Top LA Legends #11: Griffith Park is Cursed (and haunted)

Does the curse of Dona Petronilla Feliz still linger?

The year was 1863 when wealthy landowner Antonio Feliz died a horrible death from smallpox, leaving his vast estate to Don Antonio Coronel in a deathbed will written while Feliz was delirious.

This didn’t please Antonio’s favorite niece, Dona Petronilla, who’d expected to inherit the property, and responded by placing a curse on the land known then as Rancho Los Feliz.

She shouted out vexatiously that the cattle and fields would become diseased and die; and that no one will ever profit from this land. (from Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County, John R. Kielbasa)


Don Antonio ended up outliving most of his family, leaving the land to his widow, who ended up remarrying, only to have the land swiped from her when her new husband divorced her – he didn’t get the land, but the lawyers on both sides ended up taking the land as compensation for their legal fees.

A few years later, a large part of this land fell into the hands of eccentric gold miner Griffith J. Griffith, who found the land more than he could handle…

…droughts, fires, and other disasters… a violent storm swept across the L.A. basin, stripping away the vegetation from the rancho and killing much of the livestock. During the storm, several people saw the ghost of Dona Petranilla drifting about,  renewing her curse. (from The Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Los Angeles by Jeff Dwyer)

Griffith would eventually bestow the land to the City of Los Angeles as a “gift”, but rumor is that this a desperate attempt to seperate himself from the cursed land. This act only seemed to rile the curse of Petronilla once again, as Griffith went a little nutty in an Amityville sort of way, tried to kill his wife by shooting her between the eyes (she miraculously survived). He spent some of his final years at San Quentin.

While there’s no sign the curse still exists today, some speculate that this may be because Petronilla’s spirit is appeased by the bodies that are frequently dumped there – sacrifices if you will. And there’s also the supposed “haunted picnic table” where two young lovers were “inconceivably crushed by a nearby tree that toppled over upon them while they made love upon a picnic table just off winding Mt. Hollywood Drive.”

As for being haunted, the rumors are too plentiful to ignore. Ghost hunter Jeff Dwyer writes that Griffith Park “is haunted by several phantoms”:

A Yankee horseman, a beared man who travels briskly on foot, a group of mission Indians who appear to be on the run, a Mexican outlaw, a Spanish don, and Col. Griffith J. Griffith on horseback. Foremost of these is Dona Petranilla Feliz. She appears as a pale partial apparition of a short Hispanic woman dressed in a flowing white gown.


…photo by eyetwist: “old neon roof signage from the californian hotel. now sitting derelict in griffith park… additional sources: Weird California, by Greg Bishop, et al., and Stephen Blackmoore’s L.A. Noir.

Read the rest of LA’s Top 25 Legends.

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