The History and Legend of Bakersfield's Ghost of Mill Creek Park

Updated on June 26, 2020
wpcooper profile image

Fin lives in the Central Valley, where he is a student at CSUB. He writes in his free time and is interested in social issues and travel.

The Lady in White in Mill Creek Park

Well, you have probably heard stories about a woman in white. Every community and culture have some variation of this story, so Bakersfield should be no different.

According to accounts reported locally, Mill Creek Park's ghost is that of a woman who was found in a former building on the park grounds. The Pacific Southern Foundry was located close to 19th Street. When the structure was demolished to make way for the park's expansion in the 1930s, the body of a woman was found under the floorboards.

Autopsy reports later revealed that she was murdered by gunshot.

Today, she can often be seen—usually at dawn—walking across the covered bridge that crosses the canal. In the 1930s, this was just a footbridge that went over the river and towards the foundry.

Some people have reported that she can be seen weeping, but since no one knows the identity of this woman, the origin of her misery cannot be determined. What we know is that she is usually in a white dress, is often seen crossing the bridge, and then she disappears.

Mill Creek at Night

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The Story Behind the Woman in White

This type of ghost story is certainly not unique to Bakersfield. There are many urban legends with a "woman in white" theme.

Sometimes she is a little girl, sometimes a woman. Often she has been harmed by a lover or has lost her children. There are parks, lighthouses, hotels, railway stations, etc., that share this motif.

The Mexican-American story of La Llorona is similar to the story of the Bakersfield ghost in certain ways, yet also vastly different. La Llorona is said to have murdered her children by the river. She now spends eternity seeking them out while also looking for other victims. The Bakersfield woman in white is not looking for children—it is assumed she was not a mother.

Apparently, Bakersfield's lady in white was the victim of foul play. Whoever killed her decided to hide her underneath the floor of a building—which seems unusual in itself.

An attempted search for murders from this time period proved futile. There may not have been accurate records kept. Or perhaps because the crime was unsolved, there was no indication made in the archives.

If you are curious yourself, you can visit the Park at 19th Avenue and Mill Creek yourself.

Mill Creek at Night

Click thumbnail to view full-size
a clean well lit placethe bridge where they say she hovers above the watersghostly lights at night are a bright sight
a clean well lit place
a clean well lit place
the bridge where they say she hovers above the waters
the bridge where they say she hovers above the waters
ghostly lights at night are a bright sight
ghostly lights at night are a bright sight

A Local's Experience

I have not seen the ghost of Mill Creek Park. In fact, when I went to the public library's California History Room, I could not find any reference to the spirit in their official files. Everything I have come across has been found online, or told to me by people who have heard it from someone else.

I could not find any evidence of any murder being recorded from that period. Which period? Well, according to one online resource, the building where the body of a woman was found was demolished in the 1930s—which conflicts with the idea that the park was designed more than a decade before. Various news articles from the 1920s wrote about the current design plans of two local parks—Central and Mill Creek.

Both the Central Park and Mill Creek run into each other and actually form one large park. They are connected by the canal that bisects the bucolic scenery.

Did murders happen in the 1930s? Certainly. Was a young woman, possibly one who wore white often, a victim of homicide? Quite possibly.

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I know that there are many stories about women in white. I talk about this common theme in urban lore and its various interpretations. This woman doesn't seem to be looking for a lost love—some say she wants to avenge her murder and is possibly dangerous.

Have I looked for her?

Yes, a couple of times—during both the day and at night. Often the park is populated by people trying to find a place to party or by the homeless. On one particular night, I ventured into the park and noticed a lot of young people looking at their phones and walking around. I was sort of doing the same thing. I take it they were there for some sort of Manga quest (I'm not sure what they call it officially).

Then, suddenly, I saw two women approaching me, under the bridge that runs over the canal and duck ponds. They were walking together and were young. One was wearing white, or what could be mistaken for white from a distance. The other was a little taller and wore what looked like polka dots.

They looked up at me and sort of stiffened—as did I—and then went back to their conversation once they had passed by.

I'll have to go back to the park when it is less active. As I was leaving, a family walked by—a man, a woman, and a young girl. They were carrying a blanket and some bottled water. They appeared to be looking for a place to stretch out, which I thought quite odd since it was after 11 PM.

I shall go back though.

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Bakersfield's Central ParkThe Downtown SkylineA calming viewurban sprawl
Bakersfield's Central Park
Bakersfield's Central Park
The Downtown Skyline
The Downtown Skyline
A calming view
A calming view
urban sprawl
urban sprawl

Bakersfield and a Brief History of the Park

Bakersfield is a city of about a half million residents. Located about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, it rests comfortably in California's Central Valley. Rich oilfields surround this community and its outskirts are graced by the Tehachapi Mountains.

Along the city's main water canal, tucked in the downtown industrial area, you will find Mill Creek Park. It's a comfortable little, get-away in the middle of the bleak storefronts and the dilapidated Union Avenue just a few blocks away. Union Avenue divides the eastern half of the city from the west. It is notorious for its street related activities and run down hotels.

You might believe you stepped through time, into a foreign land with the pristine brick walkways, ornate wrought iron fencing and beautiful flowers. Antiquated lampposts decorate the clean walkways lined with comfortable benches. Canopies and gazebos provides shady places to rest and enjoy the music of the brilliant fountains.

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A Humble Beginning

The Bakersfield Californian reports that the park originally had links to John McLaren—one of the designers of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. If you walk along the brick paths and examine the ornamental garden's you can see where the inspiration came from. The original deed purchased 8 1/4 acres of the land for the park and stipulated the transaction be paid for in $2,500 in gold coins.

