Buckle up for a spooky story about a place that has been called one of California’s most haunted locations, Cobb Estate. This is no ordinary ghost tale about a haunted mansion. First, the house at Cobb Estate was torn down decades ago. It can best be described now as a “haunted forest.”

The history of Cobb Estate is quite interesting and diverse. It includes, as we will see, a failed gold rush mine, a lumber baron, freemasons, nuns on R&R, the Marx Brothers (seriously!), determined student conservationists fighting the man, tragic and mysterious deaths, ghostly entities, and maybe even aliens.

Putting the “Bust” in “California or Bust

Charles Cobb, a retired lumber magnate from Seattle, purchased 107 acres of land in Altadena, just north of Pasadena, California. During the California gold rush, a mining operation, Las Flores Ranch, had been established on the land. An unsuccessful one.

Source: Pinterest

When gold was discovered in California in 1849, a mass migration of people flooded into the state hoping to strike it rich. They embraced the rallying cry, “California or Bust.” The folk who invested in the gold mine at Cobb Estate, however, were part of the “bust”. The mine was a failure.

Charles Cobb’s Was Late to the Game with his Gilded Age Estate

In 1918, Cobb had a gilded age-worthy mansion built on the land, although the gilded age had technically ended. The two-story home overlooked the Pacific Ocean. The exterior was stucco with a red-tiled roof, so it had a Spanish flare.

Source: Altadena Historical Society/Robert Peterson

The interior reflected Cobb’s lumber baron status. Rare hardwoods were used for the floors and wall panels. The home even had air conditioning – a rarity in those days. The Las Flores Ranch mining company installed a 200,000-gallon reservoir that supplied the mansion. One time, the reservoir even saved the home from a raging forest fire.

Cobb and the Freemasons

Charles Cobb was heavily involved with the Freemasons. In fact, he was a 32nd Degree Mason and served as the Knight Commander of the Court of Honor at the Scottish Rite Cathedral of Pasadena.

Source: Pin in the Atlas

When Cobb died at the age of 87 in 1939, he bequeathed Cobb Estate to the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Pasadena instead of passing on the property to his only child, his son Clarence. The estate then became a Masonic retirement home for a few years.

A Vacation Getaway for Nuns

In 1942, the Freemasons passed the deed to Cobb Estate to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. The organization used it as a retreat house – a place where the nuns working at Altadena’s St. Luke Hospital could relax and unwind from the stresses of caring for the sick.

Source: Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange

A few decades later, an urban legend about Cobb Estate’s hauntings included a story about a Catholic nun, presumably from the time the property belonged to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange. This unverified story claimed that a nun was raped and hanged in the woods surrounding the estate by Satanic worshipers.

Enter the Marx Brothers

In 1956, the nuns sold Cobb Estate to the Marx Brothers. Well, just to Groucho, Harpo, and Gummo … Chico and Zeppo weren’t part of the investment. By this time, the buildings at Cobb Estate were in disrepair from vandals. The Marx Brothers had the mansion, garage, and most of the outbuildings torn down.

Source: Wikimedia/Yousuf Karsh

Why did they remove the dilapidated structures? To make room for a large cemetery on the property, which assumedly they thought would provide a good investment income. Neighbors protested the rezoning. They stated that the only thing worse than a haunted forest would be a haunted forest with a cemetery in it!

Yes, A Haunted Woods

Since the mid-1800s when the Los Flores Ranch mining company owned the land, there were reports of strange happenings in the forest. They included sightings of weird blue lights and ghostly apparitions.

Source: The Leslie Life

Reportedly, Charles Cobb was aware of these rumors, however there is no evidence that he or his family ever experienced a supernatural encounter during their years living at Cobb Estate. Perhaps the stories are untrue, or the Cobbs simply never spoke of any strange incidents. There are certainly a number of others who have shared their bizarre encounters.

It Took a Bidding War by Student Conservationists to Make Cobb Estate a Park

In 1971, the Cobb estate property was slated for auction and real estate developers were eyeing the land for new housing and retail construction. A determined group of students from John Muir High School’s Conservation Club raised funds to purchase the land. At the auction, however, a bidding war broke out.

