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Posted by Maryanne Porter on September 24, 2013 at 12:10 PM



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The legend of the Rispin Mansion is one that many Santa Cruzian’s do not take lightly. From tales of a dreaded curse which prevents anyone from successfully owning its historic motif to rumors of the dead who still haunt its empty shell and wander its cavernous halls. The 92 year old mansion, which stands 4 stories tall and once housed 22 bedrooms has remained vacant for 57 years-well over half of its existence.

The legendary curse begins with Henry Allen Rispin himself, a well-off San Franciscan who acquired the mansion with the intention to turn it into a resort known as “Capitola by the Sea” only to endure a series of misfortune that resulted in the death of his only son, the divorce of his wife and the final blow of complete financial ruin.

But Henry’s plight did not end there. He wandered the city streets a vagabond homeless and penniless. Even upon his death he endured the ultimate indignity when neither the love of a relative, a friend or even an empathetic former wife would claim his deceased remains. Instead, Henry Rispin was left to decay in a pauper’s grave with not even as much as a marker to say “Here lies Henry A. Rispin-Poor Bastard”. Henry’s calamity left him to decompose amongst Alcatraz's finest, nothing more than heinous serial murders and death row inmates in the empty fields of the Olivet Cemetery in Colma, California.



The story doesn’t end there. Before Henry’s string of bad luck ended so tragically, another lucky soul tempted faith. Lured by the majestic manor, millionaire Robert Smith Hays acquired the estate and all of its tempting riches. Perhaps he was not so lucky. Even before Hays could enjoy the mansion's lavishly furnished halls that he purchased at a banker's foreclosure price, his lovely wife soured at it’s grand décor if for no other reason than because she herself was not able to take credit for its copious interior design to indulge her ego amongst her high society friends.

If Hays had not taken his wife’s disapproval as a sign of bad fortune to come, perhaps he should have. Not long after Hays acquired the mansion, he too felt the Rispin curse when he lost his vast millions during the stock market crash and was forced to surrender the mansion in an undignified manor for one so affluent.

Between 1939 and 1941 the monstrosity of a manor remained vacant until the Catholic Church acquired it, turning it into a convent for the Sisters of the Poor Clare’s. Its walls echoed with the harmonious songs to the heavens above before God himself. The sisters rejoiced in praise for their newly acquired haven. Surely the good sisters with their meager possessions, their hearts filled with love and free from greed devoted to the lord up above had lifted the mansion of its dark foreboding curse....or perhaps with no greed filled souls to feed from, something else awoke within the depths of the mansions cavernous walls.


It is common knowledge that the sisters remained at the convent for a little over a decade. They did endure being constantly gawked at by a local passerby through the vast mansion windows, or curious teenagers who would sneak a stare. It was also common knowledge that the sisters were required to darn a specific dress code, which included open toed sandals. During the winter months the cold cement floors and poorly heated manor was said to be intolerable for many of the mansions sisterly occupants, which is believed to have been the reason why the poor sisters left the mansion. Or is it?


Santa Cruz Ghost Hunter, Maryanne Porter was fortunate to exclusively attain the detailed research diary of Sarah M. Harvey, in this diary she keeps an accounting of her research and investigation of the alleged haunting of the infamous Rispin Mansion. During her investigation Harvey visits with the sister's of the Poor Clare’s and she was able to interview a few of the them, who once resided at the Rispin Mansion.


Sarah Harvey/ Paranormal Researcher

Here is a portion of that written interview:

“May 6, 1999”

“Talked to Sister Antoinette today. She insisted on the haunting. Her ghost experiences were as follows:”

-an eerie chilling feeling in the library. She thought there had possibly been a murder there.

-in the upstairs bathroom she heard knocks on the door after her shower, but no one was around. Another sister also reported this happening a few times as well.

-While she was in the chapel, her rounds was 4-5 am, she would hear footsteps up and down the steps outside but would find no one out there.

She also told of the hidden doors.

-behind the library shelf

-in the master bath

-a hallway with a false end.”

End Quote.

A nun who experienced paranormal activity in the mansion  (the sisters swore an oath to speak the truth) Perhaps, something unexplainable haunt's the mansion after all?

In another excerpt from Sarah Harvey’s diary she states the following:

“Last week, Elizabis and I interviewed the Mother Superior of the Poor Clare’s order. They inhabited the Rispin Mansion from 1940-1956. Mother Clare was a sister there for most of this time. She was able to extensively describe the buildings, outbuildings, and environs. She did not report any apparitions or strange encounters during her stay. She joked that if there had been, they would have left the house sooner. But, when I first broached the subject, Mother Clare was noticeably shaken and a little nervous about the subject. I prodded a little more, but she seemed to be getting upset so I let the matter lie.”

End Quote

In a third excerpt from Sarah Harvey’s diary she states:

May -1999

“Exciting news! I just got off the phone with Elizabes and she gave me the rundown of what happened at the Poor Claire’s this evening. According to the sister she talked to the house is indeed haunted. The sister figured something awful must have happened in the house because it was still fairly new.”

End Quote.

The nuns ultimately vacated the Rispin property in approximately 1956, after adding many additional out buildings and a chapel. The Catholic Church abandoned the property and relocated the sisters to a new monastery closer to the ocean and away from the prying eyes of the local inhabitants. So did the sisters move out because they got cold feet? Seems it would have been more cost-effective to purchase closed toed shoes, or perhaps was it still something else.


