Longing For Something Greater

(Originally posted to the California Hotel Review Boards, July 21, 1995)

SECTION: REST STOPS

Jul. 21, 8:09 P.M.

Here in the Golden State, we don't only want you to enjoy our incredible national resources and famous hospitality, we also want to make sure you have a place to pull over, use the restroom, or get a drink. With hundreds of rest stops statewide, many located near famous monuments and landmarks, you'll have no problem finding one if you use our maps. If you recently used one of our rest stops, please leave an honest review below. Report on the stop's condition, its cleanliness, and anything else. The better feedback you give, the more we can improve.

-California Tourism Coalition, Los Gusanos chapter

Jul. 22, 10:43 A.M.

Pulled an all-night shift last night delivering some canned goods and writing this in my room at the Holiday Inn. I had to go back in the woods for a while, so it was great to have this facility to get out and stretch. The stop is located to the left, it's behind some trees but is visible from the main highway. The design is circular, with windows on the outside and restrooms/water fountains on the interior. This design would, I think, allow for some good views during the day. I got there at about 9 P.M., it was dark and I was the only one around. The parking lot was empty.

I filled up my water bottle and then I looked at the bulletin board, which had a helpful list of nearby activities. It also had a historic poster depicting the pioneers in the area, which I thought was educational and well-researched. After that I left. Great rest stop, good condition, bathrooms seemed in great shape. You guys must come out here all the time to fix and inspect it, do maintenance and everything. I don't know if this is what you want, I've never written a review for one of these before, but 4/5 stars regardless.

-Joseph M.

Jul. 25, 9:27 P.M.

Hi, I dont know why Im doing this but here I am... I was at your stop a night ago, with some friends. We were mostly drunk, our driver wasnt. How he manages to stay sober while were all having fun is beyond me, maybe he feels obligated to. anyway we got to your stop. The sun was going down and we pulled in to walk around the forest. We parked in the parking lot and our driver stayed behind. We brought some of our beer and some potato chips with us, I remember my friend Nikki telling me we were going for a 15-minute short hike. I said OK and we said bye to our driver and started heading into the forest. I was behind nikki, Colt was behind me and I think Doug was in the front. Didnt have a compass but I think we were walking North.

Anyway, we got to an open clearing and decided we were ready to go back, but before we did that we sat down in a circle and drank and ate some. Then Doug said he had to pee, and he was thinking of doing it out here but Colt reminded him that there was a rest stop so he decided to hold it until we got back to the parking lot, so we all got up and walked back the direction we came. I get why he had to, all our bladders were full. If we got pulled over by the police theyd probably arrest us on the spot even if our driver wasnt drunk. It was hard to navigate but we made it

So we got back to the parking lot and just as we see the rest stop in the distance our driver screams like he saw something. Colt told us that maybe it was a mountain lion, they were around this area, so he told us to stay behind and he would go check what was wrong, and he had his pocketknife with him. Doug stayed behind and he tried telling a joke but I didnt get it with the state I was in. Nikki laughed, though. After a few minutes Colt tells us its OK to come out, that hes OK. Also I should mention our drivers name is Phil. hes a total square. Hes sitting in the car and breathing deeply, Colts trying to calm him down without much luck. phil says he saw a lady walking out of the stop, shes tall and about 25-30. has a suede jacket and slacks, looks like a tourist but he doesnt know how she got there because there werent any other cars around. She looks at him and he says hi. she says hi back and comes over to sit in the car with him, and hes like OK.

Nothing romantic especially, she looks at the car and feels it, asks how much it costs. Phil says she was kind of sad, and also nervous. Looking around, and Phil thought maybe shes a convict or something only that doesnt make any sense because there are no prisons around, then she looks at him and starts crying, face on the dashboard, she was going whack. so he tries putting a hand on her shoulder telling her it would be OK, and shes crying and crying, and he thinks of coming to get us. But then he looks around and shes not in the front seat anymore. One second shes there crying and the next shes not there anymore. He says it was a banshee, which is a kind of irish spirit. At this point Colt slaps him and tells him it was probably just a drug addict or something

We all go inside to use the restrooms and get some water after that. Phil tags along, hes still kind of out of it but tells us he can drive us home. Nikki grabs my arm while were inside, because the whole place is scary. Something isnt right here. I dont know what but you should fix it because its uninviting. Anyway then we went back out and when we left we didnt feel creeped out anymore.

