Mr. Bizarro’s Sactoland Tour

Click for ILLUSTRATED MAP by N&R designer, Irina Beffa. (This will open a separate window. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view map.)
OK, you can finish browsing Sacramento’s best bistros and boutiques later. Now it’s time to get on the Goth bus and rubberneck the dark side of this blood-red tomato. Mr. Bizarro is coming to take you away to Sactoland.

The bus stops at all railroad crossings. But don’t get too comfortable; we’ll also be stopping at notorious landmarks where some of Sacramento’s most dastardly deeds may be pondered. We’ll hit the homes of infamous felons and the haunts of lingering ghosts.

Lunch, snacks and liquid refreshments will be served at two of Mr. Bizarro’s favorite eateries. (You’ll see why he likes them so much.) Noir-hards staying over will be accommodated at a suitably sleazy inn. Hop on. Let’s go.

1. You’ll find lots of oldies at this used record store, including an old ghost named Gertrude. Garbed in a black Victorian dress, this dark, cranky, shimmering specter is said to have made numerous appearances floating between racks at K Street Records. Maybe she’s hunting for Sactoland’s Greatest Ghostly Hits, just like us.

2. Let’s go down to the tracks now. See the tourists checking out Old Sac’s railroad museum. See the commuters waiting at the depot nearby, making cell calls and checking watches for the Capitol Corridor 7:14. Look out there, over the winding tracks of the switching yard, mostly abandoned now like the crumbling, brick locomotive repair buildings. That is where they caught Robert Joseph Silveria, known as “The Boxcar Murderer.” Silveria, a leader of the notorious Freight Train Riders of America gang, slew at least 14 transients riding rails in six western states from 1981 to 1995.

3. Let’s stop for some arsenic and old lace at this creaking Victorian on F Street, near 14th. Dorothea Puente, known as the “grandma serial killer,” ran her quaintly lethal boarding house here during the 1980s, where pensioners checked in, but not out. Now serving life in Chowchilla women’s pen, the gray-haired Puente liked to take in pensioners, poison them and bury them out back. Then, she’d continue collecting their Social Security checks. Some say she did in two dozen this way, but only the eight are confirmed. Notice the place is empty—ghosts scared the tenants off. The place next door burned down recently too. Spooky.

4. The phantom of the Sacramento Theater Company at H and 14th streets is said to be ham-named “Pinky,” whose creepy presence has been known to spook rehearsing actors worse than the critics. Ladies and gentlemen, take your seats please. Quiet. Curtain’s going up.

5. It’s time to get out and stretch your legs. We’ll window-shop a little here in Midtown along J Street. See the darling boutiques: Tres Chic, Bangkok Boom, Reality. What’s this in the window at 2320 J St.? It’s a shiny, cherry wood casket, with brass handles, open-topped, showing its plush velvet interior. And the big sign announces “75% Off all Funeral Merchandise.” It’s our lucky day. But then Michael Mattauch’s Funeral Merchandise discounts caskets, urns, flowers, hearses and other mortuary products all the time in a “Macy’s-like setting. Consumers can now shop for caskets much as they shop for furniture,” says Mattauch, who has a second store at 6112 Camelback Lane in Citrus Heights. Talk about “shop ’til you drop.”

6. Off to the theater again—this time at Sac State, where we just might bump into another ghost. Legend has it that a worker helping build the CSUS Theater fell to his death from the rafters backstage, and his specter has played the place ever since.

7. Time for lunch. Here’s the Squeeze Inn, that salmon-pink burger beastro at 7918 Fruitridge Road. We’ve ordered cheeseburgers for everyone, with everything, including the “weasel tail” for which this joint is famous. Yummy. See page 63, and don’t forget the Tums.

8. Out to Oak Park, we’ll risk losing our lunches driving by the former abode of Morris Solomon, who preyed on sex workers, killing at least six, most of whom he would pick up along a stretch of Broadway. A dapper and punctilious fiend, Solomon smiled and thanked the jury that convicted him. Now on death row, he has a lonely hearts posting on the Web “asking ladies for friendship,” and claiming as attributes: “a great sense of humor, romantic and loves to meet people.” Too bad he’s so unavailable for nights on the town, eh ladies?

9. Manson family devotee Lynette “Squeeky” Fromme hid out here for a while after escaping briefly from prison. But she’s back in the Big House now, serving time for waving a pistol at then-President Gerald R. Ford when he was visiting our Capitol in 1975.

10. Rest and contemplate the lovely gravestones at the Old City Cemetery here at 10th and Broadway. One of several ghost stories about this place concerns steam locomotive engineer William Brown, who is buried here. Brown plunged into San Francisco Bay with his engine in 1880 after his speeding passenger train shot onto a wrong track. But he managed to uncouple the passenger cars first, saving hundreds of lives. Now he searches the netherworld for the drunken fool who threw the switch.

11. Railroad baron Leland Stanford, who also was elected governor in 1862, resided in this Italian mansion at 800 N St. Here, various versions of a story go, he was confronted by the ghost of his son, Leland Jr., who had died at 15 of typhoid fever. (See Page 25.)

12. If anyone wants to leave the bus for some sleazy sex with your sweetie or not-so-sweetie, here’s The Experience Motel. With mirrored ceilings and in-room porn flicks here at 824 West Capitol Ave., it’s an adult motel with a capital “A.” We’ll pick you up in an hour or so after our next stop out in Davis. It’ll be our little secret. The prurient may turn to page 79 for details.

13. Hey, dog lovers: you know those “clean up after your pet” signs? Here’s a cautionary tale on Old Davis Road near I-80. See what’s left of the Laboratory for Energy-Related Health Research, where Uncle Sam once fed Strontium-90- and Radium-226-laced dog chow to 1,000 beagles to study its possible effects on people. Now it’s a Superfund site with tons of toxic dog poop to clean up. (See Page 38.)

14. It isn’t over until the Phantom of the Woodland Opera House sings—or maybe smokes a cigar. A stogie-puffing specter haunts this 19th-century theater, they say, often wafting backstage or along the balcony. Hey, no smoking in this building!

15. The Country Club Apartments look normal enough. So did one former resident, Richard Trenton Chase, the “vampire killer of Sacramento,” who committed six gory murders in a bloody, four-day spree in January 1978. Chase, a proto-Hannibal the Cannibal, pureed his victims’ organs in a food processor and drank it with their blood.

16. Contemplate the rippling waters at Sailor Bar, a public beach on the American River at Sunrise Crossing. If you see a shimmering figure float along the shore, don’t worry. It’s just the specter, supposedly seen often, of a young man who drowned here 50 years ago. Oh, geez, is that him? Everybody back in the bus!

17. Now to unwind at lovely Laguna Del Sol Resort in Wilton, where clothing is optional. Why is this bizarre? We have no idea, but modern American social mores seem to think so. Besides, it was as good an excuse as any for a visit.

18. Dinner will be served at Al the Wop’s out in the Delta in Locke. Cooked the old-fashioned way, Al’s burgers are blackened on the outside and red on the inside. The local bikers and boaters love it, and here we’re going to leave the bus and all ride Harleys into town.

Click here to open the illustrated tour map created by N&R designer, Irina Beffa.