Visiting the Westerfeld House and Its Haunted Past.

When I mention the Westerfeld house to people they generally have never heard of it here in Dallas. This is probably because the house is located on the corner of Fulton Street and Scott Street in San Francisco, California. Even I hadn't heard of it until a random purchase I made a couple years back at a Goodwill in Dallas. So, how did a house halfway around the United States peek my interest and a ton of others online and eventually cause me to travel to it? Here's the story.

My Discovery of the Westerfeld House

As I've mentioned in other posts, I love thrifting. I'm sure that either makes me a 90 year old grandma or a hipster from Austin, Tx, (but what's wrong with that?) Regardless, a thrifting trip I had with my friend James mid-skateboarding sesh, ended with me and a picture of a strange, spooky-looking house.

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I'm not sure why, but when I saw this buried among a pile of random picture frames and old, reprinted landscape photos at Goodwill, it seized my attention and wouldn't let go. I purchased it for somewhere around $3.99 and immediately googled the address and the artist's name. Sadly, I've never been able to make out the artist's name, but I did find the Westerfeld on those cross streets. The Victorian house was filled with a rich history that filled every bone in my body with a sense of wonder and curiosity. I was entranced and I had to learn more.  

The Westerfeld's Wild and Haunted Past

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The Westerfeld house was built in the late 1800's by builder Henry Geilfuss on behalf of the home's owner, William Westerfeld. William died in 1895 and the structure was sold to a contractor by the name of Jonathan J. Mahoney who loved to entertain celebrities as guests, (who wouldn't?). The list includes radio pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi, who reportedly used one of the top rooms to transmit the very first radio signals on the west coast. The lineup also included the famous escape artist, Harry Houdini, who experimented in the same room by attempting to send telepathic messages to his wife across the Bay. 

Fast forward to 1928, when the house was bought by Czarist Russians who turned the place into a nightclub called "Dark Eyes" while making the upper floors into meeting rooms. It was then that it was renamed the "Russian Embassy".

In 1948, the night club had shut down and the house became a 14-unit apartment building that was rented to African-American Jazz Musicians, including John Handy

By the 1960's, the house had all sorts of residents inhabiting its many rooms. One of the most interesting occupants (IMO) was occult filmmaker, Kenneth Anger. Because of Kenneth's dark body of work, his visitors lended themselves toward a more sinister nature. This included the famed criminal/cult leader, Charles Manson, as well as Bobby Beausoleil who later joined Manson's cult and was involved in the first Helter Skelter murders.

Kenneth would often film his projects in the Westerfeld house where he had carved a giant pentagram into the wood of the top floor. Anger and his friends would also hold satanic rituals in the ballroom. This attracted another famous visitor, Anton Zandor LaVey, who founded the Church of Satan and wrote The Satanic Bible. At one point, they had removed the ceiling in order to create a medium for their dark energies, as well as to view passing UFOs. In fact, many unidentified spacecrafts were claimed to have been seen from the top of the westerfeld, but I'm guessing the amount of drug use probably assisted these sightings.

Here are two of Anger's films. (Be warned: there's nudity, so probably not a great film for your kids to watch.)

Many more notable characters passed through the hallways of this house while it served as apartments. This included: Mick Jagger, Jerry Garcia, Chet Helms, James Gurley, Janis Joplin, Fayette Hauser, Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Lovelace, Heidi McGurrin, Art Lewis, and Ken Kesey. You can see the full list HERE.

In 1969, two men purchased the home for $45,000 and began remodeling random sections of the house. Many odd additions and replacements were made until it was purchased again in 1986 by someone more equipped to remodel an historic landmark like the Westerfeld.

Jim Siegel purchased the home and has since retrofitted the foundation, removed the dropped ceilings, re-wired, re-roofed, and re-plumbed, and restored the interior and exterior woodwork and the historic, ground-floor ballroom, and decorated the 25-foot ceiling with period wallpaper crafted by Bradbury & Bradbury.
— Wikipedia

The Westerfeld is still owned by Jimmy Siegal to this day and is maintained exquisitely as you can see below. Every detail is as wonderful as the last and compliments the home incredibly well. (Photo collection from Photographer Patricia Chang via sf.curbed.com.)

My Visit to the Westerfeld House

Almost two years after I found the drawing in a Dallas Goodwill, My girlfriend (now fiancee) and I traveled to Sequoia National Forest and then to San Fran, where after a lot of walking up and down the insane, but beautiful hills that make up the Castro neighborhood, we came upon the house I'd been dreaming of seeing for some time. The Westerfeld looked like it belonged on r/evilbuildings and yet, it was astonishingly beautiful.

