Jessie Dolan, 88, lived on the corner of Needles Highway and 517 North ‘K’ Street for the 30 of the 48 years she’s lived in Needles, California. She just recently sold what is known to the local residents as, ‘The Old Green Haunted House.’
“I used to clean for Mrs. Simons when I was 19, and one day, I asked her if she would sell me this house, but she thought I was too young. Years later, at the age of 55, married with 3 kids, she finally sold it to me and admitted she should have sold it to me when I first asked. I wished she would have too, she would have saved me a ton of money.” Jessie chuckled, as we climbed up the concrete steps of the green stuccoed two story house. We entered the back door stepping into a large, empty laundry room which Jessie quickly pointed out that her deceased husband, Glen, had built for her years ago. “My husband could build or fix anything and he loved this house as much as I did…” as she looked away in sadness, reminiscing. As I began snapping away photos on my phone, the tour of ‘The Old Green Haunted House’ surprisingly turned into somewhat of a love story. “It wasn’t love at first sight for me, but it was definitely for him. He started coming around everyday at the restaurant where I worked, here in town and after 3 days of pestering me, he asked me to marry him and I said ‘Yes’. The love grew from there. What he lacked, I had and what I lacked, he had. It all somehow, just worked for us. ”
There were windows of sunlight everywhere in the Old Green Haunted House which put me at ease as I mentioned the beautiful views from where Jessie and I stood. “At one time I could see my daughter’s trailer all the way to Verde Shores from these windows.” I asked Jessie about the dressed mannequin standing eerily alone in a corner facing a window. “Oh, that’s Sally. She loves it here. She’s not going anywhere.”
Our voices echoed throughout the U-shaped living room with a brick fireplace onto a large porch room with white panel curtains covering the view of the cars passing by.
As we headed upstairs, Jessie pointed to the hidden trapdoor in the ceiling and another door that led to the attic and the hutch cabinet in the dining room and the pantry in the kitchen her husband had also built.
She mentioned one of their sons’, with Down’s Syndrome, taking a terrible fall down the same stairs we were climbing, which had required multiple surgeries to make him better, and how at the same time, her husband’s health began to decline as well. “Those were rough years, but it made us closer, tougher and we made it through…”
Jessie had grown tired of all the rumors she heard throughout the years about their home. “And no, before you ask, it was never a brothel…” she added, defensively. Yet, in the February 1981 edition of The Needles Desert Star, ‘The Old Green Haunted House’ was featured in an article entitled: ‘Historic Landmark Reborn’, which read quite differently: ‘In between the years of 1914-1947, the house required it’s reputation as a brothel. a gambling hall, a speak-easy (a place which illegally sold alcohol) and a haunted house.’ I asked Jessie, “Weren’t you ever afraid of living in a house that was known to be haunted?” “No, not at all, we felt comfortable here. It didn’t bother us one bit…”
Mr. Tyron, who worked in Oatman, Arizona at the Gold Smeltz, had purchased the quarter acre property from John Warren in 1909, then decided in 1910 to build it. It took 4 years to complete. It was 3,600 square feet which originally had 22 rooms, 4 bathrooms, 2 kitchens, 5 bedrooms and 67 windows.
Some of the many windows in ‘The Old Green Haunted House’
Jessie graciously gave me a tour of the bedrooms on the second floor, including a modernized bathroom her husband had installed with new light fixtures and new windows. “He put each one of them in himself…” Jessie shared, quite proudly. As we headed downstairs, we turned a corner and there was another bathroom, an old tub with claw feet and an antique mirror hanging above it. We turned a corner then stepped onto very old, chipped concrete steps leading down into a large open basement. I could see thick spiderwebs in all the corners where the sun rays shone through even more windows. Another fireplace, a small room with only a toilet, water-damaged cupboards with a stainless steel sink were in between huge concrete pillars that held the old structure in place. It smelled of damp dirt and very thick musk.
(Steps leading down into the basement, another fireplace, water-damaged cupboards…)
In 1947, the Old Green Haunted House was sold to the Medley family and during this period of time the basement portion was unusable due to frequent flooding. For the first 3 months in 1951, the house was owned by the Santana family who bought it in January, and sold it in March, for unknown reasons. I asked Jessie if it was true about the tunnels, the locals had always claimed were underneath the house? She said it was true, then showed them to me as I snapped more pictures of the rock-filled crevices in the wall. “They used the tunnels to transport the Japanese after the war, is what we always heard, but none of us ever dared to climb through them for fear of the powdered dirt collapsing on us.”
Another mannequin was standing near a window in the basement wearing a braided wig and a cotton dress, peering out onto ‘K’ Street, standing on a chair. “Oh, that’s Molly. She’s staying, too.” Jessie said, reassuringly.
In 1951, the Strickland family had moved in and lived at the Old Green Haunted House for 12 years telling their friends of the strange sounds of a piano playing coming from the basement, a cowboy, an unknown baby crying, constant 3 ft. of water appearing out of nowhere, flooding the entire basement.
“Jessie”, I asked, gulping, “Did you ever hear any voices late at night? Did you ever hear a baby crying, in particular?” “Yes, yes, I did.” “And, did you ever hear a piano playing in the basement?” “Yes, yes, I sure did…” “And, Jessie”, another gulp, “Did you ever actually see any ghosts? Say, a cowboy?” “No, never saw a Cowboy, but one time, I was standing by the back door, when I turned and noticed a man and a woman carrying a little girl between them, coming down the hallway…and when they noticed me watching them, they disappeared…”
In 1967 and 1968, the building and property changed no less than 4 times with more added features: central air conditioning, a tin roof, an expanded living room and a new paint job. In 1968, the Old Green Haunted House was purchased by the Simons family, which was just one of many houses they owned. This resulted in the house used as a rental to a variety of persons which most dramatically affected the property and its’ contents. In fact, the damage was so severe that for 2 1/2 years between 1977 and 1980, it could not be occupied. In 1981, Ann Marie Soto took it upon herself to restore the property. In addition to the new carpeting, oak floor, custom woodwork and landscaping, she also moved her clothing store, ‘Clouds of Clothes’ into the first floor of the house. In 1985, Jessie and Glen Dolan purchased the Old Green Haunted House and had lived in it with their family ever since.
The phone rang in the silent old house which startled us both. Jessie was afraid she wouldn’t be able to answer it on time so I offered to answer it for her. I hadn’t held a princess rotary phone in my hand since the 1970’s. Jessie said she had to remind herself to call the phone company to disconnect it, after she ended the call. She planned on handing over the keys to Dr. Paget and his wife, Jan, the following Monday, whom have plans on refurbishing the ‘Old Green Haunted House’ into a historical landmark. Her daughter was going to come get the rest of her things. I asked if she had any regrets about selling her beloved home. The only regret she had about selling the place she replied, was knowing her husband’s wedding band was buried somewhere deep in the backyard. She touched the glass pane with her finger pointing down to where her husband had confessed he had lost it, while he was gardening one day. “He never forgave himself for losing it, but maybe that’s where it’s supposed to stay…” Jessie said with a sigh, as her eyes misted with tears.
We walked out of the Old Green Haunted House the same way we had entered it, through the back door, as we both heard the lonely click of the key, when Jessie turned and locked it for the last time.
Special thanks to Mrs. Jessie Dolan, The Needles Desert Star & The Needles Regional Museum. Without your contributions this story couldn’t been written.🌹