Saturday, August 23, 2008

Turnbull Canyon adventure... plus Buddhist Temple and Cemetery

Turnbull Canyon has a reputation for being a haunted, creepy place. We decided to drive out today to see it. There's lots of rumors surrounding the place: urban legends, such as a "hanging tree" and a "witch house", devil worshippers, KKK people, the ruins of an abandoned asylum. There's also the violent history of the canyon: people have been killed here and bodies found, for example a burned man, a girl found wrapped in plastic, and another girl who was tied to the back of a car and dragged for miles, leaving a blood trail. Gang executions and other stuff also happen here, which makes sense. It's very remote. It's a pretty dangerous drive, too. Joyriding morons would not be fun to encounter. There are cliff drops and the roads are very narrow.

Anyways, we drove out there today. That first picture is a shot from Turnbull Canyon Road of a water tower, supposedly where people have been murdered.

We drove through the winding canyon. It had a pretty dangerous feel to it, but only for safety reasons. We got to the intersection of Turnbull Canyon and Skyline Drive. According to rumors, apparently the RUINED ASYLUM is located at this intersection. I didn't see any asylum, but here's what was there:

I'd seen this intersection on Google Maps and it looked like a graveyard. But up close, it's hard to tell exactly WHAT it is. Presumably the frontage of some fancy house that's hidden up that hill? There are some coloured tiles that you can sort of see in the picture above. Lance figured out that they spell "The Singing Kettle", and there's an image of a flaming kettle. Weird. *edit: after some Googling, I was able to find out that in 1935, this was "The Singing Kettle Tea Shop". A pretty weird and remote spot for a tea shop, I'd say, but hey - who am I?
Here's a farther away shot of the intersection. It does look like a graveyard, even though it's not. It certainly isn't the foundation of some frightening old asylum, although I presume urban legend has done its job. It couldn't possibly be the remains of an old tea shop in some rich dude's front yard - no, it must be an ABANDONED ASYLUM. *sigh*. But, we had another goal: at the end of Skyline Drive, the street turns into a fire route where there is an abandoned house. I'd seen pictures of the house with its windows boarded up, and read about the creepy homeless dude who apparently lived there and the MYSTERIOUS LIGHTS ON even though no power apparently went to the house. So we drove to the fire route... oh, and once you get to Skyline Drive, it's pretty resedential. Even the "abandoned house" is seriously only about twenty feet away from occupied homes. But nevertheless, we were ready to be creeped out...
Here it is. Not abandoned anymore. No boarded up windows. And there were four vehicles in the driveway. So I guess someone bought it. Not creepy at all. But it is located along the fire route, which is a hiking trail as well, so since we had just parked, we decided to follow the trail. It appeared that the trail would lead us up to the water tower. It probably took us about twenty-five minutes to get from where we'd parked up to the tower, and it was a scenic ol' walk.
On the way up, we were pretty uncomfortable. It was dusty and hot. At one point we saw some other people way, way up ahead, walking towards us, but they disappeared onto one of the offshoot trails - of which there were many. You could get lost or into trouble in this place. All around us were more hills and steep drops. You could see various trails along the hills. As we walked up to the water tower, we saw this building above. Some sort of Buddhist Temple. Shortly, however, we arrived at the water tower.
Here it is, in all its graffitied glory. Apparently gang guys have killed each other up here, satanic rituals, death, et cetera. Makes sense. The tower sits on a high peak, it's sort of a beacon for miles around. Totally isolated, yet easily found. It wasn't creepy, but I mean, the whole time I was kind of nervous that someone was going to pop out and knife us for our spare change.
Here's a view looking back up at the tower. We headed back down the trail. Oh, by the way, apparently a ways down there is an ABANDONED FACTORY. Well, there is a factory, but it's not abandoned. It was not creepy enough to warrant taking a picture of. There were areas of chain-link fence yanked back, which implies creepy people sneaking around, but that's about it. We walked back to the car.
We'd parked right by Skyline Drive and Descending Drive. The next stop on our list was the supposed "Gates of Hell" or "Devil's Gates" or what-have-you. Disappointed by the total non-scariness of the ABANDONED HOUSE, yet refreshed because the water tower had been kinda neat, we headed down Descending Drive. Which does, in fact, descend.
Lots of graffiti on signs and even on the road. The scary rumors about Turnbull Canyon and area have brought out the kids, obviously. I'm sure it's a high-school rite-of-passage to go around this area at night. Drunk, and with cans of spray-paint. This did lead to the vibe of not wanting to return at night, and not because of GHOSTS. Because people are scary.

