{ßoo...ooo} An October Ghost Tour Stop One of Five

I believe we all share a common, unwavering energy, and Time is a dimension that might not be as fixed as it seems. I’m not intelligent enough to adequately relay the science (I’ll leave that to Brian Greene and Albert Einstein), but I think that glitches in time might explain what we call paranormal experiences.

Always having had a minor fascination with creepy places, the paranormal, and the story surrounding murder, I’m occasionally compelled to investigate Southern California locations considered ‘haunted,’ especially at this time of year.

In honor of the traditionally spooky month of October, I've decided to share some of my favorites with you. Please be respectful of and remember the naive and innocent who suffered in the incidents mentioned in this five part series.

If you live in the Southern California area, you can use the information to create a ‘ghost tour’ of your own. Grab a sweater, a few friends, and don’t forget to pick up a snack at one of the many Starbucks nearby. You might decide to go all out and have a more substantial meal by visiting the Stonefire Grill {Yelp: Four stars} (9229 Winnetka Avenue, between Plummer and Nordhoff); or Los Toros Mexican Restaurant, {Yelp: Three and a half stars} (21743 Devonshire Street, between Topanga Canyon and Canoga.)


The Box Canyon/Susanna Pass area, between the San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley, California.

Call it a cluster of calamity...or a trifecta of oddity, tragedy and murder. So many strange and tragic things have happened here, the area seems cursed.

Stop One

Rocketdyne Testing Facility 

Our tour starts out innocently enough. Now owned by Boeing, this area was originally the home of the Rocketdyne Testing facility established in 1947, at the beginning of the Cold War. 

A good friend of mine has an old picture of the site at night. (I suspect Steven Spielberg was quite familiar with the area as well when he made the movie “Close Encounters.”) The landing pad scene at the end of the movie, where the humans get their first good look at a UFO and alien life, is a near replica of the facility.

Since the 1950’s the area has been a haven for UFO sightings. Some feel the location isn’t a testing facility at all, instead it’s just a cover; a rendezvous site for alien spacecraft visiting earth.

A manmade calamity occurred on July 13, 1969, when one of the Atomics International reactors, located on the Rocketdyne site, experienced a power surge and partial meltdown. Radioactive gas was surreptitiously released over the area during the next two weeks. Nobody living within the 60 mile danger zone was notified, and most living in the area still have never heard of the incident. Clean-up at the site is ongoing.

Here's one more reason not to hitchhike and do drugs. On Saturday, April 8, 1972, Dori Haines (15) and Cheryl Monticello (16) were hitchhiking on the corner of Topanga Canyon and Roscoe Boulevards, when a blue pick-up truck pulled into the Zody’s gas station. Three young men, Fred Medina (20), Danny Townsend (18) and Ed Vaughn (18) were in the vehicle, along with two girls Lisa Gleitsman (17) {Townsend’s girlfriend}, and Virginia Walton (15) {Medina’s girlfriend}. The group was headed to a beach north of Malibu after a night of partying at a ranch in the hills, near the Chatsworth Reservoir.

After picking Dori and Cheryl up, the group drove through Topanga Canyon to the beach. Somewhere along the way barbiturates “yellows” were passed around, and the party continued.  At the beach, the young men began pairing off with Dori and Cheryl, enraging their girlfriends.

Nevertheless, more barbiturates were consumed and eventually the group decided to return to the San Fernando Valley. The party ended up on Woolsey Canyon, known locally as “Rocketdyne Road.” They pulled off the pavement, and traveled a dirt road to a remote area near rocky outcroppings. Here, the men had sex with the highly intoxicated hitchhikers, further enraging Lisa. Ginny, obviously a sick, demented girl, decided to help the men and watch the scene unfold. Afterwards Lisa and Ginny attacked the highly stoned girls, hitting them with rocks.  Medina and Townsend, deciding Dori and Cheryl would report the rapes and attack, stabbed the pair, dozens of times, with their hunting knives.

Together, the group hid the bodies in the surrounding bush. Cheryl and Dori were discovered a few weeks later by three young men shooting cans nearby.

