Allegedly haunted: Brand Library located at 1601 West Mountain Street, Glendale, CA 91201-1209.
SOMETHING GHOSTLY THIS WAY COMES
By Nancy Garza
Copyright: Glendale News Press, October 30, 1993 (Reprinted for integrity sake.)
It was a dark, moonless night. Everyone had left Brand Library hours ago. Everyone, that is, except Joe.
Joseph Fuchs, Library Services Administrator, sat at a desk in his office high in the library tower. It was an isolated room, accessible only by climbing a narrow and winding staircase.
By 8 p.m., he was ready to go home. So he put his things away, picked up his satchel and started out. He stopped at the office door for a few moments to gather his thoughts and make sure he had everything he needed.
Suddenly, he heard a low, moaning voice coming from below. “Joe!” it said.
“That’s weird,” he thought. “Everyone left two hours ago ‘ “
But he figured it was a clerk who had come back for something, and seeing the light on in the tower, wondered if Joe was still up there.
“Yeah? Hi! Who is it?” he yelled.
It struck him that what he heard had not come from the ground floor but from the center of the staircase, which was clearly visible from where he stood. Yet no one was there.
Then another realization: he had assumed the voice had said “Joe!” But actually, it had said “Go!”
Heart pounding and flesh tingling. Joe somehow made his way down the staircase. To avoid walking through dark, empty rooms he switched on one light, then went back to turn off the previous light, continuing like that until he finally, got out the front door and into the safety of his car.
Was this just the imagination of an over-tired individual? Or is there really a ghost that haunts Brand Library? Before deciding, consider the following story told by Lisa Blessing, senior customer service representative for the library:
“One afternoon I was working in the room at the bottom of the stairway. I was carrying books to a table when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a male figure climbing the stairs. I was about to tell him that the upper floor was off limits to the public when I realized there wasn’t anybody there. But I strongly felt, and still do, that someone was there.”
Consider also the strange observations of other staff members. Some say they’ve heard footsteps coming from the room overhead. Others say books have suddenly fallen over. A clerk says he once saw shadows on the stairs. In each case, no one was there.
Still another person recalls a cat who lived in the library a few years ago whose hair would stand on end when it entered certain parts of the building. In fact, almost every, staff member admits to feeling “some thing there” in the older sections of the library.
Then there are the stories about the tower.
Before it was converted to an office several years ago, the tower was a storage room. According to Fuchs, few staff members were willing to work up there.
“There seemed to be a feeling of a presence,” he said. “And there was a kind of cold air that all of a sudden would come out of nowhere and sort of move by you.”
He also recalls that in the past, when the custodians worked the night shift, the crew supervisor had to clean the tower room alone. He told Fuchs that his men wouldn’t do it; they had been up there and didn’t like what happened.
So, do all these stories add up to a real ghost?
Ghost-hunter, lecturer and author of the soon-to-be released “The Haunted Southland” (Charon Press), Richard Senate, thinks so.
“You’ve got the outline of a classic haunting here,” Senate said. You’ve got drafts of cold air, the feeling of being watched, the voices and a very loose apparition. All these are indicative of a true haunting. And the fact that you’ve got multiple people having different experiences is substantiating.
Of course, there’s no scientific proof that ghosts exist, Senate says. They can’t be put in a bottle or a cage to be examined. But they can be studied by their behavior. And based on how cases have been reported over 130 years, this is a typical sort of haunting, he says.
But if there is a ghost haunting Brand Library, just who is it?
“We think it’s the ghost of L.C. Brand,” Fuchs said, referring to the early Glendale developer who died in 1925. “Not Mrs. Brand but Mr. Brand. And that’s in part because of the voice that’s been heard and people catching a glimpse out of the corner of their eye ‘ Also, Mr. Brand died here in this building, whereas Mrs. Brand died in an auto accident in Arizona.”
Senate agrees. “Since he died in the house, that’s a pretty good indicator that it might be his presence.”
But many library staff members need no convincing. They just have a feeling that Brand is still around, One of them is customer service representative Amy Wilson. She tells this story:
“I work a lot at the circulation desk. On the wall behind the desk are two paintings: One of Mr. Brand and one of Mrs. Brand. When I’m up there and sometimes when I’m walking around, I feel like Mr. Brand is watching me. It seems like he’s alive in the picture. But for some reason, Mrs. Brand is not. I’ve always felt that way.”
Now, before making your final decision as to the authenticity of this ghost, consider this last piece of evidence: The library itself.
