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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Philip Wayne

The figure of a mysterious woman, cloaked in a white gown, seems to glide across the pathways of a local resort. A mysterious tall man with a hat has been seen wandering those same halls.

Who are they? What do they want? Or are the people who say they’ve seen these figures just … mistaken?

Enter the Palm Springs Paranormal Investigation Team, or PALS for short.

We first met this group six years ago, and decided it was time to check in again. Donnie Thompson is the lead investigator—an experienced ghost hunter and documentarian. Katy V., a local medium and intuitive, claims experience in energy work and auras. Gloria R. is a local medium and psychic, and a practitioner of the spiritual arts. Greg G. is a Riverside-based audio/visual student and technical aficionado.

The members of the team talked about some recent fascinating experiences, in a variety of places—from a suburban home in Cathedral City that houses an alleged “angry shamanic spirit,” to a Coachella cemetery that’s home to the spirit of a hitchhiker who frequents the adjacent street, thumbing his way to nowhere.

“Places hold energy,” Katy said. “It is not often what we see, but more of what we feel.”

Added Gloria: “What we do is not to scare people … but to put minds at ease. Perhaps there are things we can rule out—and things we cannot explain so easily.”

However, Donnie is quick to point out that whatever has been happening at that Cathedral City house is … different.

“It was bad energy. Now, could the owners of the house be imagining things or pulling our leg? Sure,” he said. “But regardless, if something occurs within reason, we want to see it through, perhaps so that the family can sleep at night.”

With that, the group invited me for a follow-up visit to the place we looked into six years ago: The La Quinta Resort. Opened in 1926 and a longtime getaway for the famous and non-famous alike, the La Quinta Resort is one of the Coachella Valley’s oldest and most refined landmarks … so who could blame a spirit or two for wanting to stick around? When last we visited, we experienced a few blurs on a photo and the feeling of multiple energies, as conveyed by the psychic. Greg and Katy weren’t with us on that visit six years ago; Donnie and Gloria were.

Others have had more dramatic experiences at the resort. On the record are various stories of mysterious disembodied voices calling out to guests and staff members—and an account of the spirit of a woman who mingled with guests in their villa until 4 a.m. Then there’s the YouTube video of an unexplained phenomenon—that looks like the ghostly figure of a man walking a pathway. 

On our recent visit, we met in the parking lot adjacent to the beautiful ballroom. I then interviewed our contact, who works in guest services.

“I have worked at this resort for a long time and have seen, from a distance, what looks to be people walking and vanishing into walls,” she said. “I have heard voices/whispers, seen orbs, and heard people in the (hot tub); and upon taking a closer look; they’re gone. I have seen television screens go absolutely ‘white snow’ during the 3 a.m. hour.”

Do any of the happenings seem threatening? “Not to my knowledge. Most of the experiences are very brief, and some of them are just rumors.”

Another staffer said he’d seen some strange things, too.

“I have seen lights flicker in empty rooms, doors shut on their own, and we have had several reports of excessive ‘typewriter noise’ in and around a particular suite,” he said. “Security has said that their emergency line rings on the swing shift at 3:10 a.m. periodically; however, no one is on the line.”


Gloria and Katy began by wandering the courtyard area, illuminated only by the string of lights against the waterfall. They whispered to themselves, often calling out as if to speak to anyone who would listen. Donnie, armed with an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) box, and Greg, with a simple 35-millimeter camera, stayed a slight distance away from Gloria and Katy to capture any movement.

Gloria held a cross on her chest, and sighed heavily. “Let us know you are here. Did you pass here?”

After some discussion, wandering and requests for pictures, I asked them what they were seeing.

“A figure of a man. Tall, wearing a hat,” said Katy.

I asked if he’s threatened by our presence or poses a threat.

“No, quite the contrary. He’s quite happy here,” she said.

Gloria explained that there are a few souls surrounding the area that wander at night. A “lovely woman in white” with a “small dog” passes the outer edge.

“There is much activity near the fountain courtyard. It’s as if many people in this life are called here from their past life. … This could be why people resonate with this place so well. The tranquility of these surroundings calls to them,” Gloria said.

Later, we sat collectively to review the footage on the camera. Nothing seemed to be amiss or out of place. Donnie also reviewed the EVP spikes, which seemed to have picked up “activity” in the courtyard.

“It’s stronger, or spiking nearest the corridors,” he said.


We continued the investigation through the darkened pathways. Katy and Gloria walked with a deliberate pace; when they stopped, so did we.

