Death Visits the Haunted Brookdale Lodge
Built on the site of a lumber mill in the Redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, it hosted parties to the elite and luminaries of Hollywood's Golden Age, but it had a darker side as well.
If you’ve seen Stephen King’s The Shining or Rose Red, where the structure and the spirits within seem bent on claiming souls, then as you read about the events that transpired in or around the Brookdale Lodge, you’ll understand why it has the reputation of being haunted, and that King’s fiction is not too far from the reality of what has occurred to those that came here to find happiness and relaxation and found death instead.
Despite many years where it enjoyed the reputation as a posh vacation spot, as time passed the glamour faded and it even became a hangout for the Hell's Angels.
In 1870, the Grover Lumber Mill opened their headquarters on this site. The area was known by the names of Reed, Clear Creek or Brookville.
Understanding the circumstances of the times and the events that affected the persons that lived at the Brookdale provides a clue as to why it harbors so much spiritual turbulence. Some paranormal investigators will claim that the moving waters of the creek running through the middle of the building invites ghosts to manifest, and even though that might be true up to a certain point, it’s usually layers of deep emotion felt by those who lived there throughout the years which produces residual as well as intelligent hauntings.
Let’s go back to the beginning, and the year is 1868, James Harvey Logan, an attorney originally from Indiana left San Jose and established himself in Santa Cruz. By 1871 he had been elected as district attorney, and eventually was elected judge. He was also involved in the banking business of the town. These were Victorian times and like the movie the Age of Innocence where passion and desire were disguised and your reputation was everything, the life of Judge J.H. Logan set the stage for the strange and mysterious events that unfolded within the walls of the Brookdale Lodge which he was destined to build.
In 1896, Judge Logan bought 320 acres of the Brookdale tract, and in October of that same year found himself embroiled in a love triangle that ended in divorce, a subject not discussed in polite society. A newspaper reported how he was attacked by Mrs. McKenzie in public at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Church Street. She tried to horse whip him across the face and only by grabbing her by the wrists was he able to avoid this injury. Before the attack Mrs. McKenzie had already sent Judge Logan threatening letters, and was described as being unbalanced.
So why would Mrs. McKenzie do this to a pillar of society in public? The backstory to this event started in 1882, when Judge Logan, his wife Catherine, Mrs. McKenzie and Dr. Stewart “held pleasant, friendly relations, and visited back and forth”. This came to a stop in 1890, when Mrs. Stewart arrived in the county. Dr. Stewart sued for divorce in 1891, and claimed that Catherine McKenzie was his sister. He stopped the divorce proceedings later that year, however in 1896, Mrs. Stewart then brought suit against him for divorce, naming Mrs. McKenzie as a defendant.
The truth of the matter was that Catherine McKenzie was not Dr. Stewart’s sister but his lover. Many years before, while he was still a medical student in Scotland and already engaged to his future wife, he met Catherine McKenzie. He seduced her, and when he offered marriage she turned him down. Each went their own way, and met many years later as they crossed the Atlantic to the United States and resumed their romance, openly committing adultery for 8 years in the company of Judge Logan and his wife. During the divorce Dr. Stewart claimed he no longer loved his wife because “he had become alienated by her addiction to intoxicants and her frequent lapses into drunkenness”. It makes you wonder if the intoxicant he is referring to is laudanum, which many Victorian ladies were quietly addicted to.
Despite these claims from Dr. Stewart, the presiding judge decided in favor of Mrs. Stewart, based partly on testimony provided by Judge Logan (which explains why Mrs. McKenzie took a horsewhip to him). I’m sure Judge Logan had learned a great deal about “his friends” for the eight years they had spent in each other’s company. Mrs. McKenzie lost a valuable piece of property Dr. Stewart had placed under her name supposedly as restitution to his “sister” for money she had lent him. The truth was that he didn’t want his wife to have any claim to the property when he was trying to divorce her. Despite the controversy Catherine McKenzie and Dr. Stewart continued with their relationship and were mentioned attending several social functions as late as 1900.
In 1900, Judge Logan found it was his turn to be on the wrong side of the law when he was included in a lawsuit brought by the Grover Lumber Company who accused him and three other men of defrauding the company of the land where the mill stood, and which had been acquired in 1896.
