The Angeles National Forest Mysteries

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
October 12, 2018
Last Updated
September 30, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
7 min read
Posted in
Supernatural, Disappearances

Just outside the sun-soaked and neon-lit metropolis that is Los Angeles, nestled within the various majestic mountain ranges of southern California, sits the Angeles National Forest, a place full of legends, hauntings, and still unsolved disappearances. In short, it is one of the most mysterious, fascinating, and at times, deadly stretches of land in North America, if not the planet. And in a part of the world whose history itself beyond several hundred years remains a mystery to many, at least large portions of it, it is perhaps not surprising that such previously undisturbed areas would unleash their secrets onto humanity the more it encroaches on to it.

An image of a dark forest with huge ghostly figures superimposed on top

The Angeles National Forest has a long history of paranormal activity

Many tales abound locally of strange creatures present in the forest, not least Bigfoot-type creatures. Others tell of the spirits of the dead and even the spirits of sacrificed animals. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that numerous satanic and occult groups choose to perform their rituals here. Perhaps taping into the dark energy that is already there. Or perhaps feeding it, encouraging it, and so increasing its power. And its reach. And then there are the disappearances. Again, more cases of people seemingly vanishing into thin air with no or little clue as to what happened to them. Many are still officially missing today and will likely never be found. Nor will the circumstances which led to their disappearances likely ever be truly known.

Before we examine and delve into some of the ghostly legends and mysterious sightings in this otherwise enchanting stretch of woodland, then, we will look at this most-grittiest aspect of the forest’s mysteries. Those of several missing children. Some of which may have been the victim of an apparent serial killer who would use the area, it was accused, to stalk his helpless victims.

The Sudden Confessions Of Mack Ray Edwards

On 6th March 1970, despite not being under any requirement to do so, 51-year-old Mack Ray Edwards calmly strolled towards the desk of the Foothill Station of the Los Angeles Police Department. He would equally calmly, almost matter-of-factly, announce that he was responsible for the sexual abuse and murder of six children between 1953 and 1970. Among the names he mentioned, two of them, 11-year-old Brenda Howell and 13-year-old Donald Baker, were among several children who had gone missing in the Angeles National Forest [1] within that time-frame.

While we will look at the particular circumstances surrounding each of the above children’s strange disappearance shortly, when Edwards directed police to where he claimed the children were buried, not only was there no sign of them, there was no sign that any person had ever been buried there, leading police to drop any follow-up to his claims of responsibility for their deaths.

Incidentally, while Edwards ultimately wouldn’t be charged with the kidnap or murders of Howell or Baker, he was found to have at least been partially truthful in his confession. He was charged with the murders of three children and very much appeared to have a long history of sexually abusive behavior towards children.

He would “boast” of the killings while awaiting trial. Even claiming to have murdered up to eighteen children in total. Then, suddenly and completely out of the blue, he would write a letter in his cell claiming that his confessions were false. And what’s more, he would blame the killings on a strange (and ultimately elusive) person named “Billy the Cripple”. The police dismissed the letters as “ramblings” and ultimately questioned his mental state. Edwards would hang himself in his cell not long after writing his apparent confession.

The Missing Children Of Angeles National Forest

Whether or not Edwards was responsible for the disappearance and (presumed) deaths of Howell and Baker remains unknown. Their respective cases remain open and unsolved.

On the summer’s morning of 6th August 1956, the aforementioned Brenda Howell and Donald Baker were riding their bicycles to the San Gabriel Canyon to explore and look around. When they didn’t return later in the day at a time they had agreed, an immediate search began. The search included the family and concerned citizens, but also the police and US Navy personnel. However, despite an extensive and widespread operation, neither child was anywhere to be found.

Around a quarter of a mile from the last place they were seen, near to Morris Dam, Donald’s jacket and Brenda’s bicycle were discovered. Then, two months later, Donald’s bicycle would surface at Glendora Elementary School. According to the student who had it in their possession, the bike was found abandoned in the forest. Since then, despite several reinvestigations into their disappearance, no new evidence or information has surfaced.

The following year, on 23rd March 1957, another child would disappear without a trace. [2] Eight-year-old Tommy Bowman was walking with his family in the Arroyo Seco region when he raced on ahead of the group. In a story extremely familiar with many of the accounts of people who simply vanish in such areas around the United States, Tommy would come to a bend in the road which he followed round and disappeared out of view for a few seconds while his family caught up. When they did, though, he was nowhere in sight. Nor since. And nor his body recovered.

A depiction of a dark forest at night

Many children have disappeared in the Angeles National Forest

Opportunistic Acts With Remarkable, Flawless Precision?

Despite intense searching for the young boy, not a shred of evidence surfaced. Bizarrely, however, and chillingly, a strange letter arrived at the Bowman home around a fortnight after their son’s disappearance. It claimed that he was alive and with “an unidentified adult male”. Although police followed up the letter, it ultimately led nowhere.

Several years later, on 12th July 1960, six-year-old Bruce Kremen was enjoying a camping trip with the YMCA in the Buckhorn Flat region of Angeles National Forest. He was one of eighty people, children and adults, at the camp. On this particular day, the young boy had set out hiking with a small group of children and accompanying adults. However, only 300 yards from the site, Bruce became tired and wanted to return to the main camp.

