Thorn Street Brewery Good Spirits and a Ghost


Thorn Street Ghosts

The Thorn Street Brewery website makes claim to good spirits, and possibly a ghost or two. The Thorn Brewing Co. opened for business in 2012 and is founded by Dennis O’Connor, Eric O’Connor, and Dan Carrico. There are currently three locations in San Diego, 3176 Thorn Street, 1745 National Ave, and 4026 Hawk Street.

Thorn Brewing Co. is a popular San Diego craft beer destination, featuring craft beers ranging from the award-winning Golden Hills Pilsner to Alpenglow Imperial Red. Great refreshing craft beers might not be the only spirits on tap at one of their locations. According to their website, “We have known we were the place of ghostly unrest for quite some time.” Experiences include electrical phenomena such as flickering lights in the front tasting room and object manipulation.

The website article doesn’t directly state which of the three locations may be haunted. However, in 2016 Thorn Street Brewery only had one location open at 3176 Thorn Street which makes it likely that this is the haunted brewery.

Tempted as we were at San Diego Haunted to enlist the aid of a craft beer connoisseur psychic-medium to discreetly visit the Thorn Street Brewery we opted to do some historical research instead.

We looked at many different sources including newspapers, ancestry websites, and plat-parcel maps. All three locations are rich in the history of the neighborhoods they reside in. Whether or not any of them are haunted we leave that to the owners and workers, who are there frequent enough to have experienced the paranormal.

The Thorn Street Brewery Located At 3176 Thorn Street

A. P. Frary, bought a land parcel to New San Diego in the mid-1800s known as Frary Heights. The property at 3176 Thorn Street was built in 1958 and advertised as, “extra-large private 2 bedroom home with a fenced-in yard.” In the 1970s zoning was changed to allow businesses to operate on the same property. By the 1980s the house had been converted into an HYDREX pest control business with Diana Merchant as the listed owner.

Thorn Brewing Co. Barrio Logan 1745 National Ave

1745 National Ave is part of the Mannase & Schillars Subdivision. Over time the physical position of an address may change. In the 1940s the address was assigned to a house that was eventually demolished when the property became a steel fabrication plant. Where exactly that house was situated is unknown. That house and the people that lived there had some rough times.

Accidental Shooting Kills Best Friend May 26th, 1942

George T Esperanza pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his friend Benito Munez of 1745 National Ave. Esperanza had been showing off his gun to Munez when the pistol accidentally discharged killing 19-year-old Munoz instantly.

Suspect Arrested On Assault Count August 28th, 1944

23-year-old Ignacio Mesa of 1745 National Ave was nearly killed when he refused to buy a third drink for an acquaintance Al Villajores. Al stabbed Ignacio under the armpit and cut an artery. Mr. Mesa survived the incident and lived a long life before finally passing away on April 26th, 1999 in Chula Vista, California.

Six Year Old Almost Loses Hand July 24th 1950

Six-year-old Raul Ortega and several friends were playing at the San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railroad tracks on Sigsbee Street and found 25 dynamite blasting caps. Raul used a match to ignite one of the caps which exploded in his hand. Raul survived but had lifelong permanent damage to his right hand. He lived at 1745 National Avenue and was the son of Armando Ybarra Ortega when the accident occurred.

The Sordid Tale of Armando Ybarra Ortega Aka “Little Rifleman”
Armando Ybarra Ortega

Armando Ybarra Ortega was born July 25, 1928, in San Diego, California. Armando’s mother Isabel (Ysabel) first married when she was 13 and had many children, unfortunately, her husband died when Armando was still a child.

At 18 Ortega was drafted into military service for WWII. He served his Country and enlisted for a second term. Unfortunately by the time he returned to civilian life he had developed a dependency on alcohol and other issues possibly PTSD related. He lived at 1745 National Ave with his wife and children,

In 1953, 27-year-old Armando Ybarra Ortega earned the nickname “Little Rifleman,” after going on a three-month-long robbery spree. The nickname was given due to his short stature (5′ 5″) and his use of a Japanese rifle. He pleaded guilty and served four years in prison.

After Ortega was released he returned to San Diego. It wasn’t long before he was in trouble with the law again. On May 26th, 1957 Armando came across a parked car with several passengers inside. He forced 20-year-old Ethel Louise Hardy out of the car at gunpoint and took her into a garage nearby. Ethel’s friends’ cries for help created enough commotion to scare Ortega into letting Ethel go free. Ortega was caught shortly thereafter by police and eventually found guilty of felony assault.

Armando served his sentence and ended up in Windsor California. Unfortunately, his life of crime wasn’t over. On January 15th of 1966, Ortega broke into the St. Rose convent. Prosecutors suspected his motive was burglary and rape however he was only charged for felony burglary. The judge ruled he was a habitual three-time offender and imposed a life sentence with a chance for parole in 9 years.

Armando Ybarra Ortega had been married three times throughout his life and fathered multiple children. After his final release from prison, he settled in Santa Rosa California. At the ripe old age of 81, he passed away on January 2, 2013.

Thorn Brewing Mission Hills – 4026 Hawk St

One important thing to note about this property is how close it is to Pioneer Park. The park used to be a cemetery and is considered haunted by local paranormalists. In 1914 a six-bedroom bungalow-style house with a large private yard was built by Kirby’s Bungalows at 4026 Hawk St. The first owners were Eloise L. Nielson (Ella Louise Ruby) and her husband Captain Andrew A. Nielson.

The Nielsons put their home up for sale nearly as soon as they bought it. They were involved in several money-making schemes such as selling maps to gold and copper miners, false ad beauty products, and land (property) exchanges. Mrs. Nielson’s opinions were sometimes published in the local newspaper. One article gave ideas to a destitute woman on how to use her property to make money.

The property did eventually sell to WWII purple heart recipient Seargent Major William A. Barbour and his wife in 1942. Their time was short-lived though and they settled elsewhere. The house was a rental property for a period of time according to local advertisements. In 1945 the home officially was zoned for residential or commercial business and became “The Treasure House,” an antique store owned by Marie P. Auckland.

The Treasure House remained in business till the late 1970s until it was sold and became “The Floral Emporium.” The florist business lasted from 1980-1985. Between 1985 and 2001 the property was listed with multiple suite addresses which included a graphic designer, a medical facility, and other businesses.