Resident Ghosts Of The Coach House

the coach house

The Coach House Halloween photo: Andrella Christopher

The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano is a small but storied music venue, a diamond in the rough founded in 1976. If local legend and spooky tales from staff members are to be believed, excellent music acts are not all The Coach House has hosted over the years. A number of ghosts and other things that go bump in the night seem to have a permanent residency inside the venue, and they often make their presence very known.

“Weird things happen here when the lights go out and the music stops,” said Clyde, The Coach House manager. Over many years of late nights and early mornings Clyde has plenty of hair-raising stories, from the humorous, to the downright spine-chilling.

“One night me and August [a co-worker] were the only ones here, and I was puttin’ some stuff away. Now, you can hear through these walls, and I heard people talking over here (points to the wall by the bar). I thought, ‘Shit, August is talking to somebody.’ It was two voices, but you couldn’t quite hear what they were saying. But you could definitely hear ‘em.

“So when I left, I walked out of the door, and August is sitting outside having a cigarette, and I said, ‘August, who was in there? Who were you talking to?’ And he said, ‘I wasn’t in there, I’ve been sitting out here waiting for you.’ And I go, ‘Well there’s somebody in there!’”

Apparitions, spooky thuds, and unexplainable noises are par for the course if you work at The Coach House. Every employee has stories, and they’re quick to regale the creepy tales. Amy, a Coach House cook, is adamant.

“Oh they’re totally here! When I’m here by myself in the kitchen, it’s like 9 a.m. in the morning, I can hear glasses tinkling, and feet moving, and I know there’s no one here.”

With lots of nooks and crannies, dark corners, and eerie staircases, the “backstage” area seems a natural place for ghouls to come out to play. However, one of the upstairs hallways, lit by an ominous looking exit-sign, has a unique problem.

“They (ghosts) hang out at that end of the hallway [a dark, dreary corner that’s spooky just to look at], and they hang out by dressing rooms four and five. That’s where most of the stuff comes from,” Clyde said.

“I’ve never really experienced anything myself at the end of the hallway, other than the fact that you have a hard time keeping light bulbs on back there,” Clyde noted. “They burn out faster than any of the other bulbs.”
Fittingly, when shown the area, there is indeed, a darkened bulb.

As far as the dressing rooms go, number five, a 50’s-themed room centered around a coffee table covered in hodge-podge faces of mid-century idols like Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley, once housed a haunted television.

“It used to go on by itself,” Clyde said. “The ghost hunter lady [a Coach House performer who took interest in the venue’s haunted history] was here and she was in this room talking, and the TV went on, and I told her, ‘Oh yeah it goes on by itself. It don’t go off by itself, but it goes on by itself.’”

The amateur ghost huntress once spent the night in the venue, reaching out to the spirits and even collecting an EVP, a recording that supposedly captures the voices of any ghosts who feel like being social. After analyzing her findings, she came up with an unexpected conclusion.

“She’s the one that told me she found five ghosts, and most of them are women, which surprised me!” Clyde said.

So who exactly are these women? Past performers? Loyal Patrons? Ex-employees? Clyde has a different idea.

“It’s not an old enough building for anyone to have died here, but I’ve always had a theory about that old wood by the stairs. Gary [the owner] and I got it at an old ghost town in Nevada. I think maybe the ghosts came with the wood, they’re in the wood, or lived in that house or something.”

Suddenly, he remembers another story.

“I worked with this lady here for years. She was a cocktail waitress, and she got cancer and died.

“I was sitting by the smoking door one night, just before the band started. At about 7:30, this mist went flying by me. It wasn’t smoke, it was this weird mist.

“Then we got the call the next day that she had died. I asked, ‘Well what time did she die?’ And they said, ‘About 7-7:30.’ And I think it was Rae, coming to say goodbye or something. It was just weird. Supposedly it’s a bunch of women, maybe she’s one of them.”