Black Star Canyon – Urban Legend

If you grew up in Orange County, chances are you’ve heard the legends of Black Star Canyon: Hooded creatures, KKK, ghosts and demons. You know that you’re not supposed to go there at night…and yet, you go anyway. I first heard about the place when I was a senior in high school way back in 1999 and up until about 2003 my friends and I used to go and explore up there all time, usually at night. Over the years, I’ve talked to several other people who have gone up there and heard some pretty great stories. I’m sure that you have a great story also and would love to hear about it in the comments.

 

The Legend

 

I overheard my neighbor and his cousin talking about a scary drive they had to make to deliver some parts to a customer.

“What’s so scary about it?” I asked.

They said “you’ve never heard of Crook’s Corner?”

“Nope. What’s that?”

“It’s this haunted road in the forest. If you go on a full moon night, you’ll see blood on the street signs, you’ll hear people cackling and screaming in the woods, you’ll see ghosts appear out of nowhere in the middle of the road, and mangled bodies shuffling along by the side of the road- former passengers of some bus crash that happened a long time ago. But you only see it on a full moon. On a regular night, it’s still scary. Wanna go with us?”

“Of course.”

It wasn’t a full moon that night but it did look like a pretty creepy place. After hearing this story and learning where the place was, the first thing I did was find out when the next full moon was and told my friend at school about it. My friend immediately rounded up an expedition party of exactly 13 brave souls to go into the woods and explore.

 

The First Expedition

I don’t remember the exact date, but I remember everybody who was there. We loaded up into three cars with me leading the way in my black 1991 Mitsubishi Galant VR4 -aka The Black Cat. I only mention this because the car was all-wheel drive, black, and I didn’t know it at the time but my brake lights were not working. These are important details as you’ll soon find out.

We headed out late at night from Anaheim, Ca and took the streets over there which pretty much just means taking Chapman all the way down past Jamboree. The whole drive is through the city and there are lights everywhere but as soon as you pass Jamboree it becomes totally dark. There were no street lights anywhere. Chapman now becomes Santiago Canyon Road.

After driving down the dark Santiago Road for a few miles, you eventually come to this turnout on the left-hand side which leads to Black Star Canyon Road on the left and Silverado Canyon Road to the right. We took Silverado Canyon Road first because that is the longer drive.

road map

This road is really fun to drive. The roads are narrow and there are a ton of curves so I was just flying down the road in my all-wheel drive. I mentioned that the road was dark. There was only one street light around this one curve attached to the top of a rock cliff. As soon as we got near it, the light turned off. We found it creepy that night. We found it even creepier that on every single visit after that, the light would turn off whenever we’d drive past.

We got to the gate at the end of Silverado Canyon road, parked our cars, and got out. The passengers of the second car looked pale. The driver said they had almost driven off the road and over the cliff several times. It turns out, since he didn’t see my brake lights come on, he figured the turns weren’t that tight. He said that he would see the turns too late and have to slam his brakes and swerve fast to avoid going over the edge. I also explained to him that my car was all-wheel drive and a stickshift so I was able to downshift when I needed to. We all had a good laugh about it but it is a very real danger and there have been a lot of auto accidents in the area of people going over the side of the road.

We walked around for a bit, disappointed that we hadn’t seen anything, but then we saw a small hooded kid standing in the middle of the road just past the gate. None of us brought flashlights (idiots!).

We stood in front of the gate.

“Hey kid.”

No answer.

“Hey, what are you doing out here?”

Still nothing.

We looked around, couldn’t see anything in the darkness, except for this small hooded kid standing just past the gate. Our eyes adjusted to the dark a little and someone said, “maybe it’s a post or something.” “Go touch it and find out.” He didn’t go but one of us (not me) finally went up to it and verified that it was indeed some big weird candy cane shaped pipe. We started laughing but stopped when we heard more laughing coming from the trees. Our echo? We didn’t stick around to find out.

Now for the really creepy part- Mysterious late night transactions?

We drove back down Silverado Canyon and we turned onto Black Star Canyon Road. We had a video camera in each car that we were using to film the expedition. Whoever was riding shotgun was filming the drive in each car. Black Star is a short drive in, then you cross a small bridge, get to a closed gate, then turn back around. As we were driving in, we could see two cars out at the end of the road by the gate. They started driving out as we were driving in. We got passed the bridge and started turning around at the gate. The bridge only allows for one car at a time. One of the cars came back and was waiting at the foot of the bridge for us to come back out. We all put our cameras down because we didn’t want them to think that we were out there filming whatever it is that they were up to. We drove by one by one by one, the driver of the car was wearing dark shades and dogging us as we drove out, and when we got off the bridge he drove back over to the other side. I could see the brake lights of the other car waiting up at the top of a connecting road and we called the cellphones of the other cars (no text messages back then) to let them know the other car was up there and looked like he was ready to chase us out “so get ready for some evasive maneuvering.” As soon as we passed by that road, I looked in my rearview and saw the car drive down then go back over the bridge to meet up with the other car. To this day, we don’t know what they were doing but whatever it was, they didn’t want anybody to know about it, and they went back to make sure we left the area.

