Hikes: Haunted Picnic Table 29

Haunted Picnic Table 29

One of the most enduring Griffith Park ghost stories is that of Haunted Picnic Table 29, a picnic table deep inside the park that was crushed by a tree. According to legend, on Halloween Night 1976, 22-year-old musician Rand Garrett and 20-year-old aspiring actress Nancy Jeanson were making love upon a picnic table off of Mt. Hollywood Drive when a tree suddenly fell over on top of them, crushing and killing them. Their remains were cremated and the ashes spread over the area where they died. Strange occurrences began shortly thereafter.

R.I.P. Rand and Nancy

According to the story, a chain of workers hired to clear the tree fell ill or were injured before they could finish the job. Upon arrival the first worker, Morris Carl, suffered from cold spells, heard strange moaning and crying sounds and saw the fallen tree violently shake. When he ran back to his truck, the words "Next time you die" were written in reverse on the fogged up windshield.

Mt. Lee

His supervisor, Dennis Higgs, later went to clear the tree himself, and was found dead the next morning by a jogger. The jogger discovered a chainsaw lying next to the dead man, the blade bent in a U-shape. Though the coroner listed the cause of death for Higgs as a heart attack, his hands were injured and some of his fingernails were broken, and it looked like he had been dragged by someone, or something, at least fifteen feet towards the damaged picnic table.

Sunset from Mt. Hollywood Dr.

More recently, in 2002, a former park ranger reportedly had a run in with the two ghosts. He saw two sets of red eyes, and after his flashlight failed, and everything went quiet, he felt a suffocating and freezing cold. A voice whispered to him, "Leave us alone" and he smelled the "smell of death". His story continues with something grabbing his chest and him passing out. When he came to, his shirt was unbuttoned - something had scratched into his chest with a fingernail, "Next time you die". More details on this story can be found in this "LA Times" article.

Legend aside, if you're interested in a hike that has some beautiful scenery, is an easy-to-moderate level of effort - this hike's for you. Continue past 'The Knolls' described in the hike Mt. Hollywood Knolls for about 1 1/4 miles to the intersection of Vista Del Valle Dr. During this stretch, the road heads northeast and climbs gradually, but steadily over that distance rising about 200 ft to an elevation of 1,345 ft. Off to the left, fantastic views over Brush Canyon can be had, along with views of Mt. Lee, home of the Hollywood Sign (1,680 ft), and Mt. Chapel (1,614 ft) to the east of it. There are a couple of picnic tables (not haunted) about mid-way up that have a view over the valley and make a great spot for a short break. Continue on Mt. Hollywood Dr. past the intersection of Mulholland Trail, a dirt path on the left, and Vista Del Valle Dr. on the right, and head down the grade for about 1/10 mi. On the left will be the picnic table, and the tree which still remains on top of the table, still uncleared after all these years.

Distance: 3.7 mi
Duration: 1 hr
Elevation Range: 1,035 ft - 1,345 ft
Net Elevation Gain: 310 ft
Total Elevation Gain: 340 ft
Trailhead Coordinates: 34.123855, -118.302410
Description: A moderate hike on a paved fire road with great views of Mt. Lee and Brush Canyon.