“There are a few souls wandering about. A small child,” Gloria said.

Adds Katy: “A young man. All are very playful. They won’t tell me why they are here or why they will not pass through.”

“Indeed, it’s almost as if … ,” Gloria said, pausing with a smile. “… They are on vacation as well. They are peace here. They share the space with the other guests, they tell me.”

Donnie’s EVP tends to spike a bit when pointed toward the corridor. Not wanting to bother guests, Greg utilizes his phone without a flash. When asked if he sees anything unusual upon review, he notes nothing strange.


“We want to re-visit the area where the photos were taken on our last visit,” Donnie said.

We continue to La Casa, where we captured some odd images last time—be it due to poor photography or something else.

Greta Garbo was perhaps the most celebrated resident of La Casa—and in this area, staff and guests have seen a beautiful lady, wearing a white flowing gown, walking a dog.

We enter the courtyard. The lights inside La Casa are dim, but offer enough light to look inside. The interior is neither ominous nor eerie; it’s welcoming and subdued.

“I smell lavender. French lavender,” Gloria said.

I ask Gloria and Katy if they sense a presence. They do.

“I sense the woman is someone who is very private, and takes refuge in this place, but is very joyful. The woman is very glamorous; she’d put today’s celebrities to shame,” Gloria said with a laugh.

Added Katy: “There is nothing negative. Some are lost, and some are just permanent residents here.”

Said Gloria: “The woman walking her dog: She is peaceful, free. This is a place she loved most.”

I asked them to describe what they see when they sense a presence.

“It’s sometimes forms, or shapes, not shadows,” Katy said. “It’s almost as if we are interacting as we would with any guest who was, say, walking by. We acknowledge respectfully and move on, as to not disturb them.”

Donnie and Greg explored the courtyard with the EVP, which has jumped every so often, but not significantly. Greg shot a few photos with his phone, with flash both on and off, and intended to compare them with some daytime pictures he shot on an earlier scouting visit.

After a while, Gloria and Katy both said it was time to move on. I asked if something or someone was telling them to leave.

“Yes, but it’s a polite sort of tone,” Gloria said, with Katy adding a knowing glance from Katy.


The spa, when we last visited, was home to an entity who likes to frequent the bell tower above.

“Again, a place of peace, tranquility, is very appealing to this entity,” Gloria said. “The overall vibe of relaxation, the sanctuary courtyard, the large cooling fountain, the smells of eucalyptus … he’s not disturbed, but watches over this part of the property.

“You see, someone loved this place. It was his place of respite. He’s not a danger; he’s more of a caretaker.”

When asked if this was the same energy as last time, Gloria said it seemed to be.

Katy agreed that the entity seemed content. “He’s very happy here. He’s very protective, almost loving. He is happy this place exists.”

I asked if he could see us.

“Yes, he acknowledges us. He’s not posing a threat. He’s glad we stopped by,” said Gloria.

I wondered what he looked like.

“A tall gentleman, with very kind features,” Gloria said. “He was part of the hotel’s inception. I think he might be someone who was instrumental to the property prior to its being built.”

With no activity from the EVP, after taking a few photos of the bell tower, we continued on our way.

For information on the Palm Springs Paranormal Investigative Team, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Philip Wayne is a local freelance writer who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

It wasn’t long ago that two members of Sunday Funeral faced separate, life-changing horrors.

The lead singer suffered a near-fatal car accident on a long desert highway. The rhythm guitarist was robbed at gunpoint after buying groceries for his ailing father.

Brian Frang and Justin Ledesma now use these experiences to inspire their music.

Sunday Funeral’s influences range from swamp rock to grunge, with a bit of classic punk and almighty ’70s metal thrown in. Now add fire-hoop dancers, perhaps, to their well-thought-out rock songs, and it becomes clear why Sunday Funeral is gaining fans across the valley.

Brian Frang (singer, songwriter and rhythm guitarist), Justin Ledesma (singer, songwriter and lead guitarist), Jeff Mazer (singer, bassist and keyboardist), Jason Obando (keyboards) and Johnny Elsewhere (drums) love to bring a diverse set of sounds to their rock ’n’ roll.

“We want our audience to enjoy themselves,” Ledesma said. “We play just because we love to play music. Fame and glory would be great, but we do it because we simply love to play. From classic blues to Southern rock to heavy metal, we try to incorporate every nuance we can and find that thread of sound that the listeners can just enjoy.”

The band formed in 2007 after Ledezma moved to the valley.

