Case File: Moss Beach Distillery
Location: Moss Beach, California
Date: 1927 to present
Description: The Moss Beach Distillery is a seaside restaurant with an ocean view located on the Northern California coast near San Francisco, California.
History: In 1927, the Moss Beach Distillery, then called "Frank's Roadhouse", was opened as a speakeasy. Various people died at the distillery over the years; allegedly, their spirits still haunt the grounds.
In recent years, workers at the Moss Beach Distillery have claimed to have experienced strange happenings: waitresses report of winds that swirl through the dining room when no windows or doors are open; one of the former owners has claimed to have seen objects fly through the air; and door have locked mysteriously of their own accord. At last count, as many as five different ghosts have been reported lurking in and around the restaurant.
One of the ghosts is a woman dressed in blue known as the "Blue Lady". She allegedly was a flapper who frequented Frank's Roadhouse. She had fallen in love with the distillery's piano player. However, their romance was conducted in secret because she was already married to a bootlegger. The lovers communicated in code; the simple lift of an eyebrow spoke volumes.
On one fateful night in 1927, the woman signaled her lover to meet her on Moss Beach. At the time, the beach was a bootlegger's haven: isolated and sheltered under a cliff just outside of the speakeasy. When the woman's husband discovered that she had left Frank's Roadhouse, he made his way to the beach and questioned his cronies. Suddenly, he saw his wife with the piano player. Mad with jealousy, he confronted the two. The husband and the lover fought; one pulled a knife and the other pulled a gun. The woman threw herself between the two and was inadvertently stabbed to death by her lover.
However, this story is only based on legend. Some deny that the woman ever existed, while others claim that she haunts the beach to this day. Believers claim that she still haunts the restaurant, breathing down the necks of women she sees as rivals. Some employees claim that she calls out their name seductively when they are all alone in the dining room. One waitress says that she is mischievous, but does not believe that any of her "pranks" are malicious.
Former owners Patricia and David Andrews claim to have had many encounters with the "Blue Lady". When they owned the Moss Beach Distillery, their family lived on the ground floor. The ghost apparently enjoyed locking them out of their rooms. Patricia claims that the ghost also liked to play other tricks while she was up late and working alone in the restaurant office. On one night, she witnessed her checkbook being lifted off of a shelf. As it floated through the air, she told the ghost to put it back. It listened to her and placed the checkbook back on the shelf. Restaurant owner John Barbour was extremely skeptical when he started working there. However, his viewpoints quickly changed after experiencing several unexplained occurrences.
On the cliff outside the restaurant, some neighborhood children once claimed that they saw the Blue Lady. However, she seemed to be a very different kind of ghost, one with a somber demeanor. The ghost told the children that they needed to leave immediately because it was dangerous on the cliffs. Counselo Killeen, the housekeeper of one of the employees, claims that she has met this same spirit. She is certain that it is not the "two-timing flapper" of local legend.
Consuelo claims that she first met the spirit one night while she was sick with a cold and a fever. While laying in bed, the spirit appeared at the foot of her bed, claiming that she had her music. The spirit appeared again later, after Consuelo finished showering. Once again, the spirit asked for her music. She also revealed her name: Alma Reed. The name conjured a dim memory from Consuelo's childhood. When she was ten, her father had given her sheet music written by one of his close friends, Ricardo Palmerin, a famous Mexican musician. The song was titled "Peregrina" and was dedicated to his beloved: Alma Reed.
According to Consuelo, Alma Reed and Ricardo Palmerin were star-crossed lovers. Alma was already married to another man when she fell in love with Ricardo. Legend has it that in 1927, she walked into the sea, preferring death to life without her beloved Ricardo. Some say that she drowned herself off of the northern California coast, not far from Moss Beach.
In 1992, the owner of the Moss Beach Distillery contacted psychic Sylvia Browne and asked her to determine the true identity of the "Blue Lady". When she arrived at the restaurant, she told them that she felt that there was a ghost there which was named either "Mary Ann" or "Mary Ellen Morley". She said that the ghost was wearing all blue. The restaurant employees were surprised that she had come up with a new identity for the Blue Lady.
