Swiss Village Apartments Ghost

I recently became aware of the Swiss Village Apartments located at 4250 Fourth Avenue in Hillcrest by a website visitor named Kevin. He reported strange occurrences while residing at the 4th Avenue Apartments (formerly Swiss Village). I decided to look into the history of these apartments to see if I could find any cause for the “high level of strangeness” Kevin experienced.

It’s a super long story, too long to tell here, but had things move, colds spots and sleepless nights. For one week in a row, I had horrid pain in the middle of the night, couldn’t sleep, but fine in the day. Woke up one evening, saw a ‘man’ at the end of my bed, yelled at him/it to ‘get the F off of me’ and never had any issues again. That was the super short version. 

Kevin former resident 4250 Fourth Avenue Apartments 2017-2021

Disclaimer: Fourth Avenue Apartments

The history we provide and any reference to “ghosts” and “high level of strangeness” is purely for the Swiss Village Apartments, not the Fourth Avenue Apartments. There is no known way of proving or disproving the existence of ghosts, and we are simply responding to a post written by website visitors. The area should be considered private property trespassers will likely be in violation of law and prosecuted.

Fair use historical news worthy Swiss Village Apartments circa 1970  San Diego Union  2/15/1970
Fair use historical news worthy Swiss Village Apartments circa 1970 San Diego Union 2/15/1970

History of Swiss Village Apartments in Hillcrest

The Swiss Village Apartments were the brainchild of North Park Realty Investor Don Cohn and builder Thomas Kelly of Imperial Valley. The apartments were modeled after a Switzerland alps style ski lodge and village. The building’s location on a hill overlooking Mission Valley was essential to the overall design concept. The site allowed tenants a view of the wooded sloping Alpine-like terrain down into the valley. Other building features included cascading ponds linked to a decorative waterfall feature and a 3000-square-foot community center full of amenities. The Swiss Village apartments had 126 rental units with one, two, and three bedroom options and opened to renters in 1970. Eventually, the apartments were renovated and are currently known as the Fourth Avenue Apartments.

Swiss Village Apartments A Case For Ghosts

When evaluating and researching possible haunted locations for guests, we try to provide anything relevant to the area that might interest our readers. In the case of The Swiss Village Apartments at 4250 Fourth Avenue in Hillcrest, several things stood out right away. Every building has a history, and The Swiss Village Apartments is a story of life, death, and shared geography of San Diego’s very own “Waverly Hills” style hospital. The information provided herein does not represent the entirety of the story, just some critical notes.

Geography of 4250 Fourth Avenue Hillcrest

As stated earlier, the Swiss Village concept needed the hilltop vantage point for its ski lodge Alps style. That geography may have come at a “Ghostly” price. Comparing a map from the 1960s to current day Google, we find an interesting reference to a San Diego county general hospital and a mental hospital.

The Old County Hospital San Diego
The Old County Hospital San Diego

The current day UC San Diego Medical center in Hillcrest is only minutes away from 4250 Fourth Avenue. When digging into history, we discover that the current-day hospital was once a vast County Hospital complex serving the indignant population of San Diego.

The three-story “training” hospital opened on March 15, 1904. They were referred to as inmates to get a sense of the social status given to the indigent who moved into this facility. The transfer of the 90 patients from the existing poor farm county hospital in Mission Valley below happened quietly in the middle of the night. The staff didn’t want to draw the attention of the public. During its 60 years of operation, the hospital had several additions, including a fourth floor, a five-level east wing, and a nurses station. This fully equipped training hospital included a morgue and autopsy room. The staff mainly consisted of volunteer physicians, a head nurse, and nurses in training. The county general hospital also served as a place of alms for the poor and a sanitorium. People lived and died through the entirety of its 60 years of operation.

Could spirits from the hospital have manifested over to the nearby Swiss Apartments? We will likely never know. We also found three peculiar deaths during our research into the Swiss Village apartments.

