You are a lifelong resident of Torrance, California, a city whose description sounds, well… quiet, and which, according to Wikipedia, has such a noted community of people of Japanese ancestry that it is sometimes described as the “48th prefecture of Japan”. I looked through the Spanish and Mexican history of the area, when it was part of the 1784 Rancho San Pedro land grant and the 1846 Rancho de los Palos Verde division of that grant, and it seems on first blush to have been equally as uneventful a locale back then as it is today. Even its American history betrays it as a “planned city” designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. Nevertheless, you somehow managed to become inspired to pursue paranormal investigation as a pastime. What inspired you to delve into this pursuit? Are there a lot of ghost stories based out of Torrance or the surrounding area?
Wow, I think I learned more about my home city reading your question than in the 32 years I’ve lived here! Yes, the South Bay is a quiet community in the sense that not a whole lot happens here (Torrance HAS been chosen a good amount of times for filming locations! Even a building down my street was used for parts of the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”!). I was born into a stable, loving marriage with two older siblings, lots of cousins on each side, given a 12-year Catholic school education, and earned a degree and I work a 9-to-5 job. Not much in my life has been too crazy or lent itself to anything too wild. I haven’t seen too much of the world yet.
But if the world wants you, it’ll find its way to you — in my case, it crept in via cable television. In my early adult years, I was a huge fan of “Ghost Hunters” (paranormal reality TV show aired on Syfy television network between 2004 and 2016), then eventually “Ghost Adventures” (paranormal TV show aired on the Travel Channel since 2008), which I would probably credit as giving me the biggest boost of enthusiasm for the paranormal, and from there, my interest and passion for the paranormal blossomed —and continues to do so. It is probably precisely so that my home isn’t very exciting compared to the big cities, but that lack of excitement also gave me the safe space I needed to develop my passions without worrying about my safety or competing with other creatives.
Torrance itself doesn’t have a lot to go on with ghost stories. There have been a few urban legends: a ghost hanging around in a store at one of our malls (that section of the mall has since been demolished and built over), something about a murder of a mother and child at our airfield, and even a few ghost tales from my old high school. Hardly anything verifiable. The South Bay’s greatest paranormal landmark, however, is practically in my backyard: the Queen Mary in Long Beach. It seems this boring little area of LA County has lumped all of its paranormal activity onto this one ship, permanently docked and is now a floating museum and hotel. Oh, the stories I could tell you about it.
Given your interest in paranormal phenomenon, I gather you are a fan of the writer Charles Fort and “Forteism”?
Huh. I actually never heard of him. Thank you for the suggestion though!
No problem. As I understand it, he’s rather like required reading for paranormal investigators. Have you spent a time inside the Queen Mary, the ship you’ve described as haunted? Have you witnessed any phenomena there yourself?
The Queen Mary is near and dear to my heart! She’s even featured in my first novel “In Spirit”—where (most of) the climax and resolution of the story are set.
I’ve had a handful of experiences, but the biggest one I had was in June 2014 in an area called R Deck Forward (towards the furthest forward you can go on the ship) and during a tour, there was a huge bang under my feet; I can still feel the vibrations to this day. I actually just did a Strange Escapes event this past March where I got to prance around with some of the greats of paranormal investigating for a few days and had a few experiences here and there too!
Could you describe some of the paranormal experiences you had in your Strange Escapes events?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had too many paranormal experiences during the investigations with Strange Escapes, save some voices here and there. There were a handful of little things during my last encounter in March, but maybe the most moving one was when my group was in Room B340 (an infamous room that remained unused for years due to a high number complaints of poltergeist activity), and one of the group leaders suggested we all remain silent but focus on the word “happy” in our minds. When we played a recorder back, we got a voice that was able to say “happ” (attempting to say “happy”). It just goes to show you the power of intention and how much good you can affect simply with positive intentions.
Have any of these events provided inspiration for possible future works?
The Queen Mary proved to be a major inspiration if it made its way into one of my novels already, even without the Strange Escapes events. I do plan on attending more of these events in the future, and I can’t wait to see what inspiration waits for me across the country and even around the world. My visit to Ohio State Reformatory (on a different event) actually inspired me enough that it’ll make a cameo in my rewrite of “In Spirit”. I’d also really like to write the Old Washoe Club in Virginia City, Nevada, into one of my future stories, and maybe my first overnight investigation there (which takes place on the night of May 2nd — two weeks from when I am writing this!!!) will inspire something! So stay tuned!
When was the first time that you believe you witnessed paranormal phenomena?
My very first experience was on a Sunday in late August 2003. I stayed over at my best friend’s house after she told me her house is haunted. The next morning after her parents left to run errands, she and her sister discovered handwriting on the wall from a non-existent marker. Nothing sinister—just someone saying hi—literally.
Do you have a special goal in studying the paranormal? Are you looking for any specific answers?
My passion seems to lie with exploring ghosts (using the traditional definition most people refer to: the souls of people that are no longer inhabiting human bodies but have visited from the other side), but honestly, the world (and its afterlife) is my oyster. I am looking forward to learning just about anything the field has to offer (anything from elementals, conspiracy theories, cryptids, and Lord only knows what else out there). Something I feel I need to focus on is the technology side of investigating. There are basic tools (i.e. cameras, recorders, etc.), but then there are more advanced tools (i.e. EMF detectors, K2 meters, Spirit Box and its variants, etc.) that I have very little experience with, and it will slow my growth not only as a paranormal author but as a paranormal investigator if I don’t understand these tools and how and why they work.
(Rated PG: Adult language.)
One thought on “Torrance’s Ghost Hunter: 5000 words with NaNoWriMo winner Stefanie Allison (Part 1)”
As a former resident of Torrance, I appreciate your description.
I noted your love of the “ghost hunter” TV shows. Perhaps you would be interested in a copy of my book “The Frightened Ghost.” It addresses both that type of TV show and a haunted asylum with some dangerous ghosts. You may see a description at: http://www.seanbrandywine.com/product/the-frightened-ghost/
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you a copy via return email.
To be fair, anyone who reads thus may request a free copy also.
Take care and happy ghost hunting!
John Savage aka Sean Brandywine