Kern River Valley
I had been coming to the Kern River Valley for years, mostly with a Boy Scout troop. We would drive through Kernville on our way to one of the camping spots along the river, or to mount a raft for a white-water adventure or to pass through as we made our way to a summer camp deep in the forest. One thing I never would have suspected, Kernville and the surrounding areas are haunted.
I found this fun fact one day as my daughter and I, along with 7 rambunctious scouts, made our way home and decided to stop in at a quaint little ghost town called Silver City, located in Bodfish, California, very near Lake Isabella. This town was put together from old houses, churches and historic buildings from around the area, and cropped up on my ghost radar while looking for things to do while at camp. I just wish I had known about it much earlier.
As mentioned, the town is a mix of structures from different eras that were brought in when the towns they belonged to were bulldozed to make way for modern conveniences. An old bunkhouse, a spired church and the old Whisky Flat Jail are just a few of the historic buildings that have made their way to this refuge. J. Corlew, the owner of the town, explained that it appears the past owners of these buildings decided to tag along when they were moved. So haunted is the ghost town, that Silver City has been featured on several national TV shows, including, My Ghost Story and This Old House. J. is not shy talking about the ghosts that live in his museum town and he even gives nightly, “Lantern Light Tours” during peak season so guests can get a feel of the spookiness of Silver City and perhaps have a ghostly experience of their own. Silver City is open daily from 10am to 5pm, rain or shine, for a ridiculously low fee.
Over the years, J. and I have become close friends, family really. In that time, he has shown me so many things in the area that only a local could know. Most, but not all of course, include ghosts. One of these local points of haunted interest is the old Keyesville Massacre site. This area just below the small town of Wofford Heights, is marked by three crosses on a rise just above and old Piute area used for grinding their food or doing their wash. It was here that the US Cavalry slaughtered 35 Piute men in revenge for assumed crimes against settlers in the Owens Valley. The brutality of the massacre has apparently left a scar so deep in the surrounding area that, it is said, the spirits of the Piute’s killed here cannot rest and roam this site, possibly looking for revenge. It is a place the intrepid Para Traveler should definitely check out while in the area.
Keyesville itself has a bit of a haunted history, even though there is virtually nothing left of the town itself. One thing that is still present if you brave the 3-mile dirt road, is the old cabin where Newt Walker, perhaps the fastest draw in history whom nobody ever heard of, lived. Newt disappeared one evening but is said to still haunt the cabin where he was last seen alive.
Ghost hunting can build an appetite like little else and, luckily, Kernville has plenty of places where a hungry Para Traveler can fill up on good food and wet your whistle. My favorite spot in Kernville for casual dining has to be The Kern River Brewing Company. Serving traditional fare such as gourmet burgers, brats, fries and assorted sandwiches, they also have some of the best original micro-brews you will ever come across. From Isabella Blonde Ale to Gauntlet Imperial Stout, IPA to Hard Seltzer, you will be able to find what suits your taste buds at the Kern River Brewing Company.
For those looking for something a bit more upscale, Ewing’s just might be the place. Steak, lamb, chicken and seafood, not to mention a killer chicken fried steak, this upscale eatery has it all. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Ewing’s is one of those places you will remember. Not just for the food of course, but for the spectacular view of the Kern River just below the restaurant.
Last, and certainly not least is a place that has become a legend in the Kern River Valley and beyond. Johnny McNally’s is a bit of a drive north of Kernville, but if you are looking for perhaps the best steak you will ever have, this casual steakhouse is for you. McNally’s is a sit-down steakhouse and burger stand rolled into one and no matter which you chose you will not be disappointed. One of the favorites, and one you will not be able to eat in one sitting, is their 40-ounce Porterhouse dinner with all of the fixings. If you decided to visit this locally famous steakhouse, make sure you bring your appetite.
Ghost Hunting, a fine meal and the beautiful surroundings can wear a Para Traveler out. This does not mean however, you have to stop your adventure in all things ghostly. Almost directly across from the Kern River Brewery Company, are the cozy Sierra Gateway Cottages. These cabins are for rent and there just happen to be a couple of them that have a lingering spirit or two. The Lakehouse is the largest cabin available and is said to be haunted. I have stayed in this cabin a couple of times but the spirit has yet to make itself known. The view however, is worth the stay. Unlike the Lakehouse, cabin number 5, known as the Bunkhouse, has never failed to provide a few unexpected surprises.
Said to be haunted by Bob Hope’s nephew, for reasons I will not detail, Mr. Hope has made himself known in some pretty convincing ways. I woke up one morning to find every door, drawer, cabinet and refrigerator wide open in this large, two floor cabin. Luckily, I had a couple audio recorders going that night and could clearly hear the activity going on as I slept. Other times, me and my partner, Bob Davis, heard footsteps walking around, had things move and disappear, only to reappear somewhere else and once, while trying to sleep in the lower room, the bedside lamp would turn on for no reason and would wake me up. After I asked Mr. Hope to please stop and let me sleep, he kindly left me alone. I highly recommend adventurous Para Travelers to look into this one of a kind cabin.
After a long weekend of ghost hunting, wandering the quaint shops of Kernville and before setting out on the drive home, a good breakfast is a must. When staying in the Kernville area there is only one place to have your morning meal and that is The Cracked Egg. Nestled in the heart of town, this restaurant is the place to eat before heading out. They have the best Eggs Benedict on the planet, and their skillets can only be called epic. That is not to say everything else is not. I have found nothing on their breakfast menu that I wouldn’t heartily recommend. Even their coffee seems better than most.
For those that have always wanted to go on a paranormal adventure, but never could decide where or how, Lake Isabella and the Kernville area are just the places to visit. From the Old Kernville Cemetery, the historic dusty ghost town and a real haunted massacre site, the ghosts of the Kern River Valley are just waiting to say hello.