The San Pedro Haunting
By Javier Ortega
The following case is one of the most infamous and well documented cases that exists in the annals of paranormal research.
Taking place in the seedy harbor town of San Pedro, California, it is destined to become one of the most frightening paranormal encounters ever recorded.
In 1989 Dr. Barry Taff and cameraman Barry Conrad along with other associates, embarked on a case that has been one of the most monumental cases ever recorded of poltergeist activity, or attack I should say.
As the story goes, the residence of Jackie Hernandez at 593 west 11th street was the site of a very volatile haunting. Jackie’s haunting was full of psychokinetic energy that manifested itself into visual, auditory and olfactory paranormal phenomenon.
Jackie’s neighbor, Susan Castenada, had made the phone call to Dr. Barry Taff in the late summer of 1989. She reported the poltergeist activity and asked if he could come down and investigate. Jackie was distraught and did not trust Dr. Taff and his associates. Fearing that she would be ridiculed, she did not speak with them. It was not until late august of that year that Jackie herself called in and asked for help.
According to Dr. Taff, Jackie fit the bill of a quintessential poltergeist victim. Jackie came from a very volatile background. Suffering from severe mental duress, Abused by men, violent lifestyle, mental anguish and depression. Like most poltergeist victims, Jackie lived in an unhealthy environment in which one can argue that was conducive to extreme acts of psychokinetic violence.
Upon starting their investigation, Dr. Taff and his team heard loud scuffling coming from the attic. In what he recalls as “a 200 pound rat running around the attic” the noises were loud enough for everyone to hear. According to Jackie, she said that it was the ghost of the disembodied head she had seen earlier in the attic. When Joe and myself interviewed Barry Conrad who was the cameraman, he mentioned to us that there had been several documentary crews that went to the house, and taking footage only from the outside, they could hear the same loud and heavy scuffling in the attic. The latest report was in late September of 2008.
Then there were the reports of some form of ectoplasmic ooze that seemed to drip down from various places in the home. While the team investigated, the ooze manifested itself. Barry Conrad quickly managed to catch that on tape. The ooze was studied and taken to a forensics lab at UCLA. The results were that it was human blood plasma with high levels of iodine and copper. It’s important to note that the team reported smelling like rust or oxidation when entering the home. There was also the overwhelming stench of decomposing matter, which is a good indicator of a haunting.
Ooze that manifested itself throughout the residence. Later it was determined to be human blood
Now Jackie did report that the poltergeist activity seemed to target her. She told them how the television would turn itself on, appliances would malfunction and objects would be hurled at Jackie. More frightening was when Jackie reported that she had seen two apparitions in her home. Well, three if you count the disembodied head in the attic.
Jackie claimed that while pregnant, she got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Upon passing a bedroom, she saw the apparition of an old man sitting in the kid’s bunkbed. Sitting and staring at her. The other time was when she saw another old man that was sitting at her dining room table. She described him as “corpse like” in features and dressing in old fashioned overalls and having a very sunken face. Much like you would picture a corpse.
Now, here is where it gets dangerous. When the team was getting ready to leave, Jeff Wheatcraft and Larry Brooks decided to go up to the attic and take a look around, as well as some shots for reference.
Not long after they were both up there, Jeff Wheatcraft reported that he had heard a noise behind him in the dark attic. Without turning around, he swung his camera around and snapped a picture. Seconds after he took that picture, something snatched the camera from his hand and it was thrown several feet back.
Now imagine you entering a home in which the owner reported seeing a disembodied head in the attic, and you hearing sounds like someone moving heavy furniture or a heavyset man running around the attic upon arrival to the home. Would you have gone up the attic to investigate? well if you are a seasoned ghost hunter, I guess that’s all part of the job. For the rest of us, that would not even had been an option. When Barry Conrad was telling me the story from a first hand account, I could not help but think that these guys were nuts for even trying to go up there.
Jackie Hernandez approaching her home in 1989
So Jeff Wheatcraft’s camera was snagged from his own hands. Jeff being a hardcore skeptical journalist could not explain how it was that the camera was taken from his hands, and taken apart and put in two different locations in the attic. Jeff and Larry reported that the camera had the lens taken off and placed near some rafters while the camera itself sat in the back of the attic in an old crate.