Thats my review, hope it helps out anyone who wants to go here

-Fiona H.

Jul. 30, 8:19 A.M.

Can't say I saw a ghost here, but the bathrooms were filthy. This first review where he says they were well-maintained is either him trying to make this place feel better or somebody did this between now and the last post. There was soap everywhere, sinks were filled with it, my husband went in the men's and he said it was the same in there. Just soap all over, floors, walls, everything. Might be vandals, the soap dispensers were tapped out so I couldn't wash my hands. Had to take my shoes off, they were coated.

I know it sounds like something that wouldn't happen, especially out here in the middle of the forest, but believe me, we've been in 40 states and during our trips we've seen all manner of degeneracy at gas stations, hotels, you name it we've seen it. America is crumbling at the seams these days. I remember back when you could take a trip on the highway and feel safe about where you were sleeping and eating. Today it's unpredictable. Especially at rest stops, they're not monitored regularly. I feel confident when I say that somebody would waste their time wasting all this soap if it gave them a cheap laugh and inconvenienced everyone else.

-Liz O.

Aug. 6, 1:42 P.M.

I was tipped off to this board by a friend of mine, he said there was some crazy shit going down at this rest stop so I was like "I might go and have a look." I have an '89 Chevy Caprice, the mileage is good and I've never been in an accident or a DUI or anything, so I planned on making a trip down to the rest stop at night when apparently this lady comes out. Went to the store, got a flashlight and extra batteries. I even planned on bringing my tape recorder to see if I could record her if she came up to me. Then I could sell the recording to a Cable network. Ghost shows are getting big these days, there's one where this team of ghost hunters goes to an abandoned coal mine and what they see is really freaky. I don't have a camera, though. I should probably buy one for next time.

Anyway I got to the rest stop after hanging out for about half an hour at the Scenic Lookout that's about 2 miles away. I pull in and it's about 7:00 by this point, there are some birds in the trees making noise. The rest stop is way back at the other end of the parking lot, so I pull to the closest available spot. Right when I get in another car that had been there drives back onto the road. Now I'm the only one here. Just me and the rest stop, which is really creepy considering how well-lit it is, meanwhile the rest of the world is pitch-black, no electricity for miles around.

From what Fiona is describing above it sounds like this ghost is very expressive and open, if she wasn't she wouldn't go right up to the car and pretend to be alive. This is definitely one of the best paranormal eyewitness accounts I've ever heard. So I'm hanging out in the lot, I reach back to find the beef stroganoff I had packed, and I eat this for about 15 minutes. Nothing. Just the forest noises, wind in the trees, some crickets.

At this point I'm about to stick the key in and leave, but then it occurs to me that in Fiona's account she says the ghost came out of the rest stop, which could mean that it's her point of origin, that somehow she's bound to it by some force keeping her there. I set the food down and leave the car, walk into the rest stop. At this point I'm really sweating bullets, and I have my tape recorder in hand, index finger ready to hit play. The atmosphere in there is really claustrophobic, glass walls in every direction. Also the circular archetecture, how it loops back around and you can walk through it and end up right where you started. Also, on the side facing away from the parking lot, where the bulletin board and a bench is, there's a sheer dropoff behind the wall, so if something lunged at me and knocked me through the wall I could plummet at least 70 feet.

I walk around slowly, making sure to look in every direction. I reach the men's bathroom, which is on the side. Women's is on the other side, drinking fountain is in front in case anybody is wondering. I open the door and look in. There isn't soap all over like how Liz described, it was a pretty normal bathroom with 3 stalls and 2 urinals, one sink, a soap dispenser and a towel dispenser. Maybe the cleanup crew came by.

