Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Fox Ridge Park Ghost

While it has been fun trolling through various news websites, scanning them for news fit to write about for this blog, there is nothing quite like writing your own story. Checking on sources, talking to people, doing real investigative work. The thrill produced from such endeavors is really hard to describe, but it's a feeling I find simply intoxicating. But, enough waxing poetic about doing what amounts to exciting homework, let me tell you what I've been up to the past few days.

All this started with the discovery of Haunted Vegas Tours. Driving all over my hometown in a bus, stopping at nearly all the alleged ghost hangouts Sin City has to offer immediately jumped out at me. What experience would be more appropriate to write about for a blog called "Jeremy the Skeptic"? All the sites the tour visits offer an opportunity to interview eyewitnesses, research a bit of Las Vegas history and really exercise my investigative reporter muscles. Fortunately, I'll be taking this very tour on August 27, accompanied by my beautiful girlfriend, who seems just as excited about the experience as I am. I plan to write a full account of my experiences on the tour, alongside background on each of the allegedly haunted sites. A few days ago, I started research on the stories that will be told on the tour. What follows are the fruits of my efforts so far.

The first site that seemed ripe for investigation was Fox Ridge Park in Henderson, approximately one mile from my house. To those who don't live in Nevada, Henderson borders Las Vegas, and holds the distinction of being Nevada's fastest growing city. The Haunted Vegas Tour advertises Fox Ridge as a chance to get off the bus and stretch your legs a bit, and to capture the alleged ghost of a boy killed in a drunk driving accident on film. From the "ghost blog" on the tour's website:

"The swing at Fox Ridge park in Henderson Nevada is home to the ghost of a little boy who likes to swing late at night. It seems that the ghostly youngster doesn't like to be bothered while swinging. If you look him in the eyes his face turns into a "demon" and he vanishes."

The drunk-driving account comes from a book entitled Weird Las Vegas and Nevada, which happens to be co-written by Tim Cridland, one of the Haunted Vegas Tour guides. The book cites an unnamed Las Vegas paranormal investigation group as the source for the story. Finding which Vegas paranormal investigative group provided the book's information would be my next objective.

Both the authors of Weird Las Vegas and the Haunted Vegas Tours website cite a woman named Janice Oberding as a historian and paranormal investigator with whom they consulted regarding the most well-known ghost stories in Vegas. Oberding is the author of Haunted Nevada, a book published in 2003 recounting all the various ghost stories that permeate Nevada's past. I looked up Oberding's name and found her website, which describes her as a member of Las Vegas Paranormal investigations (LVPI). (LVPI's website has an elaborate Flash animation intro that might take a while to load over some connections. Just a warning.) LVPI appeared to be just the Vegas paranormal group for which I was looking.

The first e-mail sent off in this entire endeavor went to the head of LVPI; a Mike C. I asked if LVPI was indeed the group mentioned in Weird Las Vegas and if they were, would he be able to provide me with any details regarding the alleged ghost. This is what Mr. C. told me:

"I can tell you that the park is haunted by the boy who was killed by a drunk driver. Boy's name is unknown and a woman who was killed by an axe. The boy plays on the swings and the lady walks the perimeter of the park looking for her kids."

While the little boy story fit with Weird Las Vegas's account, the murdered woman was an addition I had never heard. I replied to Mike C. asking if he knew when the boy or woman were killed, and if he knew of any police reports or newspaper articles that supported the stories. He has yet to reply to me.

I sent out a flurry of other e-mails asking about the Fox Ridge story, one to Oberding, others to various ghost-themed websites listing Fox Ridge as one of many haunted sites in Henderson. All contained the question, phrased basically the same, "Where did you hear this story?" (I have yet to receive replies to any of them.) With those sent, I decided I could only do so much with my face 12 inches from my computer screen and my mouse furiously finding its way through links, as if it was searching for some elusive piece of digital cheese. I needed to see this place for myself. So, equipped with camera, pen and notebook, I drove the approximately 20 minutes to Fox Ridge Park.

What first greeted me as I turned the corner onto the street adjacent to the park was a flood of childhood memories. It turns out I had spent more than one hot, summer day with my friends at Fox Ridge as a fourth-grade student. At that time, I don't remember hearing any tales of deceased children or women cleaved by axes inhabiting the park. I suppose that's for the better. At that age, such stories would have never let me return to the playground and swing sets I found so enjoyable.

