Friday, September 2, 2011

Was Visalia's Mooney Mansion haunted by the spirit of a little girl?

Statue of Hugh Mooney and his favorite hunting dog, located in
Mooney Grove Park. - Image courtesy of Visit Visalia.

If you've ever visited Visalia there's a good chance you have been to or at least driven by Mooney Grove Park; so named for Hugh Mooney who donated 100 acres of his ranch to act as a park in 1909. For over a century the park has hosted many gatherings and since 1948 has been home to the Tulare County Museum. But there is another location that was associated with Mr. Mooney. His home. And it was said to be haunted.

The house itself was located on Court Street and changed ownership through the years after Mr. Mooney passed away. Sometime in the 1980's the owner turned the mansion into a boarding house that had nine bedrooms with a common bath and kitchen facilities. One of the upstairs bedrooms was turned into a billiards room complete with an antique table. Also, downstairs in the main foyer there was an antique jukebox that played an old selection of 78 rpm records.

But in the evenings for many years, random thumps would be heard from the upstairs billiard room usually right before or after midnight. The inhabitants of the house would go upstairs to investigate and when the opened the door and entered the room they would find billiard balls and cue sticks on the floor; the balls were usually stored a wall rack with the cues or left in the table pockets. This happened on many occasions and once it was said that when the people entered the room to check on the noise the balls were still moving as if they had just been touched.

Even more interesting is that the antique juke box would randomly play, and usually around the early dawn hours. It got so bad that the owner started to leave it unplugged during the summer months when the occurrences were more likely to happen.

Curious as to what was causing all the strange activity, the owner of the house started to research the history of the home. After talking with several historians at the Tulare County Museum they discovered that sometime in the early 1930's a young girl, about the age of 6, had died in one of the upstairs bedrooms from some type of lung malady. She wasn't a member of the Mooney Family, but it's believed that she might have been the daughter of two San Francisco socialites who had come to Visalia to visit the Mooneys. Her full name is unknown but the owner was able to discern that her first name was April and her last name was Mc-something. It's said that her body was buried somewhere on the property, but there has been no documentation to prove this.

The strange occurrences seemed to stop sometime in 1990's when the property was sold numerous times and the interior of the house was gutted for refurbishment. During demolition an old doll was discovered in one of the walls in what was the billiard room. The doll was given to the Tulare Historical Society and was able to be dated to being made sometime in the 1920's and was made in a factory in San Francisco.

Was the little girl haunting the room where her doll was at because she wanted it back? That could explain the odd sounds and objects being moved. But what of the antique jukebox playing on random (was it playing Queen?) down in the foyer? Perhaps the little girl liked to listen to music. It is interesting to note though that the activity stopped when the doll was found. I wonder since the doll was given to the Tulare County Museum to put on display, is there any activity there now?


Anonymous said...

Did you ever read about the statues that were on the island near the lake at Mooney's Grove park? There was a statue of two children, a boy and a girl, that stories say were put there because of some kids that drowned in the lake/river there. The story goes WAY back and is mentioned by researchers as early as the 1940's. Ever been near the river at night? It is very creepy.

Anonymous said...

I heard the stories of the children that had drowned being the statues on the island. Folklore, I guess.