 

Chased Out by Locals

 

That wasn’t our only experience getting chased out of, or persuaded to leave, the area.

Halloween night: A group of us decided that it would be a great idea if we went for a hike past the gate at Silverado Canyon. This time, there were a few girls with us including my friend’s girlfriend and her annoying cousin. We parked our cars at the gate, which was closed, and started hiking in. This time, we brought flashlights.

After our first experience with the hooded creature, it became tradition to scare the newbies with stories of the hooded creature who guards the gate and “if we’re lucky he won’t be there tonight – look, there he is!”

The cousin flashed her light at it and said, “that’s a pipe.”

So much for tradition.

We walked up the trail. The moon was big and bright so we didn’t need any flashlights to see where we were going, which is good, because I told everybody to keep their lights off so that nobody knows we’re out here. The cousin and the girlfriend were playing around with the stupid flashlight, shining it everywhere, and I told them to knock it off. Sure enough, some truck appeared behind us in the distance. We could hear the loud metal music playing, and we could hear hooting and hollering, as the truck sped up to reach us.

I said “turn off the damn lights!” as we all started running.

We jumped off the road and scrambled down the side towards a creek and then we all laid flat against the dirt hoping that we wouldn’t be seen.

The truck drove up over where we were hiding, they shined a spotlight around but didn’t see us, and they sped off again shouting and laughing. An empty beer can, tossed from the truck, landed next to my face.

We waited a few minutes before we climbed back out again and started heading back.

I grabbed the flashlights away from the girls and scolded them for almost getting us killed (possibly).

As we walked back to our cars, I kept wondering how they were able to get in if the gate was closed?

Now for the really creepy part- Shadows run around in the trees

We got back to the cars and were standing around talking about what we were going to do next. My brother and I were facing the gate, my friend was facing us, everybody else was inside. As we were talking, my brother and I saw this shadow, it looked like a man, run across from one side of the road out of the trees to the trees on the other side of the road- the side where we were parked at. We jumped in our cars and drove off quick. We didn’t know what it was, and we didn’t want to stick around to find out.

On other occasions- Police politely ask you to leave

On other occasions, we haven’t been chased out but politely asked to leave. There have been several times where we might be driving around the area, or we are parked somewhere, and the police will pull us over. They’ll run our names and see we’re clean, then say something like, “well, we won’t tell you to leave but this area can be quite dangerous at night so we highly recommend it.” So we leave.

BUT- Black Helicopters may chase you out of the area

This one time, we drove over to Black Star. I had just gotten a new car. I mentioned earlier how the roads are really fun to drive. Well, those curvy roads became the proving ground for any new car we got. As we got to the entrance to Black Star, we saw this helicopter up ahead. We stopped the car for a second as we observed that the helicopter would go down, then rise up, only to go down somewhere else. We decided maybe we should not drive down that road. We turned around and headed out to the main road- Santiago Canyon Road- and were about to head back into the city when my friend told me to pull over. He wanted to see what the helicopter was doing. We were there for a few minutes watching it do the same thing: go down in one spot, rise, move to a new place, repeat. Then we saw this other helicopter come from behind us and it started hovering over us. I took off and the helicopter chased us out. I kept asking my friends if it was still following us and they confirmed it was. We sped out of there and the chopper didn’t turn around until we hit the city just past Jamboree. Still, I didn’t stop driving until we got to the Block of Orange (now the Outlets of Orange) where we all got out of the car and looked up to make sure we weren’t still being followed. Rather than go straight home that night, we decided it may be a better idea to kill a few hours at the block. We spent the rest of the night driving around like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.

You know what I'm talking about.
You know what I’m talking about.

 

Is it Haunted?

 

There is definitely a creepiness factor to the place. There are a ton of roads in the area that are fun to drive at night, including one area that is completely covered by oak trees and has this old abandoned looking building at the top which somebody told me was an old insane asylum. I don’t think that’s true but it always made it scary to drive past. There’s even a church on Silverado Canyon road which I’m sure is a nice place to go to on Sunday morning but at night it looked very scary, especially because it used to have some broken windows and I was told that it was a KKK church. It’s a Calvary Chapel so somehow I doubt it.

I think that a lot of the creepiness comes from visiting the place at night. I’ve gone in the daytime to hike and the place is beautiful, the roads are beautiful, and the church looks normal. But at night, it looks like the perfect setting for a horror movie. In fact, in 1999, after months of visiting and hiking in the woods surrounding Black Star and Silverado Canyon, the movie the Blair Witch Project came out. A movie which we all thought was real. It almost made us not want to go hiking there at night anymore. Almost. I think it played with our minds though because we definitely went into the woods expecting to be creeped out and we were never disappointed. This probably had something to do with seeing weird stick dolls being hung from the trees after the movie came out, never before.

yup, these things.
yup, these things.

