Black Star Canyon – Facts, History, Hauntings, and Legends

Black Star Canyon is known by many in Orange County and across Southern California; however, it should be known for more than just its wide open spaces and family-friendly trails. 

Unlike other Southern California canyons, Black Star has been the site of multiple negative events in history and reportedly has been the site of various cult activities, cryptid sightings, and paranormal events. In tandem with documented evidence, some (if not all) members of the OC Ghosts and Legends team believe this to be one of the most haunted locations in all of Orange County – and possibly – all of Southern California.

Facts & History

  • Black Star Canyon is located in Orange County, California, in the Santa Ana Mountains off of Santiago Canyon Road.
    • The canyon was originally known as Cañada de los Indios under Spanish rule (and later under Mexican rule as part of Alta California [or Nueva California]).


  • The Santa Ana mountain range is largely comprised of limestone, which is well known within the paranormal community for its ability to absorb and release electromagnetic and psychic energies.
    • This is further explained by the Stone Tape Theory and the concept of “place memory” proposed by T.C. Lethbridge in the 1970s.


  • Millions of years ago, Black Star and the surrounding areas were entirely underwater
    • Eroded sea walls and fossils of sea worms and shellfish can be found in the canyon.
black star canyon map
Figure 1. Black Star Canyon – Photo from San Diego Reader


  • 1831 – Native American massacre
    • Local ranchers had been terrorized by Shoshone horse thieves.
    • William Wolfskill (a known mountain man) helped to track the bandits into the canyon and discovered them around a campfire with horseflesh and (speculated) human flesh.
    • The ranchers overwhelmed the Natives and massacred them before desecrating and leaving the remains.


  • Black Star Canyon Indian Village Site
    • California Historical Landmarks (No. 271).
    • Land and structures from the Indian Village located within Black Star Canyon.
    • Approximately 5 mile hike from the trailhead to the site.


  • 1879 – Black Star Coal Mining Company
    • Founded by August Witte in 1879 after coal was discovered in Black Star Canyon the prior year (1878).
    • Operated until the early 1900s.
    • One 900 foot shaft (Carbondale Mine) – yielded six to ten tons of coal daily.
santiago canyon
Black Star Coal Mining operation circa late 1800's
black star canyon mine
photo of the historic Black Star Canyon closed mine shaft today
  • Hidden Ranch 
    June 9, 1899 – Murder of James Gregg
      • Hidden Ranch was owned by Henry Hungerford of Norwalk and George M. Howard of Anaheim.
      • On June 8, 1899, James Gregg, his brother-in-law, and a teenage boy (Clint Hunt) arrived to drive out cattle that Gregg owned and paid pasturage for on the land.
      • That evening, a dispute began over unsettled debts between Gregg and the property owners.
        • Howard owed Gregg $10 on a horse trade and Gregg had an outstanding pasturage bill of $17.50.
        • Gregg insisted that Hungerford and Howard accept $7.50 in settlement.
      • The next morning (June 9, 1899), the dispute resumed and resulted in Henry Hungerford fatally shooting James Gregg.
      • The murder trial originally brought before Judge J.W. Ballard resulted in the conviction of Hungerford.
        • However, a new trial was sought and the judge granted the motion on the ground that not enough evidence was produced.
        • Since no new evidence was available, District Attorney R.Y. Williams had no choice but to dismiss the case.
      • Hungerford ultimately got away with the murder of James Gregg.
hidden ranch black star canyon
Hidden Ranch (Historical) – Photo from The Great Silence Blog – Blogspot
Hidden Ranch (Present) – Photo from The Great Silence Blog - Blogspot
  • 1920’s-1950’s
    • Mining at the Blue Light Mine (originally the Dunlap Mine) continued to be successful in nearby Silverado Canyon.
    • The Blue Light Mine produced approximately $47,000 worth of zinc, lead, gold, and silver between 1942-46.
    • The company was later known as the Silverado Mine Company.

  • Beek’s Place
    • If you follow Black Star Canyon Road for 8 miles, you’ll reach the Santa Ana Divide, where the ruins of Newport Harbor master Joseph Beek’s old home are located near the KSOX doppler tower.
    • Joseph Beek – Founder of the Balboa Island Ferry.
      • Purchased 1 sq. mile from railroads in the 1920’s.
    • Remnants of his stone cabin, cistern, and several wells are still standing within the space.

