Updated: Apr 29, 2021
Please note that this, and all episodes of Thrice Cursed have been adapted from their original spoken form to text by myself, and some additional ad-libbed content may have been omitted. All content within is the sole property of Thrice Cursed Podcast. Please don't plagiarize. Plagiarism sucks.
Hello, I’m Rebekkah Rosewood. And this is Thrice Cursed.
-Intro Music Plays-
I’d like to preface this episode by saying, if you followed me over from my former podcast, some of this information will not be new to you. However, as it was one of the first stories I covered, there was a lot of information that had been left out. I decided to revisit this particular episode, and included far more detail this time around. I hope you all enjoy it.
Now, let me just set the scene. Griffith park is a 4,210 acre park located between Glendale and Studio city in Los Angeles, CA. In 2002, the Griffith Park chief ranger Albert Torres told LA Times that he wasn’t afraid of centuries old ghosts or curses, but that “if you knew even a quarter of the stuff we find within the park’s perimeter, you’d never set foot in it again.” Soooo…. Yikes.
This park has it all. There's the Griffith Observatory, the Greek Amphitheatre, the LA Zoo, the OLD LA Zoo, 2 museums, 2 golf courses, a merry-go-round, countless hiking and horse trails, caves, the Hollywood sign, haunted hayrides in October, several ghosts, strange creatures, and an ancient curse! If you’re looking for it, it’s a good bet that Griffith Park has it.
The land known now as Griffith Park originally belonged to Jose Vicente Feliz, a soldier and government official. He had once served as the de facto mayor of Los Angeles, and was granted just over 6,600 acres of land in the 1790s. This land was called “Rancho Los Feliz,” or “The Happy Farm.” After his death, the land continued to be passed down to family members.
In 1836, things took a deadly turn. Domingo Feliz, who shared the rights to the land with-- I presume-- a sibling, had married a much younger woman by the name of Maria del Rosario Villa. All seemed to be going well as far as Domingo was concerned. That is, until Maria grew bored of their marriage and ran off with another man by the name of Gervacio Alispaz. According to the author of “Griffith Park: A Centennial History,” Domingo later ran into Maria and her new lover a few years later.
Because this was the era of no rights for women, Domingo took the opportunity to have her arrested and returned to their home at Rancho Los Feliz. Now, this went about as well as you’d imagine, and she escaped pretty much immediately, running to the mayor of Los Angeles in hopes he would assist her. Instead, she was encouraged to remain faithful to her husband, and live a life where she was miserable. Not sure if you can tell, I’m SUPER shocked by that.
Maria did as she was told, returning home with her husband on horse. However, she wouldn’t be with him long. As the two approached their home, Maria’s lover Gervacio appeared, pulling the man from his horse, and stabbing him, spurred on by Maria. Domingo’s body was dragged into a ravine and covered with leaves, but he was still discovered within only two days.
His murderer, as well as Maria, were arrested almost immediately. The community around Rancho Los Feliz was outraged, and a citizen’s commission known as the Junta Defensora demanded swift and brutal justice for the killing. When that didn’t occur, the group made the decision that they themselves would get justice, and like batman they are not.
The two were removed from their prison cells by this group, then killed by firing squad, before their bodies were dumped in front of the city jail. The Junta Defensora was disbanded within days of the executions.
There’s not much to be found by way of history for quite awhile after that, and it would appear things went back to normal, with the land being passed on from family member to family member.
After the death of his parents, the land fell to Don Antonio Feliz, a bachelor who lived on the property with his sister, Soledad, and 17-yr-old maybe blind niece Dona Petranilla.
When Don Antonio Feliz died in 1863, he left all of this land to a man named Don Antonio Coronel (instead of his family). From here on out we’re just going to refer to him as Fred, because this would just be ridiculously confusing otherwise, and I have the memory of a pancake which makes it worse. Plus, I name everything Fred. Like my taxidermy chameleon, for instance.
Stories suggest that the property was only left to Fred because he and a lawyer visited Don Antonio on his deathbed and these two assholes drew up a will, then forced this man to nod in agreement to it. (I guess a nod is legally binding now?) How do you force someone to nod? Well, according to all sources I could find, the men tied a stick to Don Antonio? Excuse me?
So anyway, this is taken to court, and the judge actually upholds this new will, despite the fact that he was dying of smallpox. So… y’know. High fevers and delirium. Sounds legit to me! Nowadays this would be super easy to contest in court due to mental capacity. However, back in the 1860’s, not so much.