Now, shaken from the ordeal, they reported what just happened to the crew downstairs. Barry Conrad immediately hooked up his equipment together and went up to the attic to record what was going on. The odd thing, well not so odd for people who are familiar with this, but Barry’s equipment malfunctioned as soon as it passed through the little porthole that led to the attic. Barry could not get the camera to turn on while in the attic. As soon as he stepped down from the attic, it would cut on and work perfectly. So this happened for a few times before them finally giving up. By this time, Jeff and Larry had been up in the attic for some time now.
The team had gone home for the day. Not expecting to witness more than what they had just experienced. A week or so later, Jackie had called Barry complaining about heavy activity going around the house. When the team (except for Dr. Taff) arrived, Jeff and larry quickly went up to the attic. Within a few minutes of being up there, Jeff reported hearing some snapping sounds behind him when all of the sudden he was strung up from his neck by a rope that had been tightened around without Jeff or Larry realizing it. This all happened in a split second. Jeff was hanging from a large nail that was protruding from a rafter. Without hesitation, Larry at first hearing the moans and scuffling by Jeff, quickly snapped a few photographs.
In what many have described as being one of the eeriest photographs ever taken, Larry managed to capture Jeff hanging from the nail by his neck. Somehow whatever was up there with them got fed up and decided to wrap a cord around Jeff’s neck and literally lift him up and hang him from a nail. Luckily for Jeff, Larry quickly helped him down and they both made their way down after that ordeal.
Jeff Wheatcraft being hung from his neck by an unseen force.
In the video that was shot, we see Jeff and Larry making their way down from the attic. Jeff’s face is visibly pale and he looks shaken from what had happened. Now to all those who say that ghosts can’t hurt you, I suggest you study this case.
If Larry was not there with Jeff, this could have easily been a more severe attack. Jeff’s neck could have been broken. After that incident, and without any surprise, Jeff did not go back into that house. Who could blame him?
When we interviewed Barry Conrad, he mentioned that they all had witnessed lights, or orbs that where three-dimensional globs that floated about. In one instance, Barry said that a bright light went through him, feeling the electrical charge, he described it as warm and strong feeling. Statically charged, he was knocked out.
Now what follows brings a whole new element to a case that is said to result from psychokinetic energy. PK cases usually result from an individual who is highly unstable and revolve around them. Manifestation occurring only when the victim is present. In the Jackie Hernandez case, this was not what happened.
When Jackie had called Barry Conrad in order to drop something off at his house, Barry quickly met her outside and picked up the object and talked for a moment, then went back inside his condo. Within days of that brief contact, Barry reported that the ghost or ghosts had followed him as well. Strange things started happening in his condo. Chairs re-arranging themselves to the middle of the room, flashlight turned on and left in the middle of another room, pointing up. The most critical of these incidents was when Barry found his stove on and live bullets sitting on the stove.
Those of us who have studied poltergeist and paranormal phenomenon, know that it is rare, almost unheard of when the activity targets another individual. PsychoKinetic energy is emanated from an individual and focused on or around them. In the Jackie Hernandez case, the activity seemed to target her, as well as others leading most of us to believe that this was not a PK case.
I remember Barry Conrad telling us that in one instance, when they were about to be interviewed on a popular television talk show, upon arrival, he believed that Jackie’s presence had made the production equipment fail. Cameras and teleprompters failed to respond for quite sometime. Something no one in the studio had ever witnessed before. So if this was the case, could it have been that the ghost followed them to the studio and caused the equipment to fail? Or could it have been Jackie? and if it was Jackie that caused this, why did it not affect Barry’s cameras in the other times he had interviewed her?
Then there is also the second time Jeff Wheatcraft was attacked again.
Shortly after the San Pedro incident, Jackie had moved to Kern county, which is a small and rural area about 380 miles north of Los Angeles. When she had reported to the team that the activity had followed her, Jeff and Barry had made their way up there. They wanted to capture more activity on film. Jeff, feeling that he was safe being that he was far from the San Pedro home, did not have any qualms about going and visiting Jackie. While up there, Jackie’s neighbors, who had helped her move in, reported that while doing so, they were carrying a television when a ghostly face manifested itself on the screen.
