Despite his gruff, no-nonsense demeanor, former Mayor Joseph Mascarel was not immune to odd occurrences. The September 6, 1889 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Herald details a bizarre three-night incident at the Mascarel residence. At that point, the former mayor lived at 99 Lazard Street (incidentally, Lazard Street was named after another prosperous French businessman - Solomon Lazard, who we will meet again later).
night around 9pm, after Mascarel and his common-law second wife, Maria, had gone to bed,
three loud raps were heard on the rear door of their house. He later
described it as sounding like the back door had been slammed violently
three times in rapid succession. However, the back door, and the screen
door in front of it, were closed and locked.
called out "Who is there?" (the article didn't specify whether he spoke in French or Spanish) and checked the back porch. Finding no one
there (and it was a brightly moonlit night), he went back to bed. The
raps promptly repeated - this time louder and more distinct, and the
raps continued for longer. The last rap rattled the windows and woke
everyone in the house. Again, no one was on the back porch.
tried leaving the inside back door open, hoping to catch the culprit.
Ten to fifteen minutes later, the rapping began again. This time
Mascarel stepped onto the back porch before the rapping ended - and again, no one was there.
following morning, Maria and the couple's children insisted the strange
noises must have been the work of spirits, intending to warn him or deliver a
message. Mascarel had never encountered a ghost in his 73 years on
Earth and wasn't about to start believing in them.
night, the mysterious rapping noises resumed. This time they were loud
enough to wake several neighbors - some of whom went inside the house to
see for themselves. Nothing happened when anyone stood close to the
door, but as soon as the coast was clear, the loud banging resumed.
following day, Mascarel told this strange story to an acquaintance on
the police force. (One of his daughters from his first marriage just so happened to be the wife of a police officer.) Two officers were dispatched to watch the house that
Meanwhile, some members of Mascarel's family
insisted he consult a medium (which he was certainly not going to do).
However, a neighbor took it upon herself to do so. The medium reported
that the elderly former mayor could be near the end of his life, and
that he should write his will as soon as possible. (Given what we know
about Mascarel's unconventional domestic situation and his adult
children's nasty squabbles over his large estate, I think it's safe to say that psychic was paid off.) Mascarel declined to speak with her directly.
night, with two LAPD officers hiding in the bushes behind the house,
the rapping began again. The officers ran for the porch, and a tall man
dressed in black with white whiskers made a run for it. They nearly
caught the man, who cursed and shouted something in French before
escaping. The strange raps never happened again.
next day, the "ghost" was all anyone in the neighborhood could talk
about. Many neighbors speculated that it had all been a ruse by
Mascarel's children to frighten him into changing his will (why am I not
I wouldn't be surprised if it was also intended to scare him into finally legally marrying Maria (Mascarel's first wife, Serilda, had died in 1887).
Unfortunately, the tough, 73-year-old ex-mayor proved
impossible to scare.