The Cobb Estate & the Haunted Forest
I discovered a new place today while looking for a hill where gravity runs backward. Now I never did find that hill, but I did find the Cobb Estate, which is differently cool. Don't worry, when I find that gravity-defying spot, y'all will be the first to know.
Charles H. Cobb made a fortune in lumber in Seattle at the turn of the century, and, with his wife Carrie, settled in Altadena (just north of Pasadena) in 1915. In 1916 they completed their mansion above the fields of California poppies in Las Flores Canyon, with Cypress trees lining the circular driveway and Bahri dates outside the front entrance. They called it Las Flores Ranch. So far I haven't been able to locate a photo of the house, but it was likely a mission-style affair with a tile roof.
There's another story – that calls it the Forsyth Ranch and that it sold to the Cobbs in 1919, but regardless, it was quite a spread.
Carrie passed in 1934, and Charles, a Mason since 1881, built Pasadena's Scottish Rite
Cathedral dedicated to her memory. Charles himself shuffled off the mortal coil in November 1939 at the age of 87, leaving a bunch of money to diverse philanthropic causes. He and Carrie had an adopted son, Clarence, and a granddaughter, but the house became a Mason's Home, and then a nun's retreat.
After the Sisters of St. Joseph moved out, the house became increasingly vandalized, and finally it was bulldowzed in 1956 by the Devon Construction Company. I don't know if I have mentioned my hatred of vandals before now, so let me just say that taggers ought to have the first joint of their dominant index finger removed in a humane way to keep them from succombing to the temptations of spray paint. I'm non-violent, y'all.
The construction firm unloaded the property on the Marx Brothers – those Marx Brothers – to the tune of $500,000 for 107 acres – who wanted to turn it into a cemetery. The neighbors would not stand for it, and blocked every attempt to "improve" the property until 1971, when the remaining Marxes – Gummo, Groucho and Harpo's widow Susan – agreed to sell it at auction.
The property owner's association hoped that the Marxes would just donate the property as a wildlife refuge and made plans to call it "Marx Park," but that didn't happen. "The only mail I seem to get is people asking me for something. Nobody ever wants to give me anything. As far as I'm concerned, forget it," said Groucho in an interview with Bert Mann of the L.A. Times. There were a lot of local heros and heroines who dug deep to save these 107 acres that bordered on the Angeles National Forest, but Virginia Steele-
Scott dug the deepest and contributed $150,000. The bidding stopped at $175,000 and the land was saved. Trails go all the way to Echo Mountain, the Mount Lowe loop and all over that part of the San Gabriels.
The old Cobb place has had a reputation for being haunted back to the 1940s, but it probably had more to do with the neglect and vandalism than any other factor. So here are some totally unsubstantiated urban myths that have come up around these parts, and I hope to be able to check some of them out. I do not, by the way, recommend going up by yourself or after dark. It would be very easy to fall off a trail and there are cougars and maniacs around there, not to mention the possibility of drunks who might talk your ear off. So be careful, friends:
- Apparently the area starting at the front gates of the Cobb Estate is also known as "The Haunted Forest." From time to time screams and anamalous lights
appear there. Supposedly, there is also a "Ghost in Chains" that will "feed off your life force."
- Then there's "Gravity Hill" – Loma Alta Road east of Fair Oaks (we didn't detect a lack of gravity, but we weren't doing it right.) Here's the legend for your entertainment: "The Tale of Gravity Hill has been passed down from word of mouth. I have tried to find an expert opinion on the Gravity Hill in Altadena but haven’t been able to come up with anything credible. The unofficial story is that a young teen stole his/her parents car and went out on a joy ride around when they drove up to Rubio Canyon Rd. When they drove around the curve, the car stalled. The Young Teen and a couple of friends were trying to get the car started when a drunk driver in a large truck came speeding around the curve collided into the car killing all of the teenagers. It is reported if you put
powder on the back of the car that finger prints will appear. Apparently the Teenager’s Souls are pushing you up the hill to prevent yet another tragic accident. I’ve never tried the Powder trick so I can’t be sure…" says our source. We've also heard a different version that features children crushed in a school bus crash.
- An actual, factual thing about this canyon is that there are a whole bunch of gold mines from the 1880s in it, which were "played out" before the Cobbs moved in. Some of the tunnels are still there and are quite extensive.
- The Cobb Salad was invented by Robert Cobb of the Brown Derby in 1937, not by Charles H. Cobb – don't believe everything you read on the net!
- 3496 N. Lake Ave, Altadena (corner of Lake and Alta Loma)