Ghost Stories of California


224 pages
Contains Photos, Maps
ISBN 1-55105-237-7
DDC 398.2'0979405




Reviewed by Graham Adams, Jr.

Graham Adams, Jr., is a professor of American history at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.


Ghost stories have fascinated people for centuries. While they frighten
us with the unknown, author Jo-Anne Christensen observes, they also hold
out the possibility that our spirits may be eternal. All three of these
books present us with an array of nonfictional reports of supernatural

Hollywood and the states of California and Illinois abound with tales
of the paranormal. After her tragic death in an automobile accident,
actress Jayne Mansfield haunted her home and, for the next 11 years,
five different owners of this house suffered tragedies. Many have
claimed to have viewed the face of Marilyn Monroe in a mirror that she
had owned when she resided in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel. A couple
who purchased John Wayne’s favorite yacht glimpsed his spectre aboard
and they declared that the spirit of the late actor once saved the
vessel when its engines went dead by guiding it to the beach of his
former home. Sarah Winchester, widow of the man who invented the
Winchester rifle, contended that for many years the phantoms of those
killed by her husband’s weapons returned to torment her in her San
Diego mansion. People on Alcatraz Island claimed that Al Capone still
played his banjo in prison after his death. Several have professed to
have witnessed the apparition of Abraham Lincoln in the courthouse in
Springfield, Illinois, where he had practised law. Resurrection Mary, a
famed Chicago hitchhiker, allegedly still seeks rides from truckdrivers
to take her back to her cemetery.

Despite the publisher’s assertion, these tales are neither “blood
curdling” nor “spine tingling.” Writing in a pedestrian style, the
authors simply pile story upon story until the material becomes
tiresome. Refusing to employ their critical faculties, they make no
attempt to examine the validity of the evidence. It may be that the
popularity of ghost stories tells us something about human nature, but
the authors fail to explore this avenue of inquiry.


Smith, Barbara., “Ghost Stories of California,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,