Monday, October 28, 2013

Devil's Gate Dam, Pasadena, California

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I'm closing out this glorious month with a location and a story I wasn't aware of until a couple of weeks ago. My friends know I'm a paranormal enthusiast so they often come to me with, "Hey, do you know about the...?" or "Have you ever heard of...?" and I always stop them mid-question with a definitive, "Yes." That is, until I was asked about Devil's Gate Dam.

"Where," my ears perked up, "is that? And what can you tell me about it?"

My friend went on to tell me about this old dam that sits across from the JPL building in Pasadena. She mentioned how it's thought to be a vortex, or gateway, to Hell. "Two boys literally vanished from the area, never to be seen or heard from again!" she went on. I started to press her for more details when she said that some friends of ours frequently go hiking up there. I literally backed those friends into a corner, begging them to take me to Devil's Gate Dam.

The hike itself was pretty eerie, traveling through underpasses of the 210 freeway that smelled like makeshift bathrooms for the homeless.

We continued further until we reached the bridge toward the dam. There's just something about old dams that creeps me out. Maybe it's the stories my parents used to tell me of the Baldwin Hills dam breaking when I was a baby, with so much water rushing down the hillside that the water actually came trickling down our street, at least three miles from the dam itself. I remember driving up that hillside with my parents throughout my childhood and finding the need to stare at the ominous wall of the abandoned dam while my mind tried to conceive of the tragic events that unfolded in 1963. I would always shudder, imagining some malevolent force behind the wall, looming and staring back at me.

But back to Devil's Gate. As you can see from the photos at the very top of the page and the one directly below, it was completely dry that day. My friends told me that when we have a rainy season in Los Angeles, those trees you see in the background are almost fully covered with water. They've promised to take me back there the next time we have a hefty rain storm.

After snapping a few photos with giggles under our breath and feigned fear on our faces, we came to the stairway that takes you to the area named Devil's Gate. Here's a photo of that stairway.

And here are a couple of photos of the caged stairwells leading down into the gorge.

It was at this point I was relieved to be with other people. Had I come here on my own I would have certainly hightailed it out of there!

Now for the backstory. In my research I found that the story of two boys disappearing wasn't entirely true. No, four children had gone missing from the area. In the summer of 1956 a 13-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl disappeared from the area. Local authorities and volunteers combed the area, including divers who also searched the reservoir itself. No children. No bodies. Only their bicycles and the little girl's jacket.

The end to that story wasn't, in fact, paranormal. Over a decade later, Mack Ray Edwards would confess to the kidnapping and murders of the two children. Seems Edwards, who had a job building the highways of the Golden State, had hidden the corpses by incorporating them into the highway and covering them with asphalt. So next time you're on one of the freeways near Pasadena, you might want to check your rear view mirror to make sure the ghosts of these restless children aren't in your back seat.

The two boys that my friend told me about had actually disappeared at different times. In the spring of 1957 an 8-year-old named Tommy was hiking near Devil's Gate with his family. He was literally a few paces ahead of his family when he went around a bend and vanished. Hundreds of people joined the search team throughout the week, but Tommy was never found.

Then in 1960, a YMCA group was hiking not far from where Tommy vanished when a 6-year-old named Bruce started to feel weak. His leader instructed him to return to camp and, under the leader's watchful eye, Bruce was seen just steps away from the campsite. Thinking Bruce was safe, the leader joined up with the rest of the group but Bruce was not to be seen again. More search teams scoured the area, but as in the case of Tommy there were no clues and no answers as to what happened to Bruce.

Visit Devil's Gate Dam, if you dare!

(Note: As always, my photos are copyrighted and are not to be used without my written permission. Thanks, guys.)

Sad to see October end. Until next time.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Touring the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office

Friday at the office dragged on for what seemed like weeks. I could have attributed my impatience with the fact that I would be leaving for a 5-day vacation on Monday, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. My impatience was definitely due to the fact that at 6:00 I would be one of the few, privileged people who would be touring the service area of the L.A. County Coroner's office!