This was when shit hit the fan because the lights start flickering on and off and my stomach is tied into knots, I back up against the wall and hit play on my recorder. It's just then I realize I forgot my flashlight in the car, didn't think I would need it because the rest stop is well-lit, either that or I'm just an idiot. So the lights are flickering on and off and everything is quiet except for the distant hum of the generator, which I'm scared is on the verge of going out, which would leave me along in the dark with this entity or whatever it is, who probably knows I'm here to gather evidence of her. I grab onto the edge of the sink for reassurance and just then my worst fears are realized and the power completely goes out. I can't see jack shit, all I have is the tiny little red light on my recorder.

All of a sudden the bathroom is full of sound, this horrible sound that rips at my ears and makes me want to cover them, the kind of shit you think of when you look at those illustrations of dante's Divine Comedy. I resist the urge to cover my ears, though, and make a run for the door of the bathroom, fumble around for it. As I do this something grabs at my shirt. I don't know how I didn't have a heart attack right then and there. I get to the outer section and with the small amount of natural light there is I can make out my car. I head for the doors and I hear something behind me. I get the fuck out, throttle the gas, had about 3 shots that night.

Even though this was fucking terrifying, and my belief in the paranormal is strengthened now more than ever, I still want to go back, just for the thrill of it. For a few years I've been interested in ghosts and I'm sick of going to the same tourist traps, spending hours waiting for something to happen. This is the real fucking thing. This is America's most haunted rest stop. I'll definitely be back soon.

-Stanley C.

Aug. 8, 4:30 P.M.

Okay, so I don't know how this thread blew out of proportion so quickly. Maybe it's a case of mass hysteria, maybe people have just been making up stories in collaboration with the Tourism Coalition, but I was here yesterday with my golden retreiver on a business trip to San Diego and it was one of the most boring locations I've ever been to. When I first saw this forum I thought it was a joke. Who reviews rest stops? They all look the same and they're the most boring places anywhere, hands down.

I went in here around 11 o' clock, really late, you would think a ghost would use the opportunity to grab me or something, but it didn't. I got a drink of water, sat down on the bench for a while, gave my dog a treat and then I left. There was nothing out of the ordinary, no unsettling feeling of dread. And keep in mind, I didn't even know about all this ghost stuff when I went here, so I was completely unbiased. If I had met this ghost I would have been just as scared as anyone else, but there was nothing that separated this from any other rest stop I've been to over the past decade. It's quite a distance from the town, so be sure to stop here, it's probably your only place to fill up on water or use the restroom if you're going West. Be sure to look out for the sign.

What are you people on about???

-Yvette F.

Aug. 12, 9:00 P.M.

I felt it too. Didn't see or hear anything, but I FELT it. Permeates the place like a cold chill, you open the door and step inside and your heart skips a few beats. Maybe it's just the isolation of the place, it is located a ways out from civilization. Perhaps the uncanny quality comes from seeing something built by man in the middle of the wilderness. Then again, the highway was also built by man, and it doesn't freak anybody out.

Hadn't read this before I visited, but I know it's true. I felt like I was being watched here, which is a natural feeling to have given those glass walls that open out onto a blank abyss, you can just barely see the sky and the outline of the hills but mostly all you can see from inside is an infinite void. Lots of trees, something could be hiding behind any of them. I almost slipped in here, that's how tense it was.

I pulled in because I thought it was a gas station, I needed gas last night and reached Los Gusanos in the nick of time. The trivia on the wall was kind of interesting, neat factoids, but you can probably find them somewhere else. If you value your sanity, stay away from here.

-Jennifer K.

Aug. 15, 12:10 A.M.

Staying at the Holiday Inn, they were full because some guy was having a high school reunion but they managed to slip me in at the last second. My fingers are shaking because I can't believe what I saw tonight, but I did see it and the sooner I come to terms with that the sooner I can go to sleep. Probably drank too much coffee.

I saw her outside the rest stop, it was getting late and I had packed my truck with all sorts of equipment. EVP meter, sacred artifacts in case she was demonic in nature, night vision goggles for making my way around. I also got a camera and some instant film. Turns out I wouldn't need any of that because she was just standing there on the sidewalk. I knew it was her, given how she was described it couldn't be anybody else. She was smoking a cigarette and staring off into the distance, and when I saw her from the road I almost thought about driving on and not confronting her, but I knew this was the chance of a lifetime so I bit my lip and drove in. She kept her monotone expression.