Before becoming a public building, Brand Library was the mansion of Leslie C. Brand. He built the house in 1904, modeling it after an East Indian palace with crenelated arches, huge domes and minarets. The interior was richly decorated with silk damask wall coverings, handcrafted woodwork and Tiffany leaded glass windows.
The house contained five bedrooms, a solarium, parlor, living room, drawing room, dining room and music salon. On his expansive grounds, Brand built a clubhouse, tennis courts, a swimming pool, kennels, a dog graveyard and a family cemetery. He even built an airstrip and hangar for his airplane collection.
Considering all Brand did to make this house so spectacular, ‘could it be that he was reluctant to leave it – even after death? If this is the case, no one’s complaining.
“Everyone who works here is so protective of the building and so proud to work here that its almost like we’re happy he still feels he wants to be here,” Fuchs said. “It’s kind of like ‘Well, of course he’d want to stay!'”
More historical information:
In 1887, Missouri prospector Leslie Coombs Brand (1859–1925) arrived in Los Angeles hoping to profit from Southern California’s real estate boom. He then joined the Los Angeles Abstract Company as its Treasurer. However, his timing was terrible. In 1888, Southern California’s real estate boom went bust, and Brand quickly sold his interest in the company. He then worked as a treasurer for a smaller business in Los Angeles before moving to Galveston, Texas.
While in Galveston, Brand successfully partnered with other real estate investors to buy and sell land in Texas and Louisiana. He also met Galveston native Mary Louise Dean, and the couple married in Monterrey, Mexico, in 1891. The Brands then moved to San Antonio, where Leslie traded Texas lands for Southern California acreage.
In 1894, the Brands moved to Los Angeles with a sizable bankroll. Brand then partnered with his old colleague from the Abstract Company, E.W. Sergeant, to form the Title Guarantee and Trust Company. A few years later, Brand created the San Fernando Mission Land Company so that he could buy and sell real estate all over Los Angeles County.
During the Brand’s early years in Los Angeles, Mary Louise took care of distant family members who lived with them while Leslie ran his businesses and served as a director the State Bank and Trust Co. Their wealth quickly grew. In fact, every time the Brands moved, it was to a larger house in a nicer neighborhood.
From 1900 to 1904, Brand bought large tracts of land in a small, dusty agricultural community called Glendale. He then partnered with other investors to improve the community’s infrastructure. Brand secured water rights to a reservoir that served Glendale and he began to install underground plumbing to local residents. Brand next added a small power plant, opened the area’s first telephone company, and successfully petitioned Glendale’s Improvement Association to approve the right-of-way for electric streetcar service from downtown Los Angeles to Glendale. He then negotiated a deal with railroad owner Henry Huntington to build the Pacific Electric streetcar line through his property. In 1904, Brand named his new electric roadway Brand Boulevard, and it became Glendale’s first major thoroughfare.
Glendale was on the cusp of a major real estate boom. Knowing this, Brand hired his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Dryden, to design a 5,000 sq. ft. home on Brand’s 1,000 acre ranch north of town. Brand wanted it to look palatial, so he modeled it after the 1893 Chicago Expo’s East Indian Pavilion.
Brand’s new mansion was completed in February 1904 at a cost of $60,000. He named it El Miradero (or Miradero for short), which translates to “high place with an extensive view.” Friends and family, however, nicknamed it Brand Castle.
The Brands quickly became Glendale’s most famous citizens. They had three dogs and several horses, but no children. Because they loved kids, the Brands kept close contact with their relatives. Many of them settled in Southern California or visited the Brands for extended stays. Every Sunday and major holiday, Brand insisted that his family gather at El Miradero for a full day of fun. The Brands also threw elaborate parties for friends and business associates.
In 1911, Leslie Brand hired workers to expand his mansion by adding a new master bedroom. There’s a funny legend as to why he did this. At that time, Southern California cities and counties taxed its citizens for sleeping in bedrooms within its jurisdiction. According to legend, Brand loathed the City of Glendale’s high bedroom tax rate. After discovering that the eastern part of his house didn’t fall under Glendale’s jurisdiction, he built a special tower for his master bedroom on the east side. By doing so, Brand only paid Los Angeles County’s tax rate, which was considerably lower.
As Glendale prospered, so did Brand’s fortune. Over the next 20 years, he turned his personal property into a playground. He added tennis courts, a clubhouse, a swimming pool, horse stables, a pergola, orange orchards, and dog kennels. After WWI ended, Brand built an airfield and a hangar next to his property. He then collected a few airplanes to store there. However, Brand was not a pilot.
