Haunted Avalon: The Dead Captain of the Catalina Boat House Hotel

In 1912, a gentleman named Captain Joseph McAfee navigated his houseboat from Venice Beach to Avalon, California in the hopes of making it his new home. After he purchased a parcel of land, he faced a dilemma. He could build a house, but why bother when he had a perfectly good one on the bay?

Debunking the Myth

Captain McAfee decided to drag his houseboat up the hill and place it on his property. Over time, Catalina Island became a popular tourist destination. The captain capitalized on this by adding rooms to his houseboat, and staggered them down the hill toward the bay.

Thus, the houseboat became an inn. It was named the Catalina Boat House Hotel during the early 1960s. Naturally, Captain McAfee wasn’t there to witness this official change…or was he?

Rumor has it that the captain was so in love with his makeshift home in Avalon that after he perished on the upper deck, he decided to come back and haunt the place. Matt has lived in Southern California all his life and spent many summers visiting Catalina Island with his family. As a child, he always wondered about the supposed ghost that still wandered the hotel.

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But as an adult he found the story to be nothing short of rubbish. “Everyone is so into all the ghost shows and crap now,” he said shaking his head. “How can you tell which places are truly haunted and which places are just using rumors as a ploy for business? It’s a shame.”

When his neighbor casually mentioned the ghost captain in passing, Matt decided enough was enough. It was time to debunk this age old myth once and for all. “I packed a bag, traveled to Catalina Island and checked myself into the infamous Catalina Boat House Hotel.

“I remember standing on the deck, looking out at as the sun reflected on the water and found myself laughing out loud,” he said with a smile. “In that moment it felt downright absurd to consider the hotel as potentially being haunted.” Matt swallowed then, and grew significantly paler.

“All of those warm and fuzzy emotions quickly changed after sundown, however,” he added. “It all started the moment I got back to my hotel room. Right away I noticed the smell of rotting meat, like someone had left a decaying body right in my bed.

“I looked everywhere for a potential source, but nothing seemed amiss—and nor was the bizarre smell in the hallway. I pulled my shirt over my nose and endured. Just a few minutes later, I heard a crash come from the bathroom…all of my belongings had fallen off the counter.

“Feeling a little freaked out, I walked in there and started picking them up one by one. It’s natural that things fall off of counters and shelves from time to time, but everything at once? It didn’t seem natural,” he shook his head.

“As I stood up and looked in the mirror, I saw this dark shadow, human in form, walk across my hotel room behind me. The very sight had all the little hairs on my arms rise within moments. I spent the entire night in the corner of the room with all the lights on.

“I’ll be back to Avalon next summer like usual…but never again will I say that the Catalina Boat House Hotel isn’t haunted.”