Sleep Talking and Spirits at The Banning House


There are so many ghosts reported to be in residence at the allegedly haunted Banning House Lodge, that it’s a wonder there is any room for additional guests.

The brothers, a fisherman, a white lady… Just for cocktail party starters.


This sleepy little bed and breakfast near Two Harbors is one of our favorite places to stay on Catalina Island. It’s a rare gem, relatively unknown and certainly not for everyone. There are no televisions in the rooms here. There is barely any wifi. Taking a trip here is like taking a trip back in time.

No wonder guests see ghosts. There is little to distract them. Just the sounds of owls hooting, crickets chirping, boat horns and seals barking in the distance.

Nothing too unusual for us on past stays. But this time, this last time, was possibly a little different.

Banning House Lodge on Catalina Island

Banning House is not fancy. It’s best described as rustic and comfy.  On the wide patios there are wicker chairs that invite you to settle for a few hours.

Banning House Lodge on Catalina Island

A single piano graces the common room where previous guests have left books and games behind. There are photos and a family tree of the Banning family. There are also furred and dusty animal trophies, mounted on the walls.

The house has had several incarnations, including being used as a hunting lodge.

Banning House Lodge on Catalina Island

It was also used as a US Coast Guard barracks during WWII, a girls camp in the 1950s and, rumor has it, will be closed indefinitely to tourists in order to house workers who are coming in to work inland on the Wrigley family-owned vineyard.  The vineyard is presently being renovated/upgraded into a more sophisticated tourist attraction.

The workers I chatted with seemed well acquainted with the fisherman ghost. They said they had all felt his presence and smelled the smoke and fish smell that is associated with his haunting of the premises. They claimed he likes to hang around the employee bathroom and the kitchen.

Banning House Lodge on Catalina Island

My own sense was that there was a ghost out back, directly behind the building and to the left. Why? I don’t even know. I got a female vibe from that ghost. Nothing particularly threatening, just something lingering, that I had not felt on previous visits.  Was she the white lady? Watching the lace curtains fluttering in the afternoon sunbeams, I thought perhaps.

Then, a moment later I thought that this was

“a nice spot to sit and peel potatoes,”

which is precisely the kind of thought I never have.

For me, that’s usually a good indicator of a spirit. Random unexpected thoughts and images that sneak their way into my head, like the decipherable words in between the scritch and static on an AM radio dial. It’s like tuning into someone else’s frequency, while getting carpet shocked. I’m used to it.

This sort of thing happens to me pretty often. Not so much for husband. He doesn’t have psychic crackles like me.

It’s not uncommon for my husband to talk in his sleep. He does it fairly often. But usually his outbursts are a phrase or two, and brief.

Banning House Lodge on Catalina Island

His sleepy ramblings rarely make complete sense to me, but they also aren’t strange. They are like broken bits of familiar pottery. This one is a work-related piece, that one’s got to do with the kids. That colorful bit… probably me!

The last time we visited the Banning House, however, he talked in his sleep for almost two hours. Not shards this time.

His subconscious served up heaping platters and steaming urns full of elaborate tales.

As he rambled his accent and the cadence of his speech changed. Like he was changing roles in a radio show and reading for different characters. A couple of times, in a particularly gruff and belligerent tone, he referred to himself as “we,” as if he was the chosen representative, speaking for a crowd. He was talking in full conversational sentences, but it didn’t sound like him.  I found myself straining to follow these one sided conversations, like listening to someone speaking on the phone.

Then he would fall silent for a bit.

In between silences he kept coming back to certain phrases and topics and I found myself reaching for a pen to take notes. It sounded like good material for a novel. Plus, I wanted to see if he’d remember any of it in the morning and be able to explain. And of course, I wondered if it was seasoned with echoes of something from the past. I’m almost afraid to investigate. Yet intensely curious.

“Two people across the bay… there are two people…”

“The elders won’t like it. Think little girl! Think what the elders said!”

“Looks like they’re gonna shut the place down…”

“The antenna, you know, they put it up when we got back from the trip to Venezuela. That was a really big antenna!”

“We gotta build a bridge… over the San Andreas fault… Ha ha… Lava bridge”

“The code.  You remember. You were just a gal, working in my office. Then I found out the truth. We were spies together. ”

“The key was math. And shapes.  All the formulas for the shapes. Like isosceles triangles. If you knew the formulas, you could crack the code. Ha ha! We were so clever.”

Most bizarre… at one point he started jauntily singing a ditty from the Broadway show “My Fair Lady.”

“I’m getting married in the morning…”

I will admit I got a little creeped out and woke him several times. A few times I tried to “play along” and ask him questions without waking him fully but it only made him him angry and confused, and I didn’t like that one bit. Eventually I decided best not to poke the bear, and decamped to the sofa. I didn’t get a lot of rest that night. He kept slipping back into that in-between talkative state several times before finally falling deeply asleep.

Taking notes kept me from having a full on Scooby-Doo freakout.

When he finally fell silent I had the feeling I have after hosting a large party, when the last guest finally leaves and you find yourself surprisingly alone in the wakeful watchfulness of the large quiet night.

Nothing like this has ever happened before with both of us. I have had my share of strange experiences but my husband is usually the skeptical muggle.

Banning House Lodge on Catalina Island

It would really crack me up if he was channeling the Banning Brothers or another past resident of the area. Or maybe it was me channeling, and he was the vehicle.

Or maybe he just has a super vivid imagination that was finally unleashed by the fresh ocean air.

In which case I need to know: Who was the girl spy, and who are the elders!? What happened in Venezuela and why do we need to build that bridge?

Despite the weirdness or perhaps even because of it, I’d go back. The views are incredible, the staff is friendly and the nights are (usually) quite peaceful there.

I hope the Banning House reopens to guests.