In 1989, I was invited to participate in the investigation of a reputed "haunted house" located in San Pedro, California just south of Los Angeles. Dr. Barry Taff, who had been the principal investigator of the now famous "Entity" case (later made into a 1983 movie with Barbara Hershey), asked me to accompany himself and several other researchers to the home on the night of August 8, 1989.
Having been a professional TV cameraman, I was looking forward to exploring the unknown in the hopes of capturing paranormal phenomena on videotape. Also accompanying me was a friend and photographer named Jeff Wheatcraft, a complete skeptic, who came to the woman’s home at my request to assist me with the cumbersome video equipment which I had brought to the home in my quest to photograph a ghost.
When we finally met Jackie Hernandez, "the haunted lady," she and her friends told us unbelievable tales of lamps flying across the rooms, strange drippings from the walls including the sighting of a supposed entity or apparition of a decaying old man sighted in the children’s bedroom. As if these weren’t enough, Jackie also said she’d seen another apparition in her attic-that of a disembodied head-which had floated towards her one day shortly after she’d moved in.
It would not take long, however, for that "something" to manifest itself. Before leaving, I suggested that my photographer, Jeff Wheatcraft, climb into the attic and shoot a couple of photos. Wheatcraft acquiesced and while standing atop a washing machine (the attic opening existed just above a small laundry room in the rear of the home), he began clicking away. Suddenly, without warning, all of us heard a scream. Jeff bolted down from the attic as if a shrieking Banshee were on his tail! As he approached our small investigation team, he held out his trembling hands, indicating that something had happened.
"What’s going on?" we all asked in unison.
"M-mmy...camera! It pulled the camera from my hands!"
Startled, we noticed that Jeff’s camera was indeed gone! He went on to describe the fact that he was about to shoot his third picture when all of a sudden he’d felt a jerk and the camera went flying-to where, he didn’t know. As we tried to calm him down, I felt an intense adrenaline rush and shot to my van as quick as I could to retrieve my video equipment.
If ever there was a time to shoot, this was it! As frightened as Jeff might have been, he was intent on somehow retrieving his Canon 35mm. That fear, coupled with the intrigue that we just might indeed encounter a ghost, was one of the most intense moments of my life.
As we ascended into the attic space, videotape rolling, we soon could see that there was absolutely no one (human that is) anywhere to be seen. As we learned soon enough, there were no hidden openings, trap doors or secret passageways of any kind) .
Then without warning, my camera went dead! Quickly replacing the batteries, the camera remained inoperative. Usually when a battery goes out, the green pilot light will change to red with the picture gradually fading to black. In this case, the pilot light failed altogether, a highly unusual occurrence. It was at this point that Jeff made an amazing discovery. A dusty old grape box was spied occupying a space in the northwest corner of the attic. Peering inside the box, Jeff found his camera but the lens had been mysteriously removed! After scanning the attic for several seconds, Jeff’s lens was spotted sitting upright behind the trap door. Even more mysterious was the fact that the camera appeared completely undamaged. Jeff swiftly reattached the bayonet-mount lens to his camera and began shooting several more photos of the attic interior while I fumbled with my video camera, still puzzled by its inability to function.
Suddenly, a foul stench permeated the attic space and all at once, Jeff let out another scream and stumbled towards me as we attempted to flee the attic. Hovering over top of me, trying to brace himself with his left elbow pressed against a rafter, all the color again drained from his face as his body began to shake uncontrollably. Somehow we managed to crawl down from the attic to safety below as Jackie and her guests stared in disbelief at our plight.
Shaken by his ordeal, Jeff said that whatever had touched him, had felt like a "bony hand" applying tremendous pressure upon his lower back. Although it was not visually apparent that Jeff’s back had been injured, he later experienced such pain that he found it necessary to visit a chiropractor who confirmed the fact that Jeff’s lower back had indeed suffered massive internal bruising.
Within moments, the video camera, which had failed to function in the attic, now was working again, as I began recording everything that I could. Like an angry giant from above, heavy footsteps began to rumble across the attic heard by each of us downstairs. When they finally faded away, Jeff peered once more into the crawlspace of the attic.
And then without warning, Jeff was startled by something else, "Oooh! A Light! A Light! " Jeff exclaimed as three flashes or pops of light appeared without warning! Then an eerie black mass the size of" three adult men standing side by side," manifested for several seconds before vanishing. Unfortunately, Jeff was unable to photograph these events due to the brevity of their manifestations. It goes without saying, however, that something was amiss and we were plunged into the adventure of a lifetime.
