Inside West Covina’s Haunted Park

The infamy of Galster Park stems from tall tales of gruesome murder and occult rituals

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.