An old psych ward. The other-wordly sounds of children playing. A haunted mansion. No, you’re not scrolling through the horror section on Netflix. You’re on a ghost hunt in Ventura County Coast! This laid back coastal region is primarily known for its sunny weather and uncrowded beaches. But if you’re in the mood for some fun thrills and chills, there are plenty of spooky spots to check out…if you dare. Here are some of our favorites:
Long before it was a college campus with sweeping views of the mountains and local farms, Cal State University Channel Islands was the Camarillo State Hospital. First opened in 1936, the psychiatric hospital was home over the years to not only thousands of patients, but also the doctors, nurses, and other staff who treated them. At one point, it was the largest so-called mental hospital west of Chicago.
Society’s view of people living with mental illness and developmental disabilities was much different than it is today. Still the facility was considered ahead of its time, incorporating outdoor activities into its treatment programs. Patients grew much of their own food and cared for a herd of dairy cows at what is now called by locals the “Scary Dairy.” Today, the college’s students and faculty have reported late-night encounters with the lonely ghosts of former patients.
The skeleton of the Scary Dairy still stands on Lewis Road not far from the main campus. Feeling brave? Take a sunset drive out to the dairy while listening to this spine-chilling podcast that dives into the location’s dark past.
Photo credit: @crissy_ck
If you’re looking for a haunted jaunt that’s a little more family friendly, head to Oxnard’s Heritage Square. This historic block of downtown is home to a handful of spectacular Victorian and Craftsman-style homes once owned by Oxnard’s pioneer families. With its red-brick walkways, fountains, and lush landscaping, Heritage Square is an ideal spot for daytime concerts, walking tours, dining, and wine tasting.
But once the sun goes down, it’s a playground for the spirits of yesterday. Docents have said they often hear the sound of children playing in the gardens after visitors have left for the day. And people who work in the old houses have reported supernatural phenomena.
Photo credit: @elizavetadirat
Another spooky spot definitely worth visiting—or even staying at—is Ventura’s Bella Maggiore Inn, a charming boutique hotel that’s walking distance from the beach and picturesque Ventura Pier. Featured on the History Channel’s Haunted Hotels, the Bella Maggiore is said to be home to a playful spirit named Sylvia a.k.a. “The Lady of the Night.” She was supposedly a guest in room 17 who died under mysterious circumstances. Local historian and author Richard Leonard Senate, shares more about her in his book The Haunted Southland and Ghosts of the California Missions.
Read all about this hotel and other haunted Ventura locations on Visit Ventura’s blog.
Photo credit: @collective_world_lens_
Visitors usually come to Port Hueneme for its sunny, sandy beach, but the small coastal town also has a rich history as a naval base and working port town with a couple of resident ghosts. The most famous of these spectral locals are the port’s founder, Thomas Bard, and his wife, Mollie.
In 1912, Thomas Bard, president of Union Oil and a California senator, built a mansion for his family and called it Berylwood. They often welcomed Port Hueneme’s early families to the estate for dinners and parties. Sadly, “The Father of Port Hueneme” died just three short years later in 1915.
After Mollie died in the 1930s, the home became an officers club for the new naval base, and today Bard Mansion is mostly used for weddings and other special events. There have been reported sightings of Bard, Mollie, and some of their staff, as well as soldiers from the base. If you visit for a tour, you might just hear them whispering or see them pop up in your selfies!
Photo credit: Friends of the Bard Mansion
Ready to take a ghostly tour through Ventura County Coast? Starting planning your trip!