Villa Park is rumored to have a haunted house on Center and Santiago and this story has been going around for decades. True or not many generations of kids (and adults) have told many haunted tales about this house. In fact, every time this house comes up for sale Villa Park residents flock to the house to see what all the fuss is about. Here is a collection of the rumors mixed with facts that have gathered about this “Haunted House” over the years.
Villa Park Haunted House Origins
This 1888 historic home stood on Chapman and Tustin and was the property of Robert Wimbush, who worked for a company called Associated Oil Products. The home stood on the corner while everything around it was developed for many years. In 1956 it was ruled abandoned and condemned and was sold to a Murray Ramon, a restaurateur for $1 and moved it to Villa Park.
The home was restored and a porch was built including two-story columns salvaged from an old San Francisco hotel. The exterior trim was fashioned by carpenters from Disneyland. Amazingly the house has remain mostly unchanged since. The most significant change was that in the 70s the owners after Mr. Ramon painted it beige. Many people either called it the Haunted House or the White House and some still call it the White House even though it’s been beige since the 70s.
There is also another story that it had three stories but during the move it had to be reduced to two stories because of power line clearance or another reason. This story is unconfirmed.
The House before the Haunted House
A smaller home once sat on the Villa Park site before the Haunted House arrived. According to legend its owner burned it to the ground to collect the insurance. However, in a fit of conscience he committed suicide. There was also the Ryan family that lived in the original home and prior to that it was part of the Bathgate Ranch.
William Bathgate, his wife and eight children arrived in 1887 from Scotland. William Bathgate was also one of the surveyors for the Orange Circle/Plaza and is part of a landmark ruling (Bathgate case) over Santiago Creek water rights.
The Villa Park Haunted House
Haunted House Stories
The first reports of the house being haunted are believed to have originated from Mr. McMurran (3rd owner, after Mr. Ramon). According to the new owners, the Smith’s, Mr. McMurran told them he thought the house was haunted. He claimed that he smelled cigar smoke and the entry hall light would suddenly switch on in the wee hours of the night, even after they rewired the light.
The new owners, the Smith’s, said they never experienced the light flicking on but they did smell cigar smoke on the second floor of the house. The smoke was never visible but the unmistakable odor could be smelled from time to time in rooms upstairs. Some have resorted back to the 3rd floor theory that the cigar smoke could be smelled wafting down from the missing 3rd floor. Others have said it is Robert Wimbush’s ghost sitting in a rocking chair smoking a cigar as he did when he lived in the house on Chapman and Tustin.
The Smiths also reported hearing footsteps on the landing while sitting downstairs and other noises. They also had a wicker chair downstairs that they would hear loudly creek while lying in bed. The husband also reported falling into a three feet charred hole in the ground while doing some re-modeling.
The Smiths weren’t the only ones as overnight guests reported seeing swirling lights on the ceiling and hearing noises as well.
The Doors and The Haunted House?
Jim Morrison’s girlfriend, Pamela Courson, is rumored to have lived in the house before she died a few years after Jim Morrison. Many might recall she was played by Meg Ryan in the movie The Doors. It’s true her dad, Columbus “Corky” Courson, was the first principal at Serrano Elementary and Cerro Villa Middle School and also a principal at VPHS but unconfirmed that she lived in the house. Pamela also was known to live in Orange and went to Orange High School so it’s unlikely that she lived here. However, that hasn’t stopped the stories that she haunted the house. People even point out that the homes on Pamela Place were built in 1974, the year she died.
Pamela is buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana with a plaque surrounded by brick that reads Pamela Susan Morrison, 1946 – 1974.
The Morrison estate was left to Pamela and later her family upon her death. After much litigation it was reported the Courson and Morrison families agreed to a 50/50 split. The Coursons however retained the the all-important rights to manage and control Morrison’s image, music, and royalties.
The Doors and Paul’s Cocktails
It is said that Jim Morrison and Pam used to frequent the Orange area including Paul’s Cocktail in the Orange Circle. People have also said that the jukebox in Paul’s sometimes plays the Door’s Roadhouse Blues song on its own, usually around closing time. Morrison had written the song for Pam.
True or not there is so much history and elements of odd facts to this house that it’s hard to dismiss.