Anyways, we soon arrived at the GATES OF HELL:
The story about these gates is that behind them somewhere, there is a ruined/abandoned house, which is used by Satanic cults. I don't know about that, but the area was kind of weird. All along Descending Drive and the surrounding streets in this little neighborhood were tons of fenced-off driveways, leading up to really nice houses with swanky-ass cars. The GATES OF HELL were easy to pick out, if only by the lack of security and trespassing warnings. I suppose it would have been interesting to go exploring for the abandoned house somewhere in the wilderness behind it...
... and easy, too, as Lance illustrates. But we decided not to. It just wasn't piquing our interest as we'd hoped it would. We headed out of this neighborhood. We saw no signs of the "blood pools" or any other sort of abandoned or ruined buildings.

Bottom lines for me: Do I think Turnbull Canyon is haunted? No. I think it is a remote, dangerous place where bad things have happened - committed by humans. I wouldn't want to go there at night, but only because I wouldn't want to get into a car accident or encounter some drunk maniac in the rocks. Apparently the winding roads are very popular with street-racing type idiots. More for them. It had that "bad people want to hurt you" vibe about it. And I can totally see how the canyon is an appealing place to ditch a body.

*** We decided to head to a Buddhist Temple that Lance had seen. Not the one with the pagoda-like structure, but a different one, closer. I agreed to go check it out, but I felt reluctant, as I was disappointed that there hadn't been a spooky vibe at all yet, and there sure wasn't going to be one at a Buddhist Temple. However, it was very beautiful:

We put pennies on the heads of a few of the statues, and there were bald nuns walking around. I wish I'd gotten a picture of them, but how crap would that be - the bawdy white chick strolling around, aghast at the bald Buddha ladies. It was a beautiful though and I'm glad we went.

***Before heading home we decided to check out the nearby Rose Hills Cemetery.
There were deer grazing by the gravestones. One had a hurt leg. :( She's the one lying down.
We ended up going into a mausoleum. It was really big and totally empty. I felt like we shouldn't be in there. Classical music was playing over the speakers.

At one point inside the mausoleum, I heard footsteps coming up a hallway behind us. I turned around, fully prepared to apologize to the attendant for tracking our touristy mud all over the sacred place. But there was no one there. I'm not even kidding.
In conclusion, it was a nice day. And I have a beautiful picture that I'm going to save for tomorrow.


way_away said...

Looks like you guys had a really amazing day... That sucks that it wasn't really creepy in a GHOSTY sense, but more in a HUMANS WILL KILL YOU sense. The pictures look cool though, and I'm glad you had a chance to check out the area. The watertower looked kinda creepy.

And what was with the footsteps with NO ONE there?! Was there REALLY no explanation?! Bizzare.

It's too bad you couldn't take pictures of the Buddhist ladies, but yeah: that would have been hugely inappropriate.

What's the pic for tomorrow?!?! I'm intrigued.

Oh! And I've started my pic a day blog:


Bill said...

It's funny that I grew up there next to Turnbull Canyon all my life (and still living there) and have a different perspective of it. I used to run up there for basketball training every week when I was in high school all the way up to the fire station and never got that creepy vibe. Well no one told me about these stories until a year ago either. All these years it was just Turnbull Canyon and not TURNBULL CANYON(if I could change fonts that name would look creepy). And BTW, I visit the Buddhist Temple alot too, beautiful place. At 11:30am they serve all-you-can-eat vegetarian lunch for $5 per person.

Anonymous said...

That's too bad hat you didn't enter the gates of hell. Your pictures and descriptions were amazing but I feel cheated. You finally make it to the gate (which was the creepiest part) and decided not to go in and document. Seems like you had second thoughts. My friends and I travelled up to the gates yesterday. There is now a chain linked fence with 3 rows of the sharpest barbed wire that you can find preventing you from even the actual gates. Very interesting on why it would be so secured..Well I;m 30 years old and I'm going to try and make a documentary on this location. Let me know if your interested in taking stills at mark.felix@yahoo.. Take care

liltony said...

Okay so i went there at night with a group of my friends like the last post said there now is a chained fence with loads of barbed wire all around and now there is cameras sourrounded all around the gates being recorded with an alarm. Why go through all of this trouble to guard this gate, there must be something worth seeing if it's gaurded like this. I wanna ask why did you go in the gates of hell? It didnt interest you? WEll i beg to differ. You went into all of these other places, but didnt go into the creepiest place there. I think you guys felt intimidated a bit to go in. We went at night and it did spook me, but it didnt stop from wanting to explore whats inside. So a couple friends and i are going back during the day to find a way past the gates and see what's in there. let me know what you think

Daniel said...

