In this article:
- The area around Ojai, California, is full of strange and terrifying legends. However, one of the most famous ghost stories from this area is that of the Char-Man, a burned-up man who attacks people passing through Camp Comfort County Park.
- There are many different versions of the story of how the Char-Man was created; however, most of them involve a man who was burned in an awful fire, lost his mind, and then ran off into the woods to terrorize people for the rest of his life.
- But, like many legends, there may be some truth to the story of the Char-Man.
- Some police officers say that there was a badly deformed man who lived in the Ojai community who may have been the inspiration for this legend.
Many areas of the United States have local legends that may have spawned from children’s dares. For instance, there’s the whole myth that if you say “Bloody Mary” into the mirror 5 times (or 13 times, according to some sources), the Bloody Mary will appear behind you.
Then, there’s the New Jersey legend that if you toss a coin off the bridge by Dead Man’s Curve on Clinton Road, the coin will appear in front of you on the road shortly after and a ghost will push you into the water as you go to pick it up.
No matter where you’re from, you probably grew up daring other children to test the supernatural by doing some dare. Well, if you happen to be from the area around Ojai, California, you’ve probably shouted the words “Help me!” off a bridge as a way to invite the legendary Char-Man to come attack you.
While Ojai is home to many legends and tales from a blood-drenched ghost-bride to a headless motorcyclist, the most famous specter from this area is undoubtedly the Char-Man. No one is entirely sure whether he’s a ghost or a mortal man who’s been burned beyond recognition and driven to insanity by his past trauma.
However, stories of the Char-Man attacking travelers in this part of California have circulated around campfires for decades.
So, if you find yourself in Ojai, California, and you want to test your luck, this is the story of the Char-Man… and how you just might be able to find him.
The Origin of the Char-Man
As is the case with nearly every legend that’s ever been told, there are differing versions of the story of the Char-Man. However, almost all of the versions involve someone being badly burned.
One version of this legend is said to have occurred in 1948. As it goes, there was once a horrible fire in Ojai that burned up a good portion of the town. The fire eventually reached a house that was far outside of town where a father and son lived. However, no one in the town remembered to help the father and son until it was too late.
The father was burned to death and the son was horribly burned but remained alive. However, the trauma of seeing his father die and the excruciating pain of the burns caused the son to go insane.
By the time the authorities arrived, the son had skin his father’s body and hung it from a tree. As the officers looked upon the horrible scene, the son burst out of a bush and attacked them, and then ran off into the woods to become the Char-Man.
The second version of the story also takes place in 1948. Again, there was a massive fire that consumed a good portion of the town of Ojai. In one specific household, a man and a woman were both caught in the fire. The man was able to escape the fire, but he was so badly injured from his burns that he could not move.
As the man lay in his yard outside the reach of the fire, he could hear his wife screaming “Help me!” from inside the burning house, yet he could do nothing to save her. The experience of hearing his wife burn to death and the pain of the burns led the man to become the terrible monster now known as the Char-Man.
It is worth noting that there actually was a major fire documented in Ojai in 1948 and some claim that the Char-Man may have even been a firefighter that lost his life in this fire. However, there were no recorded casualties of the fire, which doesn’t help the credibility of these stories.
Another version of the story is a bit less dramatic and is said to take place sometime in the 1950s. In this version, the Char-Man is a man whose car broke down and burst into flames, badly burning him. After that, the Char-Man took off into the woods and terrorizes drivers who cross the same bridge that he was burned on.
Finally, the most plausible version of this story is one that has been posited by local law enforcement. According to some of the police officers in Ojai, there was a man who lived in the community in the 1960s that was stricken with a very bad case of skin cancer, which caused deformities. Sadly, the local youths were scared by the man’s disfigurements and began making up stories about the man.
The Char-Man’s Legacy
Regardless of where exactly the Char-Man came from, his legacy is pretty uniform among Ojai residents today: he is said to attack motorists traveling through Camp Comfort County Park. The park sits just south of Ojai, and one particular bridge within the park has now earned the name “Char-Man Bridge” among local residents.
It has become a local sport among Ojai residents to stop their cars on the bridge at night and start screaming “Help me!” into the surrounding darkness. And, if you consider the origin story in which the Char-Man heard his wife screaming “Help me!” while being burned to death, that’s not a very nice thing to do.
Anyway, some have claimed that, after screaming into the wilderness, they will see a figure coming running at them out of the woods. In reported encounters, he’s a badly burned man with horrible scars. In other reports, the man is still actively on fire, so his orange glow can be seen deep in the woods before he gets closer.
As the legend goes, if you aren’t able to get out of there quick enough, the Char-Man will come beating and scratching on the windows of your car. If he’s able to successfully break through the window, he’ll drag you out of the car and skin you alive. Personally, I like my skin where it is, so I won’t be yelling anything off of any bridges in California anytime soon.
Char Man Hot Sauce
Not all Ojai residents are as terrified of the Char-Man as, perhaps, they should be. In fact, the team from Char Man Brand, a local purveyor of outstanding hot sauces, named their company as an homage to the legend. In fact, their Original flavor hot sauce even has a picture of the demon himself on the front of the bottle.
So, despite the fact that the Char-Man may be a vicious creature looking to skin any unwitting passersby, I suppose that we should thank him for inspiring these delicious hot sauces.