In a smoky, back room an agreement must have been reached because in 1902, Judge Logan constructed a wagon road, then a cottage in 1905, and by 1907, he was selling lots of land he had laid out. He was considered the unofficial mayor of this area.
In July 1909, Judge Logan’s wife, Catherine died at Brookdale from Bright’s disease. The year before he had hired a young secretary and stenographer named Mary Elizabeth Couson. In August 1910, he married her, and by August 1911, when he was 72 years old she gave him a daughter they named Gladys.
July 1907, Spencer Brush a 17-year old boy saved a 9 year old girl who was drowning at a deep, Brookdale pool. This was one of the first of many incidents where a person acted irrationally and either tried to kill themselves or others, or just plain died when in the vicinity of the Brookdale Lodge. Not all were as lucky as this little girl, and many times there were no rescuers to stop the Brookdale from claiming a victim in one way or another. Just follow the events laid out in chronological order and you’ll see the pattern of despair that weaves in and out throughout the years and the lives of those who lived there.
Two months later in September 1907, Mr. Osborn a drunk who was known to wander in the woods, tried to commit suicide by drowning himself in a water trough outside the camp store at the resort. A Mrs. Mattern intervened and pulled him out.
July 1910, Mary Blohm almost drowned while attempting to cross a creek at Brookdale. She was saved by Gertrude Adams who dived in and grabbed her by the hair and pulled her up after she had gone under.
In that same year Judge Logan sold the undeveloped land or acreage to John DuBois, and the hotel, store and cottage to attorney W.H. Aydelotte. Judge Logan kept the electric and the water plant, and the land where the post office was situated since he was the postmaster. He appointed his nephew Herbert Turcot as the assistant postmaster. He was related to Josephine Turcot, Judge Logan’s adopted daughter. It turned out this was not a good decision since Herbert was arrested in September 1912, for stashing 2,000 pieces of mail in the loft of his barn. He redeemed himself though by joining the Army and fighting in WWI; he achieved the rank of sergeant.
In July 1912, May Cripps, Gladys Hawkett and Lily McDonald were staying at the Brookdale Cottages, and that hot summer day decided to bathe in a swimming pool area of the San Lorenzo River. Gladys and Lily, who were both 15 years old and didn’t know how to swim, lost their footing in deeper water. May who was 30 years old jumped in to save her sister Gladys as well as Lily; however she didn’t know how to swim either. It was the cries from May’s daughters, age four and six who alerted passerby to the situation; however it was too late save any of them.
The drowning deaths in July 1912, of May, Gladys and their friend Lily might also establish the event that mistakenly created one of the most well-known ghosts of Brookdale Lodge, named Sarah Logan. Over the years there have been many sightings of little Sarah Logan, and she is often described wearing a white and blue Sunday dress, or a 1940s formal dress, and she is seen walking through the lobby or near the fireplace between the lounge and Brookroom. She has also been seen playing on the balcony of the Brookroom, an area off limits to visitors and guests, and sitting beside the fire in the Fireside Room. Some have even been approached by the crying Sarah asking if they could help her find her mother. As they turn to look for the little girl's mother, Sarah vanishes.
Little ghost Sarah was supposed to have been Judge Logan’s niece who drowned after falling in and hitting her head in the creek running through the Lodge. The problem with this version is that there is no record of a Sarah Logan or of anyone else drowning in the creek that runs through the Brook Room. Judge Logan’s only daughter Gladys was alive and 17 years old when Judge Logan passed in 1928, and there are no other family members he had who lived or died at the Brookdale. The only reference to a child named Sarah Logan is a newspaper obituary dated November of 1892, in Alameda, California reporting on the death of a 10 year old girl, the only child of John R. Logan and Sarah Logan; however this information does not appear connected to Judge Logan’s family or to the Brookdale area.
In the newspaper story retelling of the triple drowning in 1912, the two younger victims were frequently referred to as girls. There was also a reference to May’s daughters crying out for her. It’s possible that this tragic event morphed into the legend of Sarah.
