Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Fine Line Between Fact and Fiction

Anyone who knows me knows that when I research a story, I dig deep.  Sometimes, the depths of my  research borders on obsession.  But with DEVIL’S GATE, fiction blended uncomfortably close to fact, and I believe I opened gateways to unseen forces that directed my research efforts as well as the novel’s plot construction.  The end result—DEVIL’S GATE—is a novel that left me, literally, a haunted man.  

The centerpiece of DEVIL’S GATE is the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena, CA.  Since the bridge opened in 1913, nearly 200 people have committed suicide by jumping off the bridge, earning it the nickname Suicide Bridge.  The suicides continue to this day, and the location is a well-known hub of ghostly activity and dark paranormal phenomena.  My protagonist, Kane Pryce, must unravel the mystery of why so many lost souls are drawn to end their lives at this location.

Colorado Street Bridge History

I compiled most of this information on the bridge at Huntington Library in Pasadena.  They have a number of folders locked in a case that detail the entire history of the bridge.  You can’t take any of this material out of the library, or copy it, but you can, under supervision, study it.  It’s a hodgepodge of information that goes back a century.  Time periods overlap.  There is no real order to it.  But I did find interesting information that I began to piece together.




  • Pre-dating the bridge—actually pre-dating the arrival  of the Spanish missionaries in the late 1700s—there was a Gabriellino Shoshone Indian camp on the site where the bridge now stands.  I found a report confirming that.  It appears the camp migrated to where San Gabriel Mission now stands when the missionaries arrived.  I’ve often wondered if there’s a link between Native American shamanism and the negative energy of the bridge.  Maybe there’s a curse on that land.  I touch upon this in Devil's Gate.   
  • A hundred years after the Indians inhabited that land, an industrialist from Chicago named James W. Scoville bought the land and built a large home.  He had a dam and a pump house built to irrigate his orange and avocado groves.  You can still see remnants of this pump house beneath the bridge.  After moving West to Pasadena, Scoville was one of the early trustees of Throop Polytechnic, which went on to become Caltech.  Scoville was a major philanthropist.  He lived where the bridge now stands with his family during the 1880s.  He died in 1893.  Upon further research, I learned that Scoville was distantly related to three American presidents, and is part of one of the Illuminati bloodlines. 
 Scoville home and dam pump house (1880s)

  • The bridge was built in 1913.  Trouble began almost immediately.  On August 1, 1913, a crew was pouring concrete into the forms when the segment they were working on dropped out.  They tumbled down the side of the canyon with all the wreckage landing on top of them.  Many men were seriously injured.  At least one died—John Visco.  Two more might have died a few days later.  I haven't been able to find the original newspapers in the archives to verify that. There's a urban legend that a worker was poured into the concrete, but, based on my research, that's not true.  
  • The first suicide occurred in 1915.  After that, the floodgates opened.  I personally counted 144 suicides in the newspaper accounts, but I think the actual number is over 200.  The greatest rate  of suicides occurred during the great depression.  I documented ninety-five suicides between 1920 and 1937; there were a dozen in 1935 alone.  That was the most suicides to occur in a single year.  Shortly after the depression, an ugly, tall barbed-wire fence was installed around the perimeter of the bridge, but that didn’t stop people from jumping.  Jumpers still found ways to get up and over the barrier.  There are periods of time when the suicides wane, but they never cease.  
  • There has been only one survivor.  On May 1, 1937, a despondent woman went to the bridge, threw her three-year-old daughter over the side, then jumped.  The mother was found dead below.  But inexplicably, the police found the little girl wandering around near her mother’s body.  Amazingly, the little girl had no broken bones.  No major injuries.   The police speculated that tree limbs broke the little girl’s fall.  I found a newspaper interview with this woman from 1976.  In the interview she claims that “angels carried her down.” That statement stuck with me as I wrote the book.
  •  I find it interesting that no one ever jumps off the 134 freeway bridge that runs alongside the Colorado Street Bridge.  It’s equally high and much easier to jump from.  But no one ever does.  They only jump off Colorado Street Bridge.  Weird.

The Richard H. Chambers Courthouse Building

The courthouse building overlooking the bridge also has an interesting history that might be directly tied to the paranormal activity at the bridge:

  • Originally, this building was a luxury hotel called the Vista del Arroyo Hotel.  When the depression hit, the hotel closed and was sold during to the war department during World War II.  It then became an Army hospital for returning soldiers.  It remained a hospital until 1950.  It became a government building, and in the 1970s, it became a courthouse, which it remains today.  Being an army hospital, there is undoubtedly negative energy in and around that building.
  • Before this building was erected in the early 1900s, the original hotel, which was built in 1882, stood on the same site.  It was originally opened by a woman named Elizabeth Bangs, and was considered a place for “spiritual healing.” That got me curious.  Sounded a little too New Agey for 1882.  I did some more research.  Elizabeth Bangs moved from Boston to Pasadena in 1881 with her daughter, who suffered from tuberculosis.  Mrs. Bangs brought with her extensive knowledge of metaphysical healing she learned at the Massachusetts Metaphysical College, an institution founded by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy in 1881.  Baker Eddy was the founder of the controversial religion Christian Science.  There are many who believe Christian Science is grounded in occultism.  Regardless, the building gives off a very dark vibe.

