Nixon.

looking down at a stairwell, The Mission Inn Hotel, Riverside
Creepy Stairwell

At the time, our visit seemed like a good idea. The hotel was built in the late 1800s and there are rumors that the original owners of the Inn still haunt the building. It was also gorgeous and charming. The rooms boast domed ceilings and stained glass, and the Mission Inn Restaurant’s patio makes you feel as if you are vacationing in Spain. My partner was dying to stay there, so, despite some reservations, I consented to the stay.

When we walked into our room, I immediately got a creepy feeling. It wasn’t something tangible, just a thick eeriness that we both agreed shouldn’t be there. I parked the thought and grabbed my camera to take a tour of the premises. I roamed the halls in an attempt to shake off the chills with some architectural shots. Look at that gloomy hall! Click. Where does that creepy staircase go? Click.

a suite at the Mission Inn Hotel showing visible orbs
Suite with orbs

Although I was nervous, we signed up to take a tour of the catacombs, which run for several miles underground and some claim the layout forms a pentagram. Of course, they are rumored to be haunted. Even the hotel staff is smart enough to give the catacombs a wide berth. I, however, dove right in.

catacombs at the Mission Inn Hotel
The scary catacombs!
We went down several narrow halls that wound past the employee service areas. They seemed harmless enough, but when our guide suggested we grab a flashlight, dread began to build in the pit of my stomach.

As soon as we entered, my light began to flicker. Perfect. As we walked down the dank dark hallways, snapping photos, unbidden visions of corpses hanging from the rafters filled my head. And I realized belatedly, as I looked up to the street level, that I was at least 20 feet below the sidewalk and that should I run across a wayward ghoul in the dark I could scream all I like down here and no one would hear me.

Suddenly, there was a large bang. I swung around and grabbed my partner, who had just jumped toward me. Our guide hadn’t run into anything, so what was that thud against the pipe? He tried not to look ruffled, continuing with a litany of information about the hotel, but I was too busy trying to see what was around every corner to pay much attention to his history lesson.

writer with friend at the catacombs of Mission Inn Hotel
What's this dark mass to the right of Erika and me?

“Do many people come down here at night?” I asked.

“No, not too many. People don’t feel very good about being down here, especially as the evening wears on,” he said.

I looked around and spotted a large exit light at the end of the catacombs. I was relieved when we got out of that place. We got safely back into our room and decided to rest a bit before dinner.

“I think I’ll catch the news,” my partner announced, disappearing behind a vaulted door into another room. It seemed like an entrance to something forbidden.

I tried to take a nap, but my mind kept returning to that TV room. Something was wrong in there and I didn’t want her to be alone. The room was creepy; moreover, I got the sense that someone—or something—didn’t want us there.

We obliged, making our way back to our room to get ready for dinner. I decided to lock the door into that room. Why? At the time I did not know, but my instinct was confirmed when my partner mentioned that she thought the room had an evil spirit too. “Something just didn’t want us in that room,” she remarked.

picture taken by the writer of the Presidential Lounge showing spirit orbs
Presidential Lounge with visible orbs

The following day we asked a few employees about ghost sightings on the property. “Well, there’s a couple that comes here regularly to photograph spirit orbs,” she explained.

“What’s a spirit orb?” I asked.

“Oh, they’re those little round balls you see in your photos when you photograph ghosts,” she explained. “There are several places at the inn where they’re known to appear,” she added, bustling off to clean another room.

I dashed to the place she’d mentioned and took my shots, hoping to catch some of these orbs. I wondered what mystery would be present in my images. Sure enough, when I looked at my photos, there were spirit orbs all the locations had been mentioned to me. They look like fluorescent dandelions in your photos; one place had more than a dozen of them, many dangling from the ceiling like Christmas balls on a tree. Some were on the floor, or floating in the middle of the room.

Since then, orbs have been appearing to me regularly. I’ve mainly photographed them in old hotels, historic restaurants and abandoned buildings. But what about that black cloudy thing I captured in the catacombs? Only the shadow knows.

Related Articles:
Four Historic Hotels; La Quinta; Ojai Valley Inn and Spa

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I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK


The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.


* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!



For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!


--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,


* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,


For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy


I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA


Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA

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