The town: Lake Elsinore, California.
The date: 1883.
The place: the olive groves which rest at the feet of Elsinore Mountain, near the Ortega Highway.
In the decades following the great gold rushes of the mid-nineteenth century, California was an increasingly – if sometimes somewhat reluctantly – populous land.
Updated 2/10/2020 – Native tribes and settlers of many different nationalities coexisted in a fragile societal ecosystem, which was frequently embroiled in turmoil and danger.
This alone would be likely enough to eventually produce tales of an unusual sort, which might fester beneath the skin of ensuing generations like a splinter, until the right person could come along to dig it out.
When you add to that the fact that strange legends had existed in this part of the world for centuries before the settlers came along, you find your recipe for something strange and – in this case at least – awful.
The horror comes in two parts, as it turns out.
The first part is what supposedly happened to Miss Elizabeth Banner in the fall of 1883.
Local witnesses at the time claimed to have seen the poor woman attacked and eventually killed by the reanimated corpse of her own brother on the day of his funeral.
Details have always been sketchy, but according to the bits and pieces of the legend from different sources which actually do line up, it seems that Josiah Banner, late a corporal in the Confederate Army during the States War (Civil War), had amassed enough savings once all the fighting was done to move himself and his entire family out to California.
At this time, not only was there the promise of gold in them thar hills, but also there just might have been a good chance of building a new life far away from the ensuing animosity that followed our nation’s bloodiest war.
He moved his family out to California, whereupon he prospered for over fifteen years, before eventually succumbing to consumption, which was common in those days.
At the end of the brief funeral, his sister Elizabeth remained at the grave site.
The rest of the mourners go no more than a couple of hundred yards down the road when they heard shrieking.
According to witnesses, the body of Josiah Banner, rotting and terrible, had sprung up from the freshly-disturbed earth, and was now chasing his sister.
By the time anyone was able to get back to the area, both the corpse and Miss Elizabeth were gone.
There was no trace of them on the scene, except for a trail of blood which led nowhere, and several muddy, squelchy footprints.
Up a ways from where it happened, there was a hole trampled in a section of fence, and more blood.
So much for the first part of the horror – that is all anyone knows of that story.
Now, though, people will occasionally run across Miss Elizabeth as they travel through the olive groves.
By most accounts, whenever they see the apparition, she is running full-tilt away from something, looking back over her shoulder and screaming soundlessly.
The most disturbing thing about her are the lacerations on her face.
One observer who had the misfortune of seeing her run by up close said that she appeared to have barbed wire wrapped around her face, as if she had run into a loose barb-wire fence and had become entangled in it.
Perhaps if this had not happened, she would have escaped.
Now, though, it seems as if she will run from him forever, always looking back over her shoulder at the thing which was once her brother.