Ghost Story – Altadena, California

Ghost Stories- Gravity Hill in Altadena, California

So, like, I have this crazy ghost story from my hometown.  Back in Altadena, like right by Pasadena area kinda, there was this school bus going home from school late one afternoon.  I am not totally sure how old these kids were that were on the bus, but I know they weren’t passed elementary school age.  The bus driver was a bit tired and wanted to drop the kids off quickly so he could head home. He was driving fast down this mini hill that had trees at the bottom of it.  As the bus got close to the bottom of this hill, he kinda swerved because he was so tired.  The bus, like, tipped over and slammed against the trees.  The bus was unrecognizable and all the kids died.  Now, when you are on that hill and put your car into neutral, it is said the kids’ ghosts will push you back up the hill.  This is why it is known as Gravity Hill.

Miles was very eager to tell me this story as you could tell he connected it with his hometown.   He said he first learned it when he started driving a couple years ago.  He was driving down the hill one night when his friend urged him to put his car in neutral to see what happens.  From what he continued to say, it actually works.   It seemed to bring back memories with friends and family also.  When I asked Miles what he thought of the story, he had this to say: “I’m not really sure what to think of it all.  The story itself seems so cool that the ghosts would push you up the hill because the kids don’t want something terrible to happen again.  But at the same time, the fact that it’s true creeps me out.  It kind of defies the laws of gravity and I don’t like that.”  He did have one other thing to say about the story and that is the lesson he thinks it should teach everyone.  He said it teaches everyone to not take other peoples lives for granted, because even children can make a huge difference in the world.

Miles analysis of the story was very creative in my opinion.  The lesson he thought the story taught was one that I wouldn’t have imagined.  However, I do not think he realizes why the story “creeps him out”.  He says Gravity Hill defies the very law it is named after and that scares him.  My perception is that he is spooked by what the story challenges.  The story challenges his belief in the supernatural and he is not sure what to think.  If something in his small hometown can challenge a major belief like that, there might be something outside California or North America that challenges other strong beliefs.

When listening to this story, one other theory came to mind as to why this story is told.  It is normally learned when people start driving.  Other than the fact that it could be used as a warning not to speed down hills without caution, I think it is told to remind these mid teenagers of the innocence they still have inside them.  Although there are certain freedoms associated with having a car, it should be noted that there are also many responsibilities. This story connects the innocence of children with the prospect of adulthood.

The last thing about this ghost story is the giant sense of identity that comes from knowing it.  Being able to recite the story alone brings the people of Altadena together.  However, there is one thing about this story that makes it even more special to actually live or visit in the community.  I know Miles was supposed to be honest with me in his telling of this lore, but I will never know whether his car actually was pushed up the hill when he put it into neutral.  The only way to find out would be to drive down Gravity Hill myself.  This fact gives Miles and the people of Altadena a huge sense of identity.

This can also be found in the following:

Jones, Diana. Gravity Hill Takes Drivers for A Ride. Pittsburgh Post Gazette. November, 2002.