The Old Zoo at Griffith Park
Griffith Park is one of the most popular parks in the Los Angeles area. If you have heard of the place but never visited, you’ll probably enjoy it. What you probably didn’t realize that at one point in time, it had a zoo. And it was a place where many would flock to see all kinds of wild and exotic animals on display. Even today, the old zoo has a picnic area that is used during the day. However, the old zoo at night can be a whole different animal (no pun intended, of course). The rumors of hauntings and the phantom sounds of animals in distress were reported to be heard almost on a nightly basis. Is the old zoo at one of Los Angeles’ most visited parks really that haunted? We will talk about the old zoo and the stories of the apparent hauntings that might have taken place. By the time you finish reading this, you might be planning on a trip to the City of Angels to see this for yourself.
The Griffith Park Zoo first opened in 1912 with as many as 15 total animals on display. It was the second zoo in the city’s history to open up. About two decades prior, the Eastlake Zoo in Los Angeles opened up to the public. Prior to the zoo’s opening, it was known as an Ostrich Farm that was apparently owned by the park’s founder, who oddly enough was named Griffith J. Griffith. Throughout the golden age of film and movies in Hollywood, animals soon made an appearance in films. One film producer named William Nicholas Selig was said to have donated animals that had made appearances in his films to the zoo once filming had been done. The donation was intended to be the start of an animal theme park that would attract more visitors.
In the early 1930s, the zoo had undergone an expansion project as part of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The zoo had included caved enclosures with steel bars, which had been commonplace in zoos. Having drawn 2 million visitors per year, the zoo had often been on the end of criticism for its small size (especially at times when the city of Los Angeles itself was in the process of growing). By the late 1950s, the city had passed a bond issue to construct a new zoo that would cost an upwards of $8 million for its construction.
The zoo would eventually be constructed just two miles from Griffith Park. Eight years later in 1966, the new zoo was opened and therefore led to the closure of the zoo in Griffith Park. The enclosures eventually were home to many picnic tables and benches for park visitors. While the old zoo still gets its share of visitors, it has also become the frequent sight of filming for Hollywood. The zoo would make appearances in TV shows like “Wonder Woman”, “Starsky and Hutch”, and other TV shows and films throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
While the park is usually occupied and visited throughout the day, the old zoo still gets its share of people. But at night when there aren’t too many around, the zoo itself has been the sight of some eerie hauntings.
An Apparent Curse (And Various Hauntings)
Hauntings at the zoo and even Griffith Park itself seem to be commonplace. And who better to tell the stories of such hauntings and how they came about and the locals and frequent visitors of the park. It was said that at night, some people would venture through the park’s old zoo and hear the sounds of animals. The sounds apparently were more like the distress calls of animals being captive. Considering that the animals were held in cages, it may have been a possibility that controversies surrounding the zoo regarding abuse may have been talked about. But there had been nothing known or any allegations of animal abuse that may have come to light during the zoo’s near fifty-year history.
Some have said that the park itself may have been haunted because of a curse that was said to have existed well over 150 years ago. Like any other major park in a large city, Griffith Park has also seen its share of murder investigations as well. The reports of murders or even the disposal of dead bodies in the park have given way to numerous homicide investigations over the years. One of the more recent investigations involved the discovery of a human skull found on the park grounds. Eventually, the skull belonged to a woman who was believed to be in her early 20s at the time of her death. The cause of death or why it happened is still unclear to this day.
While there might be an untold amount of spirits probably lurking around in the park, there might be one in particular who is still milling around trying to figure out what is going on. At one point, Griffith Park was a plot of land that was owned by a rancher named Don Antonio Feliz. Before dying of smallpox in 1863, a local politician was drawing up Feliz’s will (which appeared to be a ruse as the politician and his attorney were looking to deceive Feliz’s family out of a land deal). Upon learning of this, Feliz’s niece allegedly declared a curse on the politician and his family.
While the curse may have been true or not, the events that happened after the fact were of much interest. The attorney involved in the swindling of the property was later shot to death by an unknown assailant. The land’s next owner was hoping to start up a cattle farm. However, those plans were cut short when his cattle had swiftly contracted a disease and eventually ended up dying. To add more insult to injury, the crops were destroyed by fire and pests.
When Griffith Griffith owned the land (prior to its conversion to a park), a nasty thunderstorm rolled through the Los Angeles area and caused major flood damage (including lighting striking down a large tree). Some ranch hands who were employed by Griffith said to have seen a shadowy figure cheering and hollering during the storm. They believed it may have been the ghost of Feliz cheering on what may have been the failure of yet another property owner trying to use the land for his own gain.
Even when Griffith donated the park to the City of Los Angeles, the curse would in all likelihood stay intact. During the Depression, workers were on hand to make renovations and changes to Griffith Park. On one such day during the New Deal sanctioned project, more than 30 civilian workers were killed when a wildfire swept through the park. More than four decades later, a couple visiting the park were killed when a falling tree crushed them both to death. These are just a sample of the sordid events that had took place inside the park. Even with the park possibly being cursed to this day, Griffith Park might be the place worth going to be it day or night.
The Old Zoo at Griffith Park is one of the many places inside the park itself that may be part of the dark and sinister history this park may hold. How can a popular tourist destination like this hold so many grim stories? While the curse may be intact, you can be adventurous enough to visit the park. Chances are, you’ll get out alive. But don’t be surprised if you get some eerie, uneasy feelings while you are covering every nook and cranny of it. If you live in Los Angeles or plan on visiting it anytime soon, you would be hard-pressed to visit any other place that has so many stories about the paranormal.