  • February 25, 1969 
    • For a solid month, an average of 7 inches of rain fell each day (100-year storm) in parts of Orange County.
    • Silverado, Harding, Modjeska, and Santiago creeks all flooded simultaneously.
    • Silverado Fire Hall (home to the volunteer fire dept.) served as a shelter for residents who lost homes due to flooding.
      • Between 7 and 11 people died when a mudslide fell on the Silverado Fire Hall (numbers vary based upon the report).
modjeska bridge black star canyon
Modjeska Bridge in 1969 flood – Photo from Calisphere

Modern Reports


  • July 3, 2001
    • Two men and three boys associated with the Los Traviosos Krew (LTK) were arrested after the beating of two teenage boys and violation of two teenage girls in Black Star Canyon.
    • The suspects confessed to drinking and drug-taking while in the canyon prior to the attacks.


  • June 24, 2002
    • Nicholas Anderson, Glen Anderson, and a friend, entered the Blue Light Mine in Silverado, but the two brothers never made it out.
    • Oxygen levels inside the mine were recorded at only 4%.
      • Oxygen in the atmosphere is normally at 21%.
Screenshot from CA Abandoned Mine Land Unit’s (AMLU) 2000-2009 Incident Log
  • 2005
    • A 16 year-old girl was killed when rocks, mud, and earth hit a market and home in Silverado Canyon.
      • This occurred near the station where lives were lost in the 1969 flood
    • This death is marked by a rock memorial at the location.


  • December 2011
    • The home of Connie Carter was destroyed in a Silverado Canyon mudslide.


  • September 9, 2013
    • A car crash on Santiago Canyon Road claimed the life of a 16 year-old on the way to Black Star Canyon with a group of friends.

Legends of Black Star

Before reading on about the legends of Black Star Canyon, it’s important to remember that legends cannot be confirmed as factual even if they may originate from some form of truth.   
Below are some of the most widely known legends of Black Star Canyon

  • Santiago Sam 
    Bigfoot/sasquatch of the Santa Ana Mountains
  • Roughly 5’2” with 20” footprints
  • Four sightings by Rangers
  • Black Star Canyon and other areas of Cleveland National Forest
santiago sam black star canyon
Santiago Sam – Photo courtesy of Blogspot
  • Black Star Waddlers (Black Star Dwarves)
    • Sighted on January 23, 1995, by friends hunting in Black Star Canyon.
    • Multiple sightings since 1995, although the name “Black Star Waddlers” has not always been referenced.
    • Entities approximately 2 feet in height and dark in color with a notable waddle as they walked.


  • Illuminati Rituals
    • Noted in “The Truth About Freemasons, Illuminati, and New World Order” by S.D.S & C.M.W (Located on Google Books)
      • An individual code-named Pindar, member of the Illuminati Brotherhood, from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France has been known to attend major Satanic ceremonies in Europe and California.
        • Beltane used to be celebrated in Trabuco Canyon, but urban sprawl led organizers to move the rites to Black Star Canyon
        • The Samhain ritual is noted to take place at a church in Long Beach, CA.
        • The Walpurgis ritual is noted to take place on Catalina Island


  • La Llorona (The Wailer/Weeping Woman)
    • Noted as the first ghost story involving the canyon by
    • The stories of La Llorona originated from the Spanish, who controlled the land prior to Mexico.
    • La Llorona is said to live in a well and appear with the head of a horse.


  • The Lady in White
    • Apparition of a woman in white.
    • Seen around corners on the trails and out of the corner of the eye.
    • Some have stated that the woman is crying or visibly upset.


  • Abandoned School Bus (Formerly in Black Star Canyon – Removed in 2012/2013) 
    • According to multiple sites (and word-of-mouth), many believe that this school bus traveled the area daily and transported children between their homes and the local school.
    • In the 1970s, the bus driver lost control and the bus crashed within Black Star Canyon – killing everyone who was on board (including the children).
    • Prior to its removal, individuals reported ghostly apparitions of children and handprints on the bus windows (seemingly trying to escape).
    • Although the bus is gone, it is still believed that child spirits are present and their voices can still be heard by canyon visitors.

