Patrick’s Roadhouse on PCH Is GHOULA’s Latest Haunt

Richard Carradine and Lisa Strouss, founders of GHOULA (Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles), at the site of their September 13 gathering.

Richard Carradine and Lisa Strouss, founders of GHOULA (Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles), at the site of their September 13 gathering.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

Something strange went on at Patrick’s Roadhouse on September 13. From 6 to about 10 p.m., owner Silvio Moreira, and restaurant manager Cherry Gustafson were seen hard at work servicing a houseful of diners. But normally, the Santa Monica Canyon restaurant is not opened for dinner. So what gives? These diners were not your usual lunch bunch. Some 40 members of GHOULA (that’s Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles), a group that’s been meeting on the 13th of every month at various locations citywide, had selected Patrick’s Roadhouse as their September destination because the establishment, according to lore, is supposedly haunted. Founded in 2008 by Hollywood residents Richard Carradine and Lisa Strouss, both in their 30s, GHOULA averages about 25 ghost-minded guzzlers at its monthly ‘Spirits with Spirits’ gatherings. The drinking is secondary, really, as is the science. Carradine noted that GHOULA is not a paranormal band of ghost-busters, but a social group. And these casual mixers provide a back-door way to learn about venerable City of Angels locales. ‘Ghost stories are, in essence, a great way to look back in time,’ Carradine said. Moreira told the Palisadian-Post why he was game to receive and entertain the GHOULA crowd on that Sunday night. ‘It’s something new, something different,’ Moreira said. ‘Rich was very nice and I thought I’d provide a space and a home for the this kind of realm.’ Moreira, before owning Patrick’s, worked at the restaurant for original owner Bill Fischler for 19 years. ‘They wanted to close it down following his death,’ Moreira said. ‘But they resisted and I took it over.’ He remembers working for Fischler, an eccentric, larger-than-life character, who some claim still haunts the popular brunch destination. (According to lore, one Patrick’s chef quit his job years ago because he was supposedly spooked by the ghost of Fischler eyeballing him.) ‘He was such a big presence,’ Moreira said. ‘He filled this place with antiques. It was a second chance at life for him. He was in his 50s when he took it over. He had chutzpah.’ Upon taking the reins of Patrick’s, Moreira refurbished the restaurant’s interior and exterior. The case of the large mural of a woman on the side of the building’s exterior might be kind of cosmic, if not supernatural. Right as Moreira was about to hire an artist to repaint it, the original artist, a man in his 70s who went by the nom de plume ‘Silvani,’ ‘came out of nowhere,’ Moreira said. ‘He was like a nomad, living in a camper. He came back just at the right time. Like divine intervention.’ Silvani repainted the mural in a few days. The reason GHOULA is meeting at Patrick’s is because of member Michele Yu had read about it in a book called ‘A Bottle of Boos: A Guide to America’s Most Haunted Bars & Taverns’ by Robert and Anne Wlodarski. ‘It was super to find a group of people who were also excited about ghosts,’ said Yu, an Alhambra resident, as members dined on Patrick’s burgers and fries, and spirits supplied by GHOULA. Yu brought friends Cindy Chao, Anthony Deptula and fianc’ Tina Kapousis. The group is interested in the occult and they even have a ouija-board team. ‘The best part is when we get special access to places, not just researching it online,’ Chao added. ‘Richard is very knowledgeable and has a lot of interesting stories I had never heard of.’ ‘What’s great about Rich is that he’s curious about places,’ Yu said. ‘He’s not trying to debunk or ghost-bust. It’s not confrontational.’ First-time participants Cesar Haro of Inglewood and Jim Wheelock of Hollywood attended the Patrick’s meeting. Haro came because ‘I was interested in the paranormal and life after death and what’s beyond death. There’s so much evidence out there that there’s got to be something else.’ Haro added that there are probably ‘so many sunken ships’ in the Pacific Ocean just outside Patrick’s windows that ‘there are probably a lot of ghosts who have passed through here.’ A mug in hand, Wheelock had a totally different reason for attending: ‘Boredom.’ First-timers Hazel Daulo of San Fernando Valley attended with Katey Khajhany. Daulo was curious about the group because she believed she’s had ‘a couple’ brushes with the supernatural. ‘I work at a hospital,’ she said. ‘I’ve had some lights in the bathroom go off.’ ‘I’m kind of curious about the paranormal,’ Khajhany said. ‘I’ve seen some supernatural shows like ‘Ghost Hunters’ [on SyFy].’ ‘I’d like to come back again,’ she said, taking in Patrick’s funky d’cor. ‘It’s a pretty neat place.’ The formation of GHOULA began as something of a fluke. Strouss and Carradine had been collaborating on online webisodes focused on visiting haunted places and they needed some kind of official-sounding, pseudo-scientific organization to back the series. And so, they conjured up the GHOULA acronym and the ‘pseudo-group,’ Strouss said, ‘ended up being more successful. Strouss, with daughter Olive, 2, in tow, noted that Carradine had originally tried ‘a zombie mini-golf event but that didn’t click. ‘This is more fun, to meet people and go all over L.A. I love the energy of the group. People come with so many ghost stories. Even people I know who I thought were complete skeptics or atheists.’ Count Wheelock among those wary of apparitions. ‘If they do exist, I’m not likely the one who would see them,’ he admitted. Since the first meeting, Carradine’s wife has been supportive of her husband’s monthly endeavor. ‘My husband’s not a talkative guy,’ said Angela Carradine. ‘It’s great to witness his personality morph into someone who is very chatty.’ ‘There are no real groups like this in L.A.,’ said Lee Barron, a collaborator on the webisodes who attended Patrick’s with fianc’ Lisa Ryder. A psychic once determined that Barron had a psychic link to the supernatural. ‘That was the last thing I wanted to hear,’ said Barron, who had always received strange, unexplainable impulses from certain places he’s visited. ‘I like ghosts but I also like the people,’ said a frequent attendee, artist Amy Hagemeier. Craig Owens brought his K-II meter, a portable detector that gauges electromagnetic currents, to Patrick’s, while Ken Ramos and Melissa Pleckham (musicians in the rock band Shiloe) were toying with an arguably hipper and more state-of-the-art gizmo: a ghost-detecting application on their iPhone. At one point, it should be noted, both devices went off at once. Ramos said he was happy ‘to find a ghost group in L.A.,’ even if it’s kind of a ghost-lite affair. ‘It’s nice to hear stories and meet people who like ghosts.’ Pleckham, on the other hand, would welcome some hardcore ghost-busting. ‘I would be down if we had the special equipment,’ she said. ‘I want to do a lockdown of a place and stay there till the next morning.’ Previous GHOULA outings had produced their own strange energy. Take June 13. Strouss said that she and Angela Carradine, while touring the Queen Mary in Long Beach, somehow wound up with black grease on their hands. They could not figure out what it was they had touched. It was only afterwards that they learned of a story about a deceased ship hand who supposedly haunted the Queen Mary by leaving engine-room grease behind. ‘My favorite meeting took place [in February] at Union Station,’ Hagemeier said. ‘It was a small group. We kind of explored and went to the mysterious 13th track.’ According to Carradine, when he inquired with the manager of one place about ghost stories, the person panicked and warned his staff not to talk to him. At Carlito’s Way Cocktails in Van Nuys, the site of last December’s trip, GHOULA learned that the bar was where parts of the doomed 1983 John Landis movie ‘The Twilight Zone’ was filmed, which included Vic Morrow’s last scenes before his untimely death during an on-set mishap inside a studio hangar. On January’s jaunt to the famed Hollywood watering hole Musso & Frank’s, the restaurant was inaccessible. ‘It was closed because a water main on Hollywood Boulevard had broken,’ Angela Carradine recalled. ‘So we went across the street and that place was closed. Then we went to Boardner’s and that was closed, too.’ GHOULA wound up at Mel’s Diner, where a fascinated Steve Cohen, owner of Village Pizzeria in Hollywood, met the group and joined them for a meal. GHOULA learned of his fixation with the number 13. According to Cohen, the unlucky numeral (tattooed on his left wrist) has popped up often in his life. Too often. Keep in mind that, this being GHOULA, the evening took place on the 13th. Sure enough, when Cohen got his restaurant bill, the total was $12.13. Owens has been attending meetings for half a year now. His favorite has been a visit to a former mortuary in Pasadena, now a restaurant called Eden Grill. ‘I was doing research of haunted places as well when I came across the GHOULA Web site,’ he said. ‘When I met Rich, we shared and exchanged information. We do that in between meetings.’ Such input from the membership has helped Carradine determine GHOULA’s monthly destinations. Toward the evening’s end at Patrick’s, as Strouss left the event with Olive, Owens demonstrated his K-II meter in the back room. He showed how putting the meter next to electrical appliances could trigger a reaction for the K-II. Mysteriously, the device started to light up and buzz off the charts as he held it toward the middle of the room, where there was no evident electricity emanating. ‘See! It’s going off again,’ Owens said. ‘This means there’s electricity in the air and something might be trying to manifest itself in some way or another.’ At that very moment, a reporter felt a vibration ripping through his pocket. It was his cell phone with a distress call from Strouss from the parking lot across the street (which was a direct line from the back room). She said she had left her car lights on during the gathering and her battery had gone dead. The timing was amazing. Could this be just a mundane coincidence, or had a poltergeist just rip through Patrick’s and make a beeline for Strouss’ car outside? Which begged the larger question: Is Patrick’s, in fact, haunted? ‘I wouldn’t call it ‘haunted,” Moreira said, smiling, ‘but [Fischler]’s definitely still guarding it, making sure it’s protected.’ Whether or not a ghost was present inside Patrick’s, one thing’s for certain: There was definitely a ghost in Santa Monica that night. A short drive away, in fact, within the Aero Theatre, where, at the same time as the GHOULA meeting, the American Cinematheque was screening the 1966 Don Knotts comedy, ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.’ Coincidence? Visit http://www.ghoula.org.