Quick Take:

The Brookdale Lodge is a legendary part of Santa Cruz County’s past, having hosted notable figures like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Herbert Hoover — and, allegedly, ghosts. Long believed to be haunted by several spirits, the 100-plus-year-old hotel still holds surprises for visitors and staff. Now, as owner Pravin Patel looks to restore some of the closed-off, run-down sections of the hotel, patrons might soon be able to experience the lodge as it was in its heyday.

Tucked beneath groves of redwoods and nestled in the tiny community of Brookdale north of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park lies a quaint hotel directly adjacent to Highway 9. From the outside, it appears to be an exceedingly normal inn. Cream walls with light brown highlights wrap around the exteriors of the various buildings, which bear some resemblance to traditional Swiss architecture.

The bottom floor of the main lodging building holds a lobby and a classic 1950s-style diner complete with red leather booths and black-and-white-checkered floors. Across the parking lot, the old front desk area has been converted to an event space with a bar, pool tables and plenty of seating.

Sounds pretty standard, right? Well, not exactly.

Aside from previously being a popular stopping place for some old-time Hollywood A-listers like Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Temple and James Dean, and even high-level officials like President Herbert Hoover, the Brookdale Lodge is stuff of legends in Santa Cruz County and beyond, too, for other reasons: It’s said to be haunted.

For years, guests have routinely reported odd sights and sounds going bump in the night. Those range from figures walking on elevated bridges connecting the buildings — structures that don’t exist anymore, the sounds of footsteps above their rooms despite being on the top floor, and even instances of the lodge’s long-drained and empty pool appearing full of water, with a young girl swimming in it. People report so much paranormal activity at the lodge that the Travel Channel show “Ghost Adventures’’ filmed an episode there in 2012.

The Brookdale Lodge through the nearby trees.
The Brookdale Lodge through the nearby trees. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Owner Pravin Patel, who also owns The Aqua Pacific Hotel on Ocean Street and Hotel Solares on Riverside Avenue in Santa Cruz, recalls the Travel Channel segment coming on his home TV just days after he purchased the hotel in 2013 after it had been shut down for a few years due to numerous structural and maintenance issues. While he said that some asked if he planned to bless or exorcise the property, he never felt the need.

“The way I see it, the ghosts have been up there for more than 100 years,” he told Lookout. “They’re not hurting anyone and it’s a different dimension, we can coexist here.”

The hotel has embraced its ghostly reputation, hosting seasonal events in the fall including the very popular Witches Ball and a Halloween party each year on Halloween. The supposed hauntings are noted on plaques and memorabilia posted on hotel grounds as well.

Hotel management says that there are believed to be multiple spirits roaming the grounds, but two are the most prolific.

The first is a girl by the name of Sarah Logan, the niece of James Harvey Logan, a Superior Court judge who originally built the lodge in the 1890s. Sarah is said to have drowned in the creek that now runs through the closed-off, woodsy dining room, called the Brook Room. Management says that guests always describe her exactly the same way: a little girl with a white dress and blonde, curly hair.

Video: Tour Brookdale Lodge


The second is another young girl who is even more mysterious than Sarah Logan’s ghost. Her identity is unknown, but she is believed to be the one who appears in the pool, according to hotel management. Staff has seen wet footprints tracked around the pool area, despite the pool having been bone-dry for years. Patel said that he, too, is no stranger to the alleged Brookdale Lodge specters.

“I’ve heard and seen different things up there, but it had no effect on my safety,” he said, recalling the sounds of a little girl laughing and playing with other disembodied voices, as well as items moving around the area of the Brook Room, where Sarah Logan’s room was apparently located. “I used to think it was staff members playing games with me, but no one said they were in the area or part of any setup.”

An old lounge sitting lifeless adjacent to the Brook Room.
An old lounge sitting lifeless adjacent to the Brook Room. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

Beyond the supposedly supernatural activity, the lodge has more yet to its dark underbelly, believe it or not. However, the rest is certifiably of this earth. Management said that prior to the influx of movie stars to the lodge in the 1950s, the place was a haven for organized crime. Gangsters frequented the property in the 1920s Prohibition era to hide everything from alcohol and drugs to money and people. Beneath the scenic Brook Room on the sides of the creek, you can still see stacks of cement cylinders used to hide bottles of alcohol. Across Highway 9 sit wood cabins that appear unassuming, but used to be part of a brothel accessible via tunnels running from the lodge underneath the road.

Bringing that vivid history back to life was a major reason Patel decided to purchase the hotel: “That was my first goal, to highlight the rich and historic past of the Brookdale Lodge,” he said. “I think it’s a fact that Al Capone used to hang out there with his gang.”

The lodge has other features that are simply peculiar. In its current state, the hotel is an exercise in liminality. Barren rooms stay frozen in a state of permanent transition with chairs stacked in corners and doors that lead to nowhere. Dusty 1950s carpeting in the Brook Room, uninhabited since the 1990s, contrasts with modern Halloween decorations just on the other side of the door. Ancient decor and blank walls now leave only a vague inkling of the lodge’s heyday.

The oldest part of the hotel, thought to have been built in the 1870s before the main lodging was built.
The oldest part of the hotel, thought to have been built in the 1870s before the main lodging was built. Credit: Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz

But Patel said that will be changing soon. He’s working on a restoration of the grand, but dilapidated, Brook Room, the supposedly haunted pool area, and a remodel of the restaurant using as much historical photography and footage as he can find. He is also addressing some overdue maintenance to the electrical and fire safety systems in the old structures, too. If all goes well, he hopes to wrap it up by the end of 2024, and maybe introduce some ghost tours of the property. That way, patrons can enjoy the historic lodge — and its ghosts — almost exactly how it was in its prime.

“There are a lot of people in the community and beyond that are fascinated by this place, and would love to take a tour and learn about its history,” said Patel. “It’s an amazing place, every time I step foot in there it almost feels like it’s the first time again.”

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Max Chun is the general-assignment correspondent at Lookout Santa Cruz. Max’s position has pulled him in many different directions, seeing him cover development, COVID, the opioid crisis, labor, courts...