Paranormal activity at Padre? TV crew investigates for 'Portals to Hell' series

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May 5—The Padre Hotel has been the subject of many haunted Bakersfield stories. For the first time, it is being investigated for national television in an episode of the "Portals to Hell," which begins streaming on Discovery+ on Saturday.

While research has been conducted on a smaller scale in the past (including from "Long Island Medium" star Theresa Caputo, who had an experience with a child's ghost there), the hotel is receiving its full frightening 15 minutes of fame in part to the pandemic, which slowed business down enough to accommodate the show's crew in December.

"We found the Padre a year and a half prior to filming there," said Jack Osbourne, who co-hosts and executive produces the paranormal investigation series. "They said, 'Sorry, no can do. We're a bustling hotel in downtown Bakersfield. We can't accommodate what you need.'"

But like with similar popular venues the Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Ariz., and the Grant-Humphreys Mansion, a palatial wedding venue in Denver — both of which are featured in the latter half of current season — the Padre had some flexibility in their schedule late last year.

"They reached out far enough for us to be able to block off those two days doing the filming," said Jennifer Johnson, the hotel's general manager. "They had booked everything those two days."

Osbourne said the team of 14 stayed a few days at the hotel with the focus on two days of intense investigation with equipment and witness testimonials.

Johnson said the witnesses were all former or current staff, each with tales of varying intensity.

Having worked at the hotel for nearly 10 years, Johnson had plenty of stories including one in the middle of the day on the eighth floor. (Many of the stories center around activity on the hotel's upper floors.)

"I was doing my rounds," she said. "I opened a door to a closet (in the hallway) and had this overwhelming feeling of cold and immediate adrenaline.

"The hair was standing up on my arms, and the door slammed right on me. I ran down eight flights of stairs, terrified.

"I told a couple of people because somebody noticed that I was clearly frightened. I was really pale and out of breath after running down the stairs.

"It definitely terrified me. That was the only time I felt scared."

Osbourne said he was also impressed by his experiences at the hotel.

"A lot of times you go to locations that people say, 'Oh, it's super scary,' and you might have some experiences, but it might not live up to a lot of the hearsay.

"It's a beautiful hotel. It's been modernized, but there is a sense of a home abandoned. There is a vibe that is palpable, that is bad."

He said his craziest moment was while trying to sleep in the Oil Baron Suite on the eighth floor, which was otherwise completely unoccupied. (Guest investigator Heather Taddy, who filled in for usual co-host Katrina Weidman, was staying a floor below.)

"I woke up all night," Osbourne said. "At one point, I thought housekeeping had walked into my room. It sounded like my door opened and closed. I said 'Hello' but no one answered."

He said the crew also experienced a variety of occurrences, deemed freaky but not malevolent, including hearing noises in the hallway or from the floor above where they stood and seeing things out of the corner of their eye.

In the episode, they catch on camera the curtains that separate the kitchen from the counter at Farmacy Cafe flapping, although no one is nearby and there is no detectable source of what could have caused the movement. Footage also picks up a shadowy figure in the distance, although it could be someone spotted through the window walking along 18th Street.

Johnson said she appreciated the deep historical dive the crew took into the hotel, which opened in 1928. A number of notable deaths were uncovered including a man who committed suicide in a bathtub, a woman who jumped off the roof and a love triangle that ended in a fatal shooting in what is now Brimstone.

"They were able to uncover some pieces of the history of the hotel that I had only heard rumors of. From The Bakersfield Californian archives, they pulled old articles and some of those things were very specific to what had happened."

Osbourne also said the research component adds to his enjoyment in conducting these investigations.

"It's fun. It's a fun job to have. I don't take it too seriously. We operate in the fringe realm of science. No one seems to fully understand the phenomenon."

The Padre's "Portals to Hell" episode will begin streaming on Discovery+ on Saturday. Johnson said once it's available, she would love for the hotel to be able to screen it for guests, who then have the added benefit of being able to explore, including the ghostly child's handprint on a pillar in Farmacy Cafe.

"Overall you're going to see how rich the history is," Johnson said of the show. "It's tied to so many stories of Bakersfield over the decades. It's (the show) definitely going to make people more aware."

For those who want to find out firsthand if there is paranormal activity on the upper floors, Johnson warns you better start planning now. The suites featured in the episode usually book out months in advance so you'll need to take your chances elsewhere in the hotel or prepare for a wait.

"I'm excited to create experiences for people," Johnson said. "Whether they want to stay on a haunted floor or just see what it's all about."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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