“Brian and I met at the Village Pub in Palm Springs during a ‘Lead Singer of the Band’ night,” Ledesma said. “A three-piece band played music, and the customers were welcomed to sing lead. That’s where it all began.”

In a sense, the roots of Sunday Funeral go beyond that night at the Village Pub.

“I come from a background where many influences in music inspired me, from classic rock to heavy metal. Our influences between me and Brian seem to merge … through life experiences. We tend to work well (as songwriters),” Ledesma said.

Take, for instance, the track “What Is Real,” on the band’s 2012 album Reckless Life Syndrome. The two singers take turns telling their individual stories. Within the track, a subtle softening surprises the listener before the song quickly reverts back to a hard-rock sound.

The band has delved into cinema, too. They filmed a mockumentary, This Is Sunday Funeral (which can be watched in pieces at www.youtube.com/user/Justin5279) for an estimated $3,000. The goal was to offer a humorous look into the band’s journey.

“Although it’s not a polished film, by any means, we just wanted to have fun with it and have something to show people that we love playing music,” Ledesma said, smiling.

After that near fatal-car accident, Ledesma found himself on a creative journey that goes beyond the obvious. He branched out to form The Caesareans, which has its roots as a Dresden Dolls cover band, as a side project. The Caesareans are lead by the enigmatic Kanima Beck, who is also one of the fire-hoop dancers that sometimes performs with Sunday Funeral. Ledesma plays the drums, garnished in full Dresden Dolls regalia.

“We found we really enjoy doing more than one project. Sunday Funeral tends to merge creatively with our other side projects,” Ledesma said.

Though the band has gone through major changes over the years—Ledesma estimates the band has had around 10 members in its six years of existence—Sunday Funeral continues to deliver performances that set them apart.

“We try to give the audience something different every single time we play,” Frang said.

Sunday Funeral’s next performance will take place at Schmidy’s Tavern on Friday, Oct. 11. The Ceasareans will follow with a performance of their own.

“We invite people to come experience our sound and just have a good time. That’s what we are all about,” Frang said.

Sunday Funeral and The Caesareans will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, Suite J3, in Palm Desert. Admission is free. For more information on the show, call 760-837-3800, or visit www.schmidystavern.com. For more on Sunday Funeral, visit www.facebook.com/sundayfuneralband. Philip Wayne is a freelance writer who can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The tall, shadowy figure of a man with a sheepish grin has been spotted roaming the grounds of the La Quinta Resort.

The man, who also wears a large hat, has reportedly appeared at the foot of a bed, and has occasionally been spotted gazing into a window. A security camera, perhaps, once saw him, too—as a dark mass moving swiftly down an otherwise empty passageway.

Enter the Palm Springs Paranormal Investigation Team. The small, somewhat underground group investigates reported hauntings—and welcomes any skeptic or adventurer who is willing to join in the hunt.

Donnie Thompson is joined by Jorge P., documentarian; Gloria R., medium/sensitive; and Jana B., “seasoned” investigator and technical adviser. At a recent, invite-only meeting, they decided to investigate the La Quinta Resort.

The La Quinta Resort, built in 1924, has long been the site of apparitions and “sightings,” as reported by many guests and employees. The team interviewed guests who reported seeing the aforementioned man in the hat; other guests reported hearing a child’s voice whispering outside in the corridors. The team mapped out the grounds to cover the “hot” areas where entities or energies appeared or were reportedly felt.

On a recent night, the team traveled to the resort for the hunt.

 

Gloria slowly walked the grounds, grasping her amethyst necklace and leading the team down a back corridor.

She paused for a moment.

“Something happened here. It’s a heavy, almost sad energy,” she said. “I’m having difficulty breathing, and the air feels as if it is just a bit colder.”

Donnie readied a voice recorder, and Gloria began to ask questions into the darkness. “Would you like to tell me your name? Did you die here?”

Jorge began shooting photos in the direction of the dark corridor.

“Ok, we need to move on. I’m getting a feeling that we need to leave this particular location,” Gloria said.

She later explained: “Often, some spirit activity does not want to be bothered, and the basic rule is that we need to respect that.”

Jorge displayed a photo of the corridor, where a small gray mass appeared against the darkness of the building.

“This could be the poor lighting, the movement of the camera, or possibly what is called an ‘ectoplasm mist,’” he explained.

Donnie turned off the recorder. Jana snapped a few photos of her own, and they then continued on, toward a bell tower. It’s rumored to have been the site of a suicide long ago.