In all the times I’ve gone, I’ve never seen the blood dripping on the street signs but some do have black stuff spattered on them which looks like dried blood. With exception of that shadowy figure running across the road, I’ve never seen ghosts or mangled bodies walking around but we have encountered weird people hiding out in the woods. Usually just some kids getting high, drinking, screwing, or ghost-hunting. Maybe all of the above. Other times, I’ve driven down the road and seen people run up to the fence and then run back into the darkness. We even picked up a hitchhiker one time and drove him into town; he was very pleasant.

But- there is some stuff that is hard to explain

I have experienced some very strange things that I can’t really explain. I mentioned the laughing that we heard in the trees. This has happened on more than one occasion. Two of my friends and I went out and parked in front of this hill right before you turn onto Silverado Canyon Road. There’s a water tower up on top. We sat and waited. We heard what sounded like a can rolling down the street but we looked out and we didn’t see any cans. The can got louder and closer until we realized it wasn’t the sound of a can rolling but of someone cackling. My friend tried turning on his car (a brand new car) and it didn’t want to start at first. He finally got it going and we sped off down the road. The windows also didn’t want to go up. We didn’t get them up until we got back to Jamboree (notice how everything always goes back to normal once we get back to Jamboree). We thought it might be an electrical problem but he said that it never happened again. Sometime later I went up again in my parent’s new car and also experienced some “electrical trouble” when I couldn’t close the windows but then they worked just fine once I hit the city.

Another time, the three of us were driving down the road when headlights sped up behind us and caught up to us only to disappear. They didn’t pass us, they didn’t turn on to any other road, they just caught up and disappeared.

Yet another time, the three of us were hiking at night into the canyon to explore some cave that we discovered in the daytime (stupid idea, I know, but there were candles in the cave and we wanted to see who visited the cave at night). The closer we got to the cave, the more we heard footsteps rustling in the bushes next to us. We would walk, hear steps, stop, then hear the other steps stop a few seconds later. We’d look around and couldn’t see anything. Then we heard people walking on the trail, talking and walking, but they never appeared. Finally, we turned and started walking back to the car when we heard what sounded like something running after us from the bushes. We took off running back to the cars. I think that was the first time I had ever run two miles non-stop at a near sprint.

 

Real Danger

 

I have visited the place on numerous occasions, and have had some spooky experiences, but fortunately no one that has gone with me has ever gotten hurt. We’ve gone at night and hung out to drink, we’ve driven around, we’ve hiked, we’ve even gone into caves (again, stupid idea). But we have lived to tell about it. Other people have not had such great experiences. For starters, it really can be dangerous driving out there. There have been numerous accidents involving cars going off the road. I’ve seen cars stranded down in the canyon on quite a few of my hikes and I even saw a memorial for some kids who crashed on Prom night the last time I went.

There have also been dangerous encounters with people. In 2001, during the prime of when we were going up there, some gangsters vandalized a car that was parked at the end of Black Star, then returned to steal some CD’s that they saw in the car. Two guys and their girlfriends had returned to their car, found it vandalized, then these gangsters pretended that they were there to help. They jumped the two guys, smashed one in the head with a rock and put him in a coma, then they repeatedly raped the two girls, leaving them naked by the side of the road where they were able to flag down some help. Fortunately, they all survived and the criminals were arrested.

When we heard about that incident, we didn’t stop going but we did take extra precaution, and we always traveled in groups. One time we were offroading on Black Star and got the truck stuck in some mud. A group of guys offered to help us get the truck out. We accepted their help but we never took our eyes off of anybody. I think they were just as cautious of us as we were of them. That’s good. Never let your guard down.

I mentioned earlier about the police recommending we don’t stick around. Well, that was all after this incident happened. I’m glad they were there to keep us kids safe.

 

Conclusion

 

Black Star Canyon and the surrounding areas are creepy at night but they are great places to visit in the daytime. I don’t know if they’re really haunted but we have definitely had our share of spooky experiences there. Most of the stories I have heard other people tell have more to do with being chased out by locals and by KKK or devil-worshipers than they do with ghosts, but anybody who watches The Walking Dead can tell you that the living are more dangerous than the dead.

I would caution you not to go, but you probably won’t listen, so instead I caution you to not go alone, always pay attention to your surroundings, and be prepared to defend yourself if necessary. My brother, the ultrarunner and trail-runner extraordinaire, loves night running. He regularly runs trails at night, and has even run Black Star in the day all the way up to the Doppler ball in Corona, but he refuses to visit Black Star Canyon at night. He will not go there anymore. Probably because of the shadowy figure we saw run across the road at night, which he says he has seen again on other occasions. He is not alone. A recent article in the Orange County register claims that “shadow people” have been reported frequently at Black Star Canyon, and people get the sense of being followed by the shadows until they leave the area. My brother thinks that a shadow has followed him home before. You can read about his experience here.

I'll just leave that here.
I’ll just leave that here.

Happy trails, and look forward to hearing your experiences.

Final note: I don’t think it will be as scary now as it used to be. For one, there are more street lights in the area now, and a lot of the dirt roads have been paved over. It used to be quite an adventure trying to drive up the trail on those lucky occasions when the gate at Silverado was open. 

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