Devil’s Gate Dam

Devil’s Gate Dam is about two miles north of the Colorado Street Bridge.  It's visible from the 210 Freeway.  After all of my research, I really believe there’s a supernatural connection between the Colorado Street Bridge and Devil’s Gate Dam.   

Why is it called Devil’s Gate Dam?  Originally, the Arroyo River flowed right through where the dam now stands.  On the river bank and in the walls of the cliffs, there were three distinct natural rock formations in the form of devil heads:
Formation 1:
                  1880s (Pre-Dating Dam)                                 

same rock formation today

rock formation from above
Formation 2:


Formation 3: (Was sandblasted away in the 1940s)

The Gabrielino Shoshone Indians considered this location a forbidden zone.  They believed it to be an entrance to the underworld.  Two-hundred years later, occultist Aleister Crowley called this place one of the seven earthly portals to hell.  Standing on top of the dam, I’ve definitely felt a strange energy.  I usually get headaches when I go there.  I suspect it’s some kind of vortex, which is why NASA might have headquartered its operation nearby.

In an interesting side note, during the mid-1950s several children vanished in the area surrounding Devil's Gate Dam.  Their disappearances remain an unsolved mystery.  


NASA JPL as Seen from the top of Devil’s Gate Dam

I often wondered why NASA would build a complex in a dry river bed.  So I started looking into it. 

NASA JPL—short for Jet Propulsion Lab has been around a lot longer than NASA itself.   Long before NASA absorbed the lab, JPL evolved from a small start-up company called Aerojet, founded in 1942.

If you type: Founder JPL into Google, the information just flows.   Aerojet, which grew to become NASA JPL, was founded by a man named Jack Parsons.  Full name: John Whiteside Parsons.  Died at age thirty-eight in 1952.  He was a rocket propulsion researcher, inventor of solid rocket fuel.  There’s even a crater on the moon named after him.  He was loosely associated with Caltech. 

But Jack Parsons was also a noted occultist.  A devout Thelemite and disciple of notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley.  In fact, was the head of Crowley’s American Ordo Templi Orientis Lodge int he 1940s.  Parsons authored a number of books on Crowleyism and the occult.  He was known to summon demons.  He had a close working relationship in matters of the occult with L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology.  According to numerous accounts, Parsons and Hubbard attempted to summon a being knows as Babalon.  It’s a fact that L. Ron Hubbard was a member of Alesiter Crowley’s O.T.O. Lodge in Pasadena.  There are letters confirming it.  

Jack Parsons was a rocket scientist by day and a legendary black magician  by night.  There are dozens of websites about him as well as two published biographies written about his life.   

Parsons carried out occult rituals at Devil’s Gate Dam.  It seems he chose that spot to build his jet lab because it possessed some kind of mystical energetic properties. 

It's interesting to note that Parsons lived his entire life on Orange Grove Boulevard, just blocks from the Colorado Street Bridge.  He established Crowley’s Order of Thelema Lodge in his mansion, which was walking distance from the bridge. 

It's also interesting to note that Jack Parsons’s grandparents studied Christian Science with Elizabeth Bangs in Boston before Bangs and the Parsons moved to Pasadena at roughly the same time.  I found that connection. 

Parsons died in a mysterious explosion in his home laboratory near the bridge in 1952.  The blast was so powerful it rocked the bridge and all of Pasadena.  Yet he never lost consciousness, despite the fact the explosion blew off his arm, shattered his other limbs, and tore half his face off.  It took him three hours to die.  That very night, Parson's mother committed suicide in a house she was renting one block from the bridge.  She purposely OD’d on pills.

No one knows for sure what caused the explosion.  There is much speculation.  Was Parsons experimenting with a new rocket fuel?  Was he creating smoke effects for a Hollywood studio?  Was he summoning a demon?  Was he murdered by the F.B.I.?  There's even one theory that Howard Hughes had him murdered for stealing company secrets from Hughes’s aerospace company. 


After I uncovered all of this information and began to piece it together, I began to see why there might be such bad and powerful energy drawing people over the side of the bridge.    

