Explore San Diego: Enchanted castle

RAMONA, Calif. – San Diego’s backcountry is home to an enchanted castle that is veiled by fog, backed by a mountain and is a keeper of secrets a century old.

This is the stuff of fairy tales. With 27 rooms, this structure in Ramona has been called several things – a castle, a mountain retreat and a haunted house. Legend has it that its original owner, Irene Amy Strong, was a mysterious woman who dabbled in the occult.

“You also will notice the floor slopes and nothing is perfectly square, and that was her intention -- to be very eclectic,” said Tracy Zemke, who works for the company taking care of the castle.

Strong designed every square inch of the 12,000-square foot home. Her obsession over details is on full display in one particular corner, the Zodiac Room, where Strong and her niece hand painted with no stencil each sign of the zodiac onto the ceiling.

“Had she not done it as well as she did, it wouldn’t ever have lasted all this time,” Zemke said.

Something else that lasted and still works is all the original lighting and radiant heating. The walls are eight feet thick, and the stone and wood were quarried and cut from nearby.

When the castle was completed in 1921, it was used for entertaining. And that hasn’t changed.

“We’ll do over 100 weddings a year here. This is kind of the hidden gem. It’s one of the top locations in San Diego for a wedding,” Zemke said.

These days, no one lives in the Mt. Woodson Castle. It’s a designated historical place and event venue.

As for the rumor that it’s one of the most haunted places in San Diego?

“I have never once experienced anything other than I will tell you that I never feel alone and I never feel afraid here. I always feel welcome. So if Amy’s spirit is here, she likes what we’re doing,” Zemke said.

Google Map for coordinates 33.013678 by -116.955206.

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