It used to be a brothel, or so they say.
The old white building sits on the hill, like the hotel in “The Shining,” cavernous and creaky, with long dark hallways and strange apartments. It is the Arch Beach Tavern, built in 1915 to house people from the movie industry.
It is an odd place where mystery abounds. There are blank doors with no handles and light switch panels with no switches. In the lobby, an empty rocking chair sits in the corner as if waiting to move with an unseen breeze.
Put it this way: On Halloween in Laguna Beach, Oak and Brooks streets get all the attention, but no one goes trick-or-treating at this house, perhaps because it’s too scary.
“Nobody ever comes up to the building,” said Briandy Walden, a 10-year resident. “The building itself can be kind of creepy. The carpet used to be red.”
Walden tells stories about mysterious sightings on the third floor and the backyard garden and about the unexplained sounds.
“People have said they’ve heard and seen things, but I haven’t,” she said, fidgeting and glancing over her shoulder.
The Catalina Street building can make visitors jumpy.
In fact, according to postings on the Ghosts of America website, of all the ghost sightings in Laguna Beach, this building is the most storied.
“Two residents have reported seeing a little girl playing on the balcony at night behind the building on the third floor,” someone named Ryan, who did not give a last name, wrote on the website. “Another 12-year resident reported hearing digging going on in the laundry room, but the floor is concrete, and the digging sounded like a shovel into gravel and dirt.”
There have been several other mysterious reports, according to the website.
“I have lived at 2180 Catalina (bottom level) in Laguna Beach and have witnessed several different ghost sightings in the years that I’ve lived here,” Nikki wrote. “Mostly seeing an older woman with white, short perm-style hair in my kitchen and standing over my bed.
“When I first moved in I woke up to what I thought was a nightmare but clearly was not; I saw a woman in old-style courtesan clothing. She had curly long dark hair and was wearing old-fashioned lingerie. She was scratching at me and telling me to ‘get out.’ I had actual marks on my arms, so this was very real! I remember she had long red-painted nails.”
There are other locations in Laguna Beach where people claimed to have seen or heard strange things: the high school theater, Pyne Castle, Ti Amo Ristorante, the Royal Hawaiian and a beach cottage called the witch’s house.
But the stories at the Arch Beach Tavern persist — not around the campfire but in the shower.
“I lived [there] for about six months back in 2002,” wrote Amanda. “I had many paranormal experiences while living there. My apartment was on the second floor and on two occasions I could feel banging underneath my feet as I was showering. I also experienced a wine glass shatter on my coffee table as a friend and I were watching a movie.
“I would also hear activity in my bathroom. I would hear the shower curtain shuffle and move around quite often. Not to mention many nights of insomnia and being creeped out. My neighbor across the hall heard activity in her apartment every night. I would love to see a paranormal investigation done there.”