This new will was apparently witnessed by several ranch workers. In this new will, few items were left to some relatives, but the lion’s share went to Fred, and nothing was left to Dona Petronilla. Angered, she cursed the land, and then (according to some stories) DROPPED. DEAD. Bitch was SERIOUS about her curses.
Other stories say she may have actually been in her twenties when Don Antonio died, and that she possibly lived well into her thirties, and also was not blind. Of course, being extra as we are, the world obviously prefers the story of a blind girl immediately dropping dead after enacting a vengeful curse. So, we’ll go with it.
As legend would have it, her curse was as follows: “Your falsity shall be your ruin! The substance of the Feliz family shall be your curse! The lawyer that assisted you in your infamy, and the judge, shall fall beneath the same curse! The one shall die an untimely death, the other in blood and violence! You, Señor, shall know misery in your age and although you die rich, your substance shall go to vile persons! A blight shall fall upon the face of this terrestrial paradise, the cattle shall no longer fatten but sicken on its pastures, the fields shall no longer respond to the toil of the tiller, the grand oaks shall wither and die! The wrath of heaven and the vengeance of hell shall fall upon this place!” So… pretty casual curse there. Lots of room for interpretation. Probably nothing to worry about, right?
To this day, Griffith park is frequently plagued by disastrous wildfires, and murders, and many people associated with the land suffered tragic fates.
Fred’s family all supposedly died of disease and misfortune. After Fred passed away, the land was transferred to his wife, who promptly remarried - Priorities. She and her new husband frequently fought over her inheritance, and in their divorce, the lawyers took most of it.
According to an expert on the curse, in 1868, a man named CV Howard owned part of the land. He negotiated and sold the land’s water rights, and was shot dead in a local saloon while celebrating his good fortune. Whoops!
The land then eventually passed to Leon “Lucky” Baldwin, who then had to change his nickname almost immediately. After starting a ranch and dairy, he experienced the full weight of Dona’s curse. The cattle died, fires destroyed the grains, bugs devoured the crops, and everything that could go wrong, did. All of this forced “Lucky” to declare bankruptcy and sell the land to pay the mortgage. His luck sadly never returned, as, shortly after this, he was killed by bandidos on a trip to Mexico.
Eventually this land was sold to Thomas Bell. He didn’t keep it long, however (and can you blame him?) and sold it to Colonel Griffith Jenkins Griffith. Now, depending on which story you believe, Thomas Bell lived well into his 80s until the time he either fell, or was pushed by his mistress from his mansion’s banister.
So, Griffith J. Griffith bought the land in 1882. He was a Welshman who had moved to California during the Gold Rush, and struck it big. Now, this guy is like the OG LA Hipster. Let me just start by saying he’s a bit quirky. The ranking of Colonel seems to be made up. There is no evidence of him being associated with the military beyond the ranking of “Major of Riflery practice with the California National Guard.” Whatever that means. Secondly, he would tell these insanely long, boring stories to his exclusive men’s clubs. Which they’d let him get away with because he’s loaded, and as they say, a rich white man can get away with anything. Thirdly, he allowed a man named Frank Burkett to start an Ostrich Farm on the property in hopes of luring in residents to the area and therefore, Griffith’s surrounding properties. WHY Ostriches? I honestly couldn’t tell you. One article on losangeleno.com stated that, “he had also brought in exotic birds and animals like parakeets, monkeys, macaws, buzzard hawks, badgers, cockatoos, owls, wildcats, silver foxes, and raccoons.”
2 years later in 1884, a major storm fell upon the area. Lightning struck several oak trees on the property, and ranch hands insisted they saw the ghost of Don Antonio Feliz riding in the rain. After the storms, these sightings continued, but we’ll get into that a bit later.
At this point, due to the sightings of Don Feliz, and the ostriches stampeding in the night (which is weird because ostriches are not nocturnal, and are, in fact, diurnal), Griffith would only visit this area during midday.
He ended up foreclosing on the failing Ostrich farm, as it wasn’t drawing the crowds that Griffith had hoped for. --SO strange, I know.-- This enraged Burkett, and he declared that he would have vengeance on Griffith. To get his revenge, Burkett attempted to shoot Griffith with a shotgun outside of a cemetery, that is now a high school - no thanks. Thinking Griffith was dead, Burkett then turned a revolver on himself, and died instantly. Of course, this little murder plot didn’t go as planned. The shotgun had been loaded with birdshot, and Griffith lived, much to the later vexation of his wife.