As it was well in sight of the supervisor, he let Bruce do so, remaining to watch the child right until he reached the perimeter of the base. Once he did, the group set back out on their hike. However, it soon became apparent that Bruce had not reached the base. And within minutes, having realized the situation, a search began. Despite the small window from him setting off back to camp and the realization that he was missing, no sign of the young boy was ever discovered. His disappearance remains unsolved.

Whether these disappearances are the work of a person such as Mack Ray Edwards, or whether these vanishings are part of a more complex and even supernatural phenomenon, is open to debate. However, if one or multiple opportunistic sexual predators were stalking the forest ranges and valleys of the area, many would admit, in most cases, they would have had to have acted remarkably fast and with flawless precision.

Animal Spirits And Shadow People

While there have long been legends of mysterious goings-on within the Angeles National Forest, incidents in more recent times have a decidedly supernatural feel to them. [3] As well they might. According to some, satanic and occult groups have unleashed something more “evil than alive” within the forest.

In early-September 2002, a wild-fire – referred to as The Curve Fire – swept through the forest. It would even destroy the 67-year-old fire lookout tower (built to protect against such wildfires) as it did so. Almost immediately, rumors began to circulate that an occult group with satanic leanings had caused the fire. And furthermore, they had done so while carrying out live animal sacrifice. The rumors, at least in part, turned out to be true when officials stated that a Pagan group had indeed performed animal sacrifices [4] and that the fires they used were responsible for the wildfire that followed.

Following the areas reopening, visitors began to see “animal spirits” moving in the trees. Their movements and their appearance somewhat wooden. The claims would fall on deaf ears from those passing through. Once local residents began seeing and reporting the same sightings, however, the community would take them a little more seriously. Some even stating that the spirits were a result of the sacrifices that had taken place.

Others went even further, stating that the groups had unleashed “something evil” through their ceremonies. An assertion believed even more when reports of “shadow people” hiding among the trees and woodland surfaced.

A view of the wild fires that overtook the Angeles National Forest

A view of the wild fires that overtook the Angeles National Forest

The Major Family And The Haunting Of Crystal Lake

In the summer if 1933, an out-of-work farmer, Stephen Major, just one of many victims of the depression, traveled to the southern California area in desperate need of work, and with his family left behind. He received work building what would eventually become the Crystal Lake Amphitheatre. He would immediately contact his wife, Heather. She and the children should join him now that he had regular work.

With the work came meager lodgings at the work site. This would consist of a tent (to themselves and not shared as some of the men without families). And access to regular meals and shower facilities through predetermined schedules. Although it sounds grim, for the time and compared to many, the life was good there. Regular money was coming in, albeit not a lot, and they never went without food. In fact, there was more than enough.

However, on 19th September 1934, while returning to their camp area following work, Stephen and Heather looked in horror. A huge grizzly bear stood atop their flattened tent, clawing frantically at their screaming children inside. As they screamed for help they ran over in an attempt to save their children. By the time further help arrived, the entire family had been slaughtered. One report would note how their torn apart remains were “still steaming” in the early evening air.

The bear, however, despite a huge search, simply vanished. What is strange is the death of the last Grizzly in the woodlands of southern California was ten years previously. As the years passed, many stories would circulate that what attacked the family was perhaps not a lone bear that had somehow survived, but the vengeful spirit of it. Or perhaps it was something else entirely?

Energies And Cycles

In the years following their deaths, thousands of people would see the four members of the Major family roaming the area around the Crystal Lake Amphitheatre. Some of these sightings would take place in front of hundreds of people at the same time. However, increasing public disturbances would be a result of increasingly large crowds congregating in the area. In 1978 access to the area was off-limits “on or around the 19th September”.

People would still sneak into the area, though. Although, and perhaps as intended, the number of people present was a lot less than the years of the late-1970s. And certainly more discreet in their activities.  In 1988, the temporary annual ban on the area ceased. Slowly people did return to the spot each year. Those that did turn up, though, were there to seek out evidence of paranormal activity. Not to drink and fight with each other.

The Curve Fire mentioned above would place the area off-limits for several years. However, it would appear the spirits of the Major family still very much reside in the area. If only for those few moments each year. If we believe that ghosts and ghost sightings are the result of some kind of capturing of energy, particularly around the point of death, then perhaps the sightings of the Majors, taking into account the savage end to their lives, is reasonable enough to understand. However, although we understand the relevance of the date (in terms of it being the anniversary of the incident) what in terms of energy, in nature, and the universe around us, is significant to bring that energy back to the front so that the family “appear” on that specific cycle?

Check out the video below which looks at some of the strange disappearances similar to those discussed above.


1 The Mysterious Forest of Vanished Children, Brent Swancer, Mysterious Universe, August 4th, 2017
2 The Forest Of Disappearing Children, Creepy LA, September 22nd, 2011
3 Angeles National Forest: “Animal-Like” Ghost Stalks Hikers, Backpackerverse
4 LA Forest Fire Said Started By Pagans In Animal Sacrifice, Michelle Rester, Rense

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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1 Comment

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  • Donald L. Mercer says:

    I wondered if any of these reports were ever covered in any of David Paulides volumes entitled 411 Missing held in 7 volumes of his works. These reports are new to me and I have read all of David’s books.

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