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Shocktober: The Griffith Park Curse
Griffith Park is primarily known as a much-loved pastoral retreat from the ills of urban life, where city folk can hike, beat the hell out of pinatas, and have sex in the backseats of their cars.
But lying just beneath this innocent seeming surface lies a dark secret: The Curse of Griffith Park, a hex that dates back to the days of the Californios.
In 1863 Don Antonio Feliz, the first non-aboriginal owner of what was then the Rancho Feliz, lay in the shadow of death, the victim of small-pox. His friend Don Antonio Coronel allegedly took advantage of his weakened state, convincing him to will the 3,000 acre rancho to him.
Unfortunately for Sr. Coronel, the move left Feliz' 17-year-old blind niece penniless, and very, very angry. Dona Petranilla, apparently a verbose young woman, placed an extremely quotable curse on the heads of Coronel and his lawyer, saying:
"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, senor, 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 terrestial 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 vengence of hell shall fall upon this place."
Don Coronel soon ceded the land to his attorney, who was shot dead shortly thereafter. The rancho then passed through many more hands (all of whom are said to have suffered from the curse), before becoming the property of Col. Griffith J. Griffith (pictured above). Soon after making a gift of the rancho to the city of Los Angeles, the good Colonel was sentenced to 2 years in San Quentin for attempting to murder his wife while in the throes of an alcoholic rage.
Since then the park has had it's share of tragedy:
• In 1932 a down-on-her-luck starlet named Peg Entwistle jumped to her death from high atop the Hollywoodland sign. Her ghost is said to haunt the Mt. Lee landmark and nearby Beachwood Drive, having been sighted by hikers and park rangers numerous times over the years.
• Just one year later, Griffith Park was the site of the deadliest fire in city history, the Mineral Wells/Dam Canyon brush fire. This fast moving inferno, spurred on by furious Santa Ana winds, claimed the lives of 29 WPA firefighters.
• On October 7, 1949 Jean Spangler, another starlet (don't they ever learn?), went missing. The only sign ever found of her was her black purse, recovered with all of it's contents intact near Fern Dell Road. Circumstantial evidence led to press speculation that a prominent Hollywood actor was involved in her presumed death. No body was ever found. The case, which has many similarities to the much more famous Black Dahlia murder, remains unsolved to this day.
And, of course, there are always the assorted bodies that are found from time to time in the thickets of sage that cover the rugged hills of the old Rancho Feliz.
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April Valentine died at Centinela Hospital. Her daughter was born by emergency C-section. She'd gone into the pregnancy with a plan, knowing Black mothers like herself were at higher risk.
A look at years past when snows creeped into our citified neighborhoods, away from the mountains and foothills.
In the face of a drier future, that iconic piece of Americana is on its way out in Southern California.
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