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|Ghost Group at Local Haunt|
By Michael Aushenker
July 19, 2011 – For the past four years, Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles – better known as GHOULA – has served up a cocktail of the social and the supernatural, holding its “Spirits With Spirits” meetings on the 13th of every month at reputedly haunted restaurants, bars, and hotels across Los Angeles.
And yet somehow, the paranormal-themed group managed to skip Santa Monica. That all changed this month.
Last Wednesday, GHOULA co-founders Richard Carradine and Lisa Strouss held a gathering of the group in the Basement Bar below the Victorian restaurant at Heritage Square on Main Street. It was the group's 38th get-together since it was founded in 2008.
“It’s random from month to month how I pick these places,” said Carradine. More Westside locations will eventually materialize, he promised.
Strouss observed that L.A. is a hard city to socialize in, and GHOULA’s supernatural slant makes schmoozing natural.
“A certain wall comes down when you talk about paranormal experiences,” said Strouss.
“Everyone has a story, even the skeptics. Usually, the skeptics have all of the best stories.”
Strouss believes that Carradine is the right leader for the group.
“He sees ghosts,” she said, praising Carradine's knowledge of supernatural and local-history lore, and said GHOULA proves to be the nexus of the two.
As he does at every meeting, Carradine prefaced the evening with an explanation of the rumored story behind the place where they gathered.
At the Basement Bar, he explained, “The house above the bar is an old Victorian home that dates back…over a hundred years old. It was originally on the corner of Ocean and Washington.
“They were going to build an apartment complex and demolish it, the community rallied around it, they moved it to the present location and they made it into a restaurant.”
Here, the rumored female ghost is named Delia.
“They even have a drink called The Delia,” Carradine said. “She’s been seen all over the building.
“Shortly after the house was moved,” he continued, “Delia’s family showed up and asked if anyone knew what happened to Delia…She just completely disappeared.”
Then came another wrinkle to the story.
“She’s the most prominent ghost people see but there’s apparently a male ghost,” Carradine said. “Nobody knows his name.”
Carradine has a couple of theories: the male ghost is either a product of the sketchy Santa Monica of old – “a criminal or a dodgy character” from that era – or he’s what’s left of Dr. George I. Kyte.
“This was originally called the Kyte House,” Carradine said. “Mr. Kyte lived here. Little is known about him but I found his obituary and it said he was the master of all the Southern California Masonic Lodges.” Say no more…
Deep within the Basement Bar, people wearing their GHOULA badges – shiny square buttons with the club’s skull logo – packed the cramped, dark, blue-ish space.
Some were returnees, such as cartoonist Jim Wheelock. Most were young first-timers such as Julie Parker.
Parker, a recent Sacramento transplant, likens GHOULA to a supernatural version of one of Gertrude Stein’s salons. Up in Northern California, she dabbled in ghost hunting with the Lodi Paranormal Investigators.
For the recently relocated medical professional, GHOULA provides a back-door way for her to learn about her adopted city.
“It all kind of serendipitously [happened] after my roommate got sick and could not make it,” Parker said. “I showed up not knowing anyone.”
“Some people think it’s a ghost investigation group, which is not what GHOULA is,” said frequent attendee David Markland, a writer who runs the Halloween-centric blog CreepyLA.com. “Some people just like to check it out to hear a good ghost story. It’s a social group for people with a love for the supernatural.”
Santa Monica locals Wendy and Allison (last names not offered) exited their first meeting, their bright yellow GHOULA badges glinting in the night.
“I think there’s too much energy down there,” Allison groused. “Social energy [not supernatural]. It’s just a lot of bar activity.”
Nevertheless, the pair finds the objective of the group intriguing.
“We’d do it again,” Allison said.
Enter the affable Strouss, carrying her sleepy four-year-old daughter Olive, and boisterously greeting the pair with a disarming smile.
The GHOULA co-founder explained the group’s formation, which had its genesis when she attended a party at her friend Carradine’s house and discovered “his huge library of ghost books.”
“Rich and I started GHOULA right around the time that we both experienced a lot of severely tragic personal hardships and financial destitution, and through these extremely low times, GHOULA was all we had left, which is kind of ridiculous,” said Strouss. “My life was falling apart, but the GHOULA meetings always made my problems seem inconsequential, because at least I wasn't a ghost!”
Carradine and Strouss collaborated briefly on a web series called “Ghosts Wanted” with paranormal investigator Lee Barron and devised the GHOULA group as a way to help promote the online series. As fate would have it, the social group quickly outlived the program and took on a life of its own.
Strouss said GHOULA is not interested in celebrity ghost stories as much as true L.A. paranormal stories (“What’s our contemporary folklore?”)
“Not all ghosts are famous,” she said. “There are different types of ghosts.”
One of Strouss’s favorite visits happened in Culver City, in “the Culver Hotel, where they gave us a tour of the basement.
“We were looking for the Munchkin tunnel,” Strouss remembered, referring to the connector between where the diminutive “The Wizard of Oz” actors were staying to the nearby MGM Studios lot (today Sony Pictures).
On Wednesday night, some interesting attendees enlivened the evening. A quiet, bespectacled young man, with looks that fell somewhere between Christopher Walken and James Spader, lingered on the patio. The man quietly observing the proceedings turned out to be Cristofer Sanders, a producer on Biography channel’s top-rated show, “My Ghost Story.”
Also paying a visit: Brian Hart. Hart heads the Greater L.A. Skeptics Meetup Group, a byproduct of his Independent Investigations Group (IIG), founded in 2000, “a group of volunteers who investigate claims of the paranormal.”
Hart said he loves attending GHOULA meetings.
“Very friendly, great stories,” said Hart, summing up the experience, and added, “I’m looking for stories we can test.”
“A certain wall comes down when you talk about paranormal experiences.”
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