      *The abandoned school bus legend is one of the most notorious – to date, OC Ghosts & Legends has never found official documented evidence of such an accident taking place.  There WAS however an actual school bus abandoned in the canyon for many years.
abandoned bus black star canyon
Abandoned Bus – Photo from
  • Disembodied Voices/Drums/Chanting/Weeping/Growling
    • Disembodied, audible voices have been heard by individuals in Black Star Canyon.
    • Individuals and groups have also been known to hear drums (or other musical instruments), chanting, weeping, and intense growling (with no visible animals).


  • Satanic Cults
    • Satanic rituals and cult activity have long been associated with Black Star Canyon, with many visitors reporting hooded figures and unexplained fires/lights.
    • One individual and his friend reported stumbling across a ritual sacrifice where hooded figures were chanting.
      • Once seen, they quickly left the park; however, they discovered a note on at their vehicle advising them to “leave and never come back.”
    • Hikers have reported satanic imagery, chalk pentagrams, used candles, animal skulls, chalices, and bloody objects within Black Star Canyon.

While confirmation of such activities is difficult to find, some evidence can be found with a thorough Google search on the topic. OC Ghosts & Legends has not witnessed or seen evidence of such activity over the course of regular visits and investigations of the canyon since 2011

Meetup posting – Screenshot from Google
  • KKK and White Supremacist Activity
    • Rallies and Klan activity has been reported in Black Star Canyon, with many sightings near the Indian Village and other remaining structures.
    • Some believe that lynchings and other racially charged incidents have taken place within the canyon – a large area where bodies and victims could easily be buried and/or hidden from sight.

      *OC Ghosts & Legends has not witnessed or seen evidence of such activity over the course of regular visits and investigations of the canyon since 2011

  • UFOs
    • Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) have been seen on many occasions.
    • The relatively quiet environment and open visibility provides a view of the sky that is unparalleled in many other parts of Orange County.
    • Flashing lights, unexplained sounds, and fast-flying objects have all been reported.
      • While planes are frequently flying overhead due to John Wayne Airport, many have noted the noticeable difference in their sightings.


  • Unexplained Figures and Creatures
    • While many have already been noted, there are still many unexplained figures and creatures that have been reported by hikers and visitors in Black Star Canyon.
    • Noted as quick-moving, stalking, and (sometimes) aggressive, these entities have made many question if the space is darker than previously known or expected.


  • The Vortex (theorized and coined by OC Ghosts & Legends)
    • A portion of the Black Star Canyon trail known for intense energy and frequent paranormal activity.
    • Electronic voice phenomena (EVPs), disembodied voices, unexplained sounds, rock throwing, and apparitions have all been reported and documented within this space.
    • Some theorize a vortex may have been created in this space by multiple negative events of large scale – creating a tear of a rift in time and space or across dimensions.  Or, an opening/portal of sorts brought on by various environmental factors in the immediate area.

Although most facts, historical information, and sightings have been noted in this writing, there are new stories and experiences from Black Star Canyon being revealed on a regular basis, and new pieces of history being discovered.
In fact, what you have read here is just the publicized information – you haven’t heard the half of it that the OC Ghosts & Legends team has experienced in this bizarre canyon since 2011.  We leave the best stories for one of our signature Black Star Canyon ghost walks.

While the trails and open spaces are regularly traveled during the day, many refuse to traverse the space at night – noting the enormous shift in energy and uncertain/uncomfortable environment. Although many members of the OC Ghosts and Legends team believe this to be one of the most haunted locations in Orange County, we continuously encourage others to create their own experiences and challenge their beliefs. We warmly invite you to join us for a Black Star Canyon Ghost Walk experience.

– Austin McBride

** This blog consists of opinions that reflect on a variety of topics within the paranormal realm and anomalous research. Statements on this blog reflect the author’s personal opinions and do not represent the overall views and/or policies of our organization.
OC Ghosts and Legends promotes an environment for our team members to be able to share thoughts, ideas and theories of the paranormal with respect to our team mission and philosophy. All content provided is for educational, informational and entertainment purposes only

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