Nearly one month later on the evening of September 4th, I received a frantic call from Jackie Hernandez. We recorded it on the answer machine and Jackie sounded about as frightened as anyone could possibly be. Jeff Wheatcraft and another friend, Gary Boehm, ( who both happened to be visiting my apartment at the time) listened to Jackie’s desperate pleas via the speakerphone and finally we decided to drive to San Pedro as fast as possible. Jackie, it seems, was experiencing a vicious poltergeist attack! She claimed that a Pepsi can had flung itself at her as doors were slamming open and shut of their own volition. Just one night earlier, Jackie had claimed that an invisible force had held her down on the floor for several minutes and tried to smother her!
We finally arrived in San Pedro around 1:00 a.m. At first, all seemed calm inside the bungalow. A trembling Jackie had greeted us outside on the front porch, looking totally disheveled and weary from her supernatural tormentor. She had also moved her two small children, Samantha and Jamie who were both asleep, on to the porch as well.
After checking the bedroom and bathroom areas of the home, Jeff and Gary decided to venture into the attic. I decided to play it safe and keep Jackie company down below in the laundry room. It wasn’t long, however, that Susan Castaneda, Jackie’s neighbor, joined us as we engaged in idle conversation.
Those first twenty minutes or so proved to be uneventful...there was nary a sign of our poltergeist. Jeff spent most of the time relating to Gary the traumatic events of the night of our first visit to the home. He was eager to show him the grape box where he’d discovered his camera after having it mysteriously yanked from his hands.
At around 1:20 a.m. a very odd event suddenly occurred. Down in the laundry room where the ladies and myself were talking, a bright orange comet of light suddenly flashed before us and flew through a small door which lead outside! Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good look at this light since its visible duration was not more than two or three seconds.
Fully alert, I instinctively powered up my video camera and prepared to roll in case anything else should happen. The girls grew more nervous by the second and then suddenly a very loud, distinct trio of snapping sounds echoed through the room. The sounds were so clear that it seemed as if an invisible man were present snapping his fingers. "Snap! Snap! Snap!"
Overcome by the sensation that "unseen" eyes were watching me, I rolled the camera. And then before we knew it, we heard a loud moan from above. "OOOOHHHH!" It was Jeff’s voice, crying out from the inky void of the attic space. And then there was a silence that seemed to last forever broken by a sudden outburst from Jackie, "Come down! Come down! I told you what this thing was capable of!" Susan berated her from further outbursts with the fear that whatever had happened would only be worse if Jackie didn’t calm down. All eyes riveted upon the small attic doorway above.
The video camera whirred atop my shoulder, as two flashes from Gary’s 35mm shattered the darkness above. And then again, there ensued a period of silence finally broken by the sounds of confused murmurs. "What’s happened? What’s happened to me?" Jeff’s enfeebled voice quavered. And then the shaken figure of Jeff Wheatcraft scrambled on his knees towards the opening, breathing heavily as he climbed down towards the lens of my waiting camera.
"I’ve got to get out of here!" Jeff’s voice trembled, "It’s definitely raising hell!" "Oh, my God..." Susan Castaneda cupped a hand over her open mouth as her eyes transfixed the opening with disbelief. Jackie stood dumbfounded and in awe as the scene before us crushed every ounce of logic from our minds.
"It put something around my neck!" Jeff yelled down to us from above. "I’ve gotta get outta here!" My heart almost froze with fear as I noticed a weathered clothesline cord dangling from my friend’s swollen neck as he stiffly emerged from the hole above. It was at this instant that we all felt the pangs of incredible disbelief.
What happened, buddy?" I queried, camera still rolling. "Well, I don’t know..." Jeff replied, shaking. "I was telling Gary that there was nothing happening up there and he turned around and was coming this way and all of a sudden, I’ve got this thing around my neck and it’s got me hanging...hanging and it’s pulling on my legs!"
The impact of those words were perhaps the most startling I’d ever heard in my life. For what started out as a fun little ghostbusting adventure had ended up as one of the most terrifying scenarios in the annals of the paranormal.
As I continued rolling videotape, Jeff washed off at the kitchen sink and as the camera zoomed into close-up shots of his neck, it became readily apparent that "something" had indeed attacked Jeff in the darkness of the attic. Pronounced red friction burns encircled his neck as a result of the unknown attack. Upon questioning Gary Boehm who had come to his rescue, we learned that Jeff had been hung on a nail protruding from one of the rafter beams in the attic.
