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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

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Ghosts of Orange County: 10. Katie Wheeler Library and the “Lady in Blue”

In anticipation of Halloween, Rancho Ortega Blog will be counting down the ten most haunted locations in Orange County.

Ghost hunting in suburban Orange County is more difficult than searching for spooks in a historic city.  After all, ghosts tend to accumulate over decades (if not centuries) of tragedy and sorrow – attaching themselves to places of sentimental significance.  Orange County does not have the historic legacy of older cities, so our ghosts are fewer and farther between.  But Orange County is ripe with supernatural stories and it is possible to find the “Real Ghosts of Orange County” if you know where to look!  When in doubt, many cities feature haunted walking tours that visit the most notorious local haunts:

In the meantime, we begin our countdown of the ten most haunted locations in Orange County with the Katie Wheeler Library and the mysterious Lady in Blue!


10.       Katie Wheeler Library and the Lady in Blue (Irvine)

The Orange County Public Library celebrated the grand opening of the Katie Wheeler Library on February 23, 2008.  The library, located at 13109 Old Myford Road in in the Irvine Historic Park, is named after Katie Wheeler, who passed away in 2003 and was the eldest granddaughter of Irvine family patriarch James Irvine II.  Using historical photos, the Katie Wheeler Library was built as a faithful recreation of the original Irvine family home that stood on the exact same location until it was destroyed by a fire in 1965. The library is an architectural masterpiece and the focal point of the Irvine Ranch Historic Park.  It is also the new home of one of Orange County’s most well-known and prominent ghosts.

The Irvine Family Ranch House (photo courtesy of the Katie Wheeler Library web site)

For nearly a century, Orange County residents have whispered about the strange appearance of a ghostly “lady in blue.”  She is said to be Kathryn Helena Irvine, the daughter of James Irvine II and the mother of Katie Wheeler.  Kathryn Helena Irvine died March 2, 1920 at the Irvine family home four days after giving birth to baby Kathryn “Katie” Anita Irvine.  Between 1920 and 1965, the ghost of Kathryn Helena Irvine, adorned in her finest blue dress, was said to wander the rooms and grounds of the Irvine home – no doubt longing to remain with her family following her untimely death.  When the Irvine house was damaged by fire and eventually demolished in 1968, the Lady in Blue was left without a home.  For nearly 50 years, her transient spirit was reportedly seen at a variety of Orange County locations, including the El Toro Memorial Park Cemetery and among Orange County’s canyons.  However, it is not surprising that in 2008, the Lady in Blue would return to her family home – now a public library named in honor of her own beloved daughter.

The Irvine Family on the porch of the Irvine Ranch House. Kathryn Helena Irvine is in the center. (photo courtesy of the Katie Wheeler Library web site)

Whether wandering the halls of the deserted library late at night, or seen floating among the mists and outbuildings in the surrounding orange groves, the Lady in Blue has finally returned home.   During a quiet moment or on a moonless night, you too may be able to catch a fleeting glance of one of Orange County’s most prominent citizens — now one of its most famous ghosts.


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