That was great post. I grew up in the town next door, Rowland Heights, and knew about all the stories of Turnbull Canyon.

In 1994 my old girlfriend and I hopped the "gates of Hell" fence and walked up the hill a bit. We heard a car coming up the street, so we hid behind some trees. A guy got out of his car and yelled up the hill. He knew someone was up there because we parked our car at the bottom. We hid out until he left.

I haven't been there since and now I find it strange that it's fortified with barbed wire and security cameras. Very interesting.

If you're facing the "gates," there's some ruins of an old house that burnt to the ground to the left and up the road a little. I think it was the same one where you were going to jump the fence, but chickened out.

We did jump the fence in back then and the only thing left was the foundation and the chimney. There was also an abandoned car pushed into a ditch. Inside the car were some old cassette tapes. The only one I remember is The Cult's "Love." Weird.

I've been inside the water tower too. Nothing special.

There's some radio towers above Rose Hills. That used to be an abandoned Nike missile launch site back in the 1950's. There was also one in the hills of Rowland Heights, which was cooler.

There were underground bunkers with stars leading down. It was dark inside, but there was a ton of old punk and metalhead graffiti from as far back as the 80's. Kind of a museum of disenfranchised suburban youth.

There's a lot of other creepy and interesting areas in and around Turnbull. I would love to go back and see how it looks now.

Anonymous said...

I dont know how you people can talk about these cases so lightly. my father was murdered and dumped there in November 1994 when i was 10. I am glad you are getting amuzement out of such a horrible place.

Anonymous said...

that wasn't the gates of hell, these are the gates of hell

Martha said...

Thanks for keeping it real! i think you are right its all the people-hype...yet i still would not go...bad reception:)

Anonymous said...

I had never heard the stories of Turnbull Canyon, but was hiking with a friend there a few years back, and we stumbled upon something pretty eerie. We hiked up from the bottom of the canyon on the Whittier side, and decided to explore a side canyon. What we found was pretty freaky. There was a deer's head on a stick stuck into the ground so that the deer was staring up at the sky! No lie! The local Tongva people have legends about the area too, including a monsterous giant white bear that terrorized the villages. Ironically, I now live in Whittier and commute daily over the hill, often taking Turnbull Canyon Rd. I also drive thru there frequently at night. Even after the deer head incident, I have no qualms about it. As a matter of fact, along the fire road near the "asylum", I found the only known example of an albino variety of a fuchsia-flowered gooseberry. I checked with the experts, and none of them had ever heard of one. At any rate, Turnbull Canyon is certainly a fascinating place!

Anonymous said...

now the "gates of hell" that you showed pictures of are full of security. About 10 ft in front of the gate itself is a chainlinked fence with barbed wire wraped from top to bottom, on the stone posts are a total of 4 security cameras, 2 floodlights that are on all hours of the day and 1 megaphone speaker and microphone. Whatever is back there people obviously don't want other people to know is there. The only way to get back there know is repelling down a cliff off the side of the road farther up. Oh I forgot to mention that behind all of the security measures there is also a few huge rotweillers that bark whenever anyone or car passes by.

Anonymous said...

I grew up a few houses away from the "Gates of Hell." It's an urban legend. There has NEVER been a house on that property. They keep trying to seel it, but it's on the bottom of a steep canyon. When it rains, lots of water flows down the canyon, and when the hills get muddy, properties tend to flow downhill, causing lots of damage. I take regular walks past the gates at night. It's about the safest place to hike in all of Los Angeles county.

Completely ridiculous. You people will fucking believe ANYTHING.

Anonymous said...

...Another thing to mention. The fire department wants lots of defensible space around all properties in the event of a fire. The owners had to have the property cleared a few years ago. They hired workers. They all got poison oak so badly they had to be hospitalized. Since there is no parking anywhere on Descending Dr., bored kids like to go drinking and smoking there, because you can park a few cars. They enter the property and tag the nearby wall. The owners put up the large fence, barbed wire, and cameras for liability issues, ONLY There's nothing there but rattlesnakes and lizards.

Kim Cabrera said...

There was a big fire up that way in the late 1980's. I remember that gate, but there was only a house back there. I think it burned in that fire. The owners probably just want to keep people out.

Anonymous said...

Chapo guzman lives there sinalo cartel kingpin ...I wouildint go in there if i was you

Anonymous said...

This post was poopy.
As for the asylum, you were on the wrong side of the street. You need to hike for a bit up the hill before you find the remains of what was once a large building.
Thanks for adding to all the bullshit about turnbull canyon, though.

Megan Schmidt said...

Lol, I got poison oak from the canyon :(