A nearly 150-year-old curse, werecreatures, a haunted picnic table, and the most famous suicide in Hollywood history, all within Griffith Park.
The most well known legend of Griffith Park, and the one most ghost sightings are attributed to, is the curse Dona Petronilla placed on the land in 1863. After learning that her uncle, wealthy land baron Don Antonio Feliz, had not bequeathed the property to her, the seventeen-year-old “shouted out vexatiously that the cattle and fields would become diseased and die; and that no one will ever profit from this land.” As for the land’s new owner, and the man who helped with the acquisition, Peronilla swore, “”the one shall die in an untimely death and the other in blood and violence.”
Her violent proclamation may not have been merely out of spite, as there is some debate whether the ailing Feliz overlooked Petronilla of his own volition, or was taken advantage of while on his deathbed.
Regardless, until this day the land is plagued by disastrous wildfires, and many of the Angelenos associated with the land befell tragic fates. According to Michael Imlay, an expert on the curse and it’s fallout, C.V. Howard, who negotiated sale of the land’s water rights, was shot dead in a local saloon. A subsequent owner was killed by banditos on a trip to Mexico. And, of course, there was Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who the curse was most determined to afflict.
Griffith purchased the land in 1882, and almost from the beginning, Petronilla made her fury known. In his book, The Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Los Angeles, Jeff Dwyer writes:
…droughts, fires, and other disasters… a violent storm swept across the L.A. basin, stripping away the vegetation from the rancho and killing much of the livestock. During the storm, several people saw the ghost of Dona Petranilla drifting about, renewing her curse.
Then, in 1891, Griffith managed to survive after business rival shot him with a shotgun outside of the Old Calvary Cemetery (now a high school on N. Broadway). It was too much for Griffith to handle, and beginning in 1896, he began giving large parcels of the land to the citizens of Los Angeles for free.
Petronilla’s curse finally reared it’s ugly head in 1903 when Griffith shot his wife at a Santa Monica hotel. She survived, but Griffith was sentenced to San Quentin for assault with a deadly weapon. Even though Griffith was reportedly a sober man, the course ascribed his crime as the result of “alcoholic insanity.” The once mighty Griffith, ostracized from society, died in 1919 of liver disease. Petronilla was surely laughing in her grave.
Not surprisingly, the most frequent ghost sightings in Griffith Park are attributed to being Griffith, Petronilla, or Feliz.
The Ghost of Dona Petronilla is the most common, described as a young woman in a white dress, sometimes riding a white horse. At midnight, she is reportedly often seen in the Paco Feliz Adobe, “watching from the adobe’s windows on dark and rainy nights,” according to the website Weird California. The adobe is the oldest remaining structure in the park, and currently serves as the Crystal Springs Ranger Headquarters.
California folklorist Horace Bell wrote that in 1896, the Ghost of Don Antonio Feliz (Petronilla’s uncle), appeared at a party celebrating the transfer of the land from Griffith to the city, shocking the previously celebratory guests. Feliz took a seat usually reserved for Griffith and proclaimed, “I come to invite you to dine with me in hell. In your great honor I have brought an escort of sub-demons.” The lights went out and a cacophony of gongs and cymbals filled the room. There are no reports of whether or not the scene was an elaborate prank because, according to Bell, all of the guests fled before the demons would have arrived.
Feliz’s ghost is reportedly still scene wandering his former ranchland on horseback, most often spotted near Bee Rock near the Old Zoo. It should also be noted that some people believe Bee Rock resembles the face of Dona Petronilla.
The Ghost of Griffith J. Griffith has often been spotted, also on horseback, checking on the upkeep of the land.
The Hollywood Sign
In 1932, distraught actress Peg Entwistle lept to her death from the H in the Hollywoodland sign. People staring at the sign after dark have reported seeing a young woman jumping from the H, vanishing before hitting the ground. Other sightings ascribed to Entwistle include those of a woman matching her description and period clothes wandering the parks trails, as well as walking up the path between the sign and her former residence on Beachwood Drive. The smell of gardenia, her perfume scent of choice, has been reported to linger near her spirit.
The Hollywood sign has two live webcams available to peek at 24/7 if you’d like to ghost hunt from the comfort of your home.
The Haunted Picnic Table
On the day before Halloween, 2006, a curious article appeared on the “L.A. Tirnes” website commemorating a freak accident that occurred 30 years earlier in a northwest corner of the park. A young couple, making love on a picnic bench off Mt. Hollywood Drive, were crushed by a falling tree. According to the story, a chain of workers hired to clear the tree fell sick or were injured before they could finish the job, including a supervisor who was found dead of an apparent heart attack at the scene. While the article has been dismissed as a hoax, sightings of a ghostly couple in the area persist, and people familiar with the tale have arranged pilgrimages to the site in the hopes of witnessing paranormal activity.
The Old Zoo
Laurie Stinchield, Pet Psychic, writes that when she and her film crew visited the old zoo grounds in July, 2010, she “buckled over in nauseau.” She envisioned malnourished big game cats resorting to cannibalism, among other suffering animals:
…a monkey accidentally hanging himself from spinning from psychosis, elephants with sore infected pussy feet, and a komodo dragon peering out of the darkness. Even the skeptics bow their heads. The suffering seems to stick to our breaths.
The Beast of Griffith Park
Whether it’s a werewolf, a demon promised by Don Feliz, or a drug induced hallucination, there is a creature within Griffith Park that has rumored to exist over the past decades.
In October, 2005, three men allegedly retreated from a late night excursion into the park after an encounter with a beast that had green skin and red hair. Lirpa, the internet poster who shared the tale, said that she was visited by the men immediately after their experience. Perhaps to prove they weren’t making the story up, she had the men each draw what they saw separately. With minor variations, she wrote that their sketches all matched what they’d described to her.
“Its legs were very long as well as its feet and it was talking huge strides as it made its way down the street,” she wrote. “Its back was bent back and its neck was very long and was bent forward. They said no human could be bent like this thing was. Its eyes were black, but it did have the whites as well.”
More recently, an 11 year old boy named Jack wrote on the “Weird CA” site that on a 2009 visit he was chased by “an unusually large coyote.” Reaching the top of a hill, he saw another kid around his age, and warned him about the coyote. “I’m quite glad you warned me,” the kid told Jack, then handed him an old firecracker. “Here, take this, its good luck.” The kid then ran through some bushes and onto a small path. Fearing the coyote, Jack tried to follow him, but never caught up, and never saw the kid, or the coyote, again.
The Merry Go Round
Luis Alvarado, the Honorary Mayor of Griffith Park, reportedly encountered a ghost on two occasions by the merry go round. One night, while checking to help ensure all visitors had left the park at the sunset closing time, Alvarado watched as a man descended a staircase in the vicinity only to disappear when hitting the last step. Alvarado looked around to see if perhaps the man had disappeared into behind a tree, but could find no trace. A few nights later, Alvarado was spooked when the scene repeated itself.
The Observatory, Travel Town, and Points Between
According to Los Angeles ghost expert Richard Carradine, the number of reported ghost sightings at both Travel Town and the Observatory became so frequent that the city brought in experienced teams to investigate the source of the alleged paranormal activity. Even with the use of EVP monitors and other advanced equipment, they found nothing to explain the sightings.
Besides being a hotbed of supposed supernatural activity, Griffith Park has also attracted vagrants, gangs, and pranksters over the years. There are any number of explanations for the tragic events and unusual sightings over the years.
If you know of any other Griffith Park hauntings, or can contribute to the above, let us know and we’ll look into the reports and possibly add them to the above. “Scare and balanced” is our motto. At CreepyLA, we’ll continue to report what we hear.