Questhaven Retreat has been a spot for spiritual growth for almost 70 years

By Pat Sherman San Diego Union Trubune April 18, 2007

ELFIN FOREST – In the video, a bearded young man is driving a pickup down a tree-lined, dirt road. As he passes a road closure sign and adjusts the radio dial, creepy toy piano music starts to play. Without warning, a pasty-faced woman in a white nightgown begins pounding on the driver’s side window. She vanishes for an instant, then slams into the windshield, peering wide-eyed at the driver. The 10-minute horror film is one of several YouTube offerings shot outside the gates of Questhaven Retreat, a spiritual community west of Escondido that has for years fueled North County teens’ overactive imaginations.

The tranquil spot on 640 acres of rolling hills south of San Marcos, dotted with coastal chaparral, ceanothus and French lavender, seems an unlikely place to give rise to eerie urban legends such as “the lady in white.”

The film was a class project of former Palomar College student Loren White.

Questhaven Retreat 20560 Questhaven Road, Elfin Forest

A brief history of Questhaven
Questhaven was founded in 1940 by Flower A. Newhouse, a woman whose life and beliefs may have helped kindle some of the urban legends associated with the area.

Born in 1909 in Allentown, Pa., Newhouse believed she had the abilities of a clairvoyant, a gift she noticed at age 6. Newhouse was riding the Staten Island Ferry in New York Harbor when she spotted a group of water sprites and realized she could see a universe that others couldn’t.

After moving to Los Angeles in 1924 with her mother and sister, Newhouse began speaking at churches and lecture halls, with an emphasis on angels. She and husband, Lawrence, purchased the Questhaven property in 1940, dedicating it to the ministry. Newhouse died in 1994. 
“It was kind of an urban legend all through high school,” said White, now a student at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. “Me and my friends would go out there and just kind of drive around with the lights off, just get scared down there. It was kind of the thing to do.”

As director of the nearly 70-year-old spiritual retreat, Blake Isaac has heard all the rumors – from Questhaven being a den of devil worshippers to it being the site of a torched mental asylum, its patients’ souls left to stalk the forests.

“I had a good friend who swore that cats were hung up here,” recalled Isaac, 42, a graduate of San Marcos High School who lived on the property with his parents and sister from fourth grade until his early 20s.

The principal of Rowe Middle School in Rancho Santa Fe, Isaac has returned to Questhaven to connect with his beliefs and look after his father, who has Parkinson’s disease. He relishes the day young thrill-seekers will view Questhaven as yesterday’s news.

Questhaven is home to Christward Ministry, a hybrid theology that fuses Christian mysticism, psychology and a belief in reincarnation.

About 13 people live on the grounds. There are no members. Adherents come from as far away as Australia and Japan to contemplate God on the quiet grounds.

Sunday services typically draw between 50 and 120 people and include treks to the top of Inspiration Point, in the shade of olive and eucalyptus trees.

“We’re not really like a community church, even though people in the community are welcome to come, and we have several that live nearby,” Isaac said.

One Florida resident attends services annually. (CLICK HERE TO READ THE ENTIRE UNION TRIBUNE STORY)

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