After years of research, I have compiled a lot of information regarding Turnbull Canyon. I spent years researching this area, and at one time felt that my research was digging too far. I was being threatened by someone who I had been talking with about my findings. At first, this person and I were only talking about our respective stories, but when I started discussing the possibility of a cover up, things went awry.
Due to me being accosted, and my fear that there perhaps were powerful people that wanted their secret to be kept forever, I destroyed all copies of my research. A decision I have come to lament now. That is why I have decided to write this. So there can be a somewhat accurate account taken down, for the sake of posterity.
That being said, please, anyone who is reading this tread very lightly. Turnbull Canyon is not a safe place. Standing in the canyon, you can get a feeling of something being slightly wrong. Those of you who have been there know that feeling.
I’ve waited over a year to put this all together in a forum where others can see it. Hopefully it is safe to do so.
The tales surrounding Turnbull Canyon are vast and varied. Its legends range from satanic cults to psychotic murderers, from extraterrestrial activities to haunted burial grounds. Through many hundreds of hours spent doing research of both documented accounts, and countless anecdotal testimonials, I bring you what I believe to be a true history of Turnbull Canyon. The collection of all of this data took years. Though it may seem that the amount of information here is small, it was extremely hard to find. The events described herein are, to the best of my knowledge, true. Some names may have been changed to protect those who wished to remain anonymous. To those that expressed neither a desire to have their names revealed or kept secret, I use only their first initial. In some cases, there are two or more people that have the same first initial. The first person mentioned retains only their first initial. Those that follow shall have the first two letters of their first name used. Last names have all been removed. To retain logical continuity, I present the following history of Turnbull Canyon through a description of events related in as best a chronological order as I can. I do deviate from the timeline in some cases, only because some events occur over decades and overlap events later described in subsequent parts.
The first intimations of the ominous nature of the Turnbull Canyon area are given far long ago, going back centuries, to the time before this area was colonized by Europe. Turnbull Canyon was regarded as a sacred land by the natives. It was an area known as “Hutukngna”, a term that means the "night" or "the dark place," "the place of the devil." It was this area that was also used as the battlegrounds for many Native American wars. These wars, according to Friar Geronimo Boscana (who wrote the only first-hand account of mission-era the world shall ever know, entitled “Chinigchinich”) were fought for revenge. Be it revenge for an offense done to their ancestors that had not been rectified, or revenge for an offense done to those tribe members still living. The women and children that brought supplies to the battlefield were often taken prisoner and never released. The men were never taken as prisoners, the only survivors of these wars were the victors. The bodies of the enemies that were recovered were beheaded by elder members of the tribes, and their scalps taken and used to dress their skins (clothing). This went on for countless hundreds of years, and some may still hear the war drums beat on today.
As history told us all in school, the Spaniards eventually came and colonized the area, building the missions that have become historical and cultural cornerstones of society. What our elementary schools did not teach was the fact that the Spaniards killed untold thousands of natives. Those that were not killed were “converted” to Catholicism. The conversion process consisted of jailing, beating, and enslaving the indigenous peoples of the land. Many of the inhabitants of the Turnbull Canyon area were slaughtered in this era, and some believe they returned to their sacred sites to find peace.
Further on in the pages of history, we find two individuals who became prominent figures in the area’s history. These two men were John Rowland (for whom Rowland Heights is named after) and William Workman. It is Workman who we focus on, for his dealings were unscrupulous to say the least. A land grant was issued to Rowland and Workman in 1845 after Workman helped Governor Pio Pico carry out a coup d’tat of sorts to unseat the unpopular preceding governor. In the following years, Workman received (some theorize) as payment for further deceitful dealings in the service of Pico grants of land including the islands of Alcatraz and San Clemente, the San Gabriel and San Rafael missons, and the 48,790 acre tract of land granted to Rowland and Workman. Later, he aided the Americans in the war and subsequent annexing of California, and was rewarded by having nearly all of his land taken from him, leaving him only with the land that occupied Turnbull Canyon. This, coupled with financial failures in the banking business he entered in, brought him to take his own life. Suicide never lets a spirit rest, especially not one that felt so betrayed.
