Santa Paula Times

Haunting tour: Historic Santa Paula Airport scene of GhostWalk 2013

October 09, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly

Santa Paula Times 

From the very first tour when visitors wandered up and down Main and several side streets running into ghostly apparitions with stories to tell, it was obvious that Santa Paula was the place for thrills and chills.

Now historic Santa Paula Airport is be the location of the 19th Annual GhostWalk as the city’s reputation for good scares for a great cause has only become stronger.

A gorgeous, vintage 1931 Stinson Detroiter will offer visitors close-up viewing as part of the set for this year’s GhostWalk, the annual, “street-theater” fundraiser for the Santa Paula Theater Center.

Hosted this year by Aviation Museum of Santa Paula, “GhostWalk has become quite the fall tradition for people from all over Ventura County,” said Artistic Director Dee Anne Helsel.

The allure of GhostWalk is multi-faceted from the fun of a walk in the dark in the month famed for Halloween and Santa Paula’s famed weather to mixing history with “wonderful story telling from six of the ‘dearly departed’ “ that Helsel said “is the allure that has so successfully kept people coming, year after year.”

And those that keep coming include the army of volunteers ranging from writers and actors to tour guides that lead groups from venue to venue.

Guides not only make sure that groups are kept together and turn their flashlights on and off at appropriate times but they must also keep up a running commentary to and from each stop. Each guide has a script but they often interject their own personality into their patter.

GhostWalk has been held at the famed airport before: “We’re delighted to be returning to the airport because the atmosphere with all the vintage planes and history feeds the imagination of the writers and ghost walkers.... this year our tales are especially exciting,” as three stories center on true events or residents that were founders and enthusiasts, as part of the airport’s rich history.

Janice Dickenson’s grandfather-in-law, Ralph Dickenson is considered the airport founder and he served as president of the Santa Paula Airport Association for 45 years. 

Janice has served on the board of directors of the Aviation Museum since its creation 15 years ago and is its historian.

This year Janice has melded her love for the airport and in her vast research of records, and with a healthy dose of what old timers have told her over the years, she is also a GhostWalk story writer.

Two 2013 GhostWalk tales feature Ralph Dickenson, who at the August 9, 1930 dedication of the airport landed his 1929 Stinson Jr. to cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony. 

The Stinson used as a GhostWalk set piece, is one year younger than Ralph’s plane and was donated to the museum by famed aviator Clay Lacy of Van Nuys, a frequent Santa Paula Airport visitor and supporter.

Janice penned “The Mortician’s Flight” based on a true 1932 tragedy that involved Ralph Dickenson, a flying trip, tragic accidental death and dangerous flying mission to retrieve the body.  

“Fateful Flight #85” was written by GhostWalk Founder and Santa Paula Historical Society President Mary Alice Orcutt Henderson; she retells the story of how in 1937 Ralph and his brother Marshall Dickenson flew off ignoring dangerous weather conditions to help find a downed airliner on the northern slopes of the San Fernando Valley.

The airport has a plethora of colorful personalities as part of its history including the lifelong friendship of local Bud Gurney with the legendary Charles Lindbergh (visit to see a 1925 photo of the two aviators) and Lockheed test pilot Sammy Mason, whose invention made it possible to fly a helicopter inverted; Mason also taught famed actor, Steve McQueen - who had a hangar at the airport - to fly. 

Clete Roberts, a WWII correspondent and pioneering television journalist flew his antique cub in Santa Paula in the 1960s.

GhostWalk will be held October 11-12-13, 18-19-20, and 25-26-27.

A tram is available for handicapped patrons at the 6:30 tour.

First weekend bargain with a $10 discounted adult ticket, thereafter $15 each adult ticket; $8 for children (must be 7 and older!) and students. 

The approximately 1-hour GhostWalk tours leave every 15 minutes starting at 6:30 p.m., last one at 9 p.m. You must bring a flashlight and wear comfortable shoes!

Reservations are strongly advised. Call the Haunt Line at 805-525-3073.

Visit the website: 

GhostWalk will start at the Aviation Museum of Santa Paula, 800 E. Santa Maria St. 

From the east: exit Highway 126 at 10th Street, turn right off the ramp, and then a quick left onto Harvard Boulevard; turn left at the next signal at Eighth Street and left onto Santa Maria Street into the parking lot. From the west: exit the freeway at Palm Avenue, turn right and then a quick left onto Santa Maria Street, about a half mile to the end at the parking lot.