By 1896, Griffith started parceling out pieces of his land. It’s believed he’d had enough of the curse and ghost sightings, and no longer wanted anything to do with it. This is why he donated 3,015 acres of it to Los Angeles city.
At a party celebrating this donation, in 1898, another Don Antonio sighting is said to have occurred. He appeared at the head of a banquet table, sitting in a seat typically 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.” After this, it’s reported that he charged the partygoers on horseback as they fled. I don’t know about you, but I prefer the dinner party haunting from Beetlejuice. I’m not about that running from a demon on a horse thing.
Not long after this, in 1903, Griffith basically went bananas. He became convinced that his very devout, well-to-do wife was colluding… with the pope…. To poison him. He was so deluded in this way of thinking that when she wasn’t looking, he would actually switch their dinner plates so that the quote unquote poisoned dish, is sitting in front of her. Just… what the shit Lana.
So, this hipster piece of shit --nothing against hipsters, y’all make some great coffee-- decided to take his wife and their 15-year-old son for a vacation to the Arcadia hotel in Santa Monica, which is a very well known beach town about 21 miles away. According to his wife, whose name I was unable to find, because... 1890s, after pulling out a revolver, Griffiths told her, “Get your prayer book, kneel down, and cover your eyes, I’m going to shoot you, and I’m going to kill you.” He did end up shooting her, but she didn’t die.
Oh no no no, this bad bitch was shot through the eye, and then escaped by jumping out a window and crashing into a porch roof, which caused her to fracture her shoulder. She later divorced him, obviously.
Surprisingly enough, Griffith was actually convicted of attempted murder, but spent only 2 years in San Quentin. He pleaded “alcoholic insanity” despite reports stating he never. Even. drank. Remember what I said earlier about a rich white man being able to get away with anything? Yeah. That.
After his release from prison in 1905, the city ignored Griffith’s attempts to further develop Griffith park, wanting nothing to do with him. A trust fund set aside by him allowed for the Griffith Observatory and Greek Theatre to be built and maintained after death. Griffith Jenkins Griffith died in 1919, and was buried in Hollywood forever cemetery. The remainder of his land that wasn’t previously donated elsewhere was passed on to the city of Los Angeles.
Despite not having a formal owner, the curse didn’t let up. The land has had its share of tragedies even since then.
In 1932, a young New York stage actress named Peg Entwistle became forever synonymous with the Hollywood sign. After setting her sights on the silver screen, Peg moved in with her uncle who lived practically in the shadow of the Hollywood sign. She spent the summer of 32 waiting on callbacks that never came. On the night of September 18th, 1932, Peg told a friend she would be heading to a drug store, but instead, at the age of 24, she climbed a 50ft workman’s ladder to the top of the H, and plunged to her death. Her suicide note read “I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain.” She signed the note with her initials. According to legends, a letter from Beverly Hills Playhouse arrived for her the very next day offering her the lead role. This play was supposedly about a woman who was driven to suicide. No evidence was found to substantiate this, and I’m of the belief that this letter didn’t exist. If we know anything of human nature, it’s that we’re all suckers for a good drama. Based on her note, I would also say she likely had other, more painful reasons for ending her life. Unfortunately, we’ll likely never know.
In 1933, on October 3rd, the deadliest fire in Los Angeles, and second deadliest in California history (just behind the horrific 2018 Camp Fire), occurred on the grounds. While only 47 acres burned, an official death toll of 29 was announced, and 150 were injured. The cause of this fire is unknown to this day. At the time, many blamed an unknown communist plot, or a carelessly tossed cigarette. Many workers had been present in the park that day, clearing brush, maintaining trails, and building a road. It was many of these workers, who were paid only 40 cents an hour, and had no training as firefighters, who battled the flames at first, armed only with shovels. One witness, John Secor, was quoted saying, “You could tell the progress of the fire by the screams. The flames would catch a man and his screams would reach an awful pitch. Then there would be an awful silence. Then you would hear someone scream, and then it would be silent again. It was all over inside of seven minutes.” Watches of the fire’s victims forever marked 3pm. Despite the official death toll of 29, one labor group insisted that the real number was 58. Many of the victims were never identified.