The bridge itself.  Devil’s Gate and its demonic rock formations and vortex energy.  The Native American Connection.  Satanist Aleister Crowley and his disciple, Jack Parsons operating blocks from the bridge.  An old war hospital nearby.  Connections to Scientology and Christian Science.  There’s a lot of energy swirling around the entire area surrounding the bridge.    

My Own Paranormal Experiences Associated with the Bridge

I had several paranormal experiences while investigating at the bridge, scouting out scenes and locations, etc.    And I believe they are ongoing, that there’s at least one spirit, if not more, that attached itself to me and sometimes manifests in my house. 

My First Visit

When I was first contemplating the book—September 2009, I ventured down below the bridge and began exploring the area.  It' a very strange landscape.  There are ruins of an old water pump house from the late 1800s.  There are pockets of very dense brush.  There's a man-made concrete river channel.  There are a few homeless people living down there in makeshift encampments.

I immediately recognized that the air beneath the bridge felt thicker.  It’s literally harder to move.  This phenomena is real. 

I shot hundreds of photographs on and under the bridge during that first visit.  I photographed a bright daylight orb near a small pond where several bodies of jumpers have come to rest.  This orb is unusual because there was no flash from the camera. If you zoom in on it, you can see a vibrant spiral energetic pattern.

My Second Visit

I returned for a second visit to the bridge in October 2009.  While investigating atop the bridge, I took several photos from the jumper’s POV and began to have feelings of nausea and anxiety. 


Beneath the bridge, I experienced powerful feelings of depression and sadness.  Overpowering.  Crippling.  Negative thoughts just fired off in my head one after another.  It took days for these feelings to dissipate. 

That same day, I felt someone or something grab my hand and squeeze.  There was also a hawk that kept circling me and, at one point, even swooped in and perched itself on a branch right beside me.  The presence of that hawk felt eerie. 

This is as close as I’ve ever been to a wild hawk.  I felt there might really be a connection to the Native American history at the location.    

Also, during this visit, I was in the pedestrian tunnel at the far end of the bridge.  As soon as I walked in, I felt an overpowering dark presence.  Whatever it was, it made me physically ill.  I snapped a picture and this red orb appeared.  Again, no flash.

My Third Visit

I didn't go back down beneath the bridge until April 16, 2010, when I was well into the writing of the book.  I returned to take some more photos where I had envisioned setting upcoming scenes.  Not wanting to spend any more time beneath that bridge than I had to, I made it a quick trip—in and out in an hour.  When I got up on the morning of April 18th, I read this in the newspaper:

On April 17, 2010 the body of a 25-year old man who jumped from the bridge, was discovered.  But police determined he had jumped 24-48 hours before the body was found.  That means he was lying down there undiscovered on the same day I was there photographing. Had I come across him, I don't think I could have finished the book.  That would have been too much for me to handle emotionally.  

April 22, 2010

This young man’s suicide left me badly shaken.  But I continued to work furiously on the book.  I was writing in a Starbucks a few days later—April 22, 2010 when my phone rang.  It was a psychic I knew, but hadn’t spoken to in some time.   She knew I was working on some project relating to the bridge.  She asked if I had heard about a suicide from the day before.  I hadn't.  I did a quick search while we were speaking and saw this article:

I couldn't believe it—another suicide, in the same week.  This psychic acquaintance told me that she had actually met the woman who jumped—that their kids went to the same school.  Then she told me something that gave me chills.  She said the woman who jumped was coming to her in spirit and that she had a message she wanted delivered to me.  This acquaintance then asked me to take her and another member of her psychic circle beneath the bridge to try to communicate with the spirit of this latest victim.    

The same night this woman jumped (I was still unaware of it until the psychic called to tell me the next morning), I fell asleep on my couch and woke up an hour later in a state of panic.  I thought there was a group of people talking in my living room.  I didn’t see see anyone or anything, but I felt suddenly startled and surrounded.  I grabbed my camera off the mantle and snapped this picture with at least a half-dozen orbs.    

My Fourth Visit

A few days later, I took these psychics beneath the bridge.  We all split up for a short time once we got to the bottom.  They wanted to just explore privately and soak up the atmosphere.  I had my digital recorder running during the time I was exploring alone.  It was at this point, when I was totally alone, on the opposite side of the bridge from the psychics, that I captured a disembodied voice on my recorder.  It's quick.  It's a woman. She sounds sad, distressed, but I can't make out exactly what she says.  I didn't hear this at the time.  I caught it when reviewing all of the audio a few days later.  Here is the audio file:


Dave Williamson, from Laytonville, California, reached out to me after he heard me on Coast to Coast with George Noory.  He analyzed the EVP carefully and believes he has determined what the voice says.  Dave believes the woman says, "Back to the same ol' home, huh?"  After listening to it over and over, I can definitely hear those words.  Thank you, Dave.

