The Story Of Cobb Estate, The California Property That Was Once Owned By The Marx Brothers — And Is Said To Be Haunted

Published November 15, 2023

First established in 1918 by a lumber magnate, the Cobb Estate eventually became the subject of rumors about ghosts and aliens in its abandoned "Haunted Forest."

Cobb Estate

Altadena Historical SocietyCobb Estate was built in the early 20th century by lumber magnate Charles Cobb.

In Altadena, California, just a few miles north of Pasadena, Cobb Estate once stood on 107 acres of land. Now, it’s a haunted forest — at least, according to those brave enough to set foot in it.

Retired lumber magnate Charles Cobb built a mansion on the southern California land, formerly the site of an unsuccessful gold mine, in 1918. He had heard rumors of the woods behind the house being haunted, but he lived there until his death in 1939 with no reports of the supernatural.

Since his death, the Cobb Estate has been a retirement home for Pasadena Freemasons, a retreat for Catholic nuns, and a real estate investment for the Marx Brothers comedy group.

It was then that the rumors of ghosts and aliens truly began to circulate.

History Of The Cobb Estate

Marx Brothers

Dom Slike/Alamy Stock PhotoThe Marx Brothers purchased Cobb Estate in 1957.

The house was torn down in 1959, and the Marx Brothers wanted to have the land rezoned as a cemetery. But nearby residents fought against it as “the only thing worse for property values than a haunted forest is a haunted forest with a cemetery inside it,” claimed Atlas Obscura.

In 1971, the land went up for auction. Real estate developers were met with fierce resistance by the John Muir High School Conservation Club, aided by the Pasadena Area Audubon Society.

As the bidding price quickly exceeded the students’ budget, a crowd of over 800 people drawn in by media coverage of the students’ efforts to conserve the land began pitching in. The auctioneer himself threw in $1,000, and even the developers’ bidder was won over.

“I am with the people – I will bid no more!” the developers’ bidder reportedly claimed, according to the Altadena Historical Society.

The students’ winning bid of $170,000, comprised mostly of a last-minute large donation by Pasadena heiress Virginia Steele Scott, allowed the city to take over the land, which now is a popular hiking destination.

Tales Of A Haunted Forest On Cobb Estate

Cobb Estate South View

Altadena Historical Society

More than a century after the Cobb Estate was built, rumors still abound about the land being haunted.

According to Los Angeles’s Most Haunted, hikers have reported seeing strange blue lights in the middle of the night, hearing screeches and screams, and having feelings of being followed or watched.

Allegedly, there is also a “ghost in chains” that will “feed off your life force,” according to one blogger.

There is also a rumor that one of the Catholic nuns from the 1950s was raped and hanged in the forest, just outside of the entrance to the Cobb Estate, and that Satanic rituals are responsible for the forest being haunted.

An “investigation” by Los Angeles’s Most Haunted showed massive spikes on an electromagnetic field (EMF) detector when attempting to leave the forest. Believers in ghosts say they emit an electromagnetic field.

“We asked it to leave the meter on green if the answer to the question is no, and to spike the meter to red if the answer to the question is yes,” Los Angeles’s Most Haunted writes. “When I asked if something was here with us, the EMF meter spiked to red… I found another spot in the forest where the EMF detector was responsive and got a response to the following questions: ‘Do you need help? Is there demonic activity going on here?’ These questions I got an affirmative response.”

Terrors Of The Supernatural And Natural

Welcome Plaque

Barry King/Alamy Stock PhotoA plaque at the entrance to Cobb Estate reads, “A quiet refuge for people and wildlife forever.”

Another urban legend claims there is a hill near the haunted forest where gravity runs backward. There are several stories surrounding this “gravity hill.”

One story claims a bus full of schoolchildren stalled out while driving up the hill. The bus driver got out to inspect the vehicle, and the children wandered out into the street out of boredom. No one saw the car speeding around the curve before it plowed through the group, killing them all.

Another story says a teenage girl stole her parents’ car and took her friends out on a joyride. The car broke down, and the teenagers were attempting to push the car up the hill when a drunk driver sped around the bend and killed all of them.

Regardless of which story is the truth (or the original tale), believers of either one say that if you stop your car on the hill, it will appear to continue rolling forward up the hill. It is also claimed that if you put powder on the rear of the car, fingerprints will appear.

The legend claims it is the spirits of the schoolchildren (or teenagers) trying to help you push the car up the hill to avoid another tragic accident. Other locals theorize that there’s a portal between hell and Earth located on the estate, warping space and time.

More mundanely, Cobb Estate is rumored to be a longtime home for white supremacist activities. Responding to a post about the “Haunted Forest” on Reddit, several southern California residents shared their own tales of terrifying incidents on the mountain.

“We used to encounter white supremacist meetings way up there several times, always late at night,” one user wrote. “You’d know they were there because you could hear this howling some nights at around 12 and it was always a big group of them.”

Others reported similar stories of finding — and being chased by — Ku Klux Klan members in the forest.

The Mystery Of Cobb Estate Continues

Cobb Estate Entrance

Weekend SherpaThe Cobb Estate has been rumored to be haunted for decades.

While many cast doubts on the claims that the Cobb Estate is haunted, there have been multiple bodies found near the hiking trails in the “haunted forest.”

Human remains were found on a trail on the estate ground in 2010. Authorities said the body, an unidentified male, had likely been there for two to three months and that a cause of death was not able to be determined.

Another woman’s body was found just off of one of the main trails in the Cobb Estate. The body was “long decomposed,” according to KTLA, which struck authorities and locals alike as odd.

“We have never seen anything like that… This is a very popular trail with children and dogs and all kinds of people,” one hiker said.


After reading about the legends of paranormal activity at Cobb Estate, check out these 9 real haunted houses across the United States. Or, read about the haunted mansion of a newspaper tycoon in Oregon.

author
Hannah Reilly Holtz
author
Hannah Reilly is an editorial fellow with All That's Interesting. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Texas Tech University and was named a Texas Press Association Scholar. Previously, she has worked for KCBD NewsChannel 11 and at Texas Tech University as a multimedia specialist.
editor
Jaclyn Anglis
editor
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Holtz, Hannah. "The Story Of Cobb Estate, The California Property That Was Once Owned By The Marx Brothers — And Is Said To Be Haunted." AllThatsInteresting.com, November 15, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/cobb-estate. Accessed May 18, 2024.