Going forward, we are brought to the time of the Great Depression. Some of the extremely elderly members of the Whittier community relayed their memories of that time. Accompanied with the financial hardships was the fact that many families that had children were forced to give them to orphanages in hope that they would be fed. This was a trend that occurred throughout the country, and many orphanages were extremely overcrowded. At the same time, there was a cult that became known to the people of the community. Even today, those that are old enough to remember are cautious to speak of it. And some who are thought to be senile, even those that have that medicated glazed look on their face, their eyes sparkle with life and with fear when they remember. This cult, in the early part of the Depression, would adopt small children from the overcrowded orphanages. The children were kept in an old barn, allegedly on the old William Workman property. Then, according to legend, a child was taken to the top of the tallest hill in the canyon and slaughtered. As time progressed, adoption served a less reliable source, and members of the cult began picking up runaway children. Soon, though, this was not enough and they had to resort to kidnapping. Soon after the kidnapping began, the cult seemingly faded from existence. But it did not cease to exist. Witness accounts of seeing bonfires or cloaked figures are told and re-told by many who venture into Turnbull Canyon at night. Stories of those lucky enough to survive are found on ritualistic abuse survivors message boards. On one of these boards, the anonymous poster mentions that (s)he recognized one of the cult members as being a member of traditional society in good standing. The survivor refused to mention who this individual was, nor did the survivor state the capacity of this individual’s standing in society, save for saying that this person was “influential“, possibly involved in local government, or local police, or perhaps even the local justice system. This possibility was solidified in my mind when, during my research, I began to be harassed for my pursuits. The harassment did not begin until after I had mentioned the possibility that someone involved in the cult was possibly a high ranking local government official.
The cult, however, was not the only veiled historical account that was remembered by the older residents. Apparently, during the 1930’s, there also used to be a hospital in the canyon. According to a woman wanting to be called “Esther”, this was an insane asylum. “Esther” claimed to be a former nurse at this institution, and said that most of the patients would have been diagnosed with some form of mental retardation had they lived today. Unfortunately, they lived in a time when electro shock therapy, lobotomies, and other barbaric practices were common place. “Esther” stated that the hospital was destroyed in a fire at the beginning of the 40s. According to her, she and a doctor were the only survivors. All the patients and the majority of the staff perished. Though no historical documents could be found, her story was corroborated by an elderly man who was passing by and overheard the conversation. The site of the hospital supposedly lies at the end of a dirt road that has been closed to the public for many years. Prior to meeting “Esther”, while exploring the canyon once, I observed, with a friend of mine who wishes not to be named, a police cruiser pulling out from the entrance to this road. The police car, however, was not a contemporary car. It looked like a restored car that was used in old movies from the WWII era. When “Esther” re-told her story of the hospital and of its location, a chill ran down my spine.
1952. There was a plane crash at Turnbull Canyon. A two-engine prop plane from American Airlines fell from the sky and into the side of the tallest hill of the canyon, killing all on board. Though plane crashes aren’t uncommon, what is amiss about this one was that there was no American Airlines flight scheduled in that area for a window of days prior and following. There was not supposed to be an American Airlines flight in the area at all. Also troubling was that there were no identifying numbers on the craft, nor was American Airlines missing any planes from its fleet. In addition to the aircraft not having any identification, none of the 29 victims on board had any identifications either, not even the pilots. Sadly, of the 29 aboard, 21 were children. Some say that the spirits conjured by the cult still craved the blood of innocents. What’s most disturbing about this particular incident is, however, that no published reports of it having occurred can be found anymore. I first discovered this crash on an old microfilm copy of the Whittier Daily News. However, that microfilm copy no longer exists, and no story of the crash can be found on the internet. The closest story that can be found is of a different event, a story that was not there when I first began my research.
1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. There was a group of college kids that ventured to the charred remains of the old hospital I spoke of before. While drinking and using drugs, one of them walked to where a rusted relic stood from the cinder wood. He ran his fingers along it, and called to his friends to tell them that he thought he found where they did the electroshock therapy. No sooner had he called for his friends than a bolt of electricity ran though his body. The voltage was so high, his hair caught fire and his eyes cooked until they popped. The curious part is that the electricity had been shut off to that area since the fire approximately 20 years before.