When Barry and Jeff arrived, they started to notice poltergeist activity right off the bat. Orbs of lights were seen. A heavy camera mounted on a tripod was swung around by some unseen force. One of Jackie’s neighbors decided to use a Ouija board to contact the spirit that was haunting her.
During the seance, they managed to ask the ghost(s) a few key questions. Barry and Jeff had their hands on the planchette and started asking questions. Simple questions like: Are you a ghost? were answered with the planchette moving towards the written “Yes” on the board. Making itself known, the ghost moved it repeatedly to the “Yes” in a fast motion, back and forth.
Now before they actually started the seance, Barry reported that the temperature had dropped in that room. Making it feel like it was freezing inside. There were 3 candles that were lit which the ghost would blow out in succession. This happened a few times.
When I mentioned earlier that the Jackie Hernandez case could not have been fully a PK case, I based it on a few facts, like while during the seance, the ghost would reply to them in old english language. Nothing of which Jackie ever used or was in her day to day lexicon or vernacular. One example was the use of word “Phantoms” instead of ghosts. Where Barry asked something along the lines of “how many ghosts are there” and the answer was: “Phantoms fill the skies around you“. Another example was when the sun was barely coming up, the ghost spelled out: “I must go now, the sun cometh“.
Again, something not very shakespearean, but something that someone with Jackie’s vernacular would not have thought of saying. Does this rule out PK influence? No. But it is strong evidence to the contrary.
While asking the ghost questions, they had asked why it had targeted Jeff. The ghost replied that he “resembled his killer“.
According to Jackie, she had done a few seances before and had gotten two names that could be of the ghost. Herman Hendrickson and John Damon. Said to have been murdered. Barry Conrad told us that the ghost targeted Jeff because he resembled the killer. Who Barry believes to have been a guy named Charles Pearson. Barry did some digging around and found out that Charles Pearson was a seaman that had a bad reputation in San Pedro. Attempts on locating him proved futile since he died a while back.
It is important to note that the noose that was tied around Jeff’s neck was from an old cord that was fastened together using a “sailor’s knot”. Goosebumps yet?
According to the ghost during the questioning, it said that he never resided in the 593 west 11th street house. His killer had lived there.
When they asked it why it targeted Jackie, the ghost responded: “Energy”. So they asked it again, “what kind of energy?” “Dead” it responded. Assuming it meant that Jackie had negative dead energy.
While they were asking questions, Jeff was once again attacked. Witnesses there all claimed that while Jeff was sitting down, something had picked him up and threw him across the room. Hitting a high point of the wall and coming down. Unfortunately, the cameras refused to work, so nothing was captured on film.
So what can we make of this case? The ghost in this case targeted a victim and the people around her as well as a geographical area.
Barry told us that his maid had overheard him talking about the case and mentioned to him that she lived a few blocks away from Jackie in San pedro. She went on to say that she had seen that old man ghost in the street. She described him wearing the overalls and flannel shirt that Jackie had mentioned. The maid said that the apparition lasted for a bit and seemed to follow her.
I don’t know if we should consider this as evidence, since it is a great possibility that the maid could have overheard all the details including the details of the clothing and just mentioned it to get some form of attention. Then again, who’s to say I’m right, the ghost did say that it never lived in that home.
Jackie Hernandez has since moved back to San Pedro and has not reported any new disturbances. The house at 593 west 11th street, however still is reported to be haunted. According to the owner of the place, no tenant has stayed there more than 6 months at a time.
Production crews attempting to get some new stock footage, report loud bangs emanating from the attic.
I must warn that any ghost hunting group wanting to go there be careful since the ghost is known to have followed people home.
Barry Conrad and Victoria Gross were kind enough to give me a few DVDs which they have produced. One of them, “An unknown encounter” is the documentary on the Jackie Hernandez case. It shows unseen footage of the haunting including the noises in the attic and the more famous hanging photograph and after math. It’s a very well made DVD and I highly recommend it for all you paranormal enthusiasts out there.
You can order it from Barry’s website:
An unknown encounter
Special thanks to Javier Ortiz and GhostTheory.com