I had seen in a newspaper photo the exact spot where the most recent victim’s body was discovered. 

I went to that exact spot and my EMF detector picked up a huge energy spike only on that site.  Two feet away, the readings were normal.  But on that spot, the detector was spiking to 7m on the detector. 

Shortly after, when we all reunited, these psychics conducted a séance near the spot where the woman fell.  They claimed the spirit of the woman did come, though I didn't see or hear anything out of the ordinary (mind you, this is before I knew there was a voice on my recorder).  One photo snapped during the seance shows a possible strange blue figure standing in the brush in center frame:

The message this suicide victim wanted to give to me was what exactly I wrote in the Author's Note at the end of Devil’s Gate.  This psychic claimed the victim told her that she had made a terrible mistake, that she was mentally ill and off her meds, that she couldn’t resist a force that drew her off the bridge.  She said that suicide isn’t the end of the pain.  That you live on and so does that pain, and that now she was trapped there.  Those messages became strong themes in the book.  

The same day I was beneath the bridge with the psychics, I saw something I can’t explain.  At the top of an old staircase (remnants of the Scoville dam pump house) a figure sat up from behind a thicket of sage brush, looked right at me, and laid back down.  I never thought for a minute I might be looking at a spirit.  This was a person—flesh and blood.  25-30, blonde crew cut and goatee, white sleeveless shirt.  Tattoo of a sunburst on his left shoulder.  He looked mean.  The way he laid back down was unsettling; I thought he he was a homeless person and that he might be injured.  I approached the thicket cautiously, but there was no one there.  Then I got really dizzy.  This was the most amazing paranormal event that I’ve ever witnessed.  Whoever he was, I made him a character in the book.  And sage became an important plot element.  This is the spot I saw him.

Since I started going to that bridge, there’s been a presence in my house.  Though I’ve not seen her, I’ve heard her and sensed her.  She doesn’t seem malevolent and only seems to make her presence known from time to time.  But I have a hunch she’s associated with the bridge—that I dragged her home with me.  A Benedictine monk I know from back East, gave me a blessed Saint Benedict medal and that seems to have helped the situation, as did holy water.  But she still pops in. 

My Run-In With Alesiter Crowley

My other strange story from the time I was writing Devil's Gate began the day I spent with the psychics under the bridge.  One of the psychics warned me that writing about Aleister Crowley was dangerous.  "He's a very powerful dark spirit," she told me.  “He can hurt you.”

Three months later, I was driving on the 210 freeway through La Tuna Canyon, not far from where I live.  I was talking to my friend on the speakerphone in my car when a big rig directly in front of me blew a tire.  A huge piece of metal debris hurtled at me like a missile, gauged my hood, smashed my windshield, and sent my rear view mirror crashing into the back window.  The sound was deafening.  I was going 75 mph at the time.  It all happened so fast, I didn't even have time to react or panic.  I just kept driving steadily, thank God, because if I had lost control and gone through the guard rail I would have driven off a 300-foot canyon wall.  I pulled off at the next exit about four miles down the freeway.  I drove into a strip mall just off the exit to assess the damage.

The car was drivable.  I turned around and went home, called the insurance company, etc.


About a month later, I was approaching the section of the book where Kane tracks down where Crowley's O.T.O. cult is operating from.  I hadn't yet researched if and where Crowley's cult, which originated in Pasadena near the bridge, was located today.  It didn't take long to confirm the O.T.O. was still indeed operating.  I got an address off the web.  I was immediately surprised.  It was not far from where I lived.  I tracked down the address.  The O.T.O. operates today out of the very strip mall I pulled over in the month before to assess the damage to my car.  I still get chills thinking about it.  


  1. Great research on this stuff. I've never been to the Colorado Street Bridge, but I will visit now. I'm excited to hear you on Coast to Coast AM next week.

  2. Love local history and "lore". listened to C2C last week and plan on picking up Devils Gate. Interesting blog.

  3. Thanks Adama and Kiley. Appreciate the read.

  4. Wow really neat stuff man glad your ok from the tier blow out stay cool

  5. Great read. I've been to suicide bridge twice and devil's gate dam once. I felt the same way you felt when I was at the bridge.

  6. Great read. I've been to suicide bridge twice and devil's gate dam once. I felt the same way you felt when I was at the bridge.

  7. I live in this area. Grew up in the Arroyo since birth. Im 26 now. I have seen the man you with the goet tee and cut off tee shirt, except he was with an african american female who was washing a pan. I had all sorts of sensations but one thing that stands out about your story is how he just ever so casually laid back down. The femal didnt seem to notice us at all and i was about 10 feet behind her.