Sylvia went on to say that Morley had been killed by "crushing blows to the chest and head". Employees took that information and went to the San Mateo County Vital Statistics. They researched documentation between 1910 and 1930 and discovered that "Mary Ellen Morley" actually existed. Interestingly, her maiden name was "Reed" and she had a sister named Alma. Even more interesting was what was discovered in the newspaper accounts of Mary Ellen's death.
According to the reports, she lived in Redwood City, near San Francisco Bay. On the day of her death - November 6, 1919, she and her husband Frederick had driven north to visit her mother's grave. The cemetery was fifteen miles from Moss Beach Distillery. Returning home on the Bayshore Highway that same night, Frederick lost control of his automobile. It overturned, and Mary Ellen was trapped in the wreckage. With her last breath, she asked him to take care of their three-year-old son Jack.
When Frederick heard a car, he frantically ran for help. Sadly, there was nothing that could be done to save Mary Ellen's life. The injuries she suffered were crushing blows to the chest and head - the exact injuries described by Sylvia Browne. The owner of the distillery called her back to the restaurant for a seance. She claimed that Mary Ellen's spirit was weary from searching for her son Jack. She also claimed that she saw three other spirits with Mary Ellen: a beautiful blonde named Anna Philbrick; her dashing lover John Contina; and Hannah Elder, a Mennonite woman.
As the seance came to an end, Sylvia said Mary Ellen warned there would soon be a fire at the restaurant. About four days after the seance, there was indeed a fire in the restaurant. Although the restaurant was closed temporarily, no one was hurt.
Many employees and patrons believe that the "Blue Lady" haunts the Moss Beach Distillery. Most believe that she is the ghost of Mary Ellen Morley, while others believe that she is Alma Reed or the flapper from Frank's Roadhouse. To this day, the experiences at the distillery remain unexplained.
Background: The Moss Beach Distillery is a restaurant located on the lonely, wind-swept cove of Moss Beach, California. It was originally established as a speakeasy in 1927; however, it was converted into an actual restaurant in 1933. The claims about the deaths and the bootlegger have yet to be confirmed.
Investigations: Psychic Sylvia Browne went to the Moss Beach Distillery in an attempt to contact any of the spirits haunting the restaurant. She was able to learn the possible identity of one of the spirits, a woman named Mary Ellen Morley. Research conducted by two employees confirmed that Morley did exist and had died in a car accident not far from the distillery.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the October 28, 1992 episode.
The location was also featured on episodes of "Ghost Hunters" and "Scariest Places On Earth."
One source states that Alma Reed did not commit suicide, but instead died in a Mexico City hospital in 1966.
Results: Unresolved. Sylvia Browne passed away in 2013. To this day, employees of the Moss Beach Distillery continue to report ghostly encounters at the restaurant.
However, when the restaurant was featured on the show Ghost Hunters, the cast reported finding staged effects designed to create a "ghostly illusion", such as hidden speakers, moving lamps, and a mirror image. Despite this, those who witnessed ghostly phenomena still stand by their claims that the restaurant is haunted.
- History on the official Moss Beach Distillery website
- Moss Beach Distillery on Wikipedia
- Ghosts Galore in the Golden State - October 30, 1994
- California attracting travelers with ghostly appeal - March 7, 1999
- Distillery Lives up to its Ghostly Reputation - January 5, 2000
- Moss Beach Ghost Story: The Blue Lady - October 29, 2011
- Is Moss Beach Distillery Haunted? - June 11, 2014
- A Mysterious Haunting at the Moss Beach Distillery - October 22, 2018
- The tragic love story of Alma Reed and Felipe Carrillo - June 7, 2020
- Visits From the Afterlife by Sylvia Browne
- Sylvia Browne at Find a Grave
- Mary Ellen Morley at Find a Grave