Arriving early, I found myself completely unsettled by the creepiness of the parking structure at 1104 N. Mission Road. An extremely low-hanging "ceiling," the rusty and outdated steel beams, the lack of lighting within the structure all made for a nice introduction to my evening. I walked over to the Administration Building where the first part of the "festivities" would take place and waited for the doors to open.

At approximately 6:15, Chief Craig Harvey opened the doors and welcomed us to his domain. I couldn't believe we were having cocktails at the Coroner's! And while I waited for all of the guests to arrive I couldn't resist shopping at one of my favorite stores in Los Angeles: Skeletons In The Closet. It figures that the L.A. Coroner's Office is the only coroner's office in the nation to have a gift shop!

Scott Michaels and Mark Masek started the evening off and Mark gave us the history of the facility.

What is currently used as the Administration Building was formerly the Los Angeles General Hospital. The beautiful entry way says it all:

Thereafter, Erin Murphy (who used to play Tabitha on the TV series Bewitched, spoke about her experiences with the cast and crew of the show. She was charming and her stories were endearing, especially those about Elizabeth Montgomery, "the Dicks" (York and Sargent), and Agnes Moorhead.

And then it was time for the coveted tour by Chief Harvey, who told us we could take as many photos as we wanted except for two restrictions: 1) No photos of bodies (darn!) and 2) no photos of staff members without their permission. OK, so with that, we were on our way!

As we made our way to the service building, I couldn't help but feel like a kid going to Disneyland. I know... My Mom cringed when I told her that.

We started out in the area where bodies are initially brought in, weighed, identified, photographed and where the toe tags for the deceased would be created. Two toe tags (no longer paper and wire, they now look like blue credit cards) are made - one is attached to the toe of the deceased and the other stays with the paperwork. (Note the camera on the ceiling in the photo below.)

Our attention was then called to the steel door on the opposite side of the room. This door leads to the Coroner's "crypt." Chief Harvey explained that they don't refer to it as the morgue because USC handles the County Morgue. The bodies that end up at the morgue are typically of people who died of natural causes. The bodies that end up at the crypt have died of suspicious circumstances, including homicide and suicide.

As soon as the door to the crypt was opened the stench of the dead bodies overwhelmed me. I have to say I will never forget that smell. Chief Harvey explained that the smell is the combination of the plastic the bodies are wrapped-in, the fact that some people were not in the cleanest state when they arrived, and of course a bit of decomposition. It was completely surreal to me that I was viewing dead bodies. I was fascinated. I was amazed. I was hogging up the front of the line! Had it not been for the smell I probably could have stood there gawking (I know that's very insensitive) for another ten minutes.

The facilities were immaculate! Chief Harvey explained to us the various parts of the labs, the equipment used to perform autopsies, and showed us the room which was previously used for high-profile cases coming through the facility (Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, specifically) but that has now been turned into a mens' restroom!

All in all, it was an amazing evening and I must give a huge thank you to Dearly Departed Tours for setting-up the tour. It's an experience that I will always treasure!

I hope you're enjoying this Halloween season as much as I am!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2-Year-Old Boy "Gives Birth" To His Twin?!

This news story was sent to me by a good friend of mine (she obviously knows me well). I'm so fascinated by scientific anomalies like this. Growing up I'd do my best to research (we didn't have the internet back then) stories I'd heard of women having cysts removed from their ovaries, and the doctors finding hair and teeth in the cysts. Blech. But I guess a good blech?

Today's story has to do with a Chinese boy who had his conjoined twin growing within his stomach. Unbeknownst to his family and his doctor, the boy had a twin whose egg didn't fully separate in vitro and those cells began to grow within him. Yikes! Take a look at this footage and be sure to check out the x-rays closely. Amazing! And blech!

Happy October, everyone!