"If I had not been there, Jeff would have been strangled in that attic. " Gary later told us. "Because he didn’t know what was going on and the cord was wrapped so tightly that it was very difficult to get him down. I had to bend the nail down in order to release him."
The fact that this startling event happened so quickly in a blinding flash of time, makes it very unlikely if not impossible that Jeff could have perpetrated a hoax. Logically, we also knew that it would have been very unlikely for someone to injure himself for the sake of a prank.
Later after we left the house, I was more than anxious to review the videotape that we’d recorded earlier in the evening. When I returned to my apartment in Studio City, I was startled to discover a bright comet of light traveling through a doorway behind Jeff shortly after the hanging episode.
Upon further examination of the tapes, another orb of light can be seen buzzing over the top of Jeff’s head while standing in the living room discussing his ordeal with Gary Boehm. And yet another light was found zooming across the kitchen above Susan Castaneda moments after Wheatcraft had descended from the attic space.
What are these bizarre lights? No one seems to know. While these objects at first glance appear to be insects, computer analysis has revealed the contrary. Dr. Keith Dobrey, a noted Los Angeles entomologist, examined the tapes and came away completely baffled.
"As far as insects go, there would be nothing so bright and so glowing as these objects appear to be." Dr. Dobrey stated. "These things seem to be self-illuminated. Insects, outside of fireflies which don’t occur here (in Southern Calif.), are not self-illuminating!"
During the course of our investigation, we would indeed film many more of these enigmatic lights which seemed to possess the ability to transverse space extremely fast (some of these lights were clocked at speeds around 211 mph). It should be noted that Dr. Taff’s photo team recorded similar lights during their investigation of the Entity case in 1974.
During October1989, Jackie moved to a remote trailer home located on Chukkar Street in Weldon, California nearly three hundred miles north of Los Angeles in Kern County. Located in a picturesque canyon over-shadowed by the majesty of the High Sierras, Jackie finally felt at peace believing she had escaped her psychic predator. But all of that would change within a few months. For in early April, unexplainable scratching sounds as if a wild animal were clawing at the walls of a small storage shed behind the home, began to awaken she and her children.
On April 2nd while helping Jackie move a widescreen TV set into a storage shed behind the home, her next-door neighbors, Jim and Janice Silcott , also encountered the apparition of the old man. The ghost, which resembled the same dessicated spectre that Jackie had observed in the San Pedro home, appeared on the TV screen in broad daylight even though the unit was unplugged!
"He had very evil eyes," according to Jim Silcott. "They just glowered at me as if at any instant, he would come crashing right out of the TV set and destroy me!" Janice echoed her husband’s sentiments about the "evil eyes" yet the apparition appeared for only a few seconds before vanishing into oblivion.
Prompted by more phone calls of desperation from Jackie, Jeff and I decided to travel to Weldon on April 13th, 1990 to see for ourselves. While Jeff had refused (and understandably so) to return to the original San Pedro house after the hanging incident, he reluctantly agreed to join me on this latest excursion to Jackie’s now "haunted" trailer home.
The moon shone bright and full over the silhouetted mountains as we tardily arrived in Weldon that night due to the fact that we’d been working on a video project in Los Angeles earlier in the day. Truthfully, we expected to interview Jackie and her friends for several hours and then return to L.A. Unfortunately that would not be the case this night.
After spotting several mysterious black shadows floating inside the storage shed, we were prompted by Jackie and her friend Tina Lawler (a babysitter who lived next door) to try out a Ouija Board given to her by a friend. I must admit that I was completely skeptical about such things as I sat down with Jeff to humor her.
It must also be mentioned that it was at this point that my video camera mysteriously failed once again, just as it had in San Pedro. All batteries checked out fine but somehow the camera was again neutralized due to mysterious forces.
The failure of the video equipment would again prove to be the harbinger of violent poltergeist activity. As Jeff and I sat down to try the board, the room immediately grew colder even though the temperature outside was mild and relatively warm in the High Sierras that evening. Also it should be noted that all of the windows were closed in the kitchen.
After having agreed that we would apply very light fingertip pressure to the planchette, Jeff and I sat down to one of the most bizarre episodes of the paranormal ever witnessed. For almost immediately, the planchette skated rapidly across the board providing lucid answers to our questions.
