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Local Legends Tell of Ghost in The Plaza

By Wes Orshoski

Orange Daily News

ORANGE - Ever seen two young boys dressed in knickers and suspenders frolicking about in Old Towne? How about shadows lurking about in blue jeans in the Army-Navy store? If you have, Old Towne historians say you've spotted just a handfull of ghosts haunting the intersection of Chapman and Glassell Street. As legend has it, two young boys, between the ages of 7 and 9, were trampled by a runaway horse-drawn carriage circa 1900. After the tragic accident, their spirits apparently lingered in the historic district. Every now and then, people report sightings of the boys, hard to miss because of their turn-of-the century garb.

In 1995, a production assistant working on Tom Hanks' "That Thing You Do!", which was filmed in Old Towne, told local historian Doug Westphall he had spotted the boys. Westphall said Hanks and his crew were about to begin shooting on Glassell Street when the man turned around and saw the boys standing just a foot or two behind him.

The man was caught off guard, Westphall said, because Glassell was blocked to pedestrians. After warning the boys to leave he turned around for a moment. "He turned around for one second and they were gone," Westphall said. "He said it was remarkable because of the way they were dressed."

About 40 years after the carriage accident, and thanks to yet another horrible death, the after-world got a little less lonely for the boys.

Well before deposits and withdrawls were made at the Orange National Bank, the building was used as a funeral home. Westphall said a woman named Annie died in an elevator accident in the building sometime in the 1940's. The elevator was used to bring the coffins and the corpses from the basement to the viewing room on the top floor.

There are now apartments on the top floor of the bank. From time to time, tenants see Annie dressed in white, walking back and forth, Westphall said. Around the corner from the bank building, others have been known to lurk about South Glassell Street.

It was around 1990 or 1991, Steve Alverez can't remember which, when strange things started to happen at the Army-Navy store. At that time, blue jeans were stored in the Army-Navy's basement, which Alvarez calls a "really scary, dimly-lit place". Some female employees claimed to see moving shadows in the basement. One woman ran up the stairs screaming hysterically, saying she saw a man down there, Alvarez said.

For months, employees played jokes on one another, shutting the basement lights off on workers who were pulling Levis from the basement, "Everybody was a little on edge, because they were talking about it everyday," he said. Alvarez, the store's general manager, has worked at the store since 1986. During that time he's only witnessed one strange occurrence.

A steep concrete stairway leads down to the vast basement storage area at the Old Town Orange Army Navy store long rumored to be haunted  by perhaps it's past residents.

One morning, employees walked down to the basement to find 200 to 300 pairs of blue jeans moved to different areas in the basement. The denim demon could be the ghost of a young man who died in a fire just a few feet away in what is now the site of the Antique Station. Sometime around 1915, a teenage boy burned to death in a gas fire at the antique store, then a motorcycle shop.

As Westphall explains it, gas pumps were housed indoors in those days. While walking into the shop, the boy accidentally spilled gasoline on a lantern. He ran out of the building engulfed in flames. Westphall said he hears occasional stories from people who say they still see the boy burning.