Pre-story: I am a hardcore, atheist skeptic, and I don't believe in the supernatural. At all. I don't believe in spirits, ghosts, demons, yadda yadda. All a bunch of boogeyman bullshit that people made up for various reasons.
But I do believe, with all my heart, that there is something wrong going on in May Van Canyon, CA, that defies rational explanation. It is something sick and fucked up, on human levels, and I don't think human beings are behind it. Or aliens, or bigfoot, or anything physical. It's something out of a fucking Lovecraft story.
The area of land is fairly innocuous to look at in Google Maps. I'm sure some of you have already looked it up– it's just outside of Big Bear Lake. Undeveloped land. And it has a history.
You won't find any online articles because it's a patch of dirt that few know about, let alone remember the history of. My grandmother was a local historian– she died ten months ago, before she could ever publish her history of Big Bear. She spent the last sixty years compiling info that most could not– she even interviewed, decades ago, some of the last surviving gold rush miners.
May Van Canyon... This is a case of a place that poisons minds and may, in fact, contain a very real, very evil, very hateful "spirit" of some sort.
Whatever it is, a chunk of that land, five miles into the woods, is now cordoned off by the Federal Govt with official warning signs stating that the natural artesian well there has "harmful radiation levels". I don't believe that for a fucking second.
In the 1800's, Big Bear Valley was a furrier's fox farm, until the CA gold rush, which caused a HUGE boom in residents. A smaller valley on the outskirts formed a mining community called Bluff Lake, named after a large pond there. One miner struck it medium, bought an entire forty acre parcel of land that, at the time, had NO name. He discovered that there was a natural artesian well up in the hills that was the source of a small creek. Just pure water bubbling out of the rocks. I've seen this well, and the creek, before the Fed Gov cordoned it off, and the flow on it was probably, at least, two gallons per minute.
Eric Van, and his wife, May, had two sons. They were well known around town. Well to do, they helped fund a church being built there. Now, keep in mind – this was in the 1870's. Dirt roads and horses. No electricity, people tended to keep to themselves in small groups.
One day, a townie finds a blood trail on the road to the north shore of the pond. There they find Eric Van, stabbed to death and dumped in the pond. The sheriff goes to their cabin, where they find the two Van kids stabbed "viciously", blood all OVER the damn place, and May hanging from a rafter. Some apocryphal evidence is that she managed to slice open her own stomach after kicking the chair out. She left a suicide note that was short, and poorly written, as she was barely literate: Saying that when her family smiled at her, she could tell what their real thoughts were, and she was afraid they were going to eat her.
In 1922, two brothers, by the last name of Williams, bought the land. There was rumor, but my grandmother never found any evidence, that they were twin brothers. But they were fairly wealthy, a couple guys who'd invested in Hollywood in the 20s, and were notoriously good natured and close. About a year after they moved in, they were found in the forest. The one brother had shot the other in the chest, and then put the shotgun in his mouth.
So... coincidence, right?
1960 – A man by the name of John Webster buys the place. He's some kind of high-falutin artist from Los Angeles, has enough fame and money to live off of his art. At this point, my family enters the picture.
My grandfather was a bit of a local tycoon, and a good looking man in that town, well-loved in the community. My grandmother was a damn good-looking woman, and it's not really a secret that they cheated on each other sometimes. Drama happened a lot in that way.
John Webster immediately started befriending my grandfather, asking about other properties in Big Bear that might be a good investment. Not long after that, he started sending my grandmother notes in which he claimed that spirits in the woods had opened his eyes: My grandmother was actually a reincarnated "indian princess", John was her lover from a past life, and he needed to murder the evil oppressive white man, who was keeping her from him, my grandfather.
My grandfather got wind of this, confronted John Webster, and ended up kicking nine levels of shit out of him, with a stern warning to stay the fuck away from his family if he knew what was good for him. John never spoke to any of my family again.
A year later, my grandfather (who was on the Sheriff's Posse) got a call one morning. He took my mother, age fourteen, along with him at the time, as he liked to show his kids some dark shit. Good man, my grandfather.
When they got there, Webster's body had already been removed. He'd apparently built a second cabin deeper in the woods. Damn fine place. And he'd used it as an art studio.
Keep in mind, Big Bear gets cold. REALLY cold, in the winter – lows in the negatives, Fahrenheit, some years. For some reason, Webster had run out of firewood. This is kinda difficult to do in Big Bear, as the place is literally embedded in a giant swatch of pine forest.