The years passed, and those who had some connection to the Brookdale Lodge eventually moved away from the area, but they found that they couldn’t escape the shadow of unfortunate events that catches up with them at some point. Take for example Josie Turcot and her brother Herbert. Josie was Judge Logan’s niece by marriage and referred to as his adopted daughter. In 1924, Josephine lived in San Francisco with her husband John Sheehan and their seven children. Their house burnt down, but not before claiming the life of Marie Edmonds, a young friend of their daughter Alice Logan Sheehan, who was visiting with them. Her children also narrowly escaped losing their lives in this fire, and they had to be dropped from a window of the house.
By then Herbert Turcot (the lazy postmaster) had returned from war, and made the papers by inexplicably driving a company work truck through a garage door, he was unhurt and was found by the police just standing next to the wrecked truck. He wouldn’t talk or explain what happened so they transported him to Mission Hospital for observation, since he wasn’t drunk and they couldn’t figure out why he did this, so the suspicion was that he was suffering from some type of mental illness. Herbert passed away in 1962.
Between 1922, and 1945, the lodge was operated by Dr. F. K. Camp, a Seventh-day Adventist physician and a strict prohibitionist. It was Camp that built the magnificent Brook Room, a dining room that enclosed a natural stream flowing down its center. This was the lodge's heyday. The Brookdale was the second most popular resort in California and played host to Hollywood stars, prominent families and would advertise to attract elite guests only.
Famous persons passing through Brookdale Lodge included: Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Tyrone Power, Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Hedy Lamarr, and President Herbert Hoover. The lodge was also famous for its first rate entertainment, attracting the best big band and swing groups of the era. There was a mural of James Dean on an exterior wall of the Brookdale Lodge, which was painted over by one by the recent owners.
Despite the façade of glamour and glitz, dark events continued to occur.
July 1925, Otto Kuhn, waiter at the Brookdale Lodge and his friend who had come to apply for work at the Brookdale Lodge, were run down by a vehicle. Both were injured but not killed.
December 1934, Edward Hewitt died from a broken neck and a crushed chest he suffered in a car accident that occurred on a road adjacent to Brookdale.
July 1935, Louise Chinn a 19 year old Chinese servant girl, drowned in a San Lorenzo River bathing pool at Brookdale. She had worked for Mr. and Mrs. Caine from San Francisco since she was 15 years old. They had been vacationing at the Brookdale cottages. It appeared she had slipped into a deep part of the pool and she didn’t know how to swim. She had been submerged for about 3 hours before they located her body.
Shortly before Dr. Camp’s death in 1945, it changed hands, and it was during this time when it was supposed to be visited by mobsters, and bodies were hidden in secret passageways, however no proof has been found to substantiate this.
June 1945, Paul Kaufman, 19 years old and spending his honeymoon at Brookdale Lodge almost drowned after suffering a cramp. He was saved by James McLaughlin the chef at the Brookdale. He was in critical condition but eventually recovered.
One death that was confirmed by newspaper reports of the time is the suicide death in 1947 of a 37 year old Brookdale waitress, Hazel Tomlinson, who shot herself. This was not her first attempt at suicide since newspaper clippings found in her possession describe how in 1937 she jumped into San Francisco Bay.
In May of 1947, the coroner that worked in the area of the Brookdale Lodge confirmed that he had to attend to 92 violent or unusual deaths in the space of five months. This was so outside of the norm that it made the papers.
In 1951 Barney Morrow became the owner and worked on restoring the deteriorating building. Two years later his wife sued for divorce based on extreme cruelty towards her. She described him as having a mean and violent disposition, and that he beat her continuously. A protection order was issued against him. In 1955 he had to renovate after a flood, and then in October 24th, 1956 a large fire destroyed the dining room and an adjoining 12 rooms, as well as damaging stores that were close by.
By 1953, Brookdale Lodge who once only catered to the wealthy and privileged was in decline, a report is made to local law enforcement in which a woman found someone had broken into her Brookdale cottage and stolen assorted furniture and a mirror. There was also vandalism due to a redwood being cut down.
This report of a break in would seem trivial, however it’s mentioned because this is a hallmark of when negative, spiritual influence starts to manifest at a location. The behavior of the humans who live or work there deteriorates and it starts to attract other humans who are troubled like moths to a flame.
June 1954 Frank Danner, a 68 year old electrician, dropped dead from a heart attack while working at the Brookdale Lodge.