When he discovered the police wanted to talk to him, Vaughn contacted the station and spilled the story. Lisa and Ginny were given immunity and testified as well. Thankfully, Fred Medina and Danny Townsend were eventually convicted of the murders and sent to prison.

One evening in 1992 weird, unexplained lights were widely reported over the area.

A startling incident jostled the nation on the evening of Thursday, October 3, 1996, as a fireball trailed sparks through the heavens, causing reports of sightings all across Western America. Observers of the event said it was a huge green object, others said it was gold, and many reported it lit up the night sky as if it were day.

Finally, the fireball blazed across the skies of Southern California, reportedly landing somewhere in the mountains north of Tehachapi.

Scientists say the fireball was a meteor that burned through the atmosphere around 8pm, creating a glow over Texas and New Mexico. Bouncing back out of the atmosphere, the meteor orbited Earth for over an hour before coming in over the Pacific ocean near Point Conception. Passing over Bakersfield, the largest mass stopped glowing northeast of the mountains there, causing sonic booms heard throughout the area as it crashed into Earth.

One astronomer who saw the meteor called it “gorgeous” and described it as a greenish, white fireball, with bits of orange, lasting about 15 seconds before breaking into pieces.

UCLA offered $5000 for the first chunk of the meteor that was found weighing at least 4 pounds. Researching the event, I couldn’t determine if any pieces were ever recovered.

What's the Rocketdyne connection? One of the observers of the spectacular sight reported that the fireball slowed down over the Rocketdyne testing grounds, proving it was not a meteor, but an authentic UFO. (Crash landing maybe?)

During a cloudless sunset, on the evening of June 29, 2001, a young man was driving to work with his friend, around 8:30PM, when they saw a UFO hovering in the sky, about 2000 feet over the Santa Susanna Pass. The object, backlit by the dusky sunset, was described as a “dark, diamond-shaped silhouette, about the size of a mini-van.”  Appearing to be solid, the craft remained in a stationary position for about 5 minutes. Suddenly it began to move in a slightly vertical, bobbing motion. The movement was unnatural, as if the UFO was about to fall, but catching itself and regaining altitude. They watched the craft for around 15 minutes, approaching the area as they drove.

When the young men were about a mile away, they saw three helicopters circle the craft at a distance of a few hundred feet.  The helicopters (with their lights), appeared larger than the unlit object.  The young men lost sight of the craft behind some trees, and when their field of vision returned, they discovered the helicopters circling alone.  Finally, the helicopters left.

A couple of guys made a great video of three lights above the area, that was posted on March 14th and 16th, 2011. (You can find the video on a website called AboveTopSecret.com. Turn up the sound. The two guys are quite entertaining too. If you have trouble finding it, Google: {March 14 & 16, 2011 Ufo} and it will link to the site.)

I’m not surprised by either of these reports. My brother, who used to work at the Lockheed Skunk Works once said: “If I ever meet an ‘alien’, I suspect he’ll look remarkably like us, wearing a uniform with the American flag emblazoned over the pocket.”

Directions: According to Google Maps, the historic site is part of a larger testing ground now owned by Boeing. The exact location of the original Rocketdyne facility appears to be on Roca Road, near Skyline.

Follow Roscoe Boulevard, west, until you reach Valley Circle Boulevard,(near the Chatsworth Reservoir.)

Right on Valley Circle Boulevard.

Left on Woolsey Canyon until you reach the gates of the facility.

Driver’s note: You’ll find incredible views of the San Fernando Valley along the road leading up to the Rocketdyne site.  Woolsey Canyon goes back several miles, and there are many homes in the area, but there is a sign indicating it’s a private road.

The farthest you can go is to the gates. Turn around at the Boeing tower, and as you come back down there are several turn-off’s with wonderful views where you can tell the Rocketdyne story.

Do not attempt to pass the gates of the Boeing testing site or you’re bound to get into trouble. Be forewarned, I assume the area is being monitored. If you travel too far up the road the NSA may even tag you or your car.  So, if you’re paranoid about this kind of thing, I’d stay on the lower section of Woolsey Canyon.

Look for part two, our next stop, posting soon.