A woman calling herself “Cynthia” told me of a small event that seemed trivial to her until she heard the stories. Sometime in the mid-1970s, she was with her then boyfriend and two other friends. Her then boyfriend was driving his El Camino SS too fast to be safe, nearly running off the road and down the embankment twice. The final straw came for “Cynthia” when the car approached a section of Turnbull Canyon Road known as “palm tree pass”. This section is known for it’s 180+ degree hairpin turn at the edge of a cliff, and two palm trees that stand on either side of the cliff point that the road lies on. “Cynthia’s” boyfriend tried to complete the turn while he was driving at near 80mph. Though the car did not plummet off the side of the cliff as all inside feared it would, the driver did lose control as the car spun multiple times. After the car came to a stop, “Cynthia” stepped out of the car yelling at her boyfriend for his immaturity and stupidity. While she was yelling, she looked toward the cliff’s edge, and saw a small boy and younger girl standing on the other side of the guardrail, “a few feet back” with the cliff just behind them. According to her they were wearing “…old clothes. Vintage stuff. The kind you find in really old movies.” Upon investigating the location of the sighting, one peek over the guardrail and you can see that there is no room to stand. Only a couple inches separate the guardrail from the abysmal drop.
In 2002 I met someone in a chat room who said they had information about Turnbull Canyon. He never gave his real name in our conversations, so for the sake of easing the progression of the story, we‘ll call him “Jay“. Though he didn’t give his real name, he did tell of an experience that happened to him 5 or 6 years before then. It began with a phone call. One day, his phone rang and his father answered. On the other end of the phone was an old man who said he lived in a house in Turnbull and he needed some work done like cleaning his properties, and also some maintenance work on the structures he owned. “Jay” at first thought it weird because their family’s phone number was unlisted and they had never met the man on the phone before. Yet he went with his father to Turnbull Canyon and walked the fire roads per the instructions given by the old man. They followed a roughly cut trail to a small shack. An old man walked from the shack to greet them, and began showing them his property. “Jay” said that the old man looked like he was easily 80 years old if not older, but he moved through the hilly terrain with such agility that both he and his father were winded and had trouble keeping up. As they hiked around, the old man stopped them at various shacks that he referred to as his “safe houses” and constantly asked them both to join him in prayer. Obliging their potential employer, they would kneel with him and bow their heads in silence as the old man would speak in a language that “Jay” described as “almost like Spanish and Italian, but not like the priests use.” “Jay” also said that the shacks all looked the same inside: a small bed, a small pot-bellied stove, and the same old, faded, sepia-tone picture on the wall. I asked him to describe the picture and he said it looked like a picture of the old man when he was younger and he was standing next to a man that was a little shorter than he was and had darker skin. I sent him this picture:
“Jay” told me that that was the picture in the old man’s shacks, and that seeing it again, he knew that it was a picture of the old man when he was younger. He got agitated and wondered where I got that picture, and I told him. “That’s a picture of William Workman, he’s on the right. He killed himself in 1872.” After I told “Jay” this, he refused to speak to me ever again. He told me that, “…shit just got too creepy for me.”
I first ventured into Turnbull Canyon with friends after work. It was sometime in the autumn of 2000, well after dark. There were four of us in the car that night. “V.” was driving, “R.” was sitting in the front passenger seat, “B.” was in the passenger side back seat, and I was sitting behind the driver. Before we entered the canyon, “B.” told us all about some of the stories he heard, and about some of the things he saw. One thing he saw was when he went to the canyon with a friend named “Ri.” He and “Ri.” were hiking in the canyon after dark, not straying too far from the main road, when they came to a plateau on the top of a hill. As they walked around, they heard a crunching sound under their feet. When they turned on their flashlight, they found hundreds of doves torn to shreds. They turned and ran. As they were driving away, “B.“ said he saw what he thought looked like a floating baby off the side of the road. Thinking that it was due to the alcohol he had been drinking earlier, he said nothing. Some time down the road, “Ri.“ turned to “B.“ and asked him if he had seen the baby. “B.” said he had heard from “Ri.” later on. “Ri” had apparently decided he wanted to go back the next day and take a picture of one of the doves the next day for an album cover. When he arrived at the plateau, they were gone without a trace. Not a single feather stuck in the surrounding brush, not a drop of blood. They simply vanished.
“B” also told us about the pool. Local legend has it that somewhere in the canyon there is an empty cement pool. It’s deep end is supposedly ten feet deep, and makes the ideal pool to skate in. According to “B.”, countless skate videos had been made there. One day, a team of skaters went to shoot segments for another video, and when they arrived, they found a body in the pool. Other stories involving the pool involve the discovery of bodies as well, the most gruesome of which has a group of friends coming upon the pool and it was filled with the carcasses of dogs, cats, chickens, horses, and on top of the pile, the dead body of a baby.
