Haunted Long Beach: The Bembridge House checks all the boxes for a ghostly home

Today in Haunted Long Beach we’re going to visit the historic Bembridge House in Drake Park.

“Why?” you’re asking. “Is it haunted?”

Here’s what we know:

It’s got a solid resume as a haunted house. It was built in 1906, the same year as the making of the French short film “The House of Ghosts,” considered to be one of the earliest cinematic depictions of a haunted house premise.

The Bembridge House was built in the Victorian style, which automatically makes it haunted.

An article in Scientific American titled “Why Are Victorian Houses Haunted?” declared, “With their mansard roofs, gables and ornate pillars, these houses appear to loom and brood. They are the quintessential haunted house. It is in this type of home that Norman Bates lurks, for example, and where the weird but lovable Addams Family reside, and where Roderick Usher ultimately descends into madness. Strange things happen in these types of houses.”

Such was the pervasiveness of the inherent scariness of Victorian homes that such authors as Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne embraced the architectural  trope and used it to set the stage for their haunted themes, the article noted.

“The Victorian house’s reputation was enough that its mere presence implied something terrible was lurking within.”

The Bembridge House is convincingly haunted enough in its appearance to have scored a role in the 2012 film “The Haunting of Whaley House,” in which it played the title role of the haunted San Diego mansion once inhabited by a family who suffered many tragedies including suicide and whose ghosts are said to still haunt the place. The Bembridge House was creepily convincing in its role as a haunted house.

And, of course, the Bembridge House had its own tragedy that feeds eerily into the idea that it could indeed be haunted.

The home’s namesake, Dorothy Bembridge, lived in the 18-room house in Drake Park from the time her father bought it in 1918 following Stephen Green’s death in the house caused by “a stroke of apoplexy” as a result of an argument with a neighbor, until her death at the age of 89.

Dorothy was an accomplished pianist and music teacher, a founder of the Long Beach Historical Society  and a devoted fan of Charles Rivers Drake, one of Long Beach’s most notable pioneers and founder of the Pike, the Hotel Virginia and Virginia Country Club.

A transient named Daniel Borunda, who sometimes stalked the Bembridge and had on occasion snuck into the house to steal items, was eventually convicted of burglarizing the home in 1990. He was released from prison in 1999 and on Nov. 4, just a few weeks later, Bembridge was found strangled in the backyard of her home. She was 89.

Borunda was found guilty of the murder, which police said was motivated by revenge and burglary. He remains in prison today.

It’s a matter of conjecture whether Bembridge’s spirit still haunts the house that she loved so dearly—your paranormal experts say that ghosts often stay close by place after dying in a traumatic manner, such as by suicide or murder. And they also say that ghosts frequently are hesitant to leave the places that they loved.

Whether the house is haunted today by the ghost of Dorothy or, for that matter, Stephen Green, its builder, remains unclear. But it’s easier to make a case for it than it is to debunk it—it’s science! Victorian architecture, convincing acting role as a real haunted house, murder.

What more do you need?

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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