“Rumor has it, there is some ‘activity’ there—some odd shadows and unexplained noises and voices,” explained Gloria.

 

I asked Gloria about her necklace. It’s an “amulet,” she said, and it offers protection against evil entities or negative energy.

“It was given to me by someone I love, and it holds a lot of positive energy,” she said. “Anything can hold that sort of power or energy—say, a ring from someone you love, or an ancestor’s watch. Those items are protective. It’s essentially ‘good energy’ insurance to hold an amulet.”

Donnie said the team uses a mix of modern science and a connection with the spirit realm in their investigations.

“This is a voluntary group, and we do this for fun,” he said. “We want our members to see that some things can be explained, and some cannot.”

Added Jana, as the team approached the bell tower: “Bring your open mind—and a camera.”

The team pointed cameras toward the bell tower and shot a few photos. As Jana and Jorge surveyed the pictures, Gloria walked into a courtyard below the bell tower. She then seemed to sniff the air.

Donnie talked a little more about what was going on: “We were told a bell tower (was the site of strange activity), but not which one, specifically, being there are three bell towers located on the property.”

However, Gloria was immediately drawn to this particular tower. As the rumor goes, someone committed suicide by hanging from one of the beams within the bell tower, but the team found no public record of any such occurrence.

“We hear it was a guest in one rumor, and then we hear it was an employee,” Donnie said.

Gloria, meanwhile, was feeling something.

“It was here. Something occurred here, and I’m not picking up on anything in particular, but there is a heavy sadness to this particular area. Something feels a bit out of sorts—a feeling of incompletion.”

She was then asked if this was the location of the rumored suicide.

“I’m picking up something, an incredible sadness,” she repeated, putting her hands over her heart before adding that she needed to leave the area.

Donnie continued to hold a recorder into the air.

“Is there someone that would like to talk to us?” Gloria asked before retreating.

Jorge examined the pictures. “Some shadows and lights can be eliminated as a trick of the mind, as in when we want to see something, it can very well appear,” he said while looking at a photo of a small blur of light that seems to be streaming from the darkness of the bell tower.

The team huddled and played back the recorder—only to hear crickets and the rustle of leaves. Then, faintly, in the distance: the slightest sound of a sigh.

“Now, that could have been one of us breathing, but it sounds as if someone is breathing a slight ‘no,’” Donnie said.

The team later moved to a portion of the lavish grounds that is rarely used.

“Here is where I felt something touch my shoulder. There’s activity here,” Gloria said as we stood in the courtyard of what was once the hotel’s main dining commons.

Jana adds: “It’s been documented that there were many private parties held here, and being it’s an unused area of the resort, most of these rooms are utilized as storage in the off-season.”

It’s also an area where guests and employees have reported strange activity before—“noises coming from inside these casitas that are locked up and unused,” Donnie said.

A repetitive soft knocking was captured on the recorder. “This could be the old plumbing, or it could be some sort of activity,” Donnie said.

As lights from the beautifully decorated casita-style building spilled from the windows, Jorge continued snapping photos of the courtyard. One frame, pictured at the top, captured what seemed to be odd blurs of light in the foreground.

 

After the team left the La Quinta Resort, their work was far from done. “We will look closer at the footage, the (recordings), the photos, and at our next meeting, (we’ll) present the material to each other and either debunk the rumors or investigate further,” Jana said.

Donnie said that the club tries not to take itself too seriously.

“Our goal mainly is to welcome all to join us and essentially have a fun time,” Donnie explained. “Sure, we might capture things unexplained. Yes, often the psychics or mediums will feel something. But most of all, if someone were to join us on an adventure, it would be up to (the person’s) discretion to walk away a believer, or just have a great evening meeting people—ghosts or not”

The team later sat down to survey the Jorge’s photos, carefully examining three—out of 30—photos that seem to include some sort of out-of-place lighting or shadow. (The camera was reportedly still when the picture below was taken.) Jana documented the experience in a journal, while Gloria reviewed a map and marked the “hot spots” where she felt the most activity—including the area where she felt something touch her shoulder.

The team concluded that certain areas merit further investigation, but the majority of activity sensed was of a peaceful nature.

During this part of the investigation, at least, the tall man with the sheepish grin and the big hat remained elusive.

“After this investigation, the next step would be to research the guests and the particular suites where the ‘tall man’ has been spotted, and set up an all-night investigation,” Donnie said.

For Information on the Palm Springs Paranormal Investigative Team, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Philip Wayne is a local freelance writer/journalist/screenwriter who This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..