December 1955, San Francisco, 13 year old Elizabeth Simpson’s body was found nude and mutilated in the apartment of an unemployed janitor named James Reese. It was believed he lured her into his apartment which was a few doors down from hers, and then killed her with a butcher knife he had borrowed from the victim’s mother. He left it next to her body. He was apprehended a short time later at the bus terminal trying to wash blood from his hands while he sang “Love and Marriage”. Even though he was only 23 years old he had already done a stretch at San Quentin from where he had recently been released. He was suspected also in the stabbing death of another woman a week before, and a knife attack on another woman and her 11 year old daughter while they slept a few hours before that. They were badly cut but didn’t die. One of the patrolmen who caught him was Gil Mojica, who only a few years later would be gunned down after leaving the Brookdale Lodge.
In January 1962, Gil Mojica a former Coast Guard Golden Gloves boxing champion who frequented the Brookdale Lodge, where his wife Joyce worked as a cocktail waitress was shot 4 time with a 32 caliber gun. Three of the shots were to the head, and his body was found on the roadway next to his car. He inexplicably left the Lodge where he had been waiting for his wife to finish her shift late at night. No leads were ever found as to who committed the crime.
Later that year, Barney Morrow’s company was sued for $1 million with allegations of fraud and mismanagement. Bankruptcy was declared in 1964, by trustees of the Brookdale Lodge. In 1965, Bob Hope toured Brookdale Lodge and it was rumored he would purchase it, however this never occurred.
In June of 1965, 23 year old Robert Carona, who worked as a dishwasher at Brookdale Lodge, shot and killed David Rodenborn and also shot Elizabeth Rodenborn his daughter as she ran from him after seeing her father’s dead body. She survived. Carona was described as schizophrenic. He shot them after having a dispute with someone else earlier.
July 1968, Charles Briney, manager of the Brookdale Lodge was shot in the thigh during an attempted robbery. The suspect was never caught.
1969, the large, kidney shaped pool at the Brookdale Lodge closes, and doesn’t reopen for 25 years until September 1994. This is also closes the so-called Mermaid Room, another unique feature of the restaurant, in which guests could look through a large aquarium glass into the deep end of the indoor pool while sitting in a mood-lit lounge area and bar. In the Mermaid Room visitors have experienced hearing voices, the clinking of glasses and soft music when the room was empty. The jukebox located here has been known to turn itself on and off when nobody is near it.
Some of the other ghostly manifestations observed is the sound of glasses and plates being moved when the Brookroom is empty, and the far off murmur of people talking as if dozens of ghostly diners are having a meal. A ghostly woman has been seen walking over the brook as if supported by a bridge removed long ago. Big band music has been heard playing faintly in the Fireside Room and in the Pool Room. People have also reported cold spots, presences, and even being touched by unseen forces in the Pool Room. Late at night doors slam and footsteps are often heard in empty rooms. They are particularly loud from the second floor conference room. Many have reported strange smells and having a sense that the room is full of people when it is empty. Psychics have identified one of the conference room spirits as a man by the name of George. He is a lumberjack and has also been encountered behind the lodge at a place where in the lodge's early years they chopped wood for its many fireplaces.
March 1970, a man Franklin “Collins” Close, age 29 forced himself into an apartment at the Brookdale Lodge occupied by 4 women and 2 men. Upon entering, he hit all of them with the shotgun he was carrying, and then he declared in a normal voice, that he was going to kill them and then himself. He didn’t carry out the threat, and the witnesses were treated for head injuries. Collins declared he was under the influence of drugs, he was charged with assault and intent to commit murder.
In April of 1970, 35 year old Robert Ashley who had been living at Brookdale Lodge committed suicide in his vehicle. His body was not discovered for approximately 2 weeks.
In the 1970's a wing of motel rooms was built over the spot where once stood the lodge's camping cabins. Room 46 (now room 2209) of the motel wing is reported to be very haunted. The manifestations that have been reported are a disfigured man with either an eye hanging out or a knife wound across the face, a teenage boy, knocking on the walls or doors, orbs and feelings of being touched or being watched.
April 1971, Earl Thomason, age 78 was found dead near a creek about a mile behind the Brookdale Lodge. He had wandered away, and was subsequently found by his son and others who were searching for him. The coroner had not determined a cause of death.
