If you're traveling the Ortega Highway in California, beware. This scenic byway, also known as State Route 74, is a narrow, mountainous, winding two-lane highway that is considered one of the most dangerous in the state. Not only has the Ortega Highway claimed numerous lives, but rumors persist that the road is also notoriously haunted. Do you dare to travel California's bloodiest highway?
Murder Victims Dumped Along SR74
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.
- 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.
Paranormal Occurrences Near Ortega Highway
There are many other tragedies and deaths associated with Ortega Highway. These sudden violent deaths are frequently blamed for the ghostly encounters that occur along the highway.
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.
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 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, which is said to be haunted by a plaid-wearing ghost named George. Aside from 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 motorists claim to encounter. Try not to be startled by their sudden appearance on the roadside or you could lose control of your vehicle and even possibly join them as yet another tragic tale and frightening haunt along the scenic byway. Travel with care...if you dare.