As I stood in the park across the street, I felt this wonderful sensation of the house's presence. It was dark, brooding and fantastic all at the same time. One could feel the history emanating from the property. With the famous painted ladies on one side of the park, the Westerfeld stood out as a Victorian structure from another time and vision.

Me standing at Fulton and Scott - Taken by Tiff

Me standing at Fulton and Scott - Taken by Tiff

I'm not sure a house (other than the one I grew up in) has ever left such an impression on me like the Westerfeld has. I love this house. The architecture; the city it sits in; the history; it all blends to create one of my favorite places and I've never even been inside. One day I'd love to walk through this historic home, but until then, my visit to the exterior will have to suffice.

Below are some other angles I captured when I visited. 

If this post was of any interest to you, you may check out the film currently being made about the Westerfeld House called House of Legends. You can find more information and even donate to the project HERE. Thanks for reading!

My Interview with Emily Griffin and Her Wonderful Art.

Twitter is one of those places on the internet where getting lost either takes you to something really terrible or presents something really interesting or fantastic. A few weeks ago I was browsing through my feed where a lot of really terrible stuff popped up (fight videos, political discourse, depression, etc.) as it often does - when all of a sudden, a nugget of wonderfulness appeared; it was Emily's art.

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I'm always on the look out for interesting and talented people to interview for my Koonagi's World Blog, so I reached out. I love to learn about what inspires different artists and what drives them to create. I explored her website, Day Brighten, and her art. I dug it and most of all, I connected to it.

She messaged me back a couple days later after getting back from a trip and the rest of this article just sort of fell into place. Without further ado, here's my interview with the talented Emily Griffin.

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What are your earliest memories of creating art and how did that translate into being a passion?

I’ve been creating art since I was super little - it’s always something I felt really comfortable doing, especially as I realized I didn’t really like playing sports as my mom tried getting me into different hobbies when I was younger. It helps that you get to draw a lot for projects in school, so I could do it for a grade and for fun all at once, and even help my friends that didn’t like drawing.

When I was in college, I was encouraged to go a “safer” route and studied business, but I still minored in watercolor. That + getting an iPad Pro was what really kept me painting and drawing as an adult, and then got lucky enough to find some opportunities for commissioned projects and to work with HelloGiggles on my weekly feature, “A Wednesday Cute”. Word of mouth from Twitter was truly the catalyst for most of my work today.
— EG

 What artists or things in everyday life inspire you or your work?

I follow so many artists on Instagram and am inspired by bits and pieces of their work constantly - color, texture, humor, the way they illustrate emotion with cartoon styles. I’ve been a longtime supporter of The Sad Ghost Club and their focus on mental health (I also love ghosts). I also find everything about Hiller Goodspeed’s work incredibly charming. A lot of my personal work feels close to these artists, in that it’s cute and generally has a lot to do with feelings and small, special moments (even goofy ones).

I also tend to use a lot of muted pastels in my work, which is very much tied to the way I dress and accessorize. I like to keep things soft.
— EG

Do you have any art pieces or art-related achievements you're particularly proud of creating?

My final watercolor series at the end of college is still one of my proudest achievements. I painted seven space scenes and really love how they look, and how much time I dedicated to them. Each little star is hand-painted!
— EG
More recently, I’m proud of several pieces that I made last summer. I was going through a really exhausting and heartbreaking time in my life and still kept drawing through it. I feel like I achieved the level of emotional clarity that I wanted to with these - which is cool, because I’m usually hard on myself and only see where I could have illustrated something better.
— EG

What projects are you working on now?

I just finished a lot of illustrations for some awesome tech talks.
— EG

Some of Emily's Brilliant Tech Talk Illustrations:

Now I am “relaxing” a little bit with pet portraits (and a moose!) and couple portraits, which are my typical projects. I’m also working on a pin design for a local meetup :)
— EG

Where can people follow you and your work?

You can follow me on Instagram @daybrighten for most of my work, and I’m also super active on Twitter @emilywithcurls. You can also view more of my work on daybrighten.com or on Tumblr.
— EG

As you can tell "Day Brighten" isn't just the name for her website, but really describes her personality and art as well. Art can make you feel a lot of different ways, but Emily's seems to always convey a positive vibe, even when the subject matter may not be. I think that's what drives me to her work most; it quite literally brightens my day.

I'd like to thank Emily for taking the time out of her busy schedule for this interview. I can't wait to see what she creates next. Whatever it is, I have no doubts that it will bring more joy into a world that desperately needs it.

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How I Proposed to My Girlfriend in Sequoia National Park

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
— J.M.

Today's post is probably the most important one I've written so far, and certainly the most meaningful. That's because this particular article is about how I proposed to my, (now) fiancee. I've gotten the question numerous times in the past week, "How did you propose?" Since I generally write articles on our trips anyway, now I can cover two things in one fell swoop.

