Los Angeles, California, is one of the biggest cities in the world, a sprawling megalopolis that along with its surrounding communities is the center of the entertainment industry and has become known as a tourist mecca for people from all over the world. Yet here there are also places that seethe and slither underneath the cool veneer of it all, and LA is host to some of the most intense paranormal activity around. Here we will look at a selection of places in the LA area that seem to go beyond merely haunted, but which propel themselves into the domain of something else altogether, exhibiting qualities that give them a true sense of menace, and hint at the possibility that they might actually be wellsprings of evil itself.
One place that has accrued quite an ominous reputation over the years is a bridge located in the area of Pasadena. The 150 foot tall Colorado Street Bridge doesn’t look much different from other bridges of its design, but this particular spot seems to be imbued with some sort of sinister force. Beginning in 1919, people began to come here with a compulsion to commit suicide by jumping off. The suicides continued on into the ensuing decades, and rumors abounded that there was something about the area itself that drew people here who wanted to die, with some stories even saying that those who are not even there to commit suicide will feel some irresistible urge to leap over the edge, as if something is beckoning them to do it. While bridges tend to be magnets for suicides, this one seems to have an inordinate number of them, and Richard Carradine, founder of Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles, has told Time Out of this:
There are [over 100]—and counting—documented suicides of people jumping off the bridge. Pasadena doesn’t like the notoriety, so when the count would get too high they would knock off some numbers. The number of suicides is actually much higher, even with the fences that are up now.
It is such that it has earned the nickname “Suicide Bridge,” and it also seems that those who end their lives here tend to stick around, perhaps held close by the evil of this place. There are numerous reports of shadow figures seen leaping from the bridge only to vanish, as if playing out their deaths over and over again, and there is also the ghostly form of a young woman who seems very real and who will cross the bridge in front of cars to make them swerve before blinking out of existence. The darkened tunnel beneath the bridge also has ghostly activity, such as whispering disembodied voices and the lights turning on and off for no apparent reason, seemingly under intelligent control. One witness has said of this:
It was nighttime, and I was walking with a friend in the tunnel underneath the bridge. There’s a series of six lights illuminating the path, and as we passed the first light, it went out. The second light went out as we passed. Each light went out as we passed by. By the time we got to the end, it was just total darkness behind us.
Another place that seems to be infused with something very forbidding and malevolent can also be found in Pasadena. The aptly named Devil’s Gate Dam was constructed in 1920 in the Pasadena area of California to control flood waters coming down the San Gabriel Mountains through the Arroyo Seco, and was named for an odd rock outcropping nearby that looks vaguely like a horned devil face complete with a pointed chin. Even before the dam was built the area was steeped in dark myths and legends by the Native peoples here, and it was said to be the haunt of numerous evil spirits.
In later years, the area would lose none of its purported paranormal qualities, and in the 1940s attracted the attention of Cal Tech rocket scientist and noted occultist Jack Parsons, one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Labs and also heavily involved with a mystical cult called the Ordo Templi Orientis, which was based on the teachings of famed occultist and magician Aleister Crowley. Parsons believed the energy of the Devil’s Gate Dam area to be potent, and indeed Crowley himself had allegedly called it “one of the seven gates of Hell.” Because of this mystical energy, Parsons took part in a variety of magical rituals here which are said to have actually succeeded in opening a portal to a dark dimension, possibly Hell itself, from which negative energy and strange, twisted entities could pass over into our world. Indeed it is rumored that Parsons intentionally chose this area as the location for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus primarily due to this magical energy permeating it, which he believed could be channelled and harnessed to help in their endeavors.
Fueling the sinister reputation of the Devil’s Gate Dam was a series of mysterious vanishings and murders of children here in the 50s and 60s. 13-year old Donald Lee Baker and 11-year old Brenda Howell both went missing as they rode their bicycles through a recreation area near the dam in 1956, vanishing to leave behind only their bicycles and a jacket. 13 years later their disappearance would be solved when serial killer Mack Ray Edwards finally confessed to murdering the two children and burying their corpses under the asphalt of a freeway.
