The Big Yellow House

Several years ago when visiting my sister in Los Angeles we spent a few weeks driving through California, stopping occasionally where and when something caught our eyes.

Big yellow house signWe drove hundreds of miles during those weeks and of course, I have many notes in my notebooks about this.

I particularly remember one place where we stopped for lunch was the Big Yellow House.  This was one of my sister’s favourite places to eat.

My memory is that the restaurant served straightforward American fare   Mashed potatoes and turkey, pot roast and corn on the cob, big bowls of salad; large bowls of soup notably minestrone or chowder with baskets of hot, freshly baked rolls just begging for butter.   Then generous slices of fresh-baked pie with a dollop of ice cream melting on top followed and completed the meal.  We were both full by the time we left.

Because I was intrigued by the building I decided to do some research into its history.  I learned that the historic structure was built as a private residence by Mr H.L. Williams, the founder of Summerland, in 1884.  And then I discovered that at some stage it had been used as the focal house for a spiritualist community that later became known as Summerland.  There are tales of hauntings; of sightings of a large dark-skinned man surrounded by several other ‘spirits’; of things being moved supernaturally, and other unexplained occurrences.

Dr John Griffin PhD who has written of his experiences at the Big Yellow House bemoans the fact that he with various  friends and colleagues didn’t mount ” a scientific study, complete with instrumentation, of what seemed to be a genuine, multi-spirit haunt.” He goes on to say “Over the years, however, there have been various investigations of reputed haunts where spirits have not only been observed, but anomalistic readings on instrumentation have also been recorded. ”  Read more of this at

Note – Of course I hadn’t heard the term anomalistic and so went to our trusty friend Wikipedia where I learned

“In psychology, anomalistic psychology is the study of human behaviour and experience connected with what is often called the paranormal, without the assumption that there is anything paranormal involved.

On the hypothesis that paranormal explanations do not exist, researchers try to provide plausible non-paranormal accounts, supported by empirical evidence, of how psychological and physical factors might combine to give the impression of paranormal activity when, in fact, there had been none. Such explanations might involve cognitive biases, anomalous psychological states, personality factors, developmental issues, the nature of memory, the psychology of deception and self-deception.”

The property was purchased in the early 1970s by John and June Young.   June Young was one of the founders of Santa Clause Lane and she promptly painted the large house bright yellow with a bright orange roof. The house could not be missed and The Big Yellow House was a landmark for many years.  I was intrigued to learn that for many years, children’s meals were priced ‘by the pound’ – not the food, but the children. Those under 10 years old would be weighed on a large scale and their meals priced accordingly.

Whatever the truth of hauntings and supernatural occurrences, I was very sad to hear that the building was the subject of a mortgagee sale in 2010 and so the restaurant had to close.  But now I am heartened to learn that it has been bought by a local Santa Barbara developer who is looking for tenants.  I hope that one of the tenants is a restaurateur who might continue at least some of the things that made The Big Yellow House famous.

He may live without books – what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope – what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love – what is passion but pining?
But where is the man who can live without dining?”
Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English statesman and poet. (1831-1891)
























..Note 2 – Still having trouble with posting comments on other people’s blogs.  Perhaps the ghost of The Big Yellow House is haunting me!


22 responses to “The Big Yellow House

  1. What an amazing history. I do hope the get to retain a piece of the restaurant. So sad if it will all be lost. Wonderful post. Thanks. Have a beautiful day!


    • Thanks for the comment – I think that the restaurant is lost. But they are apparently looking for another operator to lease space for a restaurant. I hope you have a lovely day too.


  2. With most of California developing after WWII, I LOVE stories about historic buidings there…oh I do hope that a new tenant will be found!


  3. Thanks for sharing your explorations and research. That must have been a wonderful trip you made with your sister.


  4. This was so interesting Judith. I love it when buildings seem to take on personalities and the legends and stories of ghosts begin to mount. And the poem at the end is an absolutely perfect fit!


  5. Very interesting. I am surprised the paranormal and/or non-paranormal activity wouldn’t serve as a reason to keep it. Seems the crowds would flock to capture a glimpse of the paranormal, right?


  6. Judith, the idea of charging by the weight of the children makes me think – maybe we should take that concept to adults all across the country! 🙂


    • Let’s start a wave for charging by the pound of your weight. Obesity rate is multiplying in most western cultures maybe this would help control it. Great idea Jackie.


  7. I used to live in California and nothing I liked better than was to head for the open road and stop at new diner places.. Hmm, wonder if any I ate at were haunted??
    Makes me want to google a few..
    Great story!!


  8. Those trips are the best…love it! Thank you!


  9. I love visiting places like that (Lucy the Elephant immediately comes to mind). They are usually quite interesting. Thanks for sharing the story about The Big Yellow House. I, too, hope a restaurateur takes over the place so that someday I can visit it. 🙂


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