How the Glen Ivy Hot Springs was almost Southern California’s own “Winchester Mystery House”
In 1891, Clara Shortridge Foltz, best known as the West Coast’s first female lawyer, was the prosecutor in what the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most interesting cases ever tried in California.”
Her client, Mrs. Elvira P. Thorndyke Newman, was a well known spiritualist who owned 160 acres of land in San Bernardino including the Temescal hot springs. Her land was a popular destination for tourists who find the waters to have rejuvenating, perhaps magical, powers.
Newman, after being told to do so by spirits, planned to build a home for ghosts on the land, “a palace where ghosts can dance around on fine carpets and have a high old time without being disturbed by unbelievers and people who are fond of chasing ghosts and shooting at them with the slightest provocation.” (LA Times, May 8, 1891).
Real estate rich but cash poor, Newman was happy to meet a potential partner when O.A. Smith came upon the property sometime in 1886. He told Newman he had recently been widowed and had never found so much solace as he did when he saw the land around the hot springs. He also said he, too was a believer in spirits, and wanted to make arrangement for Newman to achieve her dream.
Newman soon sold the land to him for $11,000, $4000 less than the land’s estimated value, with the promise that he would build a home for the ghosts, where she would also be able to live. The LA Times reported that with this deal, “She was happier than she had been for years,” reported the Times, though this wouldn’t last long. She quickly found out that O.A. Smith had no intention of building a home for ghosts, and in fact was actually an agent for the actual buyer of the property, the South Riverside Land and Water Company.
Newman didn’t leave the spirits to take care of the situation. She hired lawyers, and if there is anything more frightening than the ire of ghosts, it was the litigation skills of Clara Shortridge Foltz. After making its way from the San Bernardino Superior Court to the Supreme Court, where Foltz made a determined case that Newman had been “fraudulently hoodwinked,” the South Riverside Land and Water Company settled out of court. Not only was the land returned to Newman, she also received $11,000 in damages (The Weekly Courier, June 13, 1891)
Foltz would go on to be a leader in fight for women’s voting rights, as well as one of the pioneers of the public defense system. Most Angelenos know her name from the court they are directed to when receiving jury summons: the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, which was dedicated to her in 2002.
Newman, who more often is found referred to as E.P. Thorndyke, moved to the Bay Area, where she passed away in 1905.
There is no indication Newman would ever build a home specifically for ghosts, but the land has continued to be a popular spot for spiritual groups. Sometime in the late 1880’s the area become known as the Glen Ivy Hot Springs, a name it still carries as the day spa it has become, featuring cabanas, mud baths, and even a labyrinth. There are no public reports of ghosts haunting the premises.