With the nostalgia fading, I found a parking space and made my way across the street to the well-tended grass of the park. I was searching for some sort of memorial to a child killed in a drunk-driving accident. All the tales never said where the boy was killed, but I felt it was safe to presume it was somewhere near the park. Why else would the boy's ghost bother to haunt the place? What I found were 10 memorial plaques placed at the base of 10 trees; one plaque to a tree. Each plaque was about the size of a phone book, and seemed to be professionally placed. Some subsequent research found that a memorial tree and plaque could be bought from the Henderson Department of Parks and Recreation for $250 US. Some of the plaques described people that could have been the boy or murdered woman, so I took pictures of those and continued my trek around the park. While decidedly not frightening during the day, I could see how Fox Ridge could take on a haunted air in the middle of the night. The slightest breeze made the chains of the swing sets clink and the leaves of the numerous trees rustle ominously. However, I heard nothing but cars passing by and the drone of lovesick cicadas. If the park is indeed haunted, no ghost saw fit to make its appearance known to me.

With the names of some possible ghosts in hand, I returned home and delved into the online archives of the Las Vegas Review Journal (RJ), the city's largest newspaper. I hoped to find any article describing deaths similar to the ones told in the story. I was able to affirmatively rule out five of the 11 memorial plaques whose names I recorded. One story ruled out three plaques at once: those of Esther, Cynthia and Cathy Perez. All three women were killed in 1996 in a car accident. No drunk driver was reportedly involved. From the RJ article:

"Esther Perez was killed on Interstate 15 near the California-Nevada border when the sport-utility vehicle she was traveling in with her daughters Cathy, 16, and Cynthia, 17, veered out of control and then flipped, California Highway Patrol officer Ed Martinez said."

The forth plaque held the name of a woman who could have fit the description of the murdered ghost. Her name was Brenda Stuart-Rowsell. I was able to find her obituary in a 2005 edition of the RJ:

"BRENDA STUART ROWSELL We would like to say to our beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, and friend, Brenda Lynn (Stuart) Rowsell, 28, a homemaker, of Henderson, who was called to be with her Heavenly Father Monday, Feb. 7, 2005, in Henderson; that we love you very much and we will see you later. Brenda was born April 23, 1976, in Salt Lake City. Brenda is survived by her husband, Eric; children, Eric, Ashley, Kara and Katie; mother, Karen; father, Jim (Scherry); brothers, Richard (Mindy) and Bryan; sister, Rachel; grandparents, Al and Genette Taylor and Don Cole; aunt, Janice (Ron); uncles, Roger and Ray (Sherri); and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews who will miss her always. Brenda has been reunited with her grandmother, Joann Cole."

No mention of a murder in the obituary, nor could I find any news story describing such an occurrence.

The fifth plague contained the names of two men: Steve M. Szany and Dave A. Bender. No age was given for either of them on the plaque, so I thought either one of them could have been the boy allegedly killed by a drunk driver. It turned these two men were murdered in 2000 by Stephen Ciolino. From the RJ story describing Ciolino's sentencing in 2005:

"In a sentencing hearing, Stephen Ciolino acknowledged in the courtroom of District Judge Jennifer Togliatti that he participated in the murders of David Bender, 21, and Steve Szany, 22, at a Henderson apartment complex in 2000."

Searches of the names of the rest of the plaques turned up absolutely no news stories, nor any records from the Clark County Coroner's office. In fact, I found no stories telling of any drunk driving accident near Fox Ridge Park. I called the elementary school bordering the park, Estes McDoniel Elementary School, on Friday to see if any teachers there had heard the stories. The school was unfortunately closed for the day. I plan to try again Monday.

After I went as far as I could go with the names on the memorial plaques, I decided to search for further retellings of the Fox Ridge ghost tale. This is where the story gets a bit interesting. I could find no account of the alleged haunting before 2005. The earliest record of it I found was a story in the RJ about the Haunted Vegas Tour. From the article:

"A highlight of the tour comes at the halfway point, when visitors leave the bus to take a nighttime walk in Henderson's Fox Ridge Park where, some say, a deceased boy still visits. According to a tour guide, a swing in the park occasionally can be seen moving, even when there's no breeze."

The Fox Ridge ghost is also absent from Oberding's 2003 book, Haunted Nevada. Why did she not see fit to include it? How did the story make it into Weird Las Vegas, which was published in 2007? Did the people at LVPI simply make it up, or is everyone involved? These sorts of questions, though asked in a less accusatory tone, made up the various e-mails to which I have yet to receive replies. I was amazed at how many ghost-themed websites just list this story with absolutely no sources. Doesn't anyone do any research? It also bugs me how the majority of stories in Haunted Nevada cite that ubiquitous bastion of credible information, "some." But that's a whole separate post.

