Haunted Santa Cruz County mansion setting for ghost stories, mysterious man

By Samantha Clark Santa Cruz Sentinel

CAPITOLA — The Rispin Mansion in Capitola has been a rite of passage for daredevils wanting a peek into the supernatural world for generations.

There’s even a Facebook group called “I snuck into Rispin Mansion when I was a kid” with 1,100 likes and trespassers telling stories about getting spooked based on rumors that the forlorn four-story, 22-room mansion is haunted.

But its creepy, crumbling walls are also the setting of a strange story about a mysterious man who lost everything.

“The history is more interesting than the ghosts,” said Capitola historian Carolyn Swift. “But if you’re going to have a ghost, why not have it here? Rispin fits. Ghosts are almost always young girls or some reclusive guy like Rispin.”

Canadian-born Henry Allen Rispin married the daughter of a railroad and oil tycoon and built the palatial place in 1921 after buying the resort that is today Capitola Village.

He never intended to live there and instead used it as a showroom where he gave his sales pitch to those interested in buying vacation bungalows around his planned Riviera.

“He didn’t care about Capitola and never did anything good for the community other than pave the streets,” Swift said of Rispin, who failed to pay for the water and fire protection services that his company was obligated to provide.

In addition to being an absentee landowner, he was bad at business and went bankrupt before the Great Depression. Bleeding money, he started divesting his holdings and, a decade later, sold the mansion to a former business partner and disappeared in 1930. He died poor and is buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Colma near San Francisco.

“No one knew anything about Rispin because he hardly talked to locals, so when he left, people started filling in the gaps,” Swift said. “That’s when people started making stories about him being a bootlegger.”

The grand home eventually was sold to the Poor Clares, who used it as a convent.

“The nuns were not comfortable. The mansion was cold, and people were always peeking through the fence,” Swift said. “They were a cloistered order, meaning they didn’t go out, they didn’t talk to anyone, they were reclusive like Rispin.”

The mansion officially sat vacant for more than half a century after the convent closed in 1959, however, scores of hippie squatters moved in and out. Then it became a practice arena for a local SWAT team.

In 2009, a mysterious fire gutted its interior, stirring up stories about its haunting.

“It’s ironic. This project has bad ju-ju on it,” said then-Capitola City Councilman and now-Mayor Dennis Norton at the time, adding that the mansion “has got all kinds of haunted stories behind it.”

Even now as the city of Capitola plans to renovate the Rispin Mansion’s dilapidated grounds with hopes of turning it into a park, it remains a subject of fascination among local thrill seekers and paranormal sleuths.

“We actually cut off our investigation early because it just wasn’t feeling safe any longer, as if we were making something rather angry,” said Maryanne Porter of Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters, who got permission from the city to tour the mansion at midnight in 2012.

Some claim to have seen apparitions of poor Rispin himself and a black figure of a nun. Others reportedly hear evil spirits around the basement wine cellar, accessible through a hidden passageway, and growling dogs from the SWAT team trainings.

Not everyone is a believer, however.

“There were no ghost stories for years and year and then people came down from a Bay Area TV station and did a spooky story on the Rispin Mansion in the late 90s,” Swift said. “Ever since then, people have been ghosts, ghosts, ghosts!” —— (c)2015 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) at www.santacruzsentinel.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC. AMX-2015-10-27T05:17:00-04:00

ORIGINAL STORY: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/lifestyle/20151027/haunted-santa-cruz-county-mansion-setting-for-ghost-stories-mysterious-man

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