Swiss Village Apartment Pool Death

Patricia Ann Simmons death Swiss Village Aprtments

We don’t know much about Patricia Ann Simmons other than a brief death notice posted in the San Diego Union on June 18, 1974. Patricia was a microbiologist at University Hospital and lived in the Swiss Village. Her lifeless body was found in the Swiss Village pool at about 5:45 pm on June 17, 1974. We could find no other reference to her death and must assume it was due to natural causes. We find it peculiar that a 26-year-old trained in the medical field drowned by accident. As such, we have made a formal request to the coroner’s office for her death certificate.

Swiss Village Builder Thomas Kelly and Wife Tragic Plane Crash

Thomas Kelly death builder Swiss Village Apartments

Thomas Martin Kelly of Imperial Contracting Co. and his wife both died when the small twin-engine plane piloted by Thomas crashed in an empty Texas field on February 16, 1979. Kelly was the builder for the Swiss Village Apartments and, at the time of his death, was a defendant in the case of DEL MAR BEACH CLUB OWNERS ASSOCIATION, INC., Plaintiff, and Appellant, v. IMPERIAL CONTRACTING. Perhaps in his death, Thomas visits the job sites he worked so hard to build in life.

The Unbelievable Tale of John Bowie Jr.

Sometimes while doing research, we run across stories so incredible they seem surreal, as in the life and death of John Bowie Jr. John was born on February 17, 1940, in Louisiana. The first part of John’s life was unremarkable. Things dramatically change when he begins living at the Swiss Village apartments in Hillcrest. John lived at the Swiss Village apartments and a local motel under an assumed name. He was also involved with a motorcycle “club” called the Voodoos. John supposedly earned income from selling used restaurant grease to soap makers but could not be verified.

John was involved in a love triangle between himself (32), Deborah Ann Thomas (19), and Riley White (31) in 1977. Deborah had been involved in a relationship with Riley and John. Things went sour, and John killed Riley by shooting him with a 12 gauge shotgun. Deborah was John’s common-law wife at the time of Riley’s murder. Though John immediately admitted to the murder, the District attorney never pressed charges on the grounds of self-defense. Police had also questioned John for involvement in a prostitution ring. John and Deborah continued to live together at the Swiss Village apartments after the murder.

John Bowie, an avid motorcyclist, was injured in a motorcycle accident in 1978. An infection in his heel followed and caused John to be hospitalized. On Thursday, July 27, 1978, exactly one year after Riley’s murder, Deborah entered John’s hospital room and shot him twice with a .38 caliber pistol at point blank range. John suffered two gunshot wounds, one to the neck and one to the chest. Miraculously neither of the wounds proved life-threatening. Deborah was arrested shortly after the shooting.

Deborah Ann Thomas Trial

It would seem that John could cheat death at will, but his luck would soon run out. On Tuesday, September 5, 1978, John was murdered. Witnesses say a car with two men pulled up beside John’s Cadillac, stopped at a red light, and fired at least one fatal shot into John’s head execution style. Police struggled to find suspects, and Deborah, still in jail for attempted murder, was questioned multiple times without producing any leads. Could the violence of Deborah and John’s wild-life together be a cause for a haunting at the swiss village? We will never know.

Photo Gallery Whaley House

San Diego Haunted Photo gallery Whaley House located at 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110. The Whaley House was built upon the gallows of San Diego’s early courthouse and is an 1857 Greek Revival style residence built by Thomas Whaley for his family. It has since become a California Historical Landmark, and museum located in Old Town, San Diego, California. It is currently maintained by Save Our Heritage Organization. The Whaley house is considered the most haunted house in San Diego, CA.

Photo Gallery Pioneer Park

San Diego Haunted Photo gallery Pioneer Park. Located at 1521 Washington Pl San Diego, CA 92103. Formerly a 19th century cemetery now a park featuring tree-shaded lawns & paths. A row of tombstones featuring early significant San Diegans makes up a monument honoring the park as a former cemetery. Only a few graves were exhumed and entombed elsewhere. The majority of human bodies remain under the lush green park grass.