In 1921, the city authorized a $44,000 bid to acquire the land. The area is also said to have been owned by two women Linda Reed and Virginia Brundage who sold the land for $40,000 to Bakersfield. Just to note, the newspaper accounts concerning this are a bit conflicting. One says that the city purchased the land for $44,000 and the other attributes the purchase price of $40,000.

The land was supposed to help create two parks in an area around the main canal that divided the city East from West. Originally the land was to be named after the title of the tract area, Stark, but the city rejected the title Stark Park.

There was a nearby saloon called the Halfway house. The pools in the park were drained on Tuesdays and Fridays and filled with fresh water the next day. Blacks were permitted entrance to the parks on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, according to newspaper accounts. Right before the pools were drained and filled with fresh water.

Eventually the area North of 19th Street became known as Central Park and Mill Creek referred to the rest of the area south. The two parks basically run into each other and the area is periodically interrupted by East/West streets that run through it.

Have you ever had an encounter with a spirit/apparition?

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The Mill Creek ghost is said to be seen near the bridge, crossing the canal, especially near dawn.

Other Famous Haunted Places in California

Types of Ghosts
Whaley House
San Diego
Family members, condemned inmates, court jury members
San Francisco
Inmates, guards
Battery Point Lighthouse
Crescent City
Lighthouse workers
Queen Mary
Long Beach
Crew members, passengers
Padre inn
A former guest who leaves hand prints on the wall

Other Local Paranormal Activity

There are several other local legends in the Bakersfield and nearby areas.

San Diego is supposed to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. There are ghosts that inhabit a graveyard there, as well as the infamous Whaley House. There is even a tour group that leads people to these haunted sites on many nights in the area.

A lighthouse along the remote coastline of Northern California is inhabited by spirits who walk around in heavy work boots and seek out foggy nights.

And one of Bakersfield's oldest hotels that stands downtown—the Padre—has stories about guests who never leave. This one leaves a hand print that mysteriously appears, even after it is wiped away.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Handprint from the Padre HotelA room in the Queen MaryBattery Point Lighthouse
Handprint from the Padre Hotel
Handprint from the Padre Hotel
A room in the Queen Mary
A room in the Queen Mary
Battery Point Lighthouse
Battery Point Lighthouse

Why do you think old places become associated with spiritual beings

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Why Do We Believe in Ghosts?

Every culture has some tale of a haunted place or a legend that can be tied to spirits. This seems to be a natural result of the human psyche. According to an online article from the Catholic Exchange, "consider anew two key Christian beliefs: first, that every human person is a communion of body (matter) and soul (spirit); and second, that human life continues forever after bodily death, first as a bodiless soul, and eventually as a resurrected human being with body and soul reunited."

This would then follow that there is the accepted notion that there are spirits of the former living that inhabit the earth.

In short, ghosts are real.

"This English word “ghost” comes from the German word “geist," the article continues, "which broadly means “spirit,” including non-personal things such as the “spirit of the age” and so on. In English, “ghost” specifically means the soul of a dead person that becomes discernible through our eyes, ears, nose (some ghosts smell!), or skin."

Is there a purpose for their presence?

Well, most of the accepted explanations are folklore (I have yet to see an actual interview with a ghost), and these stories often center around a person with unfinished business to take care of. They may have been jilted by a lover, perhaps they were inmates who were mistreated in a prison or asylum, or maybe they were children who didn't have the opportunity to grow up.

The explanations make sense, even if the apparitions that inspired them do not. Everyone has aspirations of some sort, as well as a sense of justice. To transfer these sensibilities into something intangible makes sense. We don't appreciate adultery or mistrust in relationships, and everyone deserves justice—even the socially deviant. And children should get a chance to become adults.

When there is a sense of unfairness in the world, is can be a bit distressing.

Thanks and References

The Bakersfield Californian

The Bakersfield Observer

The California History Room at Beale Memorial Library, Bakersfield

© 2019 Fin


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    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      13 months ago from Barstow

      that sounds like the particular motif - a woman in a white dress....and the park is very comfortable. If you are ever in it a visit.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      13 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The park looks like a very pleasant place to visit. The story of the ghost in the area is certainly interesting! The woman in white is an intriguing character. A woman wearing a white dress from the past reportedly haunts an old house near my home.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      13 months ago from Washington DC

      Those are only the tip of the iceberg, click on the house on my profile and read "THE BOOK OF ELIJAH: A LETTER TO THE WORLD" which is my life's story.

      I went to Bakersfield in the mid sixties but was in a hurry and didn't look around it.

    • wpcooper profile imageAUTHOR


      13 months ago from Barstow

      well some interesting observations you have yourself.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      13 months ago from Washington DC

      I have heard of and recently experienced a visual aspiration. Just as I was awakening one morning, this 2019 year, while facing the door to my room I heard my door knocker make three distinct taps and opened my eye to see a black clad adult boy who said "goodbye" and walked out through the unopened door. However, I believe that person and the many voices I've heard many night during my six years here are what is called "cloaked".

      Somewhere around age nine I had an aspiration to appear to come out of a room where my mother was looking like her and assist me washing dishes, something I don't remember doing after I was about 8, and in the course of our conversation said "Elijah, foaling stones don't gather moss" and when I asked her what she meant she said "you'll see" and upon completing the dishes went back into the room. Again the next morning I asked her what she meant and she said she had not said it and denied helping me with the dishes.

      For those and other reasons I almost always read everything written about them. Thanks for sharing it.


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