Orange County has quite the haunted past and for the last 15 years, a group of people have committed to archiving some of its eerie history through historical retellings and ghost walks.
Haunted Orange County offers year-round interactive tours, known as ghost walks, around the county’s historic districts where some of the most horrific events and deaths in recorded OC history have occurred; the flagship tour being in Old Towne, Orange.
Now, there are eight total ghost walks in the county, tracing all the way from San Juan Capistrano to Fullerton. But Old Towne Orange remains the most popular haunted destination, offering two to three tours a week throughout the month of October.
Ernie Alonzo, the Creative Director and Owner of Haunted OC, considers the tours a historically accurate retelling of some of Orange County’s darkest histories, often pulling from county archives, historical society resources, and library history centers.
Alonzo is currently busy writing a new story into the Downtown Santa Ana Tour, another popular haunted destination. There was a recently discovered historical account of an escape artist’s gruesome plummet from a hot air balloon to the concrete below where he splattered in front of a crowd gathered outside of Orange County’s most “cursed building”, the Old Orange County Courthouse.
While the Santa Ana tour covers a handful of historic buildings, there are few stories that will stand out like those shared in the Old Towne Orange Ghost Walk.
“My wife Jenifer and I have been wanting to come and do the ghost tour for years upon years,” shares Chip Allsweet, a local Orange resident. “It’s such a great opportunity to learn about our city’s haunted past.”
Alonzo’s preferred form of research that helps ensure the most accurate retellings is hearing first person accounts of the same ghost story from multiple people; a feat accomplished by the Royer Mansion.
The Royer Mansion, the first stop on Old Towne’s hour and a half tour, used to be a personal residence before it became the Shannon-Donigan Mortuary in the 1960s. To this day, there are still cooling containers holding preserved corpses underneath the front porch of the mansion because they were too difficult to remove when the building was converted to offices, according to Alonzo and the current tenants of the building.
Alonzo interviewed one of the previous owner’s of the Royer mansion, a developer named Jeen Seacrest, Seacrest shared a horrific account of two on-site security personnel who were suddenly assaulted by a corpse-looking woman in the middle of the night; in horrified tears the next day, they asked to not only leave the job site, but also to leave the entire county.
“And this was all coming from a guy who really didn’t have any interest in telling the story. I sought him out, so the guy seemed really sincere. And there is a whole bunch of weird stuff about this house told from all the previous owners,” Alonzo shares.
The Royer Mansion hasn’t been able to hold many tenants for extended periods of time, with most businesses moving out based on “weird, uneasy feelings”, according to Alonzo.
Bruce Boice, one of the few long lasting current tenants at the mansion, shares similar ghost stories.
“Bev, one of our old receptionists knew that the building was haunted, but she always felt good because the spirits liked her. Well, one day she got a job with the Irvine Company and she told the owner that she was going to leave,” says Boice, referencing an event that occurred in 1997. “And the very next day, the day that she wasn’t here, this huge chandelier crashed into the floor right in the lobby.”
When people try to leave or question the power of the spirit’s, history says that they fight back. Steve Mino, Bev Dupuis’ husband, details a personal encounter with the ghosts after his own doubt.
“One evening, I was standing out in front of the building, and Bev was telling me of the coffin that is underneath the front entrance. I said I can’t believe you are afraid of this place, there’s no freaking ghosts. And I promise someone pushed me from behind so hard that I fell forward. And I looked around, thinking something hit me from the tree but there was nothing on the ground. So, I said I’m out of here,” says Mino.
Boice confirms Mino’s suspicion by also sharing that he has had multiple clients say they have been pushed from the same spot on the porch.
“I had a spiritualist here and she told me that there was a poltergeist here, so she did a cleansing, but I don’t think it worked,” says Boice.
Valerie Brewster is one of the tour guides for the Old Towne Orange Ghost Walk and has been touring for just over two years.
According to Brewster, what confirms that places on the tour are haunted is that different people on different tours all kind of say the same thing. Some people won’t walk into certain buildings because they’ve had uneasy feelings there in the past, even before Brewster shares the ghost stories.
A few other haunted histories took place in the antique shops around the circle. Antique Depot on Glassell is where Alonzo heard his first haunted stories of Orange.
“This one lady’s account was really believable because another man actually saw a plate float behind her in the antique hop,” shared Alonzo.
Another popular tour stop, Parson’s Motorcycle Shop was the first motorcycle shop in all of Orange County, until one fatal day when its glory all ended in flames. This story, while at the time didn’t seem to have any supernatural connections, turned into one of the most shared hauntings throughout town.
While he was filling up a motorcycle with gas, Bertie Claypool was brutally burned in a gasoline explosion on Saturday, May 24, 1913. He died the following Monday. The boy was only 15 years old when he died.
An Orange Daily Newspaper account from Monday, May 26 details the horrific aftermath of the explosion. Claypool ran from the building with flames “shooting from his clothing”. He crossed Glassell and fell onto the pavement, where he was extinguished by devastated onlookers.
Parson’s did his best to continue on with his previously successful business, even promoting it through many advertisements placed in the Orange Daily Newspaper, one reading “Still the Center of Attraction!” But the shop’s initial success seemed to come to a screeching halt after Claypool’s horrific death, ultimately leading to Parson’s having to sell the shop to Floyd Carriker and Vernon Kelser.
And while the building itself has been rebuilt, some say that you can still smell smoke in the walls, according to Brewster.
Nicole Rocha, a current nail technician at Lollipop Nail Studio, admits that although she hasn’t seen anything too scary happen since she has worked there, she often still smells something that’s just not quite right.
Valerie Brewster’s favorite stop on the tour is at the Matoska Trading Post, which used to be an undertaker’s parlor and Pixley’s Furniture store.
“It’s my favorite because they used to pose dead bodies in the windows with the hopes that people walking by could help identify them,” shares Brewsters.
I have spoken to the man who owns the place,” says Alonzo. “There’s a story of the apartments upstairs, and of a ghost that’s been there for years that they all talk about. It’s a woman that they see walking around in the hallways.”
Alonzo and Brewster don’t just judge every story they hear as being related to supernatural causes. In fact, stories of unsettling activities occurring in the basement tunnel system between the plaza adjacent buildings Alonzo chalks up to be quite explainable.
The underground tunnels have always been a secretive place. According to Alonzo, many people would hide things down there for years, including alcohol during prohibition.
But when an account is confirmed through multiple sources or even has documented proof, Haunted OC does not miss the opportunity to share it in their own ghost tours, turning maleficent stories into retold history.
And since you’ve made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.