Old Town Coffin House of Rafael

Old Town  house of a hundred coffins Rafael
Old Town house of a hundred coffins Rafael

Old Town Coffin House of Rafael -Haunted houses, ghosts and specters, Or ? say a house of a hundred coffins! A house filled with relics gathered from graves in other words, the house of Rafael. The unknown, and ancient recluse of Old Town, a little place just north of the fair city of San Diego and within a step of gay, worldly Coronado beach, and that mecca of joy seeking, time killing millionaires, Hotel Coronado. The very strands of the dance music In the spacious ballroom of that far famed resort can be heard in the strange coffin house of Old Town. It was way back In 1769 that Rafael’s dominion was founded by Father Junipero Serra. Today the pueblo of San Diego is the oldest In the state of California boasting the title of “municipality.” Long before the smooth beach of San Diego bay was graced by a stately hotel, or a tent city was spread on the sands of the shore to satisfy the whim of society, Old Town was gay, wildly gay and filled with the pets of old Spanish aristocracy. Where today the only feature of the place is Rafael, a relic of the past, the festivities of Christmas, Easter, Lady day, Michelmas and the dramatico “Los Pastores” regularly stirred the indifferent, happy social life of the Old Town cavaliers. But where the guitars and violins cadenced to the melodies of the Spanish youth, where “La Noche Buena” and the celebration of the Astea virgin were made the occasion of high festivity, all is asleep and the house of a hundred coffins stands.

Rafael watches and death waits. It was suggested by my guide, who had offered to take me to this place, that Rafael had a story and that that ever burning light in all romance, love, might be at the bottom of his queer conduct. But whatever love might once have burned in the breast of this deserted man the world will never know. On his brow is a rugged scar. It looks like the wound from a well directed bullet. And while a gleam of intelligence sparkles from his deep set, black eyes, only a stream of Incoherent English and Spanish escapes his dry end parched lips. He is pleasant, is even affable. He will gladly show you his deserted mausoleum, but in it?s grandeur is entombed his life’s story, and that sleeps beyond the charm of any enchantress’ wand. Rafael lives with coffins instead of loves.

While his body is bent and his shoulders turned with the burden of time his head is well shaped, crowned with gray, and held high with a certain pride about his baked and wrinkled throat clings a rosary. He holds the cross and toys with the beads, chanting, chanting, chanting the while. Over his right shoulder is a white, cloth It might be a scrape, it more closely resembles a surplice. The wearer smiles and smiles, blinking in the strong, sun light, muttering a sort, of ‘buenos dios.” Rafael is a fit figure for his strange tragic life a sentinel of the dead. The House of a Hundred Coffins stands within 10 yards of the old Spanish Jail, which was once a monument of law and order in Old Town. About the jail (a crumbling adobe, ruin) jealous Rafael has twisted rusty lengths of barbed wire to shut its romantic interior from the gaze of the curious. He is sole custodian of this ancient California Bastille and none may enter. None! Yet today nothing and nobody, save the occasional hot breath of a southern California wind, stirs the little place. Other than a dozen adobe and frame places a long a low ruined Spanish hostelry and a set of silent mission bells swinging Indolently on a scaffold In the open square, nothing remains of the old life to share the melancholy territory with the man who lives with the dead. There are no more- “carnes tolendos’ nothing but the irregular chanting of some “Veni, Creator Spiritus” by Rafael like an echo of the prayer of Father Sierra, from the tomb of that great and glorious apostle of the faith.