The mansion became vacant after the Catholic Church left the property in 1956 and remained vacant for over 40 years, owned by the city of Capitola. Then, the dreams of another wealthy potential owner arose from the depths to rescue the mansion from its foreboding neglected state.

In 1998, builder Barry Swenson and Ron Beardslee united with hopes to invest in a multi-million dollar venture to transform the Rispin Mansion into a Bed & Breakfast. The developers invested millions fighting for the rights and plans with the city for approval to resurrect the dilapidating mansion, which they nearly won.


After battling for nearly a decade, and only days before plans were to commence for rehabilitation of the manor, a devastating and unexplainable fire broke out and gutted the mansion in 2009. Once again, the mansion's curse thwarted habitation of the living, and developers were forced to cut their losses. The mansion was ultimately mothballed by the city and boarded up. It continues to remain vacant.


(Click on Link for Rispin Fire 2009)

In 2012, S.C.G.H paranormal investigator, Maryanne Porter, interviewed Capitola City Councilman Sam Story, who expressed his belief that the mansion is in fact cursed and cannot be owned by anyone. He later mentioned after the interview that further legal issues had compromised even the city's legal ownership of the mansion and at that time, they were uncertain if the city itself even had legal title of the mansion.


(Click on Link for S.C.G.H HAUNTED HISTORY RISPIN- video)


The investigation:

August 2012, Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters, investigated inside the Rispin Mansion. Accompanied by city mayor Michael Termini, the S.C.G.H team and local psychic Monnica Selpulveda, they arrived for a late night investigation to try and determine if in fact the mansion is haunted.

S.C.G.H Founder reports:

“We arrived at the mansion before midnight, and immediately psychic / medium Monnica Selpuveda,

Monnica Sepulveda / Psychic Medium

began picking up on the energies in the mansion, she hit key points of females residing at the mansion, and she was right. I had not told her about it being a convent, nor the stories of witnesses seeing the apparition of a nun on more than one occasion."

Porter continues, “ She felt there were both good and bad energies and the mansion was more of a vortex for the other side. The spirit of the nun she felt protected the mansion, however she had stated that the nun was saddened by the current state of the mansion. She also mentioned a negative energy dwelling in the floors below. She described him as not so much an evil man, but one who is very angry; a bully and one who should not be messed with.

“During our investigation we noticed multiple cold and warm spots flowing with air that were unexplainable. Even if I were to conclude it is a back draft of some sort, the entire mansion is boarded up and I cannot account for the drastic and sudden temperature changes that were even registering on our equipment.”


“ The psychic also mentioned we may feel someone touching us or pulling our hair. I and another party did recall that happening, as if someone was walking behind us, touching our hair and tapping our shoulder.” Porter claims.

“The most disturbing part was when we tried to continue with communication. The medium told us the female entity she was seeing said  we all would be safe if we remained on the top floor.

However, as it approached towards the witching hour, one of our new investigators, Nina Kiar, who had been taunting the negative spirit’ that was believed to be down below on the bottom floor, had asked to speak with me privately. As she and I walked down the stairs forgetting of the earlier warning, I turned and witnessed the investigator falling on the staircase with such force as if someone had pushed her. She tried to catch herself on the railing and was able to do so, however she immediately asked “Who Pushed Me?” and was noticeably disoriented and shaken afterwards, as if she was spirituality attacked.


“We were able to conclude at that time, that there were at least 15 spirits coming in and out of the mansion like a black hole. As the clock began approaching 3:00 a.m., we thought it best to not tempt fate and aggravate the energies any further and began to pack up to leave the mansion. As we prepared to leave, the lights inside the mansion kept going on and off sporadically, which was odd. Although they were set as motion detectors, they kept flickering without motion and very quickly. I would prefer to think that maybe a breaker needed to be reset, but I cannot say for sure. I can only say that it had not happened all night until after investigator Nina Kiar, had been pushed down the stairs and we prepared to leave. When we departed, another team member noticed the pant leg of the investigator who had been pushed, and you could see a distinct shoe print on the bottom of her pant leg as if someone had attempted to kick her.”

Would S.C.G.H go back into the mansion?

“YES! I would definitely want to go back into the mansion for a 2nd investigation. Now that I have an idea of what potentially is there first hand, I would strictly go in from an investigative point of view without the need of a medium. I would love to go in, this time earlier in the evening, with a smaller team, along with our newer equipment and also have an experienced shaman with us to conduct a cleansing afterwards. The mansion needs to be cleansed and we were not prepared to do so at the last visit. As the energy was already unhappy, it would have just made it angrier, it was better to leave when we did before it got potentially stronger"



(CLICK ON LINK FOR S.C.G.H Investigative Evidence)

Edited by:

Susie Dryden Fowkes / Crime Reporter S.J


Maryanne Porter / S.C.G.H Founder


Capitola City

Sarah Harvey - Paranormal Researcher-Journal 1999

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Capitola Museum / Library

Public Internet  

Photos: Both Public domain & notes from Sarah Harvey

S.C.G.H book is in the works reg. Rispin which will entail additional excerpts from Sarah Harvey's investigation + more-    Stay tuned!




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