Source: Hiking Angeles Forest

As the bids increased, folks from the community, business owners, a wealthy heiress, and even the auctioneer began throwing money into the students’ coffers. Finally, the developer, seeing the tremendous support for the student’s efforts, gave up, stating, “I am with the people – I will bid no more!”

Weird Blue Lights

Visitors to Cobb Estate, now a park with hiking trails, frequently report seeing weird blue lights in the woods after dark. This has led to speculation that UFOs and extraterrestrial entities regularly visit the forest.

Source: moviepilot.com

Others liken the blue lights to will-o’-the-wisps, phantom lights of folklore. According to legends, will-o’-the-wisps were blue lights that entranced people and led them off the trail to their doom.

Other Bizarre Encounters

People have claimed to have other supernatural encounters while visiting Cobb Estate at night. Some have heard eerie screams and screeches. Other witnesses have reported seeing a transparent figure of a little girl, sometimes accompanied by a ghostly man.

Source: Weekend Sherpa

Several hikers over the years have described how the forest suddenly goes silent and they have the disturbing sensation they are being watched. There have even been reports of a ghost in rattling chains that tries to drain the life force from forest visitors.

Is There Scientific Proof that Cobb Estate Is Haunted?

Television ghost hunters have visited the forest with equipment for detecting electromagnetic spikes. Paranormal researchers contend that ghostly activity can be measured via the electromagnetic field. The researchers claim they can communicate with ghosts this way.

Source: S.I.U. The Supernatural Investigation Unit

The detection meter’s needle moves from green to red in response to spikes in electromagnetic waves. By asking yes or no questions, the ghosts can answer by zapping the detector with a high dose of electromagnetic waves. Using this method, the researchers were told by ghosts that demonic activity takes place in the forest.

The Legend of Gravity Hill

There are two commonly told origin stories for Cobb Estate’s “Gravity Hill” legends. The first claims that a school bus stalled going up the hill. The driver and children got out and were standing in the street when a speeding car zipped around the bend and plowed into them, killing all the children.

Source: Flickr

The second involves a teenage girl who borrowed her parents’ car without permission to take her friends on a joyride. Like the bus story, the girl’s car stalled on the hill. She and her friends were pushing the car up the hill when a speeding car struck and killed them. Either story is used to explain the strange occurrences on the hill.

Gravity Hill Defies Gravity

Folks claim that if you stop your car on Gravity Hill, the vehicle will continue to roll uphill, defying gravity. How can this be? As the stories claim, the ghosts of either the teenagers or the schoolchildren push vehicles up the hill.

Source: Pexels/Seher Dogan

One of the first cars to have this bizarre encounter was a vehicle that needed to be washed. It was covered in dust and dirt. After it rolled to the top of the hill and stopped, the occupants stepped out of the car and noticed handprints in the dirt as if someone or something pushed the car. This phenomenon has been tested using powder and, allegedly, the results were the same.

Dead Bodies Found on the Cobb Estate Hiking Trails

Even those who don’t believe in ghosts or UFOs have to admit that there is something strange going on at the Cobb Estate Forest. Multiple bodies have been discovered on or near the hiking trails. While it is not uncommon for killers to stalk public parks looking for victims, at Cobb Estate, there’s an odd twist.

Source: Daily Bruin

Many of the human remains have been found on the trails or just off the trails. Yet, they are in advanced states of decomposition. Authorities believe the bodies have been there for several months … but these are popular, well-used hiking trails with daily visitors. It is improbable that no one discovered these bodies for months.

Is the Forest Haunted?

For many people, the answer to that question is a definitive “Yes!” Other people are not so convinced. They contend that the strange lights could be swamp gas or bioluminescent insects or fungi. As for the electromagnetic spikes, those could have organic origins.

Source: Weekend Sherpa

Plenty of residents living in Altadena chalk up the eerie encounters to overactive imaginations and mass hysteria. It still hasn’t stopped people from enjoying the hiking trails … or adventure-seekers hoping for a hair-raising story to tell.