But the House of a Hundred Coffins is a mixed feeling of awe and reverence seizes one familiar with the story of Rafael as the approach to the low brown sun burned shambles reached you whisper to your guide, “Is this it? Is that he? and then, you’re inside the crooked enclosure and in the presence of the spooky, little, man and the ghostly house. At the casket lid door is the proprietor, standing like a stoic Bony handed, headed, framed, and his looks fit his life and apparitions of death seem to swing and step across this mans threshold like, pressing past the veil of eternity into the realm of the great beyond. An assortment of old blankets piled in a box that suspiciously resembles an undertaker’s case greets one on entering. It’s the bed a bench to sit on , which was once unmistakably the lid of a coffln, he speaks of his hospitality – panels from broken coffins have made his hovel tight from wind and rain. Graveyard sprites arid elves seem to leer from every corner, and a thought of the dark night, is too horrible. The house, which San Diegans call, ?the coffin house,? is built of rough material, about 15 feet wide by 20 long, and consists of two rooms. In one the old Spaniard eats his ‘-meager meal, in the other he sleeps. Here and there is evidence of Rafael’s carpentering. Casket box wood, tops, lids,, etc., have: been utilized for furniture, from bed to foot chest. On the four walls are the old name plates which once adorned “the coffins of Old Town’s citizens. They hang like pictures on the wall. Old, . tarnished things that seem to beckon to the graves on the hill. Among it all is Rafael, forgetting yesterday and courting the hereafter. What dreams he dreams must rival the grandest apparitions of De Quincey. He needs no opium he craves no cocaine. He lives through the new and carries tunes like familiar “Las Noches Buenas.” He lives, in dreams fandangos may be danced in his hut, or feasts spread by spectral visitors at midnight. It’s all the same to Rafael Eat drink and be merry my ghosts! How Rafael acquired things that once were buried no one seems clear to understand. Once or twice within memory graves have been exhumed, and possibly Rafael gathered that which the grave diggers left. In ancient times graves might not have been dug as, deep as they are today and rain may have torn loose the hillside soil of which the forefathers of Old Town sleep. Whatever it may be, Rafael has the best of evidence coffin lids, casket tops, and name plates are his treasure trove. The very door of his castle is a coffin box lid. It boasts no number. It stands without hinges it’s a coffin box top, and it serves Rafael. Nobody annoys his odd California character. Seldom do tourists travel so far off the beaten path as to visit the little pueblo of old San Diego. Like a little city that once started to grow to, the, pearly harbor it has stopped, and today the new city of San Diego spreads out some miles beyond it, forgetting its little brother and Rafael.

Funerals are now rare in Old Town El Campo Santo cemetery, and it’s a matter of ancient record when the last took place. Yet daily at twilight Rafael says vespers at the graveyard gate. There in possibly lies his secret. perhaps his love is buried their among the mesquite. What the world knows is little, and what Rafael care for it is hardly worth the reckoning. Kind charity and good providence seem to keep Rafael alive. From a small garden patch he gleans a few vegetables and from a well he draws his drink. Rafael’s life Is like a painted scene. He moves like a shadow across the scenic background. Nothing changes in Old Town save the direction of the wind. During the day the sun shines. At night Rafael’s candle burns to throw long shadows nervously across the coffin lids and name plates. When night falls on the dry San Diego country a coffin top is drawn across the door of the house of a hundred coffins. Inside an old man dreams of New Spain. In all the strength and breadth of the southern country, from Yurna to the Santa Margarita river valley, none can be found to testify to the age of Rafael. Morena, El Cajon and La Mesa may all boast their oldest inhabitants Rafael, like a desert sphinx, smiles and dreams on among, his grewsome associations, the oldest known inhabitant of the countryside. Many tales have been told about him. Ghosts and sprites, witches and devils, all have been declared kin to the old fellow. The stories go on. Whoever knows the true one is long since departed. The mission bells of Old Town are silent. Rafael is silent. The House of a Hundred Coffins is silent. Rafael and his house stand today the mystery of San Diego County. Civilization seems to have stood still in Old Town for the last hundred years. Otherwise the strange character would probably long since “have passed from the scenes of his early life. Attempts have been made to extend charity to the old man, but nothing can win him away from his odd life. From the district attorney’s office to the church organizations, at one time or another Rafael has been an object of consideration. Some have complained, some have pitied; sweet charity seems to have triumphed. While the residents know that coffins have found their way from the graveyard into the house, no one has ever been able to accuse the man of robbing a grave or destroying the sanctity of the little hillside city of sleep. His conduct has been investigated some have attempted to have him examined by a commission. Rafael only smiles peacefully at them all, doing no harm, attending his own peculiar duties. There are numbers of hermits In America. There are hundreds in the foothills of California. San Diego County boasts Rafael, the strangest, most interesting recluse of all.

San Francisco Call, Volume 106, Number 6, 6 June 1909 Author: H. J. Rogers