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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: 2. Black Star Canyon

To celebrate Halloween, Rancho Ortega Blog is counting down the ten most haunted locations in Orange County.  If you missed any of our earlier installments, you can find them at the links below:

10. Katie Wheeler Library and the “Lady in Blue.”

9.  John Wayne and the Wild Goose Yacht

8. Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm

7. Fox Theater

6. El Adobe de Capistrano Restaurant

5. Yorba Cemetery and the Pink Lady

4. Plummer Auditorium and the Tunnel Ghosts

3.  Los Rios Street

Grab your flash light and summon your courage, as we head into the wilderness of the Santa Ana Mountains for a terrifying trip to our second most haunted location — Black Star Canyon!


2.  Black Star Canyon (Santa Ana Mountains)

On a sheer measurement of terror, Black Star Canyon may be the scariest place in all of Orange County.  Many hikers and mountain bikers have reported being harassed by gun-toting locals as they ride or hike the public roads into and out of Black Star Canyon.  Some of these locals have been near urban legends in their own right – “Black Star Bill” or “Old Man Tuttle.”  They have been known to block access roads with oversized trucks or construction equipment, and to wave shot guns at those seeking to access the Canyon for recreational uses.  On a more sinister note, other visitors have reported white supremacist organizations or occult gatherings deep in the Black Star wilderness.  Some have happened up dark hooded figures engaged in some sinister rite deep in the Canyon.  Still others claim Black Star Canyon is used by local gangs for initiations and murder.

Black Star Canyon (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Even in the absence of those real-life threats, Black Star Canyon is terrifying in its own right.  Among the scariest aspects of Black Star Canyon are the mysterious sounds – or lack thereof.  Due to its unique geography, Black Star is sometimes completely silent, punctuated by screaming gusts of wind.  This alone is enough to send chills up your spine, but consider some other unexplained sounds.  Bikers and cyclists have heard footsteps following them on the trail, and night visitors claim to have heard the sounds of screams and howls.  Still others have heard a faint chanting, reminiscent of a Native American gathering.

In the pitch dark of the Canyon at night, it is difficult to trust your eyes.  Thrill-seekers have returned from the Canyon with harrowing tales of shape-shifting ghouls and shadowy figures.  One of the most common stories involves the ghostly image of one or more Native Americans, usually moving silently through the Canyon.  Other accounts from Black Star Canyon include the terrifying sensation of being watched or followed.  Some hikers have reported being chased off the trails by presences unseen.

There is so much paranormal interest in Black Star that it has developed into a niche industry.  Indeed, there is a company that specializes in taking customers on haunted tours of the Canyon!  Read some of the ghost stories posted on that site to give you a flavor of Black Star.  But who are these ghosts?

Those who claim to have seen the ghost or ghosts of a Native American figure in the Canyon may have seen the spirit of one of the Tongva people.  The Tongva were a group of Native Americans who inhabited Black Star Canyon up until the mid-19th Century.  Unfortunately, the Tongva and the local fur trappers and traders were involved in several violent skirmishes in the Santa Ana Mountains.  In one such incident, a group of battle-hardened vigilantes set off in search of some Tongva who were alleged to have stolen some horses from the Santa Ana settlement.  The year was 1831, and the vigilantes tracked the stolen horses first through Santiago Canyon and then up into the rugged mountainside.  The stolen horses were eventually discovered grazing in what is today known as Hidden Ranch.  The men found the perfect location for an ambush nearby in Black Star Canyon and waited.  Having previously fought against the Comanche and Apache, the vigilantes had an overwhelming advantage.  The unsuspecting Tongva were no match for the vigilantes and their powerful rifles.  Some escaped, but most of the Tongva were killed there on the floor of Black Star.  It is said that this tragic tribe of Tongva still roam Black Star Canyon today – some have seen a lone figure, dressed in Native American garb.  Others have reported seeing the entire tribe, walking the trails silently in single file in the pitch black of night.  Still others have reported seeing a mysterious campfire or hearing the faint chanting of the Tongva people.

Another ghost is believed to be connected to the murder of James Gregg in 1899.  Gregg was killed on Hidden Ranch in a gunfight over a disputed horse trade.  The killers surrendered themselves to Sheriff Theo Lacy (namesake of the Theo Lacy Facility operated by the orange County Sheriff’s Department), but were ultimately released by the Judge on a technicality.  The ghost of James Gregg is said to haunt the canyon where he was murdered, doomed to forever seek the justice that was denied him.

There is no place in Southern California more terrifying than Black Star Canyon, and that’s why it is our second most haunted location in Orange County.

For a little taste of Black Star, consider this video.  Two friends set off into the wilderness to make a documentary video.  Weeks later, only this footage was recovered.  You know the rest…

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