November 02, 2016

Halloween at the Dead Doctor's Mansion

I remember the days when Halloween night was all about how late I could stay out and how wild of a time I could have. My life has gotten a bit more civilized over the last couple of years.

When it comes down to it, for me Halloween really isn't about partying anyway. It's about being spooked. It's letting the macabre drape over me and stick to me like a cobweb. It's the smell of a fog machine and the feeling of an icy grip on my back.

It's when the hauntings that I feel all year feel welcome and safe, rather than intrusive and threatening.

So it makes sense if I'm not going to dress in some sexy costume that I should go to a notoriously haunted 19th century Victorian house for ghost stories and a magic show on Halloween night.

And, for the first Halloween night in my life, I had a date.

Circa 1909 (postcard courtesy of Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society)

The Dr. Willella Howe-Waffle House and Medical Museum was built in 1889 as the home and office of physicians Alvin and Willella Howe-Waffle. It was originally located near the corner of North Bush Street and 7th Street (now Civic Center Drive) in the Orange County city of Santa Ana, but it was moved to the corner of North Sycamore and Civic Center Drive in 1975 to save it from demolition. 

circa 2021

In its former location now? A Burger King parking lot.

Willella Howe-Waffle was one of the first female physicians in Orange County, in a time when it was very much of a man's profession.

She lived and worked in the Queen Anne-style house...

...and she died at a patient's bedside.

Otherwise there were no other known deaths in the mansion itself, though a woman reportedly died in the upstairs apartment of the carriage house. Something in there spooked a local historian enough to make her not want to return to it or speak of it ever again.

So, the Howe-Waffle House made the perfect venue for spirits to ring bells and write messages on chalk boards and influence which playing cards were chosen out of a deck.

We were surrounded by plenty of creepy architectural and decorative details, like the glazed ceramic tiles depicting hunting dogs that surround the fireplace... imposing cast bronze figures...

...and other mantle embellishments.

Doors with ornate hardware were locked.

Climbing the servants' staircase in the back, off the kitchen, was verboten.

So, we entertained ourselves amidst the tinctures and tonics...

...the potions and potential poisons.

Sickness is pretty scary, but sometimes, the treatment for it seems even more frightening.

It's no wonder so many horror stories take place in hospitals...

...and why so many ghosts tend to frequent them.

The only reported hauntings of the Howe-Waffle House are of a little boy (who may or may not be playfully and audibly running around upstairs from time to time) and of a gentleman who frequents one of the two parlors.

But that doesn't mean there aren't others...

...considering how old the house is...

...and how old the stuff inside of it is.

But it's funny to think that the ghosts may have followed the house to its new location, rather than hanging around the Burger King parking lot where it once stood.

We didn't feel much of anything there on Halloween night, but I suspect that's the one night a year that the ghosts take a break and keep to themselves. There were probably too many people there wandering around, and too many requests to make their presence known, to bother spooking any of us for real.

I can just imagine them chuckling to themselves and shaking their heads at us, we who are so curious of what it's like on the other side, not appreciating the time we've got on this side.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Time Capsule That Is Lanterman House
Photo Essay: A Vacant Hospital's Frightening Admissions
Photo Essay: Patton State Forensic Mental Hospital for the Criminally Insane
Photo Essay: 100 Years of Mental Illness at Norwalk State Hospital
Photo Essay: The Museum of Misfit Houses

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