Spooky music and smoke greeted guests as they entered the historical Camino Real Playhouse on Friday night for the presentation entitled Ghosts and Legends of San Juan Capistrano. While for some guests it was their first foray into the paranormal, for others, it was the beginning of a long night of investigating. After the presentation, OC Ghosts and Legends held a closed investigation tryout to recruit new team members.
One such hopeful Jean Gilbert was prepared for her audition, as she immediately saw images in her mind upon walking into the theater. It is important to note that she had not done any research prior to stepping foot inside the Playhouse.
“1924 kept coming to me,” Gilbert said.
She then described seeing the image of a heavy-set man, with a white mustache, who was smoking a cigar.
When asked to describe how she came across this image, Gilbert said she meditates in a location until she sees a picture, which comes across in a sequence.
Lead investigator and co-founder of OC Ghosts and Legends’ Cristopher August began the presentation by asking the audience to close their eyes and raise their hands if they believed in ghosts. He then asked everyone to open their eyes and keep their arms raised. About 90 percent of the audience raised their hands. August then asked those who didn’t believe to raise their hands. While the numbers were less, “it’s healthy to be skeptical,” said August, even calling himself a skeptic. “The logical part of me wants to deny it away.”
Despite what one might think, nothing out of the ordinary happened to August as a child. It wasn’t until he visited the notoriously “haunted” Queen Mary that he began his start of “really diving into this field.” Strange events began to happen around him after his visit, including witnessing a coffee cup slide across the table at home. August began to wonder if he might have brought something home with him. He half-jokingly referred to the possible ghost that attached to him as Juan Carlos. He then brought the spirit back to the ship telling it to stay put.
August and Matthew Harvey created OC Ghosts and Legends in 2011, and while their partnership dissolved in 2014, August continued on his quest of investigating the paranormal. This included expanding his team, whom he introduced next.
OC Ghosts and Legends includes Andrew Edoff (recently promoted from Junior Investigator to Core Investigator), Kelly Lynne Harris (field reporter and Junior Investigator), Larry Zamora (Junior Investigator & Utility), and newest member Alison Lehnberg (Project Coordinator). Roger Woodcock is the Tech Handler as well as a Junior Investigator. (Kaity Ware handles research and administration, but was not present at the event.)
The presentation itself was both informative and historical in nature. August was quick to point out that the field of paranormal investigating is one in which nothing is or can be proven. Even before he began to share the team’s “evidence,” he made it a point to state, “We like you to draw your own conclusions, have your own opinion.”
The presentation opened with a quick video of the history of San Juan Capistrano. During 1887, the Capistrano Depot as it was known, laid railroad tracks from Los Angeles to San Diego. Modesto Avila, in protest of the railroad, strung her laundry across the tracks. In 1925, it was the site of the last great train robbery. During the 50s restaurants flourished and in the 90s it began to operate both Amtrak and Metrolink.
The second part of the presentation presented evidence from various locations the team has investigated including the restaurant Trevor’s at the Track’s (formerly Sarducci’s), the Arley Leck House, the Vintage Steak House, and the Camino Real Playhouse.
For years the staff at Sarducci’s reported glasses and plates being thrown, as well as hearing disembodied voices. During the OC Ghosts and Legends investigation, August and a reporter from the Capistrano Dispatch were sitting at a table talking, when a recorder fell and “right here,” was heard. Just moments earlier, August had requested that if Modesto Avila was there to please move something and was excited that it appeared she was communicating with the team.
Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. August used the clip to show how important it is during an investigation to know where everyone is as well as where all the cameras and recorders are. As it turns out, two of the other team members were talking, and the EVP turned out to be part of their conversation. However, the recorder that fell was still stationary. Was it Modesto Avila? Or was there another explanation? Either way, the clips clearly debunked the possible EVP.
The Arley Leck House was originally located on Ortega Highway, and transported to San Juan Capistrano. The team has captured several interesting things outside of the house by the shed. One such audio clip that was played for the audience showed how “evidence” is subjective. To one audience member, it sounded like a child laughing, while to another it sounded panicky.
As for the Camino Real Playhouse, the actual site of the presentation, August and his team have investigated it several times.
“We always feel right at home at the Playhouse. Not only is it situated in one of the most historic towns in California, we just feel that whatever spirit energy lingers in the Playhouse is positive,” said August. “All the energy and personality from the dynamic individuals that have walked those halls is apparent.”
While many of the investigations seemed to be quiet, the team often captures voices during regular conversations later on.
“The place is full of ghostly ‘chatter’ which we don’t hear until we play back all our audio data,” August said. “Some of our most compelling audio EVPs were produced from the Playhouse and to no surprise, Friday night’s investigation has ALREADY returned some crazy audio responses.”
Former Lead Investigator and Graphic Designer of OC Ghosts and Legends Diane Pioch can testify to witnessing this firsthand.
“It always surprises us. They do sentences. They mimic you. It’s wild,” Pioch said.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology used during investigations, August went over the three classes of electromagnetic voice phenomenon, or EVP for short. Class C was described as, “you hear something, but there’s no comprehension.” Class B is “arguable.” Finally, Class A’s said August are “so clear, you might as well be standing next to the ghost.” He also discussed the term “settling,” which means turning on the equipment for the investigation (i.e. cameras) and then vacating the building. This allows the team to see what might be moving around inside before they begin their investigation. Lastly, August described in detail the various equipment the team uses during an investigation, including dousing rods, REM pods, k2 meters, and spirit boxes to name a few.
Whether the evidence was compelling or open to interpretation, the audience seemed to enjoy it.
“I liked how they gave examples of EVPs,” said Susana Barron.
Unfortunately, the presentation itself had some technical difficulties.
Robby Edsell “believed that the team caught a lot of good EVPs,” but was disappointed that he was not able to hear them well.
Despite the issues, August tried his best to lighten the mood and keep things moving along.
“It’s no joke that we’re technologically cursed,” he said. “Everything usually works pretty flawlessly until we get here.”
The audience did look forward to attending more events in the future.
“I’m very interested in what they’re [OC Ghosts and Legends] doing and the places they’re going,” Edsell said.
The last part of the presentation opened it up to the audience for questions and August and his team stuck around to mingle with the guests afterwards, a part of the job he always looks forward to.
“We thrive in discourse with our guests- there’s never a silly or stupid question,” said August.
As the presentation came to a close, 5 willing hopefuls were ready to put their skills to the test, as they were immersed in their very own investigation. While time will tell who has what it takes, August was overwhelmed with the response.
“Onboarding new team members and finding the right candidates is not a simple process, not to mention very time consuming, so we wanted to try a different process and see how people work during an actual investigation,” said August. “It’s equally important to see how applicants interact not just with the public, but with members of our team.”
While August was hopeful with the talent pool, he stressed that the second round of testing is about to begin.
“We saw some strong candidates during the audition, but their work isn’t done yet! The field investigation was the first half. Now they must conduct their data analysis,” said August. “We look forward to seeing the results of that.”
Stay tuned to see what OC Ghosts and Legends has in store next! They are already planning more educational events as well as securing new locations for their next ghost investigations, which you can take part in! Check out ocghostsandlegends.com for more info!