In 1972, a 13 year old girl supposedly drowned in the pool; however there is no evidence or reports of this being factual since the pool was not in use.
May 1974, Brookdale Lodge manager, John Madera, 53 dropped dead in the parking lot after suffering a coronary attack. Three individuals had been racing their vehicle in the parking lot and after his wife Ruth had asked them to stop, and they “mooned” her, he went out to ask them to leave. Shortly after they sped away onto the roadway he collapsed, and all of them were charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The Brookdale closed between 1973 to 1977 after the owners held a concert in 1973 which they didn’t have zoning or permits to hold.
December 1975, 32 inches of rain fall in one week causing the creek in the Brookdale Lodge to overflow, washing away 300 tables and chairs.
In August 1983, someone in an act of vandalism set up a bomb on a gas meter behind the Brookdale Lodge and detonated it. There were no injuries, and it was not known who did this.
April 1989, a man is cut across the stomach and his truck was vandalized by members of the Hell’s Angel when entering the Brookdale Lodge. The victim described that there was about 30 of them inside the Brookdale, and the dispute started over a female hitchhiker that he had picked up. He refused medical service and did not pursue charges with the police.
August 1990, Richard Stevens who claimed he was a professional hitman for the Hell’s Angels stood trial and faced the death penalty for the 1987 murder of two men who he killed execution style with a shotgun blast to the head. He then raped one of the victim’s fiancée. They had all met at the Brookdale Lodge, and eventually left to a party where Stevens snorted a large amount of meth, and then walked around with a sawed off shotgun stuck in his belt. Later that night he killed the two men.
In 1991, Lt. Bill Gilbert, former police officer became the new owner of the Brookdale Lodge. He described himself as a skeptic, but then started to complain of seeing shadows, hearing slamming doors, the jukebox and television turning on by themselves and the smell of gardenias wafting from room to room. His daughter Kim described what appeared to be the ghost of a little girl dressed in a 1940s formal dress run across the lobby and disappear into a window. She had already heard the story of the little ghost girl Sarah, and thought this was her. Kim contacted psychic Sylvia Browne and asked her to bless the building, contact the ghosts and perform an exorcism which according to Kim didn’t work. She complained about a small, dark room off the banquet hall where animals had been slaughtered and where mobsters allegedly hid dead bodies, and which many times had a bad stench coming from it.
September 1992, 68 year old Winifred “Maria” Avery, who was described as mentally ill, had delusions about her “friends” and who fancied herself a psychic, stopped taking her meds and disappeared from where she lived. She checked herself into the Brookdale Lodge. A clerk recognized her from an article she had read, and notified the authorities.
In 1994, a local radio station hosted a séance at the Brookdale to contact the 49 ghosts that had been identified by different psychics as residing within the walls of the Brookdale. Anne Chaney a psychic who had previously contacted the spirit of Nicole Simpson Brown was part of the team. It’s also around this time that there’s a description of another ghost haunting the Brookdale, which is John, a dark, curly-haired man who glares at people from the bridge.
November 2002, a woman fell off a bridge at Brookdale Lodge and had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital for treatment.
In 2005, a second, major fire damaged the Brookdale extensively throughout the two story portion of the building including apartments in the back of the property
In 2007, the Gilberts sold the property to Sanjiv Kakkar.
On August 18, 2009, a fire engulfed a two-story section of the lodge near the rear of the main building that contained 20 apartments mostly occupied by lodge employees. Four vehicles were also damaged and 65 persons were displaced. The circumstances for the fire were under investigation as there were suspicions of arson. By this time, the back area apartments had become known by the local citizens as low rent, tenements occupied by “meth heads and sex offenders”. The damage from the 2005, fire had not been repaired yet.
September 2009, Robin John Carlson died following a skull fracture he suffered at the inn after falling through an open, unmarked and dimly-lit construction hole on his way to the men's bathroom, causing the fatal injury.
The following month, owner Sanjiv Kakkar was arrested on suspicion of not having workers' compensation insurance, not paying an employee's medical bill after he was hurt on the job and paying workers with checks that bounced. In 2013 he was indicted for wire fraud and other charges.
November 2012, Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures investigated the haunting at the Brookdale Lodge
May 2018, The Brookdale Lodge after renovations has reopened.