On April 1, 1921, Brand invited silent film stars and rich friends to a “fly-in” party at El Miradora. For the occasion, pilots chauffeured guests to and from his mansion by airplanes. Approximately a hundred people attended Brand’s party, which lasted until 4 p.m. Miraculously, no one was killed despite a few drunken barnstorming stunts.
Brand lived fast and played hard. He nicknamed his National automobile “Tioga Wolf” and his Lincoln two-seater “Knock -About.” He also had a summer lodge in Mono Lake where he hunted and fished.
However, Leslie Brand wasn’t content with surrounding himself with friends and family. He lived a double life. While in his 50s, he met a former Miss Nevada beauty contestant named Birdie Esther Carpenter on a train from Oregon to Los Angeles. Brand hired her as a secretary and paid for her training. The couple had an affair that bore two sons, Lee (b. 1922) and Jack (b. 1924). Brand took his secret life seriously, marrying Carpenter in Tijuana, Mexico, around 1921. He also provided for his illegitimate family by selling Carpenter real estate at the corner of Laurel Canyon and Rinaldi Street at a ridiculously low price. Brand even chose an alias for her by picking the name Mrs. Lee Gordon from a phone directory.
Although family members heard rumors about Leslie Brand siring two boys, the subject was never discussed openly or accepted as fact. After all, Leslie Coombs Brand was “the father of Glendale,” not the father of illegitimate children.
Brand, meanwhile, continued to use his home as Glendale’s premiere social center. While the mansion’s curbside appeal satisfied Leslie’s ego, its interior decor satisfied Mary Louise’s Victorian tastes.
Shortly before his death in 1925, Leslie Brand willed his mansion and surrounding acreage to the City of Glendale with two major stipulations. El Miradero “must be used exclusively for a public library and public park” under its new name “Brand Park and Library.” He also stipulated that the city had to wait until Mary Louise’s death before it could take possession of the property.
In the spring of 1925, Brand became gravely ill at his Mono Lake home. Knowing that his days were numbered, he ordered his chauffeur to drive him back to his Glendale home so that he could liquidate a few of his holdings (ie. airplanes and landing strip). On April 10, Brand died at home from prostate cancer. His funeral was held in the mansion’s drawing room. He was then buried in a semi-secluded family plot in Brand Canyon behind El Miradero.
Following her husband’s death, Mary Louise Brand stayed at El Miradero for another 20 years. She lived quietly, preferring to travel rather than host large parties. On October 13, 1945, during one of her travels, Mary Lousie died in a car accident in Williams, Arizona. Her body was returned to Glendale, and she was buried in the family cemetery next to her late husband. She was 74-years-old.
Although the City of Glendale took possession of the property, El Miradero sat vacant for a number of years. Before long, vandals broke windows and the building fell into disrepair. In 1948, after voters rejected a bond measure to pay for the home’s conversion into a library, several heirs of the Brand estate sued the City of Glendale for not honoring Leslie and Mary Louise’s wishes.
A court eventually ordered the City of Glendale to convert El Miradero into Brand Library by 1956. City officials complied, and in June of 1955, workers reconfigured the drawing and sitting rooms into music reading rooms. The solarium became an art gallery and lecture room. The original library was transformed into an art display room. The master bedroom became the head librarian’s office and conference room, and the remaining bedrooms were used as employee work rooms.
In 1956, the Brand Library opened as a special music and art library at a cost of $137,000. However, by 1961, the library was already overcrowded with books and fine art pieces. The city then constructed an additional music and art center which was completed in 1969.
While it is unclear when the Brand Library’s ghost stories actually began, reports of paranormal activity became public knowledge in 1993. Since that time, new ghost stories have emerged. In more recent years, park visitors claim to see a young female apparition wearing a white period dress strolling along the grounds. One eyewitness even saw the ghost sitting on a park bench.
Other new stories surfaced about the Brand family cemetery. Apparently, people felt that it may be haunted by the ghosts of departed family members. These claims are usually based on odd noises and people feeling uncomfortable when they see the graves. Another legend maintains that the cemetery was once used for occult practices. There may be truth to the legend. In 1953, grave robbers desecrated the grave of William P. Thompson and stole a skull. Three years later, another grave robbery occurred. This time, the robbers stole Nathaniel Dryden’s skull on the anniversary of Dryden’s death.
The majority of ghostly reports, however, center around the older parts of the library building. When I visited the Brand Library on July 21, 2010, a librarian told me that Leslie C. Brand’s ghost started knocking books off shelves during recent upgrades to the main library’s flooring.
“I know one thing,” the librarian said, “he doesn’t like the [new] carpet.”
To visit the Brand Library’s website, click here!