Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fact in Fiction: A Gate to Hell

Sometimes the saying is true: Fact is stranger than fiction. A writer will stumble over many examples of this in their research. We’ll look at it and say, “No one will believe that,” so we fictionalize it, oddly making it more “believable”. While writing The Dark Cycle Series I definitely found an example that fits this bill. 

The Devil’s Gate dam in Pasadena, California. Just the name of the place is confusing. Pasadena? What’s devilish about Pasadena? The Beach Boys said that’s where the little old ladies live. But then the Devil’s Gate part sends a bit of a shiver through the bones. And being in the location doesn’t help. If the stories of disappearances and deaths surrounding the land, and the strange rock formation shaped like a devil’s head don’t make you wary, then the story behind the myths most certainly will. 

The Devil's Gate Dam entrance
The land has always had the humans steering clear. Before the dam was built in the 1920s the Arroyo Seco River ebbed and flowed over the area on a seasonal whim. At times it would rage, causing serious flooding, then other parts of the year it would be as dry as a bone. The Native Americans believed that the land was cursed and barred their own from going anywhere near it, many saying there was a dark doorway in the area.

In the late 1940s, a very real reason became evident, and many more people began viewing the dam as a porthole to Hell, as one event after another spread the mythos. These events were said to be triggered by the real-life magic workings of the famous rocket scientist and occultist, Jack Parsons, along with the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. They believed the dam carried magical properties and powers, as the Native Americans had always said. But they also believed they could harness that power to call up something called, a moonchild; an anti-god that could abolish civilization as we know it. 

These rituals and magical spells (dubbed the "Babylon Working") performed at the dam, as well as at Parsons' home, were said to have opened a porthole to another world, allowing demons to come and go as they pleased. 

Occultist Marjorie Cameron (The Scarlet Woman) & Jack Parsons
Sounds crazy, right? And when you hear the whole thing (including Jack's belief that his wife, Marjorie, was the whore of Babylon) it seems like a story written by a seriously strange mind. 

Soon after the last ritual, Parsons died in an experiment he was performing at his magic-infused home, seemingly killing the myth of devils and gates along with himself. The man, L. Ron Hubbard, became a famous novelist and the leader of Scientology, and nothing more was said of the gate to Hell. It seemed to fade into obscurity. 

Until 1956 when two young children where brutally murdered on the land, their bodies later found when their killer committed suicide. A year later, another boy disappeared when he walked ahead on the path a few yards away from his family. Later that year, another boy vanished without a trace on the trails. Those two boys’ disappearance remain a mystery. 

Since the ‘50s the legend has only grown, with people who visit the area experiencing ghost sightings of a woman in white, feeling burning sensations, and coming home with mysterious scratches. People feel watched, chased, and touched by something in the shadows. Porthole or not, the fear of the land is very real. And the origin of this real life mystery is definitely stranger than fiction;  plus, there's so much more to the tale that I don't have room for here. I encourage you to look it up, especially if you like old Hollywood Heyday drama.

As an author who writes about portholes to the World of the Dead, and demons walking among us, I can’t imagine it all really happening. But what if it did in Pasadena? Apparently that little old lady The Beach Boys sang about was no slouch, living in such a dark and dangerous place. 


Rachel A. Marks is the author of The Dark Cycle series, beginning with DARKNESS BRUTAL. You can read more about her weird hobbies and see some of her artwork on her webpage: www.RachelAnneMarks.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Bonnie said...

Wow! What an interesting story.

Kim Falconer said...

I agree with Bonnie. What a tale.

It makes me wonder if Joss Whedon was aware of this mystery when he set the stage for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer " TV series in Sunnyvale, CA, on the Hell Mouth.

Great post, Rachel.

It's wonderful to have you here!

Helen Lowe said...

Fascinating! And like, Kim, it made me think of Buffy & the 'hellmouth' as well. :)

Terri Garey said...

Ooo, cool post, Rachel! I can't believe I've never heard about this before! I'm definitely going to do some Googling on it.

Welcome to the Underground, by the way... You definitely fit right in! :)

Rachel A. Marks said...

Thanks so much, Ladies! I actually wondered the exact same thing! It definitely has the "hellmouth" feel to it. And I can totally picture Buffy kicking a demon's butt there ;)

Merrie Destefano said...

Yikes! I used to live in Pasadena. *runs away and hides*