Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Highland Park's Haunted Church

 [This was originally published in the Eagle Rock Boulevard Sentinel about two years ago, written by Christopher Nyerges, who  is a manager at the Highland Park Farmers Market on Tuesdays on Ave. 58. He is the author of several books including “Enter the Forest” and “How to Survive Anywhere.”  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or  Or, if you want to tell him your ghost story, just go to the Old L.A. Farmers Market any Tuesday]

Is there a haunted church in our community?

Numerous credible people have reported that the old brick Presbyterian church on N. Figueroa is haunted.  Oscar Enriquez, who works for the North Figueroa Association, and who has an office in the church, reports that he has heard strange noises in the church at least twice a month for the last five years.

“The first time I heard walking sounds right outside my door.  I was in the basement office all by myself around 5 a.m., and there was no chance that someone else was in there,” reports Enriquez.

One time when in the office, Enriquez was doing paperwork and there were three loud knocks on the door. He quickly opened the door and no one was there. “That put me out a bit,” he says.  He closed the door, and there were three knocks right again. He immediately opened the door, and there was no one present. “There is no way that someone can knock and then immediately disappear,” says Enriquez.  

Enriquez and various volunteers and security personnel have been in the church when they knew it was empty, and have heard walking on the stairs, and the laughter of a young girl.  Searching the building revealed no one else present.

Enriquez and others have ruled out echoes, sounds from Figueroa, and creaking walls as causing any of the sounds.

One particular area of interest is a stairway that leads up from the basement to the chapel.  “That area has given me the creeps,” said Enriquez.  “I get  goosebumps there.”

Another individual, who chose not to be named, has reported that the church is haunted and that he has actually seen a little girl on the stairway, all dressed in white.

When the school was in the basement, school children have reported hearing a young girl’s laughter in the bathroom when there was no one in the bathroom.

Enriquez reports that doors have suddenly slammed when there was no possibility of a breeze or wind causing the action.  He also reports that certain parts of the church are always extremely cold, despite the fact that there is heating in the church.  The cold areas seem to correspond to the haunted areas.

“Last week, an old man passing by told me that he had seen the ghost of a preacher in the church all dressed in black, back when he used to go to church there,”  reports Enriquez.

According to local historian, Charles Fisher, “The Highland Park Presbyterian Church, as it was originally named, was founded in the 1890s about the time Occidental College (originally a Presbyterian school) first came to Highland Park in 1897.  The congregation built its first permanent sanctuary in 1903 on the present site. It was a Mission Revival structure designed by the architect, Thornton Fitzhugh. I have a photo of that building in my book. It was replaced by the present building in 1923, which was designed by Architect, George Lindsey.

“The Gothic Revival structure is a reinforced concrete structure with brick facing. Up until a few years ago, it contained an incredible pipe organ, but many of the pipes were sold to the First Congregational Church at 6th and Commonwealth, which was building one of the largest church organs in the United States.  There are many Churches in Highland Park, but Faith United along with St Ignacious Catholic Church are the only ones with large Gothic sanctuaries.

“The name "Faith United" was the result of the merger of the congregations of Highland Park and Mt. Washington Presbyterian Churches in the 1970s.  The Faith United Presbyterian Church building was nominated as a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in 1989.  The church became a contributor for the Highland Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, which was established in 1994,” reports Fisher.

In order to seek some corroboration of a ghostly presence, I asked Fisher if he ever heard of a young girl dying or getting killed there, but he had no knowledge of any such occurrence.  According to some reports,  a monk used to live in the 3rd upper floor of the church in the little room there.

Enriquez explains that he believes in the existence of ghosts – the remaining spirit of a deceased person – due to a few experiences of his youth.  “When you die, you don’t really die, but you go somewhere else.  Just your body is gone,” says Enriquez.

Though several people who I interviewed told me of various “ghostly presences” in this church, only Oscar Enriquez was willing to have his name used.  I would appreciate hearing other reports from anyone with a story to share.  Please let me know of your experiences.

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