A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


A Student Publication of Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA


Inside West Covina’s Haunted Park

The infamy of Galster Park stems from tall tales of gruesome murder and occult rituals
A lost dog poster is found taped to a vandalized oak tree beyond the entrance to the park on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

Since West Covina’s days as a collection of citrus fields, there have been stories that were passed down and twisted by those who inhabit the city. Imaginations were left to run wild in the caged confines of schoolyards across the city, filling the parks and public places of West Covina with spirits, ghouls and to some sensitive souls, fears spanning an entire childhood.

Mt. SAC students who live in the area are familiar with the stories centered around Galster Park: tales of a man who lived in a shack that would murder children, individuals hanging themselves from trees and satanic rituals occurring throughout the park.

Galster Park is a 42-acre park with trails and a small playground located in the hills of West Covina. The land was originally owned by Emil and Gladys Galster, who donated the land to the city of West Covina in 1971 with the intent to keep it as a wilderness park to educate the public.

Galster Park 2
A path shrouded in gnarly brambles sits lower in the park leading up to the top of the hill on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

Since then, it has dilapidated beyond recognition in some places, leaving unnerving sights throughout the wooded hills, some of which might spark a wild imagination.

At the entrance, one is met with a looming pair of rusty black gates, reminiscent of the arched gateway to a cemetery from a cheap 90’s horror flick. In the back of your mind, you might be scared of what lies beyond the tacky barrier.

Driving a short, tree-shrouded road into the park will lead to the parking lot where the Galster Park Nature Center sits, almost always closed, near an ’80s-style rest area. It is accented with a spiral staircase that curves to the top of a skeletal watch tower, complete with birds of paradise which have long since been left flying wild and unpruned.

Carved along the railing at the top of the tower are dick jokes written in Sharpie and the initials of lovers scratched into the center of grimy hearts. Throughout the area, there are flooding urinals painted with graffiti, accompanied by the rotten stench of sewage. Not too far in the distance lies a playground buried in sand.

At the end of a shortcut off the main trail is a shack covered with spray paint and a door popped off of its hinges, left slightly ajar. Tall tales scraped off the bottom of internet ghost forums from 2012 speak of a man who would lure children away from the playground and murder them at a similarly-described shack.

Locals are said to have heard the chilling screams of children at night near the playground, sometimes driving from the park to later find hand prints in the dust of their windshields.

There have been dead animals discovered throughout the property, which are suspected leftovers of satanic cult rituals and sacrifices. Pentagrams can be found tucked away in hidden corners of the park, spray painted behind maintenance buildings and on rocks.

Galster Park 3
A pentagram is tucked away behind a maintenance building at the bottom of the park on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

Continuing up the shortcut and heading north leads to another battered restroom, locked and run-down beyond its once prideful stance on the top of the mighty hill. Beyond is the ragged remains of what might have once been a family picnic area—a reward for those who took the steep hike up to see a now largely different view.

Galster Park 4
The wooded hills at Galster park on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

There is a broken table, more graffiti and a fire pit with burnt remains.

Galster Park 5
Ashes lie in the fire pit at the top of the hill in Galster Park on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

The trail is shrouded in sagebrush and weeds, so untamed that it towers over hikers who pass through. Someone walking alone might be easily startled by a squirrel or jackrabbit, but walking in a group scares away any rodents or would-be ghouls hiding in the trees.

Hiking up the hill towards the fence dividing the park and the infamous BKK landfill, SAC Media reporters came across two hikers walking down the hill.

La Puente residents Jannette Heredia and a man who called himself Ignacio “Nacho” Libre recall childhood memories at Galster Park, which, in the innocence of childhood, were transformed into more than what they were.

“We used to come here to look at the view at night and we would hear screams, and people saying things out in the darkness,” Libre said. “We thought it was haunted, but I guess when we come in here, it’s just other people making noises. From my experience, I don’t think it’s haunted. Maybe if I were to experience something supernatural, it would change my mind.”

“Yeah, I think it’s haunted. It sure looks haunted,” Heredia said, looking nervously over the wooded hills.

The path further up the hill ends with a tall gate covered in a seemingly artful splatter of graffiti.

Galster Park 6
The tall fence topped with barbed wire separates the hiking trails of Galster Park and West Covina’s BKK Landfill on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

A hole in the fence reveals a trodden path into the landfill, painted in an almost beautiful light as the golden hour retreated into twilight.

Galster Park 7
The BKK Landfill sits behind a tall barb-wired fence beneath the setting sun on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

Without the warm embrace of the sun, the park was transformed into our childhood nightmares, and trees became gnarly in the shadows cast by pathetic cell phone flashlights. Suddenly, as the birds in the trees fell silent, every rustle became a new terror.

Before leaving the park, SAC Media reporters took some time to sit in the poorly lit playground, listening to the silence that seemed unbothered by the crickets chirping in the bushes. Besides a startling crash in the trees, which might have been a large animal, screams emitted from somewhere at the northeast of the playground.

Whether Galster Park is a spiritual hotspot or a thinning in the veil between the living and the dead is not immediately clear. Much of the lore surrounding the park is based on rumors and outdated encounters online, and it is difficult to see it as much more than a running joke amongst locals.

Galster Park Headline
A lost dog poster is found taped to a vandalized oak tree beyond the entrance to the park on March 4, 2020. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

Although it’s easy to paint the park as the grisly scene of a murder, there is little more in the park than some deteriorating buildings scratched up with knives and Sharpie marks.

Though it is not clear if satanic rituals or murders have taken place at the park, the trailheads are worth the beautiful view of the San Gabriel Valley. But as the alleged tales go, you never know what might be looking down at you as you sit in the dark, your back towards the hills as you gaze down on the busy cities below at night.

View Comments (5)
About the Contributor
Nadia Vazquez, Author

Comments (5)

All SACMedia Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    Margie CanalesNov 21, 2022 at 9:46 am

    What is the best scenic trail for adults

  • D

    DonMar 5, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    Some guy murders

  • A

    AmandaFeb 21, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    Hello. I moved to the area a couple years ago, but my husband grew up here. We often go to the park to explore. As of last summer at least, if you took the path to the left at the fork shortly before you reach the fence you eventually reach the demolished remains of a bathroom building matching the one at the top of the paved hill. We saw the foundation and tower still intact, but bits and pieces of the bathroom still scattered like stacked cinder blocks and a sink. That area felt especially creepy, like if satanic rituals happened anywhere in the park, it might be there. along that side path there are also the start of many pads that look like they would lead down but eventually go nowhere. It’s an extremely interesting area and would be great for a follow-up article!

  • A

    Abraham NavarroJan 15, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you Joe! I’m glad the story spoke to you that way! I don’t know if you’ll be able to see this when i post it, but i’d really like to know more about the santa massacre! you can reach me at [email protected]

  • J

    Joe GoreDec 29, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for the story, Abraham and Esmerelda!

    I grew up in WC — in fact, my dad, Marvin, taught at SAC for many years and eventually became a dean. As someone who loves reading about paranormal stuff while remaining a sceptic, I’ve followed the “Haunted Gallster” story for a few years. Back in the early ’70s, I’d go there every weekend for model rocket club launches. I didn’t know till I read your piece that it had only just been converted to a public space. The funny thing is, there was absolutely nothing eerie about the spot at the time. It was apparently much less grown-over, with more open space and sunlight. It was a total surprise to learn 40+ years later that it had evolved into such an enduring suburban myth. So it’s a bit more creepy West Covina/Covina lore, is not quite as creepy as the 2008 Santa massacre. My hometown apparently because a lot less bland after I’d moved away!