Similar stories have circulated in Santa Cruz County of a lady in white who wanders the Ocean Street Extension road toward the cemetery seeking vengeance in her wake. Pre-dating back to the early 1960's, the tales of the White Lady circulated amongst carousing teenagers sneaking out for a late night party in an old abandoned building. Many swore to see the ghostly image of a young woman in white, wandering the abandoned building and walking towards the cemetery late at night.
Local lore begins with a fantastical tale derived from the 1870's regarding a young mail order bride from Massachusetts. Her arranged marriage was to a local drunkard, who allegedly forced her to traipse about the house each night in her wedding dress while he blatantly beat and demoralized her, for nothing more than his own depraved amusement.
The story contends that the young bride sought to escape her abusive husband; however he grew wise of her disobedience and beat her to death before burning the body in an attempt to hide his evil deed. For generations to come, the bizarre tale asserts that the disembodied spirit of a woman in white wanders the road of the Ocean Street Extension toward the cemetery seeking vengeance in her wake.
This story of Santa Cruz’s White Lady that most are familiar with is at best a tall tale. However, it might have actual roots in teenage love, stone masons and Prohibition-era bootlegging. While researching the old gunpowder manufacturer formerly known as the California Powder Works mill, currently referred to as Paradise Park; which is near the locations of the reported apparitions, Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters, learned that the many residents of this location have also seen what appears to be a woman in white wandering the woods.
Through research we were able to learn about the prominent Rountree family (namesake for the county jail called the Rountree Medium Facility). Who had ties to the area in question and a daughter who died leaving a tragically sad tale. Her name was Myrtle Rountree, According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, and an article dating back to August of 1913, Thomas Rountree, an employee of the gunpowder refinery and father to young Ms. Myrtle, brought his wife, children and family friends the Scotts, to the Powder Work Mill Village, beside the adjoining riverbed of the San Lorenzo River, for an afternoon picnic like he had done many times before.
What started as a carefree day of fun in the hot August sun, with children playing and men and women engaged in jovial conversation, quickly turned into a nightmare that would scar them forever. While eating lunch on the bank, thirteen - year - old Alonzo Scott ignited a match and threw it in to a pile of what was initially thought to be asbestos; however, the debris-filled pile was actually filled with gun cotton, a highly flammable nitro. The picnickers, were all badly burned, but none as severe as 15 year old Myrtle - who's burns extended from her face and back, her clothes nearly entirely burned from her body.
Myrtle survived her injuries, and later married her childhood sweetheart - however, sadly within two months of the marriage, Myrtle developed tuberculosis and died at the age of 19. Although historical news articles reflect Myrtle did have a funeral, further records do not reveal where Myrtle Rountree, was buried in the Santa Cruz area - while some of her family members rest at the Felton Cemetery, we have yet to uncover the last resting place of the young girl. Perhaps if our White Lady is Myrtle, she maybe still searching for her loved ones. “In the paranormal world, we recognize that past lives may leave an imprint, much like a memory, of times that may have been happy and loved or times that may have endured tragedy,”
If Myrtle is our "White Lady" then she likely wanders to and from some of her favorite and yet tragic memories with her family near the mill, she wanders down the road to find her childhood love, or perhaps she wanders to the cemetery trying to find her place amongst the headstones, a place where she has no name,...