I'm determined to get to the bottom of this. I have no idea how long it will take for the people mentioned above to reply to my e-mail questions. Perhaps a call to Estes McDoniel Elementary will clear some of this up, but I somehow doubt it. The tour itself may provide the answers I seek, though it might be difficult to talk to the guides while they're working. The best lead I have so far is a tentative interview I have with Haunted Vegas Tour guide and Weird Las Vegas co-author Tim Cridland tomorrow. I will of course post any further developments here.

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Anonymous said...

seriously i went to that school and was obssessed with the story also and i asked the teachers and told me nothing happened please try i reall y want to know wat happened 2

a said...

i just went on that tour a couple of days ago. if i recall correctly, the tour guide said a boy had run out into the street chasing a ball when he was hit by a car. i don't recall anything about drunk driver. im interested in what u may have found out.

Anonymous said...

Thx for the heads up looking for a little fun this weekened and was thinking about trying to find a haunted site but this one sounds a little sketchy

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info. It is nice to see somebody doing some real research for a change. The story coinciding with the start up of the Haunted Vegas tour is pretty much all of the evidence I need. I will be checking the site out for myself and am sure I will find nothing other than the physics of a pendulum at work.

vegasgal said...

My son goes to Estes McDoniel and I have heard this story many times and other accounts of hauntings in the school. Try to ask the custodians. They are the ones with the most information. I haven't talked to anyone who has actually "seen" the swings move though.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to get a life and stop being an asshole.

Anonymous said...

I was there at 12:00 tonight.At about 12:10,one of the swings started moving a little bit from side to side.No wind,the other swing stood still.I walked around the parameter of the swingset about 8 or 10 ft. away for about half hour.The swing continued to move.About a minute or two before I left,I touched the chain of the swing,and I felt pressure and obseved the seat moving as if someone was siing on it.He is definitely there,no question

Anonymous said...

*sitting* sorry my t doesn't work sometimes

Anonymous said...

I think that as a skeptic you suck and should "investigate" a little bit better. Maybe you did not "research" the last few markers under the trees all that well. But as we all know that most skeptics are fuck faces and have nothing else better to do.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you came across the memorial for my Mom and Sisters, thoughts of my mother flashed through my mind today, and I was told to google her name. Low and behold, I come across your post. Reply to my comment if you are interested in hearing more about there post life messages

Niki said...

ok, I am a 12 year old former Elemenrty school student at Estes McDoniel. I now go to Thurman White MS but anyway while i was in Estes yes there were many rumors of the young ghost boy and the murdered woman passed around form students at the school. Yet , i have never seen it for my self. Trust me, asking the staff and costodians at Estes are not going to help anything no one knows anything. If Former Principal Mrs. Linda Goodman[LaBoo] didnt know anything about what she was being said then trust me there is no information gonna be given out.She worked at that school since the day it was opened and for 14 years on.The school is an ok school but personaly Mrs. Holy Troncoso is a VERY bad influennce and pricipal.And making it a COMPLETE INTERNATIONAL school was a very big mistake....anyway maybe the only staff members that may know about the Fox Ridge ghosts are the P.E. teachers at the school....Mrs. Eenhuse and Mrs. Scoble they brought us up to the park for many activities and we also did an activity called Milers involving the it would be pointless to try and get ahold of i may be 12 but i was a student at estes mcdoniel for 5 years from K-5 so if you neeed any more info of the school and park email me at the like below thank you......

Anonymous said...


Stacy said...

I went to the park tonight in hopes to see the little boy on the swing it was before midnight and I encountered a man who had came to the park several times he was taking pictures around the swing set and all the pictures had white smoke in them which clearly wasnt there when he was takin the picture. However I did not see any little boy on the swing or any shadows or figures, according to the man he has actually seen a ghost of a older man several times at the park but no little boy or woman. Haunted or not I saw nothing when I was there however when walking around the park I would get cold chills down my spine in several places in the park. The story that I was told was that the little boy loved to swing and that he used to sneak out of his house late at night to go play on them and one night was hit by a car and killed.

PiP said...

So after reading all of this stuff about Fox Ridge Park and the "little demon boy". My friend and I are headed there later at about midnight or so to see what is going on and possibly get some pictures and some proof...... Will reply back with the results.

Anonymous said...

Went there the other night with some friends, didn't see anything. Didn't even feel creepy.

Anonymous said...

Ive been there a few time i saw thing down at the trash can but never seen the boy. i will tell you tell everyone reading this the Henderson P.D. dose not like that and you will get arrested for trespassing and when you tell them that your trying to see if the story's are real then they get made and say your lieing to them. so just watch out.

