Jun 26, 2020 I Nick Redfern

Devil’s Gate Dam: An Unsettling Location

Pasadena, California was the site of a strange encounter with a definitive Man in Black, specifically on March 22 1979. The witness, Charlie H., contacted me thirty-six years later to share his story, after I spoke on the MIB enigma on a local, Texas radio show. Charlie, now living in the Lone Star State, had seen a UFO as he drove near to what is known locally as Devil's Gate Dam. It’s a place with a great deal of paranormal activity attached to it and at which Jack Parsons, a 1930s rocket-pioneer and a devotee of “the great beast” Aleister Crowley, hung out on a regular basis. The UFO, said Charlie, was not particularly large, and was circular and bright pink in color. Charlie, who was driving home from a shift which ended at 2:00 a.m., added that the UFO came close to his car – around eighty or ninety feet away – then shot away into the sky.

Two days later, and as he happened to look out of his living-room window, Charlie saw a man dressed in a black fedora, black suit, black trench-coat, white shirt, and black tie, get out of an old, black Cadillac and quickly take a photo of his home. The MIB then got back into the vehicle and drove away. John Keel termed this particular brand of MIB as "phantom photographers." A most apt term, to be sure. I shared my thoughts and opinions as we chatted and thanked Charlie for his call. Now, let's take a look at some more of the weirdness that dominates the area.


Interestingly, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory was, itself, established at this very locale in 1930 by the California Institute of Technology. The dam had been constructed a decade earlier by engineers from the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and took its title from Devil’s Gate Gorge, a rocky out-cropping that eerily resembles a demonic face and which is located in a narrow canyon of the Arroyo Seco, which is a riverbed that extends from the San Gabriel Mountains into the Los Angeles basin. Some say that the face is merely a classic case of Pareidolia – the process by which the human brain can interpret random imagery as having some meaning or significance behind it. A classic example being the way in which, at one time or another, most of us have seen faces in clouds. But is that really all that is behind the satanic face of the old dam? Maybe not.

See California say: "Devil's Gate Dam's most interesting history surrounds Jack Parsons, a famous rocket scientist and brain behind famed JPL and Aerojet. As a noted follower of Alistair Crowley he got involved of incantations at Devil's Gate. The brilliant scientist with occult interest would call for the Greek god Pan to invoke successful flight before each rocket launch. The maverick scientist with top secret clearance met a grisly end because of his association with Crowley, some say. He died a very violent death in June 1952 from a huge explosion in his lab in Pasadena as he tried to conjure up a humonculous, human creature."

677px Jack Parsons 570x505
Jack Parsons

Only In Your State state: "Beginning with the first people who inhabited Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco, there have been rumors of a spiritual connection to the place. The Tongva believed water running through the gorge sounded like laughter, which they attributed to the coyote spirit...In the 1950s, after Parsons perished in an accidental explosion, several children went missing in the area around Devil's Gate Dam. Though none of them were ever found, a serial killer took credit for two of the disappearances 13 years after they went missing. As the man, Mack Ray Edwards, was a construction worker at the time, their bodies were hidden somewhere in the concrete of California's freeways."

To be sure, the area is one filled with a sense of menace. I can say that with certainty, having spent hours at the area with fellow writer and friend Greg Bishop around a decade or so ago.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!