"ARE YOU REALLY A GHOST?" I asked it. The planchette would repeatedly indicate "YES" all the while the table began to shake violently beneath the board. "HOW MANY GHOSTS RESIDE AMONG THE LIVING?" Jackie queried as she quickly began taking notes of the session. A cryptic response immediately followed: "PHANTOMS FILL THE SKIES AROUND YOU!" Again, the table shook violently and it was at this point that our chairs vibrated too.
It should be mentioned here that Jackie had lit three or four candles prior to the commencement of the session. At frequent intervals, each of the candles would extinguish themselves one by one as if being blown out by something invisible!
Throughout the course of this incredible session, we further learned that this "ghost" had been "HELD UNDER WATER" in "PEDRO BAY IN 1930" and that he’d not suffered an accidental drowning but had been "MURDERED" instead. Several minutes later, I asked why was it picking on Jeff (alluding to the hanging incident back in September). The board did not take long to respond, "BECAUSE YOU (meaning Jeff) HAVE THE LIKENESS OF MY KILLER!" Again the table shook violently and the candles repeatedly kept blowing out. And at this juncture, I asked a question which in hindsight I probably shouldn’t have asked at all.
IS THERE ANYONE IN THIS ROOM THAT YOU HATE?" Immediately, the planchette rapidly spelled out four letters "J-E-F-F". And at that instant, all doubts of Jeff’s veracity during the hanging incident would be forever erased. For in a furious few seconds, Jeff and chair were levitated off the floor and hurled backwards into the trailer wall! The impact was so great that the entire trailer shook as Jeff toppled to the floor, unconscious.
Hearts apounding, the girls ran screaming out of the room, Jackie flying into the baby’s bedroom to seize her sleeping children, while Tina fled the trailer permanently. I think that those of us who witnessed this extraordinary sight, believed in that instant, that we’d just witnessed a man being murdered by a GHOST!
As I knelt on the floor beside Jeff, raising his head up to see if he was okay, the thought crossed my mind that at any moment, the entity would attack me as well. Fortunately, Jeff came to and although shaken, he was uninjured as he staggered to his feet and walked outside into the cool night air.
Several days later back in Los Angeles, I visited San Pedro’s daily newspaper, "The News Pilot" hoping that the information provided through the Ouija Board might give us some clues as to the identity of the ghost who was haunting Jackie Hernandez. It was a long shot that would soon bear fruit.
After scanning several months of old microfilm, an unusual front page article caught my eye. FOUL PLAY SUSPECTED IN DEATH OF SEAMAN, blared the headlines! Upon reading the fifty-nine year old story, I learned that a seaman named Herman Hendricksen had indeed been found apparently murdered in the bay in the year 1930-the same year reported by the Entity during the Ouija session.
The seaman angle would turn out to have yet another bizarre twist. Months later, a friend suggested that we re-examine the cord that had been tied around Jeff Wheatcraft’s neck, the night the ghost had attempted to strangle him in the attic. Having had some experience fishing in the past, he suggested that this "knot" resembled a "fishing knot, the kind used by sailors.
Several weeks later, we showed the cord to a San Pedro fisherman named Luke Kuljis who confirmed that the knot was indeed a "BOWLINE" knot, one traditionally employed by merchant seamen aboard ships.
Was it possible that the ghost of a seaman dead nearly sixty years had returned from its watery grave to haunt an innocent victim? No one could say for sure, but this amazing discovery left us with many tantalizing clues to a most bizarre haunting. In fact, we later learned that many seamen had indeed lived in Jackie’s home throughout the years since San Pedro is a seaport town.
It was soon becoming apparent that this case was becoming a "have ghost will travel" story since Jackie would soon move once again, this time returning to the town where it all began-San Pedro, California! Because she wanted to be closer to her friends, Jackie moved into a small apartment on West 7th Street. As it turned out, the entity would not be far behind. Within a few days, objects began moving by themselves while chandeliers swung from their fixtures of their own accord, strange rapping noises emenated from the walls while she observed more ghostly lights.
During August 1990, a very rare opportunity presented itself to Jackie Hernandez. While cleaning her children’s bedroom, she viewed several bright cantaloupe-size lights hovering above the floor near the closet. Swiftly grabbing her camera, Jackie began snapping photos which resulted in some of the strongest pieces of visual evidence captured thus far. Employees of The Eureka Photo Lab in Studio City managed by Bruce Arshadi were completely dumbfounded when they developed the film. The images clearly show three orbs of brilliant light, changing shape from frame to frame. One light even appears to cast a shadow over one of its companion lights.