Anonymous said...

I went one night but the main problem is the location of the park. Right under were the planes fly and near a busy street. But we had the swing move with no wind and we saw dark shadows in the northeast side of the park near the school. What I saw was a pure black figure peeking their upper body and head over the side of a tree.

Bill said...

My goodness! Shadows...and a swing that...swings! And Darkness! Good God Almighty it MUST be a ghost! Why that's the only POSSIBLE explanation one could draw without doing even the most rudimentary investigation. Every one knows that ghosts only seem to be out at night. Maybe the sun is too bright to see them in daylight. Or perhaps because of their lack of pigment they burn easily. Holy Shit. Ghosts are albinos! You spread the word on the net! I'll call Weekly World News! We'll all be RICH! Rich as ufologists!

Anonymous said...

Its true about the rumors and I have pics to prove it I just don't know how to post them if intrested email me the pics show a little boy and a lady and an old man no joke this is real

Anonymous said...

My family was friends with Esther Perez the mother and daughters in the car accident, We are the Acencio's we lived on young ave in San Gabriel my parents are Phillis and Conde Brother, Joe,Harold (Buster), broth Conde passed away at 22, sisters Lori, Rosemary I'm Vickie We miss you all...and send our prayers!

Anonymous said...

my paranormal group went there, didnt see anything or feel anything. im willing to give the park one more shot...ill post any findings

Soulvader said...

Why would it take you 20 min to drive to the park when you only live a mile from from it?

Anonymous said...

Yeah why did it take you 20 mins? If you live a mile away it would take like 2 mins. Me and my bf are going there tonight. we'll see whats up

Anonymous said...

Myself and some family members heard about this park. We went there and took pictures. In two of the pictures I have there's faces in them. Also several orbs around the trees. Very creepy park

Anonymous said...

you have to go at 3 a.m. Thats when you can see the boy. You wont see him at 12.

Anonymous said...

I went there.laast night.and.saw.a shadow.figure of a man on a bench then the swing moving.abit.and.recorded orbitals inn pics and saw a man by the portables at the school then i say a group of like smoky bodies going tobthe school toward the playground then i heard a pe teacher whistle this was all.around 2:30 to 3 and we experienced that u met ppl there they say shit gets real and scary.after.3 abd that a veterans cemetery or something is also haunted

Anonymous said...

The woman you mentioned in this article Brenda Stuart Rowsell was the wife of my sisters boyfriend thy we live with. She was not murdered by an axe!! She simply died of a lung disease.

Anonymous said...

I heard this story back in 2001 in school.

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Richard Ruiz said...

I have seen the lady

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DevilDoll said...

This was on Fox5 news this morning.Because of Halloween. They had some paranormal group. The lady called the boy "Jamie". I went to school at Estas but this was in the late 80's. They rushed us to that park when Pepcon exploded. So I am sure there is a lot of emotion there.All the kids thought the world was ending and they were screaming and crying. I included. I was a 3rd grader at the time. They have changed out that swing set quite a few times since I went there. Never heard of a child being killed or an axe murderer. And I have lived here my whole life born and raised.

Anonymous said...

I went to this school and heard numerous stories about the school right there and fox ridge park. Also my aunt being the FASA to the nurse gave me more info about these ghost that haunts the school and park.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you still read these, but have you looked into the death of Angel Avendano?? He was only four when a drunk illegal immigrant plowed through a bus stop and killed him. The boy's services were held only 8 mins from the park. I believe he lived in Henderson at the time of his death. It's the only story that fits the description of the boy's spirit at the park. It happened in May of 2004, which could explain why there are only accounts of it happening starting in 2005. I live in Vegas and remember hearing about it on the news. Just thought it might provide some possible answers.

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Kiana Allen said...

Hi, I would like to know more about their post life messages

Anonymous said...

I just watched a video on YouTube about it! These people went to see if they experience anything. I'll attach a link :

Anonymous said...

i have heard the same story but the kids at the school say the boy got so high swinging that he fell on the road then he got ran over.

Anonymous said...

I went to that school and lived in the houses across from the school and the and my sister's would sneak out and play at the park..and quite a few times I would swing I the swings and feel like someone would try to push me off..and I would look around none of my three sisters were behind me ...I was always afraid of the park at night...during the day it's beautiful


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LVNATIVE867 said...

Back in 1997 or '98 I worked in the area of that park. I remember that accident where the drunk driver killed the boy. He had been at the bar down the street. It was a big deal to my coworkers and me, as the drunk driver was a regular customer at our place of employment.