San Juan Capistrano, California boasts a lot of great qualities.
Among them are the friendly people, the mild to hot weather, and – of course – the mountain passes.
Ortega Highway, also known as Hwy 74 or route 74, which winds through the mountains like a spaghetti noodle, is one such destination for the kind of thrill-seeker who likes to take hairpin turns and face constant death.
Updated 2/10/2020 – In fact, parts of Ortega Highway are so dangerous that at times they will claim several lives per year, usually those of motorcyclists who have the bad luck to be caught on one of these turns by a car, or who skid out of control and are thrown from their bikes.
Horrifying as that is, further on down the 74 highway we come to a place where other terrors lurk.
The Ortega Highway: Where Real Life Terrors Lurk
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Highway 74: California’s Most Haunted Highway?
A business called Quest Diagnostics rests on the roadside, and it is the site of a number of inexplicable paranormal phenomena.
It’s these phenomena that have led many to call this area one of the most haunted places in Orange County, perhaps one of the most haunted places in California.
Strange lights sometimes glow from behind trees and sagebrush.
Streetlights will flicker on and off in the dead of night, and sometimes those who pass by will report seeing a clown on the side of the road.
“He always disappears as you get closer,” these folks are wont to say.
“Right before your eyes, like a mirage.”
Nor is this clown – who never seems to do anything malignant, but nevertheless strikes fear into the hearts of those passing by – the only apparition seen around there.
“The area is a virtual playground for ghosts and energies,” says one self-proclaimed expert on the area.
She is tall and thin, a medium who gives psychic readings online, climbing out of her mid-fifties and into her sixties; her silver and black hair is done into a ponytail reminiscent of the Katniss Everdeen look everyone was going for a few years ago.
“I studied under a yogi in Peru who could interact with spirits, and on a few occasions I witnessed him do it,” she says.
“Since then I’ve come to realize that I have what we call the touch, or the sight.
I have the psychic ability to see them.”
Ghosts of San Juan Capistrano
And to what spirits does this respected California psychic refer? What energies – besides the disappearing roadside clown – does she know about?
“There are too many to list,” she says, waving a hand at me as if this were a silly question.
“And they’re not all there for the same reason.
Some are there because that is where they’ve wound up.
Fate, or whatever passes for it in the afterlife, has led them to this place, and they congregate here on this haunted highway.
Others,” she says, and her voice takes on a slight tremor, “are not always here for such harmless reasons.”
I ask for an example of what she means.
She sighs as though I’m asking her to do a difficult thing, then aims one long and bony finger toward one of the light poles.
“You think that clown on the side of the road is bad – and you’re right; he’s evil, and would kill if he could.
But the thing that climbs up that pole every night and looks down on the people who drive by…” She breaks off, shivering in the warm afternoon sun.
“It’s like a skeleton, only it’s not.
It’s more like a moving carcass, but made up of some things that just don’t exist in this world.
That one…I do believe that thing would do a great deal more than just kill you.
I think it would take your soul.”
Have you driven down Ortega Highway?
What strange things have you experienced there?
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34921 Ortega Hwy
Trabuco Canyon, CA 92679