One of the first places I really love to visit when I arrive in California is Griffith Park. As a huge fan of James Dean I have tried to go to as many places as I could where I know he had definitely been. The iconic Griffith Park Observatory, was used as a backdrop to some of the most dramatic scenes in Rebel Without A Cause. There is even a statue of James Dean to commemorate the filming of the movie in this legendary place. I have been to Griffith Park many times now and I am always in awe. I like to imagine James Dean slouching laconically on one of the white washed walls.
It seems however that Griffith Park is rife with many fascinating legends, as well as mysterious and ghostly happenings.
Following Dona Petronilla’s alleged cursing of the land it has been plagued by disastrous wildfires and subsequent owners died tragic and untimely deaths. One was killed by bandits in Mexico, one was shot in a local saloon, and of course there was the tragic events around Colonel Griffith J Griffith.
Griffith purchased the land in 1882. The land was afflicted by droughts and fires and a violent storm during which many believed that they saw the ghost of Dona Petronilla. In 1891 Griffith miraculously survived a shotgun wound but by then he had had enough and he began to gift free parcels of land to the citizens of Los Angeles. The curse however did not stop and in 1903, a usually sober man, Griffith, in what was described as ‘alcoholic insanity’ shot his wife. She survived the shooting but Griffith spent the rest of his days in prison, dying in 1919.
The most frequently sighted ghosts in Griffith Park are Dona Petronilla, usually appearing as a woman dressed in white or a woman in white riding a white horse, Griffith or Feliz. The Crystal Springs Rangers Headquarters is the oldest remaining structure in the park and some believe they have seen Dona Petronilla staring from the window of the adobe. Feliz’s ghost has been reported near Bee Rock near the old zoo. Some people even going so far as to say that Bee Rock has a resemblance to Don Petronilla. Griffith J Griffith has been sighted on horseback. There is also a strange story that in 1896, when the land was transferred from Griffith to the city, many guests were shocked by the ghostly appearance of Don Antonio Feliz. He sat at a seat usually reserved for Griffith and invited all the guests to dine with him in hell and proclaimed that he had bought an escort of sub demons. Prank or not the guests exited the building with haste. There have been rumours that a werewolf stalks the hills of Griffith Park, though there are some that believe that it is in fact one of Don Feliz’s demons.
Some nights people have reported looking over to the Hollywood sign and seeing a young woman taking a leap from the letter H. The woman jumps and then disappears. This weird sighting is attributed to a young starlet by the name of Peggy Entwistle. She apparently committed suicide, leaping from the letter H of the iconic sign plastered across the Hollywood Hills. Following this tragic occurrence in 1932 people have also reported seeing a young woman matching the description of Peggy walking along the trails of Griffith Park as well as smelling her favoured scent, Gardenia.
There was an old zoo situated in the park which rumour has it treated its captured animals in a cruel and inhumane nature. Because of this there have been paranormal disturbances attributed to the animals that suffered and died in the zoo.
Though this story has no actual proof, there is a legend of a young couple, having been killed by a freak tree falling while making love on a picnic table. The story goes on to claim that workmen hired to clean away the debris of the tree got sick, one even dying of a heart attack. Though no actual confirmation of this story exists there have been numerous sightings of a ghostly young couple in the area where the purported accident occurred.
The Honorary Mayor of Griffith Park, Luis Alvarado reported two sightings of a ghostly figure near the Merry Go Round in the park. The figure descended stairs and the vanished into thin air before Alvarado’s eyes.
No matter what your beliefs on the strange and ghostly legends of Griffith Park it is well worth exploring !