Two other vanishings that happened at the Devil’s Gate Dam were not so easily solved, and indeed remain total unsolved mysteries. In March of 1957, 8-year old Tommy Bowman was hiking in the area with his family when he ran ahead, rounded a bend, and seemingly vanished from the face of the earth. Despite extensive searches and investigation, he has never been found. In 1960, 6-year old Bruce Kremen was at a YMCA summer camp in the vicinity of the dam when he told his counselor he was not feeling well. He then made his way back to the nearby camp, only about 300 yards away and seemed to have stepped off the face of the earth. He never arrived at the camp and was never found, despite intensive searches. Does any of this have anything to do with the area’s mystical, dark reputation?
The Devils’s Gate Dam and Suicide Bridge are also in the vicinity of an intensely haunted house called the Cobb Estate, and all three of these locations are sometimes referred to by paranormal investigators as “The Arroyo Triangle.” The Devils’s Gate Dam continues to accrue reports of weirdness to this day, with sightings of strange apparitions, eyes glowing and flickering in the dark, and screams and sounds of torment coming from a dark tunnel in the dam sealed off by a locked gate allegedly to keep things from getting out. Whether it is really the location of some portal to Hell or not, the Devil’s Gate Dam is certainly imbued with its share of scary stories and lore.
In addition to bridges and dams, there are plenty of buildings in the region with a reputation as being possessed by evil forces. Among these are several houses which seem to go beyond merely haunted, to enter a realm of something perhaps more demonic and innately malicious. One of these is the epicenter of one of Los Angeles’ most intense hauntings on record, which allegedly started in November of 1988 at San Pedro, Los Angeles. The case revolves around a Jacqueline ‘Jackie’ Hernandez and her two children, Jamie and Samantha, who would become the center of all manner of malevolent paranormal activity that seemed to be out to harm them. Among the many spooky phenomena witnessed were black shadow figures stalking them, a disembodied head that would materialize in the attic, orbs of light, anomalous noises and smells, and moving objects, and the family was often supposedly even physically attacked and accosted by these forces.
In 1989, author and filmmaker Barry Conrad went to investigate these claims, along with famed paranormal researcher Dr. Barry E. Taff PhD and a team of other researchers. The team was immediately besieged by all manner of scary phenomena, including apparitions, mysterious orbs of light, and objects thrown at them by some hostile force that did not seem to want them to be there. According to Conrad’s account, the entity even allegedly tried to hang photographer Jeff Wheatcraft, and they were so unsettled that the investigation was aborted. Hernandez would end up moving her family away to Weldon, California, where the ferocious, demonic force continued to torment them. To this day the original house of the “San Pedro Haunting” is said to be prowled by something evil within its walls, and we are left to wonder just what is going on here. Was this a demon, an exceptionally mean poltergeist, or something else? You can read more about this case in Conrad’s book, An Unknown Encounter: A True Account of the San Pedro Haunting.
Perhaps just as frightening is the home once owned by a woman named Doris Bither, who would also be targeted by spectacularly insidious forces, in what has gone on to be known as the “Entity Haunting.” Bither claimed that her and her family had been brutally attacked and menaced by an unseen presence in the house that would hit and throw objects at them, with the main target being Doris herself. She claimed that she had been repeatedly attached, beaten, and raped by at least three separate entities. The case would be investigated by paranormal researcher Barry Taff, who would allegedly photograph various strange phenomena at the residence. The case would eventually become a book entitled The Entity in 1978, and in 1982 it was made into a film of the same name, starring Barbara Hershey. It is said that to this day there is a sense of overwhelming dread hanging over the house, and many people refuse to enter or go running out in a panic. You can read more about it in my full article on the case here.
Joining the ranks of evil houses is also the townhouse at 8763 Wonderland Avenue. On July 1, 1981, the bodies of four victims, Ron Launius, Billy DeVerell, Joy Miller, and Barbara Richardson, were found at the residence after having been viciously murdered with some sort of blunt instrument, possibly hammers and metal pipes, after an apparent drug deal gone bad. Although the bloody case has never been solved, one of the suspects was always the porn star John Holmes, who had fallen in with a bad crowd at the time, and in later years it has been rumored that the house itself is rather pervaded by an almost palpable air of dread, with the idea that it was even these forces that drove Holmes into a murderous rage. Regardless of what happened here or whether Holmes was guilty or not, the house of what has been called “The Wonderland Murders,” supposedly remains amazingly haunted by some decidedly angry ghosts, who do all manner of threatening things, and the atmosphere here is said to be unbearably negative and dripping with foreboding.
