Photo Credit: Catalina Chamber of Commerce
If you're looking for a spooktacular way to spend an hour or two in Avalon, check out Ghost Tours of Catalina, which offers a city walking tour that promises to introduce you to some of the island's most haunting experiences.
"Uncover Avalon's deepest, darkest secrets when you participate in one of our ghost tours," pledges the website. The excursions, listed by USA Today as one of the Top 10 ghost tours in America, begin daily at 8 p.m. ($20 for adults, $15 for kids 12 and under).
I took the challenge on a recent Friday night and learned a lot about the Island's scarier residents (the deceased ones, that is), in addition to enjoying an evening stroll along the bay in the moonlight.
Tour guide Mason Sanchez, a fourth-generation islander, rounded up our group in front of the Avalon Casino, the regular meeting place. There were about 10 of us and one woman spoke up right away: "Is it really scary?" she asked grimly. "I don't want to be too scared." Everyone laughed.
"I don't think it's too bad," Mason said. "But you'll have to let me know at the end."
He went on to tell us a bit about the Island, which has been inhabited for about 7,000 years. Some of Catalina's legends and mysteries, in fact, stem from those early Native American residents.
But the island also has been visited by pirates, smugglers and a host of other unsavory characters who left a few ghosts and mysteries behind.
Then, of course, there's the past 120 years, when the island became a resort community, drawing celebrities and vacationers alike from the mainland.
One of Avalon's most iconic reminders of the Big Band era is the Casino, which is the source of many spooky tales. The best-known story tells of a translucent woman in a white robe who haunts the mezzanine level of the structure, occasionally asking passersby, "Where is my husband?" before vanishing.
"I'm quite afraid of ghosts myself," said Mason as we walked along Via Casino Way toward the heart of Avalon. Then he rattled off a string of hotel names, telling us about ghosts that are said to inhabit each. For instance, Hotel Catalina is rumored to be the home of many playful ghosts who make noises and move things around.
"Most of the hotels, restaurants and shops up and down Front Street are haunted," he added.
Pretty scary thought. I turned to look at the woman who'd said she didn't want to be frightened by the tour. She'd vanished. Either it was too scary -- or maybe she was a ghost all along.
by Rosemary McClure