When I parked I looked at her for a while. She had something about her with which anybody could tell she wasn't really a person, she wasn't really there. A glow, maybe, or an aura. She was wearing a long dress that went down to her ankles and the smoke from her cigarette billowed out. I stared at her and she didn't acknowledge my presence. I was shaking all over as I loaded my film into the camera. As I did this she turned and started walking down the adjacent path into the thick of the trees. I grabbed the camera and followed. When she stopped momentarily near a bush I got this picture. If you look you can see her in the middle. She looked a lot more substantial when I was there.

She kept going and I stayed behind. There was enough light that I could see her and the trail, something to do with how the sun hit the clouds. In these conditions she seemed to float a few inches off the ground. My eyes became watery and the trees got thicker, my face was whacked with branches a few times. Why anybody would build a trail here, I don't know. Eventually we reached a clearing. It was about 30 feet across and the silence was deafening. No noises from animals, not even a breeze. Me and her, standing apart as the sky went from navy blue to jet black, and there were no stars despite us being miles from any city. She looked on edge by now, she glanced over her shoulder at the forest. Her cigarette died out and she flicked it onto the ground.

Time crept along. It was too dark to take any pictures, my camera was one of those cheap ones you get at the department store without a flash. I stood still and quiet while the tension grew. There was something behind her, the same presence I felt when the lights were flickering on and off. Now that i really think about it I don't think that was her. It was this thing. This thing was enough to scare her. I thought about going over to say something to her but I knew she wasn't really there so I stayed put. If I interrupted this scene she could vanish and I would be left without answers.

The thing suddenly came out, it was red and abstract, and it filled my field of vision and she was screaming and it was the same deafening noise from before. I ran back on the trail until I thought my fucking legs were going to fall off, and suddenly the noise stopped. It didn't fade into the background so much as it abruptly cut out like a pause button. I considered going back to the clearing but decided against it. I was alone out here and nobody was around. I caught my breath and then I walked back to the car, made sure to keep the camera safe. When I got back to Los Gusanos I got my pictures developed and then when I got back to my room I scanned them in. Most of them were blurry, my hands were shaking, but this one is clear enough. This is all I have to prove that I saw a fucking paranormal battle out there.

I hope you read this far but if you didn't I understand, this has been a draining experience for me and I'm sure for all of you as well. I don't think the rest stop should be condemned or anything. This may be our only chance to study these phenomena. Keep it open, put a sign up to warn travelers that if they go here they do so at their own risk. Hell, sell some merchandise, raise some revenue. Just a thought. I'll probably never be going back but it was fun.

Until next time.

-Stanley C.

Aug. 24, 11:12 A.M.

Friendly reminder: Los Gusanos National Park will be closed to the public by August 30. If you want to go and see the fabulous vistas of the wild open frontier, go now!

-California Tourism Coalition, Los Gusanos chapter

Aug. 25, 2:00 P.M.

This rest stop is great! Me and the kids stopped here during our week-long trip to Yosemite Valley. They said they wanted to come along and their mother said OK. We're divorced but we're still on good terms. She trusts me with them. Anyway, we stopped here on the way up and they really liked the scenery. I also did, the air is nice. A lot cleaner than in the city, it's great to get away and leave your worries behind. We filled up on water here and got to Yosemite the next day. Someone else said you should look out for this rest stop, that's true. You could miss it if you're not paying attention.

I especially like the stop's modern construction, in the sunlight it looked really nice. Whoever designed this place is definitely skilled at what they do. The kids ran around in there for a while before I called them back to the car and we had a picnic lunch out on the grass, it was delicious. Great place to stop, almost as breathtaking as the Scenic Lookout. 5/5 stars, would recommend.

-Walter H.

Aug. 29, 11:59 P.M.

