USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘exploring’
Legends

devil’s gate dam – portal to hell

Text:

“So when we were younger would go to this place called the Devil’s Gate Dam where there was a large drain tunnel running through the middle of it and people would go and see how far they could go in before someone would chicken out. Personally none of use ever got to the end because we were all too scared because of the story surrounding it. The tunnel is said to have been created in the mid-20th century and was said to be a gateway to Hell by a group of cultists. There are articles online that say there’s absolutely nothing at the end other than a wall but we still believe there might be something in there because we’ve never made it all the way through. Honestly there probably is nothing but we like to believe in the mystery of it.”

Genre: urban legend

Background: The interviewee, NM is a young American man in his early twenties. He mentioned that this mysterious portal to Hell was common knowledge between all of the younger teens in his area, although no one knew its exact origins or its credibility. NM explained that he and his group of friends growing up had ventured to the dam’s tunnel several times carrying flashlights to light up the way. The flashlights illuminated the walls lined with graffiti which featured odd text, symbols, and creepy images of faces. This made the venture seemingly impossible to complete. The group of teens never made it even halfway. The tunnel is located underneath the 210 Freeway in Hahamongna Park (123 OAK GROVE DR, PASADENA, CA 91011). The dam itself was built in the 1920s and claimed its name because of its “Satan-resembling” rocks that surround it. The tunnel’s name attracted a group of cultists who followed L. Ron Hubbard and Aleister Crowley. The tunnel is said to be a huge paranormal hot spot with countless “reports of missing children in the area and bouts of manic laughter coming from the tunnel” (California Curiosities).

Nationality: Italian and American
Location: Pasadena, CA
Language: English

Interpretation: Immediately after hearing about this urban legend of a “portal to hell” a similar memory shot into my head. Back where I grew up in a neighboring city there was a similar drainage tunnel that individuals would attempt to explore named “Wonderland”. Like the Devil’s Gate Dam tunnel, this tunnel was lined with graffiti of disturbing images and the end was out of sight. This tunnel, however, split up into two different tracks halfway through, one a shorter yet much smaller tunnel, and one longer yet larger. Many locals in my area would put on clown masks and carry baseball bats in the tunnel to try to frighten unsuspecting kids who attempted to explore “Wonderland.” This led to some unfriendly encounters. The tunnel of “Wonderland” has no negative backstories other than mischievous teens, whereas the Devil’s Gate is seen as a portal to Hell that may lead to an encounter with the Devil himself. One of the key differences between this tunnel and the Devil’s Gate tunnel is what lies at the end. After running through the “Wonderland” tunnel you can make it to the other side with light greeting you at the end. All you have to do is shimmy out of a small exist and you are on the other side of the park; whereas with the Devil’s Gate tunnel, there is nothing at the end but a cement wall. This brings me to the question of “why is there a tunnel with nothing at the end?” This possibly could be explained by the fact that it actually was sealing a “Portal to Hell” as some may like to believe, or simply because it was used as an overflow.

“DEVIL’S GATE.” California Curiosities, 10 Jan. 2017, www.californiacuriosities.com/devils-gate/.

Adulthood
Childhood
general
Initiations
Legends
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pirate’s Cave

Here my informant recounts a tradition among the local youth he knew in Point Loma to visit a place they called the “Pirate Cave” he describes the historical basis for the tradition, and the reasons people are still drawn there.

“Alright, well I grew up in Point Loma San Diego, and there’s this thing called sunset cliffs, and it’s a bunch of like 40 or 60 foot cliffs, big and really pretty, and, um, in the 1920’s during prohibition, it was like a major smuggling destination for alcohol, and there’s a really cool cave that’s connected to where boats could land at the cliffs, and has like access at low tide only, and then it goes up to the top of the cliff like through and under and um its really cool cause like you can go in and explore and um people have like found bones in there, and there’s like notches in the wall where they used to put candles to light the passage ways, and what’s really sketchy is like, its been known about for a while by locals, and they [the smugglers] tried to catch them, so they have like pitfalls in the path like inside the cliffs  like, that were traps for police forces which were set up, um, yeah, pretty awesome. We just call it pirate’s cave because of people who pirated the alcohol brought it in that way and, now they stopped using it. And there’s like carved steps, yeah it’s really cool.”

The informant enumerates undeniable draws to explore this former bootlegging hideout. From rotting bones to booby traps, many of these rumors are so adventurous  they seem likely to be fabricated. However, regardless of their accuracy, there must be some foundation for rumors, and my informants’ description of “Pirate Cave” shows how tradition can develop from a desire for adventure.

[geolocation]