The Cobb Estate from “Phantasm”Oct 30th, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
One locale that I came across (thanks to an article on Amoeblog) while doing research for my 2012 Haunted Hollywood posts was the former Cobb Estate in Altadena, the gates of which appeared in the 1979 cult horror film Phantasm. And while I stalked the location shortly thereafter, for whatever reason I never got around to blogging about it last October. I actually completely forgot about the site, in fact, until I sat down to write my recent post on Angeles Abbey Memorial Park, which was used in two installments of the Phantasm series – Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion. Well, it is better to be late than never, as they say, right?
The Cobb Estate is named after lumber magnate Charles H. Cobb, who, along with his wife, Carrie, purchased the then vacant 107-acre site in 1916. Two years later, the couple commissioned a rambling Spanish-style mansion to be built on the premises. When Charles, who was a Freemason, passed away in 1939, he willed the massive estate and its acreage to the Pasadena Scottish Rite Temple. The brotherhood sold the site just a few years later and it subsequently went through a succession of different owners, including the Sisters of Saint Joseph. Then, in 1956, the Marx Brothers (yes, those Marx Brothers) purchased the property as an investment. It was left vacant while they debated what to do with it and became a popular hangout for miscreants who vandalized the once elegant grounds and mansion. Sadly, in 1959, the Brothers decided to demolish the majority of the Cobbs’ former home. Today, all that survives is the foundation, a few rock walls, some exterior stairwells, a long, twisting driveway, and the front gates.
In 1971, after their plans to turn to site into a cemetery were thwarted, the Marx Brothers put the land up for auction. Bob Barnes, a social studies teacher at nearby John Muir High School in Pasadena, caught wind of the sale and, fearing that it would be acquired and pillaged by developers, rallied his students to raise funds to save the property. Miraculously, they did. In nine days time – and thanks to a generous donation from art collector Virginia Steele Scott – the group garnered over $150,000. According to this 2011 Pasadena Star-News article, when the auction was held, Barnes was outbid by $25,000, but he made a last-minute plea to auctioneer Milton Wershaw saying his was the “people’s bid.” Wershaw halted the auction for five minutes so that the group could raise the extra funds and even chipped in $1,000 himself. The money was gathered, at which point, in a heart-warming twist, one of the land developers stepped down, announcing, “I am with the people, I shall bid no more!” Barnes wound up donating the 107 acres to the Angeles National Forest and, in my favorite part of the story, headed out to Hollywood the following day, purchased a map of the stars’ homes, rang Groucho Marx’s doorbell, and thanked him. So incredibly cool!
Today, the Cobb Estate is, as the sign on the gate will tell you, “A quiet refuge for people and wild life forever.” The popular hiking area is apparently open 24 hours a day and after-dark walks are allowed. Um, no thanks.
At some point in time (and for reasons unknown to this stalker – and seemingly everyone else on the internet, although there have been some reported unexplained occurrences), the property gained the nickname the “Haunted Forest.” (It is also known as the “Enchanted Forest.”)
In Phantasm, the gates of the Cobb Estate masqueraded as the entrance to Morningside Cemetery, lair of The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm).
Oddly enough, though, all of the scenes that supposedly took place behind the gates were actually shot about 400 miles away at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland.
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Big THANK YOU to Mike, from MovieShotsLA, for making the Phantasm screen captures that appear in this post!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The gates to the Cobb Estate, from Phantasm, are located at the intersection of North Lake Avenue and East Loma Alta Drive in Altadena.