The Formosa was Lem Quon's second home and he worked there until the last day of his life. According to Vince, his grandfather had not been feeling good that particular Sunday, but stayed at work until about one in the morning. He passed away at the age of 84 just a few hours after he arrived home, but Lem is still around, in spirit, making sure that his beloved restaurant runs smoothly…and he's not above taking matters into his own hands when need be.
A former chef was out in the dining room taking a break and was standing next to “Lem's booth” when all of a sudden he got pinched by unseen hands. (Apparently Lem used to pinch his employees to get them moving when they seemed to be lazing around.) The poor chef got so upset he started yelling “Lem pinched me! Lem pinched me!” and needless to say, he caused quite a stir.
“It might have been my grandfather who did that,” laughed Vince, “because the guy shouldn't have been in the dining room to begin with.”
One of the most charming aspects of The Formosa is it's famed trolley car, a relic from a time in Los Angeles history when streetcars were the city's only form of public transportation. The trolleys ran the city streets from Downtown to Hollywood and East Los Angeles from the 1880s and to the 1950s. The Formosa trolley which was built in 1896 was one of the original Pacific Railways cars that ran down Santa Monica Boulevard and was added to the restaurant in 1945.
“The car was slated for demolition,” said Vince, “and we needed to expand, so we not only saved the car but saved ourselves construction costs as well by just attaching it to the building for additional seating.”
When Victoria walked into the quaint trolley car section of the restaurant she immediately picked up the spirit of a tall, jolly man from the 1940s or 50s who gave her the name Harold. “He was not a movie star,” she said “but more like a producer-type. She went on to explain that she got the impression that this ghost is quite active and frequently comes to visit because this was one of his favorite places to be when he was alive. “ He loves to watch people and comes to have fun, like playing little pranks on the customers,” she told us. “ I get the impression that things move around in here quite a bit or just seem to disappear.”
Vince and I were standing just a few feet away from Victoria while she was communicating with Harold, chatting quietly amongst ourselves. Things seemed to be going smoothly for Victoria until I happened to ask Vince whether or not there had been any murders or deaths at the restaurant. As he started telling me about a shooting that took place many years ago, Victoria noticed that Harold's energy quickly changed from lighthearted to dour and then he simply faded away. “He was here and witnessed the shooting in the spirit realm. ” she explained, “and didn't like what he saw.”
Another entity in the trolley car is that of a young man who seemed to be quite frustrated. “It's like he's waiting for someone, but I cant tell whether or not he is waiting in spirit, or if this occurred when he was alive,” Victoria explained. “He's just sitting here watching people pass him by, but it's like nobody sees him and he's angry about it. He says his name is John and he's telling me that he feels trapped but I don't feel like he's trapped at all because he doesn't want me to help him cross over. I also sense that he doesn't have any ties to the restaurant and actually spends most of his time outside on the street and just pops in every so often when he's attracted by someone in the restaurant who is sensitive to his psychic energy.”
It soon became apparent that John was thriving on all of our psychic energy because he quickly made an attempt to try and take over Victoria's body. It was then that she decided it was best that we all move away from the trolley and back out into the bar where Victoria encountered three more ghosts. One was the spirit of a little girl, running playfully up and down the aisle, another was sad woman spirit sitting at the bar, and finally, a playful male spirit who, like Harold, enjoyed making things move around. Victoria thought that he might be the one responsible for some of the strange noises employees report hearing after the restaurant is closed.
Victoria says that there is nothing particularly threatening about the ghosts she encountered at The Formosa even if they do like to make their presence known from time to time. It also seems like they are there to keep the restaurant safe because The Formosa's existence has been threatened a number of times, most recently in the 1989 when it was threatened with demolition when its lease expired. Fortunately but there was such a furor about turning the historic site into a parking lot that news of The Formosa's imminent destruction spread like wildfire. “The news of this little mom and pop restaurant even made CNN,” says Vince. “What does that tell you?”
Thanks to concerted citizens and preservationist efforts the restaurant was not only preserved in its present location but also designated as a historic landmark. While Vince is happy that so many people stepped in to save The Formosa, he also thinks that the restaurant itself (and possibly the spirits within) had something to do with keeping it from the wrecking ball. “The place has always had it's own weird energy,” he explained, “and has always found a way to survive.”