Finally, we come to the infamous Cecil Hotel, which has become mostly known as the location for the very mysterious unsolved murder of Elisa Lam in 2013, who was found stuffed in a water tank on the hotel’s roof after a series of strange events including hiding in an elevator on security camera, exhibiting some bizarre behavior, and talking to an unknown presence off screen. Besides this, the hotel has quite a dark history of murder, suicides, and other weirdness.
The Cecil Hotel originally started as a moderately upscale hotel in the 1920s for business clientele, but when the Great Depression hit in the 1930s the area around it deteriorated and the hotel devolved into a cheap accommodation for a variety of riffraff, transients, and unsavory characters. Among the shady characters who came through the Cecil Hotel’s doors were two of history’s most notorious serial killers, Richard “The Night Stalker” Ramirez and Jack Unterweger. Ramirez stayed in a room on the top floor of the hotel in 1985, at a time when he was very active, claiming 13 victims during his stay here. After his grim work, allegedly Ramirez would come back to the hotel to dump his bloodied clothes in the hotel dumpster and then enter through a back door. Unterweger was an Austrian serial killer who went on a murderous rampage across several countries killing prostitutes, and he also stayed at the Cecil Hotel in 1991, during which time he killed three prostitutes in the Los Angeles area; a Shannon Exley, Irene Rodriguez, and Sherri Ann Long, who he beat, sexually assaulted, and strangled with their own bras. Authorities believe that Unterweger chose the Cecil Hotel specifically because Ramirez had stayed there.
There is also a long history of numerous suicides at the Cecil Hotel, especially during the 50s and 60s, when it was a popular spot for people to end their own lives by jumping from the windows of the upper floors. In one instance, a Pauline Otton, 27, hurled herself out of a 9th floor window and landed on a passerby, George Gianinni, 65, with both of them killed instantly. In addition to all of the suicides was the murder of one of the hotel’s residents, a “Pigeon Goldie” Osgood, so nicknamed because he often fed the pigeons at a nearby park. On June 4, 1964 he was found dead in his hotel room after having been beaten, raped, stabbed, and strangled, not necessarily in that order. No perpetrator was ever found and his murder remains unsolved to this day.
Another famous rumor is that the Cecil Hotel was one of the last places where Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as the Black Dahlia, stayed before her grisly unsolved murder in 1947, although LA crime historian Kim Cooper has said that Short in fact never stayed at the hotel and that this story is just a rumor. In her murder, Short was found dead in Leimert Park, Los Angeles and had been drained of blood, cut in half at the waist, mutilated, and had had a smile cut into her face with a knife. Although the horrific crime has never been solved, it is thought to have perhaps been a ritual killing.
Considering this sinister history, it has been speculated that Elisa Lam could have been under the influence of, or even full on possessed by, some sort of malevolent supernatural force inhabiting the hotel. This could explain her erratic behavior on the final surveillance footage taken of her, as well as the fact that the elevator door wouldn’t close. Alternatively, she may have been trying to escape some entity that was stalking her through the halls. According to these theories, Lam was eventually killed due to being in thrall to, possessed by, or captured by these forces, and that is how she was able to end up in the tank. Many have even claimed that if you look hard enough you can see a shadow or ghostly form in the video. Of course there is no concrete evidence really that there was any supernatural aspect to Lam’s death, but the strange video footage, the Cecil Hotel’s menacing history, and the weird circumstances under which Lam’s body was found certainly make this a spooky theory to be sure.
Here we have looked at just a few of the places in the Los Angeles area that seem to go beyond just merely haunted, but rather seem to be permeated with some sort of insidious powers that almost infuse them with a malign life of themselves. It seems that right here in this massive metropolis there lurk locations that skirt the periphery of what we understand and hide amongst all of the tourist spots. They are denizens of a darker underbelly under the City of Angels, and whether they are really haunted, possessed, or whatever, they are still grim curiosities that might just be lying coiled in wait for their next victims.