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Urban Legends About California That'll Blow Your Mind

Urban Legends About California That'll Blow Your Mind

Before you visit any of these places, read up on a few of the creepiest urban legends and get your spook on.


5 min read

July 19, 2021

Have you heard about the Loch Ness Monster? You know, that long-necked creature that inhabits Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands? Maybe you heard about it from a friend of a friend who swore they saw something move in the water, or it was your boyfriend’s brother who told you over a campfire sesh—or maybe it was your doctor’s travel agent. Either way, you can’t really remember where the story comes from or why it’s so fascinating, and that’s exactly what makes a good urban legend.

Also known as urban myths or contemporary legends, urban legends are basically unproven stories of peculiar things happening in unusual places—but somehow, we can’t seem to get enough. The strange thing about these myths is that the disproof doesn’t seem to prevent them from resurfacing; in many cases, the legends have become the main reason people visit a place.

And when it comes to the Golden State, there’s really no shortage of ghostly grounds and haunted locations for the fearless. Before you visit any of them, read up on a few of the creepiest urban legends and get your spook on.

Famous Urban Legends About the Golden State 

Legend says that Elizabeth Lake in Los Angeles County carries an evil presence below the water’s surface. Want to see for yourself?

The Monster of Lake Elizabeth 

Nestled near Lancaster in Los Angeles County, Elizabeth Lake is shrouded in an intriguing urban myth, suggesting it was formed not by natural forces, but by supernatural ones. The tale whimsically proposes that this lake became a sanctuary for otherworldly creatures, as their keeper found himself lacking space. This narrative is further spiced up with the eerie notion that the lake harbors a portal to the netherworld, accessible to those brave enough to venture into its depths.

The mysterious inhabitants of Elizabeth Lake were first reportedly seen in 1880, described as an amalgam of various animals with an imposing presence. Imagine a being with the elegance of a giraffe's neck, the intimidating gaze of a bulldog, and the mysterious aura of bat wings, all wrapped up in a 50-foot long package. This description has fueled the fires of local lore for generations.

Over the decades, the area witnessed a flurry of reports about this enigmatic beast, stirring fear and fascination among the community. The intensity of these encounters led some landowners to relinquish their ties to the land, while tales of vanishing livestock and shadowy figures in the sky became part of the local narrative.

As for the fate of this legendary creature, whispers of its capture in the late 19th century persist, mingling with the rich tapestry of local folklore. Yet, like many tales of the macabre and mysterious, tangible evidence remains elusive. The question lingers – is there a daring soul among us willing to plunge into the lake's depths to uncover the truth?

It is said that Turnbull Canyon is home to satanic cults, ghosts, demons, gravity hills, and the rumored former location of an insane asylum.

The Hauntings of Turnbull Canyon

For those who love exploring the rugged beauty of canyons, here's a tale from the Puente Hills Preserve near Whittier that might pique your interest. This area, especially Turnbull Canyon, nestled within the preserve, is wrapped in a tapestry of chilling tales and historical intrigue. Initially known by the indigenous name "Hutukngna," which intriguingly means "The Place of the Devil," this locale has a storied past that might give even the most seasoned hiker pause.

Local lore recounts that the area is imbued with the restless spirits of indigenous people who faced brutalities for their resistance to conversion to Catholicism. These tales suggest that their ethereal presence haunts the canyon, trapped within its serene yet imposing walls.

As time marched on, Turnbull Canyon reportedly became a magnet for shadowy gatherings and rituals, with participants often vanishing without a trace. These eerie gatherings left behind a legacy of unexplained phenomena and ghostly encounters, adding a layer of supernatural intrigue to the canyon's natural allure.

But the canyon's mysterious aura doesn't end with ghostly tales. It has been the backdrop for real-life tragedies as well, including a harrowing incident where a teenager met a tragic end amidst the ruins of what was once an asylum, and a devastating plane crash in 1978 that claimed 29 lives. These events contribute to the canyon's somber reputation, inviting adventurers to tread lightly and respect the echoes of its past.

"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. P.E."

The Sign of the Hollywood Spirit 

Among California's trove of urban myths, the haunting tale of the Hollywood Sign stands out, capturing the imagination with its blend of glamour and tragedy. This iconic landmark is said to be haunted by Peg Entwistle, an actress from the early 20th century whose dreams of stardom met a tragic end. Disheartened by a scathing review that she believed spelled the end of her acting career, Entwistle is said to have climbed to the top of the sign's towering "H" letter, choosing to end her life in a desperate leap.

This poignant story has left Entwistle's spirit, known as the "Lady in White," eternally intertwined with the sign's history. Legend has it that her ghostly presence lingers around the sign and its nearby trails. Hikers and visitors are often warned to be vigilant, as encounters with the Lady in White are said to reveal not a glamorous starlet, but a chilling apparition with a gaunt face and haunting, hollow eyes.

For those intrigued by the supernatural or the lore of old Hollywood, a visit to the Hollywood Sign might offer more than scenic views and photo ops. But a word of caution to the solo adventurer: the area's eerie history might just make you think twice about wandering these paths alone.

The Dark Watchers are most often reported to be seen in the hours around twilight and dawn, motionlessly watching travelers from the horizon.

The Dark Watchers 

The Santa Lucia Mountains, stretching from Avila Beach to Monterey, are celebrated for their breathtaking natural beauty, featuring verdant landscapes and majestic peaks. However, nestled within this idyllic setting is a spine-tingling legend that captivates the imagination of those intrigued by the paranormal. The mountains are said to be the domain of enigmatic entities known as the Dark Watchers. These towering, humanoid specters are reputed to appear at dusk, casting their inscrutable gazes over the valleys below, only to vanish into the ether the moment they are acknowledged.

Rooted in indigenous Chumash lore, the myth of the Dark Watchers is a fascinating blend of history and mystique. Ancient cave paintings by the Chumash, discovered within the region, depict these ominous figures, suggesting their presence in local folklore for centuries. The Dark Watchers not only occupy a place in oral traditions but have also found their way into literature, most notably in John Steinbeck's "Flight," where they are portrayed as formidable silhouettes against the twilight sky.

Despite the passage of time, the allure of the Dark Watchers endures, with sporadic accounts keeping the legend alive. One such account from the 1960s involves a high school principal who claimed to have encountered these spectral figures, described as wearing dark cloaks and hats, further entwining the Dark Watchers in the tapestry of California's mysterious legends.

Once upon a time at Stow Lake, in Golden Gate Park, there was a lady who was walking her baby in a stroller. Guess what happened next...

The Stow Lake Ghost 

Stow Lake, nestled within the serene expanse of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, carries with it a haunting tale that adds a layer of mystique to its tranquil waters. The legend centers on the ghostly figure of a woman, often referred to as the White Lady, whose sorrowful spirit is said to roam the lake's perimeter. Her story is a tragic one, rooted in a desperate attempt to rescue her child, leading to her own demise in the lake's depths.

This spectral mother's enduring search for her lost child has given rise to a chilling ritual among the bravest of souls. Those daring enough can allegedly summon the White Lady by repeating a haunting incantation, "White lady, white lady, I have your baby," three times into the stillness of the lake's surroundings. According to local lore, if the White Lady is convinced by your call, she may manifest, driven by a maternal desire to reclaim her child. This eerie interaction is not for the faint of heart, and would-be summoners are advised to proceed with caution—or perhaps, consider the more peaceful pursuits Golden Gate Park has to offer.

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