Following “B.” telling his story, we entered Turnbull Canyon from the Whittier side. As the road serpentined through the hills, there was a sense of anticipation that almost grew with every turn of the wheels beneath us. At one moment, I noticed the reflection of a set of headlights on the guardrail down the street from us that curved around a right turn bend in the road. From the angle of the railing, and the fact that we couldn’t see past the turn because a near vertical hill obscured out view, I figured it was an oncoming car and told “V.” to try to pull over a little to make room. “R.” then said he saw the headlights too and that “V.” needed to make room incase the car didn’t see us coming. We turned around the bend, and there was no car… The rest of our drive that night was filled with moments of terror that turned out to be a deer walking in the road in front of us that was suddenly lit by the headlights of the car as we turned a corner… until, that is, we were about to leave the canyon….. We drove the entire length of Turnbull Canyon Road, and turned around and drove back through the canyon to get back to Whittier. On the final part of the road that seemed desolate, I looked to the left through my side window, and in a twisted and leaf-less tree I saw a body hanging from a noose. My eyes grew wide, and I whipped my head around and started babbling incoherently about wanting to go home. All three of my friends began yelling at me for me to tell them what I saw, and when I finally did, “V.” spun the car around and drove back through the entrance of the canyon and stopped along side the tree. There was nothing hanging, but I know what I saw. Apparently, others have seen him too. That tree is known as “the hanging tree”. With new determination, “V.” said that he was going to drive back through, and I pleaded that he not. Then “B.” looked ahead and said that he had a bad feeling coming from that place and that we should turn back. And turn back we did. But that would not be the last we saw of Turnbull Canyon.
A few weeks later, I again returned to the canyon with “V.” only this time, we were accompanied by our friends “D.” and “C.”. Through our journey, we decided to stop the car and walk around in the hills. “V.” parked his car off of Turnbull Canyon Road in what looked like a gated off driveway. The entrance to this place is easy to find, because it was at the first intersection you cross when entering from the Whittier side, and it’s illuminated by a single street lamp. We all got out of the car and hiked up this dirt trail that was on the other side of the rusted gate “V.” had parked in front of. Half way up the trail, we came to a broken up wooden gate that looked like it belonged in an episode of “Little House on the Prarie“. There was a metal sign that stood from a wooden post, but the rust had removed what the sign said. After some discussion about the fence, we continued up the trail until we reached the top of the hill. At the very apex, there was a high-tension power line tower. We went up there and had a clear 360 degree view of the land below us. It seemed like the tallest point in the canyon, because when we looked at all the other hills in the region, there was some degree of downslope that we had to do. We stood there and smoked cigarettes, and spoke of how beautiful things looked from up there while they looked so ugly when we were at that level, then we left. As we walked back down, we heard something rustle in the bushes next to us. We stopped, the sound stopped. We started again, so did the rustling. It started to sound like footsteps, and began to match our pace. “D.” then picked up a rock and threw it into the bushes as hard as he could. We could hear something stumble away from the trail and where he had thrown the rock, then we heard the footsteps pounding through the brush at us. All four of us started to run until we didn’t hear the sound anymore.
The next time we trekked into TBC, it was “V.”, myself, “R.” and “G.”. Someone asked what time it was, and then I realized that I had left my pager at home. As we drove, we came upon a sign that had a pentagram spray-painted in red on it, and the sign just below that read “Die Jesus”. There weren’t too many unpleasant events that occurred that night, though at around midnight, we came to the intersection I described earlier. “G.” realized he had to call his girlfriend to let her know where he was and how long he would be. He used “V.“’s cell phone, and when he mentioned the sign that said “Die Jesus”, “V.”’s cell phone went dead. At the same moment, I found out when I got home, my pager started going off with the numbers “666 187 666” displayed. Needing to finish his conversation with his girlfriend, “G.” told “V.” to go with him up to the top of the hill in front of us so he could get better reception. “V.” again pulled into the same spot as he had before, and they started up the hill. “B.” and I decided to stay back with the car, and said we would have no part in going up there. While we were waiting, “B.” picked up a rock and threw it over the street and down into the ravine. We heard the tumble rustle of the stone falling through the brush and coming to a stop. Then I picked up a rock and threw it over the side. Rather than the rustle tumble that happened when “B.” threw a rock, mine hit something solid, metal, and hollow. To this day we have no idea what it was.
