Photos Provided by Gene Beadnell
However, this building, too, ended up burning to the ground and once again the property was sold and a new structure erected, this time to James and Theresa Beadnell in 1943. The Beadnells resurrected the “Mt. Madonna Inn” and continued family ownership throughout the years until it was sold in 2004. The sprawling restaurant and banquet hall has remained vacant ever since.
Beadnell told S.C.G.H that during the 1940’s the Inn was leased out to Red and Bessy Barker, who renamed it the “El Corral Café.”
The El Corral was not only a café, but also a horse ranch complete with two stables and a roping arena. The Barkers rented horses out by the hour for patrons to take a tour of the county park via horseback. A horse stable remains on the Mt. Madonna Inn property to this day and through the years, people have claimed to have heard the phantom charging of horse hooves on the land. The horse is believed to be that of little Sarah Miller or even Native American tribes men.
The carnage on Mt. Madonna & Hecker Pass
Between the 1930’s and 40’s despite the change of hands of ownership ` ominous events began to occur in what almost seemed to be a ritualistic fashion - murderous episodes would begin to surface and continue to occur - even to this day. Hidden away from public prying eyes, along the winding roads of Hecker Pass, in the vast wooded areas between the Mt Madonna Inn and the Mt. Madonna Campground, these hills seemingly became a dumping ground for those with murderous intent, however these woods not only drew in the villainous and depraved the depressed and suicidal also flocked to find a secluded area where they too, could enact there selfish deed…
In 1928, four teenage boys were arrested for the murder of a 49 year old ranch laborer who lived in a shack near the Mt. Madonna School, they had beat him death.
In 1933, the body of 49 year old, ex convict and suspect in a murder case last fall, Nick Sigismondo was found on the side of Hecker Pass road near Mt. Madonna, face down in a pool of blood, he had been shot multiple times.
In 1936, 55 year old Jack Bennett, murdered 28 year old Grace Ayers, 28 year old Austin Martin, and critically injured a three year old child in cold blood on the city streets of Watsonville. He was later found in the Mt. Madonna park area, he had taken the same gun to commit the murders and shot himself through the head. Death was instantaneous.
In 1938, The body of a 26 year old Thomas Julian of Morgan Hill, was discovered by a park ranger, 500 feet from the Mt. Madonna park entrance off of Hecker Pass Rd. He was slumped over the front seat of his car – a garden hose had been attached to the tail pipe of the exhaust and threw a rolled up window of his 1928 Plymouth. The death was ruled a suicide.
In 1938, an unidentified skeletal remains was found by a hunter in the woods of Mt. Madonna, the remains were believed to be at least 5 years old and still had socks and shoes on.
In 1944, 43 year old Restito Gonzales, a laborer, was found shot to death on Mt. Madonna, three teenage boys were arrested in connection with his murder.
These are just a few of the many deaths which have occurred upon Mt. Madonna – the treacherous roadways of Hecker Pass have taken many lives as well, ending in horrific accidents which have resulted in many deaths. The wooded grounds still occasionally used as a dumping ground,…and the haunting rumors continuously occur.
Is the lady in white who is seen wandering the woods and down Hecker Pass road near the Mt. Madonna Inn, the apparition of little 8 year old Sarah Miller, who was killed riding her horse in 1897 or perhaps this lady of white is that of Sara Chavaria, an 18 year old expectant mother who was brutally killed by her boyfriend in 1969. Andras Morillo, age 20 slit the throat of his girlfriend, who was pregnant with his child, and left her to die outside the entrance of Mt. Madonna Park, could it be her who wanders seeking help, ~ desperately trying to get off the mountain to safety?
Alas, we may never know,..
By the 1970s , Theresa and James Beadnell retired and left the Mt. Madonna Inn to their sons, Gene and James Beadnell. James resided in the caretaker’s house below the Inn for many years. Together the brothers worked feverishly, expanding the Inn, adding a dance floor, full bar, live music – the expansion resulted in the Inn’s current size. The brothers ran a profitable and lucrative business for all to enjoy.
However, during the Inn’s peak in the 1970s, tragedy struck the hills of Mt. Madonna once again, near the Inn the bodies of three young boys, aged 12 to 16, were found brutally murdered, their carcasses left nude and scattered in various areas surrounding the property of the Inn. One young boy was said to have been stabbed up to 70 times.
In 1983, tragedy struck yet again when James Beadnell, who had lived in the caretaker’s unit, unexpectedly passed away. Gene continued to run the Inn until his retirement in 2004 and sold the business to an unknown party. In 2005, another tragedy unfolded when a 19-year-old woman was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds slumped over in her truck parked on Hecker Pass, a short distance from the Inn.
The Inn has remained closed with its doors locked and chained shut for over a decade ...
On Nov. 18, 2011, Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters was invited to do a paranormal investigation of the Mt. Madonna Inn. Founder and paranormal investigator Maryanne Porter, S.C.G.H.’s own Sarinah and Arrianna, In the 2011 season we welcomed new S.C.G.H paranormal investigators to the team - researcher Rhiannon Mai, retired sheriff Tim Loe, videographer Bryan Coleman, crime journalist/editor Susie Dryden Fowkes, and published author and musician Jonathan Dryden.
As the rain poured heavily, S.C.G.H members gathered outside and waited for our host, Joshua Fisher from Sterling Financial to arrive. As we anticipate our investigation for the evening, standing before the chained doors of the dark and lonely Inn, one can only be reminded that these doors have remained locked to the general public for nearly a decade. As traffic drives slowly through the mountain curves, with an occasional passerby pulling alongside the large parking lot to let the rain subside a bit, discussions arise of the many car accidents that have taken place on a night just like this. Upon entering the Inn, our host Joshua Fisher, gives us a tour of the grand establishment, although his skepticism of the paranormal is apparent, the known history of the mountain itself and legends passed down through the decades, persuades us to differ.