Alan Weddertz, owner of Alan’s Custom Photo in Hollywood, examined both the prints and negatives and admitted he was baffled. "These photos are incredible," he said. Never in my 25 years of darkroom experience have I seen such amazing shots! They seem to be self-illuminating lights as opposed to reflected light sources and for some curious reason, there appears to be no spillage of light on to the background wall whatsoever."
Not long after Jackie returned to San Pedro, it would become apparent that her poltergeist possessed abilities far beyond the ordinary spook. During July, 1990 upon returning home from a production assignment, Jeff and I discovered ample evidence which would lead us to one single conclusion about the San Pedro poltergeist: THE ENTITY HAD FOLLOWED US BACK TO OUR OWN HOMES!
Upon entering the kitchen, we immediately noticed that the right front burner of the gas stove had been ignited. We stood dumbfounded as the bluish flame flickered eerily in the dimly lit kitchen. Subsequently, we discovered ample evidence for the further movement of objects. A jar of coffee had been turned upside down, a camera tripod had been placed atop the bed, and to our horror, two pairs of scissors had been placed under each pillow.
On another night later that week, Jeff and I heard a loud thump in the kitchen. Grabbing the video camera, we began shooting tape inside the apartment with the hopes of capturing something tangible.
After crossing through the threshold of the doorway, from out of thin air, a sudden crash sent shockwaves throughout the room. Realizing that the noise had emenated from the stove, we were amazed to see that one of those same pairs of scissors had mysteriously crashed atop the stove, knocking over a pepper shaker! Yet, there was no one or anything visible that could have caused this to occur.
On the evening of December 4, 1990, Jeff Wheatcraft, Gary Boehm (who had been with us during the hanging incident the previous year) and I had been shooting a Christmas Party for the Oskar J. Tours Company at a popular Beverly Hills Hotel. It was about 1:30 a.m. when we returned to the apartment when suddenly Gary noticed an empty Coke can sitting in the doorway. The can had definitely not been there when we left and upon entering the kitchen area, as before, the right front gas burner was on! Whatever this force represented, "it" had the ability to turn the knob counterclockwise causing the flame to ignite.
During the course of what would prove to be the most active night yet, objects continually moved by themselves. Footsteps emenated from the living room when no one was there, a cordless phone had been placed atop a lampshade in the bedroom, .22 calibre bullets rained on to the stove, and at one juncture although I did not see it (it happened behind my back) a bottle of typewriter correctional fluid levitated and flew behind my head, finally crashing into the floor near the sink as witnessed by Gary and Jeff.
Around three a.m. another startling event occurred witnessed by my friends. A "slab of light" in the shape of a human being suddenly appeared and swooped towards Jeff and Gary who stood near the hallway immediately north of the living room. This "being" abruptly curved to the right and dissolved into the wall adjoining the bedroom on the other side. Although it had appeared for only a few seconds, it was astonishing to see according to Jeff and Gary. In fact, my video camera which was rolling from the floor towards my friends, picked up the shuffling of feet and the startled sounds at the exact moment that it occurred.
Unfortunately, the entity continued its evasiveness when it came to having its picture taken. Each time something startling would occur, the incident would normally take place behind the camera or in an adjacent room. During the San Pedro and Weldon incidents of course, our cameras had been repeatedly neutralized. It became abundantly clear to me as a videographer why there exists so few videos of ghosts through the years. In short, these entities would seem to express the very essence of the term "camera-shy"!
Facing a barrage of unprecedented poltergeist phenomena which did not abate until dawn, the three of us fell asleep as the sun broke over the Hollywood Hills. Never again, would we experience such an incredible amount of phenomena within such a short period of time.
After December 1990 the San Pedro Ghost diminished in intensity and effect in the life of Jackie Hernandez. Parapsychologist Dr. Barry Taff considers this case to be unique in many respects. "In all my years of psychic research, never have I heard of a poltergeist invading the domain of those who came to investigate it."
Also, it should be noted that in the entire history of paranormal research, "only a handful of cases have ever been reported in which ghosts have physically attacked human beings, " Taff said. The Bell Witch Case was one such episode having occurred during the nineteenth century in which a farmer named John Bell was reportedly "poisoned" by a poltergeist in Tennessee.
Today, Jackie Hernandez still resides in San Pedro, California though she no longer lives in any of the dwellings where haunting activity occurred. Occasionally, Jackie will phone to say that a door swung open by itself with nary a breeze or that something flew off a shelf of its own accord. However, these events have greatly diminished since those feverish days back in 1989 in which a ghost came calling and hung a man in her attic!