Top 5 California Urban Legends


California is best known for its glitz and glamour, centered in Hollywood in Los Angeles. However, the Golden State has many secrets. Check out the list below of the top 5 California Urban Legends.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Gravity Hill
The term Gravity Hill is used to describe a location at the base of a hill or slope where if you park your car and leave it in neutral, it will somehow roll up the slope of the hill. This urban legend targets about a dozen locations in San Diego, La Jolla, Livermore, Moorpark, Altadena, Los Angeles, Antioch, Petaluma, Redlands, and Ramona. Another term for Gravity Hill is the "magnetic hill", "gravity road", or "mystery hill".

Science will tell you that the idea of a Gravity Hill is actually an optical illusion, where you seem to be rolling uphill but are actually going downhill. Gravity Hill is surrounded by urban legends, such as the one involving the death of children. The legendary children supposedly help push the vehicle, and in urban legends have gotten crushed by the car. Legend has it that you can see the children's handprints if you put baby powder on the front of your car. There are other variations on this story such as escaped mental patients, and a baby in a carriage that is run over by a crazy driver. Find more info on Gravity Hill.

Gravity Hill locations in California:
Loma Alta Drive, Altadena, California
Empire Mine Road, Antioch, California 94509
Lake Herman Road, Benicia, California 94510
Lichau Road, Corona, California
In-Ko-Pah Road, Jacumba, California 91934
Jamul, California
West Muirlands Drive, La Jolla, California
Patterson Pass Road, Mile Marker 157, Livermore, California 94550
12772 Kagel Canyon Road, Moorpark, California
Nason Street, Moreno Valley, California (South of Elder Avenue)
Ocotillo, California 92259
3448 Lichau Road, Sonoma, California
Workman Mill Road, Whittier, California


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Dark Watchers
The Santa Lucia Mountains run from Avila Beach to Monterey, and lurking inside those mountains at the mystical Dark Watchers. These giant human-like phantoms are only seen at twilight, standing tall along the peaks of the mountain staring into the open air. The Watchers then vanish into thin air.

The Dark Watchers were first mentioned in Chumash Indian history, when they were drawn on cave walls by the tribe. Author John Steinbeck later described the Watchers in his story 'Flight' as "dark forms against the sky". Robinson Jeffers mentions these spirits in his poem 'Such Counsels You Gave To Me', as "forms who look human but are certainly not", published in 1937. A local high school Principal in Monterey also tells tales of seeing the Dark Watchers in the mid-1960s. Recent sightings describe the Watchers as having dark hats and capes.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Monster of Elizabeth Lake
There are at least ten different Elizabeth Lakes in California, but the most famous is the one outside of Lancaster in Los Angeles. The urban legend surrounding the lake states that the Devil created these lakes to put his pets inside. If you swim deep enough, you will find a secret passage to the underworld. Many Elizabeth Lake locations sit on the San Andreas Fault Line, so this is not very far fetched.

The first reported sighting of the monster of Elizabeth Lake was in 1880, and sightings were reported throughout the next 100 years. The monster has bat wings, the neck of a giraffe, the head of a bulldog, smells horrible, and is at least 50 feet long. The monster caused local landowners to sell or abandon their land. Spanish missionaries called it lake Laguna del Diablo, and even American Indian legends mention the monster in Elizabeth Lake.

There were several attempts to build a ranch on the land but during the night residents heard screams coming from the lake and had visions of terrible events while they were nearby. Livestock and animals disappeared, followed by sightings of a winged beast flying overhead. Ranch owners tried to fight the monster but continued to lose employees and livestock because of it. See the full story of the monster of Elizabeth Lake.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

Lost Ship of the Desert
Beginning the 1800s, stories began circulating about a ship lying half buried in the desert sands. It was thought to be a Spanish galleon, or maybe the remains of Noah's Ark. Some thought a treasure lied inside. Legend tells that King Phillip II of Spain sent an expedition to collect oysters and gold from the ocean floor, and the ship sank and was eventually buried.
The ship is thought to be buried in the desert, covered by the fine sands blown by the hot desert winds. The skeleton of this ghost ship sails the desert, and has been seen sailing into the sunset by passerby. The ship is thought to be located near the Salton Sea in the Mojave Desert. See the full tale of the Lost Ship.


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Char Man
Venture County hosts the friendly city of Ojai. Camp Comfort County Park is thought to be haunted by a variety of ghosts, one of the most popular is called Char Man. First, the ghost of a bride with a bloody wedding dress who was murdered on her wedding day is said to haunt the Park. The ghost of a horsewoman who re-enacts the bride's death is also seen. A third ghost is the headless motorcyclist who rides along Creek Road outside of the the County Park, his head was decapitated by a wire fence or branch of a tree after being run off the road. The other spirit seen at Camp Comfort is an old Indian shaman, draped in beads and feathers.

Child ghosts haunt the Park as well, supposedly from the 19th Century. Local legend tells of a ghostly school bus that crashed in the 1930s, where 12 children died. The myth states that if you visit the Creek Road bridge on rainy nights, you can hear the victims scream.

Char Man is a vampire who moved to Ojai in 1890, from Italy or Spain. Upon his arrival, local cattle began turning up dead or drained of blood and locals were assaulted by strange, wolf-like creatures. The people of Ojai realized the vampire was haunting their town, and raided the vampire's ranch. However, the ranch was protected by a huge black phantom dog who guarded the vampire's coffin. When the townspeople attacked, they sprinkled holy water on the dog and caused him to retreat.
With the vampire in reach, the townsmen drove a stake through Char Man's heart and ended his reign in Ojai.

Legend has it that the stone casket is still hidden in the Park, lying in the brush and weeds. When you look inside the small window, you will see the skull of the vampire. This legend is thought to come from a real-life coffin found in the Park, which could have been an estate in the past. The ghost of Char Man has been known to come out of the forest and attack motorists who come near their caskets. This area is known as Char Man bridge. See the legend of Char Man here.

Do you dare find out if these legends are true? Visit these California locations and see for yourself.

Author Aimee Engebretson is a strong believer in ghosts and the spirits that haunt our land. She has been writing about local California travel for many years and is a longtime resident of Orange County.

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