There was one time when me and some friends were going into the canyon, and we were a little worried because it was raining so hard outside. But as we entered the canyon, the rain stopped. I looked outside the window, and the dirt on the ground was still dusty dry. The rain that had been falling on the southern California area for days had never touched Turnbull Canyon.
Another time, there were far too many people packed into “V.”’s car. There was “V”, and “B.”, and “R.”, and myself, and there was also “Ro.”, and perhaps one other person. It was a VERY tight squeeze. The only bizarre thing about this night was we saw a creature that none of us have ever seen before. We all decided to name it the “Turnbull Fuzzy”, because that’s the only way we could describe it. It was light in color, about the height of a house cat, about as fat as a larger dog, it’s fur looked like rabbit fur, but we couldn’t see any ears. It also ran with the motion of a gerbil, except that it cleared a two lane street in only seconds.
The last time I can remember going to Turnbull Canyon, it was a big group of us. There was “V.”, “R.”, “B.”, “G.”, myself, and “E.”, a friend of ours who had heard our stories and wanted to see it for himself. It was in his van that we went. Again, we stopped at the intersection at the base of the hill and parked. We all began to walk up the trail, “G.” holding a MagLite in his hand. As we neared the top, we turned one of the last few bends in the trail, and the top of the hill came into view. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw something move, and “E.” stopped us all and said that he saw someone up there. All six of us stood there looking, and a shadow flew over us. “G.” even ducked, sensing that something was passing overhead. As we all looked toward the top of the hill, a figure slowly stood up from behind a bush. And then another. Two more from behind a mound of soil. Another here, another there. There were over half a dozen figures on top of that hill, and I could feel them staring at us. “G.” then takes his MagLite, turns it on, and begins flashing it in a side to side motion at the figures standing at the top of the hill. I could see them all tense up for a moment, then I saw two of them take off down the hill. Having been up that hill before, I know that they cleared something nearing 15 or 20 yards in only 2 seconds. I turned and ran for my life. Soon I realized that it might not be best for me to be running at full speed, and I thought of this after I was completely isolated more than halfway down the trail. The rest of my group caught up and we all jumped in “E.”s van and drove away. Maybe it was my heartbeat pulsing in my ears, but before they showed up, I swear I heard drums. Later that night, still in the canyon, we decided to drive through some of the side streets that we had begun exploring. There was this one street that we were driving through, marveling at these huge houses. We came to the end of the street, and there were three ways to turn. One was to the right, one was to the left, and the third was a more extreme left turn. I forget which way “E” turned, but it took us back to the same street. At the end of the street, he turned a different way, and it took us back to the same street. At the end of the street, he tried the third option, and it took us back to where we started. And this went on for the better part of 20 minutes.
At the end of the night, “E.” agreed to drive “B.” home. After “B.” was dropped off, and as “E.” began to pull out of the driveway, “E.” saw what he called “some kind of UFO with lights and shit” shoot up out of “B.”’s backyard and fly away.
Having explained all that I know, I hope you now know that I believe that there is something paranormal about that place. Turnbull Canyon has been plagued by evil and by bad spirits for many years. Yet its allure always brings people back, and there’s always something that keeps it safe. When the Catholic Church and Rose Hills Foundation wanted to turn it into a 960 acre cemetery, it seemed like they would do so. Yet, for some reason, the Church decided to retract its desire to develop.
There’s something about Turnbull Canyon, something that makes it unlike any other place I’ve known. I may return someday, I may not. I’d be happy with never seeing that place again, but something keeps pulling me back.
If any of you reading this are thinking of going, be safe. Don’t go alone.
EDIT: It's been over a year since I first put up this entry, and the response my little corner of the internet has acheived validates the time I spent putting everything down. A lot of the responses I've got are people saying that they're going to go up to the canyon, that they're gonig strapped, whatever... PLEASE REMEMBER...... I put this up here so that the information I was able to find wouldn't be lost forever should something bad happen to me. If you, after having read this, decide to go to Turnbull Canyon and explore, to see for yourself some of the things I've talked about, so be it. But BE CAREFUL. Some of you feel the need to have weapons to keep you safe, and I understand. But I don't endorse violence at all, and if you choose to bring something as dangerous as a gun, you do so at your own risk. GOD'S SPEED, MY FELLOW ADVENTURERS... be safe.