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A Damned and Deadly Dam: Occult Activity, Rockets, Murder, Aleister Crowley and Much More

At his birth in 1914, Jack Parsons – a major player in the story told in my Final Events book and revolutionary rocket expert – was given the memorable and unusual name of Marvel Whiteside Parsons and had a truly extraordinary life. An undoubted genius, he indirectly led NASA to send the Apollo astronauts to the Moon in 1969. Moreover, the Aerojet Corporation – which Parsons personally founded – produced solid-fuel rocket boosters for the Space Shuttle that are based on Parsons’ very own, decades-old innovations. For his accomplishments, a large crater on the far side of the Moon was named in Parsons’ honor, and each and every year, on Halloween no less, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory holds an open-house memorial, replete with mannequins of Jack Parsons and his early JPL cohorts known as “Nativity Day.” And, within the aerospace community, there is a longstanding joke that JPL actually stands for “Jack Parsons Laboratory” or “Jack Parsons Lives.” In fact, Parsons, who was so revered and honored by very senior figures within the U.S. space-program, was an admitted occultist, and a follower of Aleister Crowley. And, before each rocket test, Parsons would undertake a ritual to try and invoke the Greek god, Pan. Much of Parsons’ – and the JPL’s – initial rocket research in this period was undertaken around the appropriately-named Devil’s Gate Dam in California.

(Nick Redfern) Welcome to Devil’s Gate Dam

As Vice note, Parsons “…joined Thelema, the occult movement founded by British occultist Aleister Crowley, and took over the movement’s California branch. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard lived in Parson’s home for a time and slept with his wife. Parsons attempted, repeatedly, to use sex magick to summon various deities to the Earthly plane. All while continuing to work as a rocket scientist.” On November 2, 1950, a California-based special-agent of the FBI prepared a report on the actions of Jack Parsons that stated in part: “Subject, on September 15, 1950 removed certain documents pertaining to jet propulsion motors and rocket propellants without authority from Hughes Aircraft Company, Culver City, California; his place of employment [and which had been his place of employment since May 8, 1949].” On September 25, after the documents in question had been retrieved by the authorities, they were duly handed over to a Air Force Major E.J. Krenz, after which, the FBI recorded: “[Parsons] voluntarily came to the Los Angeles office, September 27, 1950 and in [a] signed statement admitted removing documents without authority stating he desired to extract certain information from them as aid in computing [the] cost proposal on jet propulsion motors. He planned to submit this with [an] employment application through American Technion Society for employment in the country of Israel.”

(Nick Redfern) A Devilish location

Whether his apology was genuine or it was simply a groveling attempt to try and avoid serious problems with the authorities and charges that he was secretly engaged in espionage operations for Israel, Parsons certainly obfuscated the facts and played down his ongoing involvement in matters of an occult nature. When interviewed by the FBI on September 28, he said that he had “severed all relations” with the dark world that had so dominated his earlier years, and “…described himself as being an ‘individualist,'” according to the interviewing special-agent in his report. Now, we come to one of the strangest aspects of Parsons’ life – it revolves around nothing less than the creation of life. Filmmaker Renate Druks, who was an acquaintance of Marjorie Elizabeth Cameron, said in Nat Freedland’s The Occult Explosion: “I have every reason to believe that Jack Parsons was working on some very strange experiments, trying to create what the old alchemists call a homunculus, a tiny artificial man with magic powers.

Ancient alchemists had several methods of bringing these diminutive humanoids to life; one involved the mandrake. Popular, centuries-old belief holds that the mandrake plant grew on ground where semen ejaculated by hanged men had fallen to earth, and, as a result, its roots vaguely resemble those of a human being. To ensure a successful creation of the homunculus, the root is to be picked before dawn on a Friday morning by a black dog, then washed and nourished with milk and honey and, in some prescriptions, blood, whereupon it develops into a miniature human that will guard and protect its owner. Another method, cited by Dr. David Christianus at the University of Giessen during the 18th century, was to take an egg laid by a black hen, poke a tiny hole through its shell, replace a bean-sized portion of the egg white with human semen, seal the opening with virgin parchment, and bury the egg in dung on the first day of the March lunar cycle. The ancient teachings suggested that a miniature humanoid would emerge from the egg after thirty days and, in return, help and protect its creator for a steady diet of lavender seeds and earthworms.

(Nick Redfern) A sinister and strange area

Whether or not Parsons really did create life, the fact is that his life would soon be over. As Gina Dimuro notes: “On June 17, 1952, Jack Parsons was working on explosives for a film project in his home laboratory when an unplanned detonation destroyed the lab and killed him. The 37-year-old was found with broken bones, a missing right forearm, and half of his face nearly ripped off.” Accident or murder? That is a question still debated by researchers of Parsons and his life. Interestingly, the JPL 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. Some time ago, I spent a day hanging out with good mate Greg Bishop, and we took a drive out to the infamous locale, and where I took the pictures you can see right here. Now, with all that said, let’s take a closer look at Devil’s Gate Dam.

(Nick Redfern) The Jet Propulsion Laboratory

As Only In Your State say: “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.” And there’s more: “In the 1920s, the narrowest place in the Arroyo Seco was dammed to control flooding, and it was named Devil’s Gate Dam, for the demon-like face of a horned figure in the natural rock outcropping.” There’s more to take in, too. Los Angeles Almanac give us this: “The Devil’s Gate Dam and Reservoir, adjacent to Oak Grove Park Road, just within the boundary of Pasadena, between Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge, has long drawn the attention of paranormal enthusiasts. Besides alleged Native American legends of being a gateway into the afterlife, it was said to have been the site of occultic rituals during the 1940s and, during the 1950s, mysterious disappearances of children.” And, there are the words of Arroyo Monthly,: who reveal that there “…have been subsequent reports of suicides (typically, hearsay) at Devil’s Gate, and many people who have hiked there have reported that, amid the trash and mud, burned Bibles have been observed as well as the occasional ritual. A cyclist’s body was found there in 1998 under mysterious circumstances, and para-
normal practitioners have lugged equipment to the rock, delighted when they were able to record “evidence” of otherworldly energies.”

And, with all of that said, I would suggest that anyone with an interest in the Devil’s Gate Dam and the occult to go and take a look at it. It is indeed an intriguing place – and one with a fascinating (and disturbing) history.

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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.
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