From: lawrence@OCF.Berkeley.EDU (Robert Lawrence)
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.ghost-stories
Subject: Re: Any haunted places in So. California? (long)
Date: 23 Jan 1995 12:58:03 GMT

From personal experience, I believe that Black Star Canyon, or a portion of it (in Orange County) is haunted. This is my story:

When I was a teenager, living in Orange County, a friend of mine and I went out to a place in Orange County called Black Star Canyon. Black Star is a long canyon that winds down from the Santa Ana mountains into O. C. We brought an air rifle (BB’s and pellets) with us so that we could do some hunting/shooting.

We had headed up a side canyon a ways, and were sitting on a large boulder under an oak tree. As we had walked along, we had been firing away at several birds and such. While we were sitting there, we heard some very peculiar noises. They were crow calls, but had a very unearthly sound to them. I have never heard a crow that sounded similar before or since, and I have seen/heard many crows in my life. There is no way that I can describe with this medium how strange they sounded. I remarked to my friend that it sounded like a human trying to imitate a crow. We started to get scared, for it was unlike anything either of us had ever heard before.

As if the sounds were not bad enough, the crow itself started to fly around us, just above the top of the oak tree we were sitting under. It was huge, and we could hear the sound of it flapping its wings, a strange kind of swooshing sound. It then continued to utter its eerie calls again. Also, the wind kicked up and started to blow the tree about quite violently. There had been little or no wind up until this time. This was more than we could take, and we headed out of there.

When we got back down to the main canyon, we grew more bold again, as the crow had not followed us. In this part of the canyon there were a few foundations of houses/buildings that had either been torn down, or washed away by flooding. Anyway, as we were walking through this area, we saw a small cottontail rabbit sitting next to a tree. I had the rifle, and shot it. But it acted as though it had felt nothing. I know I hit it, because I saw a flattening/displacement of the fur. We were amazed, and I passed the gun to my friend, who pumped it up, loaded it with another pellet, and shot it again (he hit it too, no doubt about it). It continued to just sit there, looking at us. This rabbit was no more that ten yards away, and the gun was an air rifle that had to be pumped 8-10 times between each shot. And it was plenty powerful enough to penetrate a rabbit. I then took the gun back, pumped it up, and shot the rabbit a third time. Still it continued to just sit there and stare at us. Mind you that all this time, we were talking to each other, and standing in the open. Anyone who has hunted rabbits can tell you that this is atypical behaviour for a rabbit who is being shot, and we started to get scared again. We decided that we had to finish him off, so my friend took the gun, pumped it up, and then we both walked to within six feet of the rabbit, who continued to sit there. Holding the rifle in one hand, he extended it toward the creature and fired again. The barrel was only about a foot from it, and the shot hit an ear, causing it to be bent/broken at a 90 degree angle. It then rambled off, but not at a full speed run. At this point, let me say that I know this sounds cruel to many of you, but please remember that I was a raging hormone teenage male at the time.

At this point, the wind kicked up again. We got very scared and headed for the car. Before we got there, we looked up at an exposed area of the side of the canyon, and both of us saw a sight I will never forget. We both saw the same thing: a group of some kind of creatures walking together. They were all black, and seemed almost to walk in formation. We both were reminded of penguins by the way they walked. One peculiar thing was that the whole group moved in perfect unison. They headed down the hillside a ways, and stopped. After a brief interval, they all headed down the hill a ways and stopped again. I estimate the height of these things to have been about two feet tall, all black, with an outline that suggested an upright creature, like a penguin or something. I know it sounds bizarre, but that is what they looked like. We were stupefied. After watching these things come down the hill awhile, one of us finally said that they were after us and that we had to get the hell out of there. We then ran to the car, fearing for our lives.

But the game was not up when we got to the car. When my friend tried to start it, nothing happened. He turned the key a few times, but nothing. Finally, it turned over once or twice, and a loud popping noise came from the engine compartment, followed by black smoke that drifted up from under the hood. At this point, we were almost beside ourselves with fear. We opened the hood and looked at the engine, but there was no fire, and nothing looked amiss. We then tried it again, and it started. Needless to say, we sped off down the road (Black Star Canyon Road) at a high rate of speed. That car had never exhibited that kind of behaviour before or after that incident, and a more thorough examination of the engine performed later revealed nothing.

About five years after the above happened, I chanced to see an article in a local newspaper that related various historical facts about Orange County. One story caught my eye and immediately made me think of the above. It related that when the Spanish ruled California, and the missions were in full operation, there was a small band of Native Americans who lived in Black Star Canyon. I don’t remember all the details of the article very well, but it seems that they were a peaceful tribe who did not want to submit to the missionary efforts of the Spanish. So one day, a group of conquistadores marched up into the canyon and annihilated the entire band. This much at least is an historical fact that can be verified.

After reading the article, the whole experience came back to me, and made sense for the first time. I thought (and still sometimes do) of the rabbit, so peaceful and harmless, being shot from pure ignorance. I can’t help likening it to the Indians being massacred. And the Crow messenger: I thought that it sounded human because perhaps a spirit of one of the dead Indians was speaking through it. And the hideous little black creatures walking in formation: they were the Spanish soldiers approaching the village. Of course, these are my observations, made after finding out that a band of Indians had been wiped out there. Before I read that article, the incident was just strange and scary. Now, the memory of it fills me with a profound feeling of sadness and loss.

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