I understand it now. After nights of this, I finally understand. I've been trying to make the pieces fit together in my head, sometimes I stay up until morning trying to convince myself I'm wrong, that I saw or heard something incorrectly, but this is how it happened. I need to live with that and I need to do something about it.

We went up to the park like we always do, one last trip at the end of the season, but Nikki had some meeting to get to and Doug was coming down from a cold, said he had to rest. I told him that was OK. In the end I called everybody up but only Fiona and Colt could make it. I knew they would bring a shitton of booze, they always do and I always let them get shitfaced, but tonight as we were driving up those isolated curves I could tell something was different without Doug or Nikki. There was some sort of drama between them and them alone, which they had never revealed to me before. Colt kept telling offensive jokes and Fiona told him to stop, and Colt got angry and snapped at her, then they both started going back and forth, and Colt took a bottle and slammed it into the window. The window broke.

Without even thinking about it, I turned off the road and put the car in park, told Colt that he had to get out and that he could hitchhike back. The window would cost a shit ton of money to repair. Then I looked out the windshield and saw that we were back at the rest stop. It was looming out there in the night like a monument. Colt got this awful look in his eyes, I saw it from the rearview mirror. It was the kind of look you see right before something horrible happens. Sure enough, it did.

He grabbed Fiona out of her seat by the arms and dragged her, kicking and screaming, onto the pavement and he took her toward the forest, this same horrible expression on his face. I sprang into action and tried breaking it up, but he was quicker than I was and before I knew it they had both disappeared. They hadn't reached the forest, it was more like they had walked into a mist that materialized out of nothing, it swallowed them, and I was left standing in the parking lot. There was broken glass everywhere, my headlights were blinking onto it and it was surreal. Me, my car, the rest stop, and they weren't there anymore. I got back in the car and turned the radio up, turned it up to full volume so I wouldn't have to consider what I had just seen.

I sat there, staring at the rest stop, and time lost meaning.

Eventually I saw someone coming out from behind the trees. I was about to leave because I thought it was Colt, that he had come to beat me up, but it was Fiona. She was bleeding heavily from her right arm and she was a mess, but she was conscious. She leaned against the car to catch herself. I turned the radio down, got out, and helped her into her seat. She looked empty inside. I took my jacket, tore it into strips, and wrapped it around her arm to stop the bleeding. I asked her if she'd need to go to the hospital but she said no, that it was fine, that she had a lot of antiseptic and gauze at home and if she went to the hospital with alcohol on her breath I'd probably be held responsible. She was right. We couldn't tell anybody about this. I'd tell the repair team that a branch broke my window.

We didn't say much on the way home. She cried a little, looking out at the wilderness as it passed by. She had done something back there. I knew Colt was dead. He had crossed a line and he had suffered the consequences. No more trips up here anymore, not with all of us, probably not with Fiona. Probably not with me. What had happened was something we would never mention, to anyone. I dropped her at her house around 11, when I got home I walked around for hours. Couldn't sleep. Finally exhaustion overcame me and I went out like a light.

The ghost is Fiona. I saw her sitting right next to me and I didn't recognize her because she was older, but it was her. There's no way around it. She was crying because Colt's body is out there somewhere, maybe in another time and place. Fiona is only 22 now, she'll be 26 or 27 when she revisits the rest stop late at night by accident and falls over the cliff to her death to join Colt down there. By then she'll be beyond the limits of time, she'll exist at that rest stop forever and always, a presence, and Colt will be a presence there too, the red thing, and she'll sit and look out into the forest and wait for Colt to come out, and she'll see every car that comes in and live in the building and walk around the outside and her and Colt will be stuck up there.

Unless I stop it. Right now I have the power to warn her, to tell her never to go back. I'm the only one who knows, who really understands. I have to tell her before it's too late. Before she moves away and wipes that night from her head. I hope I'm not too late.

Sometimes it seems like all I can do is hope.

-Philip R.

Sep. 1, 2:00 A.M.

The Los Gusanos National Park is now closed for the season. Please visit again next year, and remember, nature is only one step away. Support your local national parks and they'll reward you with infinite beauty and splendor.

-California Tourism Coalition, Los Gusanos chapter