Ever since Michael J. Kouri was struck by a car as a young child, he has been able to see and communicate with spirits, he said.
“I wasn’t terribly injured,” he said about the accident when he was 8. “But it was like a gateway opened. I see everything.”
Kouri, a psychic medium from the San Gabriel Valley, learned to cultivate this ability and eventually used it to research and write about history and hauntings in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
He offers various ghost tours, including Ghosts Along the Coasts, which takes participants from Long Beach to San Clemente to see the sights and hear stories of history and spirits along the way.
His ghost tours and readings have been featured nationally – he’s been on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The View,” the History Channel and the Travel Channel.
“I really believe that God gave me this gift to help the spirits and to help people understand the true meaning of life and their spiritual path,” Kouri said.
He’s releasing his second book today, “Haunted Houses of Hollywoodland,” which features a section dedicated to Huntington Beach and other Orange County haunted spots.
Here’s a look at some of the haunted places in Huntington Beach, according to Kouri.
Although the Golden Bear no longer exists, spirits still roam the area around Pacific Coast Highway near Main Street, Kouri said.
“I’ve seen the spirit of Janis Joplin there. I have seen the spirit of Jimi Hendrix walking the street there,” Kouri said. “The reason spirits haunt really is they’re doing the things they did when they were alive.
“So we know that Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin appeared at that club and they hung out there. Even though they didn’t die there, if they enjoyed themselves at that site, that’s why their ghosts would be there.”
“The pier, I would say, is probably the most haunted part of Huntington Beach,” Kouri said.
The Huntington Beach Pier is chock-full of spirits, including ghostly surfers who can be spotted near the pilings, murder victims and spirits of those who have committed suicide on the pier, he said.
“In the old days, Huntington Beach was a city that was really out of control,” Kouri said. “In the ’60s and ’70s – that was a wild time in American history. The pier wasn’t really as active as it is today. Today, it’s more family-oriented.”
Pier Diner and Vendors
Years before Ruby’s became a fixture at the end of the pier, the site was home to an ice cream shack and vendors selling trinkets to visitors, Kouri said.
He said there is one ghost in particular who haunts the area, and she can give those who see her quite a scare.
Erma, a Japanese woman who owned a shell shack on the pier and, according to Kouri, was found strangled in the back of her store.
“Nobody ever knew who killed her,” he said, adding he wasn’t sure when she was killed.
There was a legend that Erma was murdered by a corrupt detective who tried to force her to hand over some of the shop’s earnings under the table.
“When she appears today, people are often freaked out by her because she often appears wearing a necklace of seashells and seaweed,” he said. “That seaweed is rotten and it stinks, and there are always flies around her.”
The Newland House
“It’s very, very haunted,” Kouri said of the Newland House. “Doors open and close by themselves, and doors lock, and (people) hear conversations.”
Kouri has several stories of encounters at the Newland House, including one that involved a spirit believed to be a young woman singing to a child.
“I started to smell something like baby powder,” he recalled about one tour. “Upstairs in the bedroom, there was a rocking chair and it started rocking back and forth. We heard humming. It was a pretty voice. It was a young voice.”
Kouri said a young girl on the tour thought the rocking chair was a special effect, but when Kouri explained why the chair was moving, the spirit left.
“It was really rocking, and right when I said that, it stopped abruptly,” he said.
The Pet Cemetery
Although cemeteries are expected by some to house spirits, the Sea Breeze Pet Cemetery doesn’t have the kind of ghosts a visitor might expect.
“It’s haunted by gang members,” Kouri said. “The people that are haunting it are the victims of the gang members and the gang members themselves.”
Kouri said most of the ghosts in the cemetery are from the 1960s and ’70s, when the site was said to be used for various gang-related rituals.
A 15-year-old named Jesus who haunts the site stands out to Kouri.
Kouri said he believes he was killed because he did not want to participate in one of the gang rituals.
He wanders the cemetery searching for his mother.