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Haunted Ortega Highway

Sally Painter
Ortega Highway Route 74, California

Ortega Highway is called one of the most haunted roads in California. This treacherous highway has been the cause of many vehicular deaths. It's also been a popular place for serial killers to dump the bodies of their victims.

Fast Facts About the Haunted Ortega Highway

The twisting stretch of the Ortega Highway only consists of two-lanes that take sharp turns and unexpected curves. It serves as a connection between the two California counties of Riverside and Orange. It is part of the State Route 74 (SR 74). It travels through San Juan Creek, Rancho Mission Viejo and Ronald W Casper Wilderness Park and through Cleveland National Forest. It carves through the Santa Ana Mountains and offers a scenic view of Lake Elsinore.

Bodies Dump by Serial Killers

Over the years, the Ortega Highway has been littered with dead bodies dumped roadside. Many claim that much of the paranormal activity is because of the restless spirits of these poor victims.

  • Serial killer Randy Kraft tortured and killed 16 young men. In 1971, he dumped the body of his first victim, Wayne Joseph Dukette along Ortega Highway in a ravine.
  • In 1977, the Trash Bag Killer, Patrick Kearney, also dumped one of his victims off the Ortega Highway.
  • From 1979 to 1980, the Ortega Highway was also the dumping ground for the Freeway Killer, William Bonin. Of his 21 victims, Bonin got rid of four bodies by dumping them on the side of the highway. The body of 14-year old Glen Norman Barker was discovered at Milepost 16.50.
  • In 1999, Carolyn Oppy-Stahl and Kenneth Stahl were murdered while sitting in their car at Call Box 74-88. Kenneth had hired his girlfriend's other boyfriend to kill his wife, Carolyn, but ended up being a victim, too. In 2001, a CHP officer was found beaten at the same location.

More Tragic Deaths and Paranormal Occurrences Near Ortega Highway

There are many other tragedies and deaths associated with Ortega Highway. These sudden violent deaths are blamed on the ghostly encounters. There are some very distinct and continuous hauntings while others are obscure.

EVP of Young Boy

The Los Angeles Times reported that in the 1970s, a group of psychic researchers recorded EVPs in the Old Mission Cemetery located where Ortega Highway intersects with Rancho Viejo Road. According to the Times, in the recording, a young boy says, "I'm scared."

Ghosts of Three Nuns

The ghosts of three nuns dressed in habits are often seen standing by the road. Legend states the women were tortured and killed by Native Americans on their way to deliver medicine and supplies to various settlers. Witnesses report the nuns blue eyes shine in the dark and their faces glow brightly.

Headless, Handless Mom

A 2003 gruesome discovery traced back to two brothers who dumped their mother's body at milepost 14. The disturbing corpse was missing her head and hands.

Ghost Clown

Perhaps the strangest and creepiest reports are about a creepy clown often seen standing on the side of the road. It's reported that the apparition disappears into thin air whenever approached.

Hub of Many Strange Occurrences

There are many stories about a business called, Quest Diagnostics. This roadside business is said to be location of numerous unexplained paranormal phenomena, such as unexplained flickering streetlights and strange lights seen moving through the trees and underbrush.

Forest Mansion Ghost

There are hauntings reported at various places along the desolate road. These hauntings include the old Forster Mansion in San Juan Capistrano located on the Ortega Highway is said to be haunted by a plaid wearing ghost named George. Aside for his plaid shirt, George wears a pair of khaki pants and leather hat. Each time he's seen, there's also an aroma of cigar smoke that accompanies him. George has been known to shake and rattle windows to get a person's attention.

Grim Reaper on the Highway

Ghosts of America presents a story about a man whose parents moved to Lake Elsinore on Ortega Highway. The man reported seeing what he called the Grim Reaper, standing nearly nine feet tall by the roadside.

Hauntings of Ortega Highway

To travel Ortega Highway, you must maneuver treacherous sharp turns and twists. Take extra caution since you may happen upon one of the many ghosts often seen on the roadside whose sudden appearance could cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

Haunted Ortega Highway