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Ventura County Focus | East County / SIMI VALLEY

Psychic Finds Arts Center Is Quite a Haunt

April 08, 1998|COLL METCALFE

There is, apparently, a ghost named Don roaming the halls of the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center who is a bit peeved that the old church organ that was once inside has been removed.

At least that is what Kenny Kingston, the self-proclaimed "Legendary Psychic to the Stars," said Tuesday after wandering through the 73-year-old building trying to ferret out any apparitions that might be calling the center home.

"Yes, yes, yes . . . He wants to know what happened to the organ," Kingston said to no one in particular. "He's . . . yes, yes . . . he's ticked off that the organ was ripped out and sold."

Kingston, who claimed to have had no knowledge of the center before arriving there, was being taped for a segment of the center's telethon, which will be aired from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 29 on cable Channel 19.

In addition to Don, or Donald as Kingston said he likes to be called, there are two other spirits inhabiting the center, Kingston reported.

One is an older woman who thinks the center needs better public relations, and the other is a small child who Kingston said was sitting with the audience.

All this, said some center employees, confirms what they have thought for a long time--that Simi Valley's Cultural Arts Center is haunted.

"Let's just say that we've all experienced some circumstances," said Fred Helsel, the center's assistant general manager. "I, personally, was leaving the building one night when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man in a tan jacket looking at some pictures on the wall. When I turned to look he was gone."

One employee now steadfastly refuses to work alone in the building because of the alleged paranormal goings on.

And during Kingston's investigation, the microphone used to record his segment mysteriously cut out as did a light, which the psychic blamed on "negative energy" emanating from an incredulous media representative.

Built in 1925, the spacious stone building that is now the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, has had many incarnations.

It was first used as a Methodist Church--which had a pipe organ until it was removed a decade ago--and then later as a Jewish synagogue, a private residence, a temporary high school and, for nine years, a mortuary.

"Were there ever any dead people here?" Kingston asked. "I get the feeling that there were dead people here and there's an overwhelming smell of flowers."

The arts center apparently was also the destination Tuesday for a number of celebrity poltergeists, such as Boris Karloff, who stopped by for a brief visit, and former Los Angeles Times Hollywood gossip columnist Joyce Haber, who died in 1993 and said through Kingston that she quit The Times "to pursue other interests."

"She wants to make sure that gets in the paper," Kingston said as he looked over his shoulder and began to chuckle. "They're laughing. They think that's funny."

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