Using a ghost radar, which is an affordable alternative to the Ovilus, an electronic dictionary which in theory allows an entity to relay to us in words - we are able to establish a simple dialog in hopes to promote communication. Accompanied by K-2 meters which monitors electrical changes in the environment and incorporating a spirit box, also known as a "Franks Box" we can use radio frequencies which allows an entity to manipulate the frequencies projecting phrases they are trying to communicate, utilizing a control of mini mag flashlights which an entity can manipulate through its own energy or heat allowing it to turn the light on and off, for yes and no questions we can also establish a dialog of yes or no questions with a willing entity.
(see video left)
European immigrant who was known best as “the cattle king” and founding father of the Los Banos area, made his way to California during an era when the Gold Rush was taking over the west. Henry Miller had monopolized the cattle industry and began his land purchases in the Gilroy area in 1863. Miller ultimately acquired more than 1.5 million acres between California, Oregon, and the Nevada's. He ranched more than one million heads of cattle and 100,000 sheep. At the time of his death, Miller had a net worth of over $40 million, which would be an astronomical fortune today. Miller’s two most famed properties were the Bloomfield Farm and his summer estate on Mt. Madonna.
Although Mr. Miller was incredibly successful with his wealth and fame, mysteriously he was not so fortunate with his loved ones. Henry Miller married Nancy Sheldon, who, according to the Gilroy Historical Museum, is said to have died immediately after the birth of their first son in 1859. The child, who also passed at birth was named for his “cattle king” father.
Henry Miller later married Nancy Sheldon Miller’s sister, Sarah Elizabeth Sheldon, who is said to have given him four more children. Mysteriously, only two of those children actually lived long enough to reach adulthood and only one gave the Millers grandchildren.
Sarah Alice Miller, a.k.a “Gussie,” was the youngest child born to the Millers. She was born on December 21, 1871 and died on August 12, 1879 at the age of 8 while riding her horse along a Mt. Madonna trail during a time when the family had been living in tents in the wilderness to monitor the cattle and begin making plans to build their summer estate. The ruins of the estate exist to this day at the Mt. Madonna campgrounds. Little Sarah’s body is said to have been buried at the Bloomfield Farm, however, conflicting stories claim her remains were buried on top of Mt. Madonna. After the death of her father in 1916, little Sarah's remains were exhumed and although the Gilroy Museum was unable to confirm where her remains were taken, S.C.G.H was able to investigate and discovered that her remains were in fact buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in a family plot, in Colma near San Francisco.
After further research S.C.G.H also learned, that it was Henry Miller who had requested to be buried on the estate property of Mt. Madonna – in a written will. Although it is not known if Miller had actually ever been buried on the Mt. Madonna estate property, a local ranger did notice an odd cement slab at the ruins that has been questioned as a possible burial site.
“It was because of young Sarah’s death that Mt. Madonna got its name”; claimed Gene Beadnell, whose family originally owned the Mt. Madonna Inn until he sold the property in 2004. Beadnell also states a large statue had been fashioned “by two Italian designers” on Henry Miller’s Mt. Madonna estate. After Sarah’s death, the statue was erected in her memory beneath where her body was said to have been laid to rest. The statue portrayed a life size depiction of the Virgin Mary or “The Madonna,” hence the name Mt. Madonna.
Although Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters was not able to confirm that anyone had been buried at the Mt. Madonna estate; we were able to substantiate that the body of young Sarah Miller had been moved to Colma, near the San Francisco area - and there is evidence to support that a statue had been erected for the Henry Miller estate and later removed in 1916 after Henry Miller’s death (Santa Cruz County Place Names, by Donald Thomas Clark). Beadnell says that after Henry Miller died, not only was the statue removed, but Sarah’s remains were exhumed from Mt. Madonna and moved to San Francisco where the rest of the Miller family resided. The Miller family estate on Mt. Madonna was sold and eventually burned down. Mt. Madonna County Park now stands on what was once the Miller ranchland.
According to the Gilroy Historical Museum, little Sarah was thrown from her horse when the animal stumbled. The large beast fell on top of her, crushing her little body with its enormous weight.
Legend has it that little Sarah’s ghost continues to wander the hills of Mt. Madonna. According to an article in the Morgan Hill Times dated October 28, 2005, a Santa Clara County park ranger by the name of Goodrich was stationed at Mount Madonna.
According to Goodrich, on multiple occasions while working the night shift, he was called to check on the old Mt. Madonna Inn, a restaurant on top of the hill, where lights were reported to be on, despite the fact that the building was locked and closed for the business day.
"We would go up there and turn the lights off, and then a few hours later they would go back on," Goodrich told the Morgan Hill Times. Goodrich also claimed that one night, "It was really foggy, and I heard this young woman yelling 'help.’ I was alone and I searched the entire area by foot and vehicle." Again he found nothing, reaffirming his belief that Sarah Miller was haunting the inn.
Additional stories about sightings of a young girl in a white dress walking the empty roads of the campgrounds continue to surface, as well as the reports of sounds of a running horse echoing into the night. Even Santa Cruz Ghost Hunter, Maryanne Porter can swear she heard the pounding of horse hooves rushing at her one evening while taking photographs behind the Mt. Madonna Inn, only to turn towards the sound to find nothing there.
Was Henry Miller cursed with both a vast fortune and a tragic chain of events leading to the loss of his loved ones? Do he and his daughter remain earthbound after death searching for something, or is this just an old urban legend to scare children before bedtime?
Sarah Alice Miller (Gussie) age 8