My girlfriend and I decided a few months ago to save up and go on a trip to San Fran after I offered her three different destinations to travel to for her birthday. That was in March, but this would be for June as a celebration of the school year being over, (she's a teacher and this would act as a future gift). 

March 8th, 2018 on Tiff's birthday

March 8th, 2018 on Tiff's birthday

A little backstory on how we met, before I get to the proposal.

Tiff and I originally met through the app Bumble in 2016, but we lost touch. Although we hit it off immediately via in-app messaging, we both had a lot to deal with in our personal lives at the time. We didn't talk again until late April of 2017.

On April 27th, Tiff and I met at a local, Dallas dive bar called Milo Butterfingers for our first date. Milo's was a popular hang out for me and my co-workers and has excellent bartenders. It sat in between my work and her apartment, (GPS-wise). Little did we know, that night would change our lives forever. We talked for hours.

We've been inseparable ever since.

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All of our interests from the past, present, and future, seem to align. Our relationship seems too good to be true and yet, here we are. Our embarrassing love for Nu Metal; our late night talks involving science and psychology; politics; our love for toys, Poke'mon, and cartoons;  our similar collecting preferences; our common love languages...I could go on forever. She's perfect.

Over the next year, we traveled to Roswell and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Robber's Cave in Oklahoma, Austin and Laredo in Texas, Denver and the Rockies, and more recently: Sequoia National Park and San Francisco in California. That brings me to the point of this article:

How I Proposed in Sequoia National Park

Tiff and I woke up around 5am and met my parents outside of our apartment. We were then dropped off at the airport and flew 3+ hours to San Fran on Alaskan Air. (I LOVE Alaskan Air.)

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We road the tram to the rent-a-car area, threw our stuff in, and drove 4 hours to Three Rivers, California. We were moving along non-stop. I was determined to propose that day in Sequoia.

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We arrived at our motel around 3pm-ish, California time. The motel was super cool and made me feel like I was at someone's grandma's house. There was some random nature-y art, a tiny library setup, and an amazing view as you can see in the photo above. Our room however was very strange, but you can't tell from the photo below. It was a mix between being rustic and a jail cell. We dug it.

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We got ready for our hike and then proceeded up the road to see the Giant Forest on top of the mountain. The drive was about an hour with winding roads and breathtaking views.

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I'm up there somewhere...

I'm up there somewhere...

After a few sight-seeing stops, we made it through the entrance to the Giant Forest. It was absolutely stunning. It's difficult to explain how large Sequoias are without experiencing them in person. The one below was one of the smaller ones we saw when we first drove in.

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Once we found parking, I could feel my hands getting sweaty. It's a weird thing: I knew I loved this person, (Tiff) with all of my heart and I was pretty sure she would say yes, but I was still incredibly nervous.

We began walking down the trail. 

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My original goal was to propose in front of the General Sherman tree; the largest tree in the world. When we got to it though, there was a hoard of tourists. We continued down the trail to a more secluded area with other giant Sequoias.

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Suddenly, there it was - the perfect spot.

It had a fallen tree trunk for me to set my camera and small tripod on. It was also secluded from the crowds, featuring our very own Sequoia monster as the background. I hid behind the tree for a moment, grabbing the ring box to hide in my jacket. Tiff gave me a strange look, but didn't say anything about my odd behaviour.

My first attempt failed as a family walked around the corner of the trail. I wanted the moment to be just her and me, (we could share with everyone else once we were ready). In my opinion, proposing in public in front of crowds seems somewhat manipulative and wrong. Back to the story.

I told her the angle was off and we needed to try again. I reset the camera into place and flipped it to video mode once again. We moved back into position. This time, no one was around except her and me. My heart was beating so fast. As she placed her hand onto my chest, she knew something was up. It was now or never.

I blurted out, "I’m scared", when really I meant to say, "I’m nervous". This seemed more appropriate a word since I've never been more sure of something in my life. The words I spoke after are between her and I.

I bent down on one knee and through teary eyes, I asked her. 

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She said, "yes", which is great because if she hadn't this article would be pretty awkward right about now.

My beautiful fiancee shortly after

My beautiful fiancee shortly after

The rest of the trip was so much fun. It felt amazing to know that the girl by my side was going to be there forever. The moment turned out perfect. Luckily, we were able to hug and talk for awhile without anyone ever coming down the trail and into the PROPOSAL ZONE. (I said that in my mind like a wrestler.)

After the proposal, we continued walking down the trail. Below, you'll find some of my favorite photos from the rest of the day and the following day, where we visited Moro Rock within Sequoia National Park. Thanks for reading and I hope I didn't get too sappy, but I had to share the best moment of my life with everyone!