In 1947, the body of Elizabeth Short, more commonly known as “The Black Dahlia” was found in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. While her body wasn’t found in Griffith Park, the home of the man believed to be responsible borders this park. George Hodel lived with his wife and two children in what is now known as the Sowden House. George was once recorded saying “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn’t prove it now. They can’t talk to my secretary anymore, because she’s dead.” If that wasn’t suspicious enough, his own son Steve, who is now a retired Los Angeles Police officer, believes his father is guilty. Steve believes that Elizabeth Short was murdered in the basement of the Sowden home, and several cadaver dogs have lended credence to this theory with the detection of human remains on the property. Of course, none of this has been, or likely ever will be, confirmed.
In October of 1949, actress Jean Spangler left her apartment in Park La Brea, intent on meeting with her ex husband before heading to a night shoot. She had to speak with her ex about child support. She never arrived on set for filming, and her purse was found near the Ferndell entrance of Griffith Park. Jean Spangler was never seen again, and many believe that she may be somewhere within the park awaiting discovery after all these years. There are many theories as to who may have killed the actress and mother, ranging from the ex-husband, a new lover, a mob hit, and even a botched abortion. One hike could be all it takes to uncover the mystery with this one. --Definitely not recommending you go hike Griffith Park though. A, I hate hiking. And B, don’t get murdered. Just don’t do it.
Also bordering Griffith Park is the mansion known as “The Los Feliz Murder House.” On the morning of December 6, 1959, cardiologist Harold Perelson murdered his sleeping wife Lillian. He struck her in the head with a ball-peen hammer, then left her to asphyxiate on her own blood. He then went to his teenager daughter Judye’s room. His intentions with her were the same. He hit her with the hammer as well, only this time, the blow wasn’t lethal. She awoke, screaming. Two of her younger siblings awoke, asking Harold “what’s wrong?” As he comforted the girls, telling them “Go back to bed, this is a nightmare,” Judye escaped. She first found her mother, then ran to a neighbor’s where she called the police. Upon their arrival, police found both Lillian and Harold Perelson dead in their bed. Harold had taken two doses of Nembutal (an anti-anxiety or sleep aid) and 31 small white pills, believed to be either codeine or a powerful tranquilizer. The home was left to rot and decay for over 50 years. Understandably. That’s not the kind of bad juju I want. Plus, not even a horrifying murder can make a mansion in LA affordable for anyone that isn’t Kanye West rich.
On August 10, 1969 another home on the outskirts of Griffith Park saw unspeakable tragedy. This home is one most true crime aficionados know by name. The LaBianca House. That’s right, the home of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca, victims of the Manson Family murders. The two homeowners were stabbed repeatedly by Texx Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Leslie Van Houten after having been commanded by Charles Manson, solely because their home appeared to be upscale.
Fast forward to the late 1970s. In October 1976, a couple supposedly died while in the throws of passion on a park bench. A story released by the LA times in 2006 said that a tree had fallen on the couple. Workers who had been sent to clear the tree either fell ill or were injured before they could complete the job. This included a supervisor found dead of an apparent heart attack at the scene. The article was deemed a hoax, but people still report sightings of a ghost couple in the area.
Just one year later, Griffith Park became the preferred dumping grounds, if you will, for the Hillside Stranglers duo Angelo Buono and Keneth Bianchi. The two terrorized LA between October of 1977 and February of 1978. Within 1 month of their first attack, the duo had attacked 3 additional women, picking them up in their van, driving them back to Buono’s house --sexually assaulting, torturing, then strangling the women before leaving them in degrading sexual positions in various locations among the hillsides. The two men, who were cousins, were convicted of kidnapping, raping, torturing, and murdering 10 women, whose ages ranged from only 12 to 28 years old. Their victims were Yolanda Washington, Judith Miller, Elissa Kastin, Dolores Cepeda, Sonja Johnson, Kristina Weckler, Evelyn Jane King, Lauren Wagner, Kimberly Martin and Cindy Hudspeth.
They also attempted to kidnap Catharine Lorre Baker, but decided against it when they realized her father was famous actor Peter Lorre. I won’t go into a ton of detail, but if you’re interested in hearing more about these 2 janky freshwater bitch fishes, send me an email! The more interested I know you are, the more likely I am to cover something. That goes for any other suggestions as well.
There are many incidents that have occurred on the land, but a few of the more recent are as follows.