Hansen: Old mortuary harbors spirits, tenant says

A witchcraft book is part of the Halloween display at the Chakra Shack, whose owner said the building used to be a mortuary and houses spirits.
(David Hansen, Coastline Pilot)

It used to be a mortuary, but now there are only spirits.

When the Chakra Shack moved into its new location in July, the owner quickly realized something was amiss.

“There was actually a lot of clearing that we had to do,” said Jill Templin. “What clearing means is clearing the energy, sending the spirits who are still here on to the other side, or just being able to get along so they’re not interfering.”

Back in the 1960s and ‘70s, it was the Sheffer Laguna Beach Mortuary at 976 S. Coast Hwy. A distinctive building, you can still see its history in the odd, almost baroque, touches in the architecture. Upstairs residences hide behind pale, drawn curtains. A back alley gives discreet access for the hearse.

Now remodeled, the inside has private rooms lining the left side and a large retail area on the right where you can buy crystals, Tarot cards, essential oils and special witchcraft books for Halloween.

Everyone still speaks in whispers.

Templin, who started Chakra Shack 11 years ago in another part of town, says people should be free to believe what they want, especially in Laguna Beach.

“It’s a place for everyone to experience and believe what they want to believe,” she said. “My personal belief is we have spirit guides; we have animal guides; we have angels. And they’re all here with us at all times. We can’t see them, and they’re trying to lead us in the right direction.”

It’s Templin’s business to believe in most things spiritual, but she’s not alone. Over the years, “yes” answers to surveys on the existence of ghosts have consistently ranged between 30% and 50%.

The fact is a lot of people believe in things that go bump in the night. But they are not eager to discuss their brushes with the paranormal at social gatherings.

Except my barber.

When I mentioned the topic of my column this week, she pulled out her iPhone and showed me a video shot by a relative that recorded a dark bedroom with strange, orb-like lights moving across the wall.

“Weird, huh?” she said.

I nodded, not really knowing what to say.

Isn’t that the point? We don’t know what to say or how to explain certain things.

The scientific part of our brain feels inadequate, so it declines to answer.

The nonscientific part of our brain feels overloaded, so it’s too drunk to answer.

In the middle we try to reconcile, fumbling along in the dark. Some people feel compelled to act. They either embark on elaborate debunking exercises, or they walk around old mortuaries with sage.

“There are Shamanic rituals that you can do,” said Templin, further describing what it means to clear a building. “Sage clears energy. It doesn’t make spirits go away, but if there’s resident energy, like let’s say something really bad happened in a place and someone is hanging around, you can do sage to clear it.

“Wheat grass brings in positive energy.”

I’m guessing most people welcome positive energy, especially this time of year when everyone so cavalierly invites goblins, ghouls and reckless mayhem into their lives.

It’s ironic, considering that some believe this is the time when the veil between worlds is thinnest. So why flirt with powers you don’t understand?

Maybe it’s exciting. Maybe those grainy videos and blurry lights are the reassurances we have that something greater exists outside of ourselves.

It’s the only proof we can hold onto. But it’s never really enough, is it? There is always some kernel of doubt.

Until something happens again that we can’t explain.

“We see a lot of odd things often,” Templin said. “There are so many days where I’m like, OK, I’ve seen it all.”

But we never see it all.

And maybe that’s why the ghosts stay around.

They enjoy the eternal parade.

DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at