He'd apparently decided to sleep in his car with the heater running. Snow had blocked the exhaust, leaking it into the car, and he'd died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
My mother went with my grandfather to the main cabin. And the cabin had been built with LARGE glass windows. And it struck her as creepy that there was writing all over the windows in light blue paint. Every window was covered in neat block letters, about an inch high, naming the names of saints. A lot of these were names that she later realized weren't canonical saints: St. Nixon. St. Avery. St. Rosemary...
And to further fuck it all up, every time a letter had a vertical line? For instance, the letter H has two. He'd made a little cross-beam mark turning every vertical line in the letters into small crosses…
I grew up hearing this story from my mother and aunt and uncles. By the time I was sixteen, I was like, "Yeah, yeah, ghost story, wheeeee." One time, during a family BBQ, I voiced my skepticism.
That was when my Uncle looked at me funny and said, "Wait, you've never SEEN the cabins? C'mon, [my mother], let's show them!"
Turned out we were living only eight miles from the edge of May Van Canyon.
Long story short: Both cabins were intact and in good condition – May's original cabin, and Webster's relatively newer one. Old, yes, but you could have replaced the window glass on either and lived in it. At the second one, all the windows had been smashed out. I was disappointed, then found big chunks of glass on the ground, covered in letters written in light blue paint. The names of saints, every vertical line crossed.
Inside the cabin... We found two of Webster's paintings inside and took them home. Both were on large sheets of plywood. One was of an eagle. The other was a memorial to someone he knew in WWII, who'd died as a medic.
I can give you lots of other details, but the gist of it is, the place totally fucked with me from the first day I was there. Birds don't fly there. You cannot hear any birds or squirrels. My mother and uncle were like kids showing us the place, and even started making some jokes about buying the land and moving there. When we got home, I asked them if they were serious, and they had almost no memory of saying these things.
After a few weeks, my mother and I returned the paintings to the cabin because everyone in the family kept having vivid nightmares. We all kept having nightmares of a woman in a white dress. She was angry and crying at us, but none of us could remember what she said. My younger sister was the one that made us take the paintings back. She woke up one morning and complained about the, "nightmare about the scary crying lady." I flipped the fuck out, and my mother did too, even harder, when she realized all three of us had had the same dream. We took the paintings back that day. We didn't know why, and we barely discussed it, but we knew it had something to do with the paintings.
The nightmares stopped cold.
Six months later, my mother started dating a guy named Howard. For some fucking reason, she showed him the place after they'd been dating for a while. He was into creepy shit, so I guess she wanted to impress him. Howard straight up moved into the second cabin within a week. My mother broke up with him not long after that, because he was starting to really scare her.
Turns out that Webster's family still owned the property, and one day the owner of the land came by to check it. Howard opened fire with a shotgun. He missed, and the owner ran to the nearest payphone and called 9-1-1. By the time law enforcement got there, Howard was nowhere to be found, and to my knowledge, nobody in my hometown has ever seen him again. The cabins, however, had been doused in gasoline, and were flaming away. They burned to the ground.
I went hiking up there not long after that to show the place to my GF, because she was into ghosts and hauntings and blah blah. We decided to hike up to the artesian well. The well has now been capped with a HUGE steel cap. There is barbed wire surrounding that area, with stern federal warnings about radiation poisoning, on BIG fucking steel signs.
There are more details I could add, but would it really matter in the end? I know, it's been a long read, but the creepiest bit:
After my grandmother died, my mother started going through the CRATES AND BOXES of my grandmother's notes for her local history book. And my mother found a letter from Webster, to my grandfather, dated October of 1965. Back when they first met, and Webster hadn't yet gone off the deep end. The letter starts out as Webster asking my grandfather about tips and people to talk to about investing in more land in Big Bear, but near the end of the first page, he writes something that chilled me to the mother fucking bone.
I'll post a scan of the letter if anyone wants it.
I am a skeptic, and a hardcore atheist. I don't believe in supernatural bullshit.
But whatever is going on in May Van Canyon... I want no part of it. Ever. As long as I have a choice in the matter, I will never return there.
My mother sent me the hard copy original of that letter. It's been over twenty years since I went to May Van Canyon with my GF, the last time I visited that particular eerie-assed chunk of land. But reading that? Instant chills.
I know my story might sound like some X-files bullshit, and I have no idea what the fuck the Fed Gov wants to do with that tiny slice of the San Bernardino wilderness. I only know what I've first-hand seen and felt there, I remember my nightmares after we took the paintings home. I remember the nightmares stopping after we put the paintings back.
I strongly advise all redditors to stay the fuck away from that place. It is, to put it in horror writer terms, "bad ground". Something awful is going on there, and I want no part in it. Ever. And if they ever develop that area for housing... God help anyone who moves there.