The Mysterious Abandoned House in Topanga Canyon, California

Topanga Canyon House
Topanga Canyon House

In February of 2012 I was looking for a place to rent in the Los Angeles area. I found an ad on Craigslist describing a one-of-a-kind and very intriguing living space. It was a small, octagonal-shaped, stand-alone building on what I would discover was a former Hare Krishna compound. In the end, I did not rent the place but I was definitely fascinated by the semi-remote location in Topanga Canyon. There were many older and architecturally unique homes in the canyon and I decided to stop and look at several on my drive home.

Earlier on the way up I noticed what looked like a wreck of a house on the left side of Topanga Canyon Road. I made a note to myself to find it on the way back down. I managed to find it again and parked my car carefully on the side of the road about 50 yards down. There was a small creek between the road and the house and there was a very short arched bridge connecting the property to the road.

There were no NO TRESPASSING signs and it was obvious that there had been lots of visitors here before me so I decided it would be OK if explored a bit. The bridge was a bit intimidating but it was safe to cross. No water below - too dry at the moment. I could see that the cast concrete house was heavily covered in graffiti. I knew that I would get some good photos on this stop. The wood portion of the porch was rotting and I had to step carefully to get to the concrete slab outside the front door. The inside was also completely covered in graffiti. Most of the wood sections were rotted and broken. I could easily see into the lower level which was full of debris and empty spray-paint cans. The most interesting feature was a large column with a circular staircase winding up to next level. There were metal supports but no steps giving the appearance that the construction was never completed. The more I examined the house the more fascinated I was. Who lived here? Why was the house abandoned? Was it once finished inside or was it never completed? This was a fairly large house and must have cost quite a bit to construct. What was the story?

It was not until a couple of weeks later that I had a chance to do a little research. I had nothing to go on except "abandoned house" and "Topanga Canyon Road". But a quick Google search immediately showed me photos of the very same house. I dug a bit deeper and discovered that this house once belonged to Bob Hite of the blues band Canned Heat. I also learned that in 1970 the co-founder of the band, Alan Wilson, died on the property at the very young age of 27 - a possible suicide. The cause of death was a drug overdose. Now I only had more questions. Were there any photos published of the furnished interior of the house? And if it once belonged to a celebrity musician why was it now abandoned?

On September 3, 1970, just prior to leaving for a festival in Berlin, the band was shattered when they learned of Alan Wilson's death by barbiturate overdose; found on a hillside behind Bob Hite’s Topanga home. (Souce: Wikipedia)

Earlier I had hiked up the steep hill behind the house, curious about the remains of a primitive staircase. I came across an open well shaft partially buried in the brush. A few wood planks spanned the well. Later, after reading about Alan Wilson I wondered how close to this spot he died. More mystery... I will continue to do research about this house and the Canned Heat story. I hope to share my findings here in the future.

Update: The Rebecca Davis Biography of Alan Wilson

http://www.blindowlbio.com

Rebecca Davis wrote a biography of Alan Wilson, called Blind Owl Blues – The Mysterious Life and Death of Blues Legend, Alan Wilson, self published in 2007. You can preview the book on Google Books.

Canned Heat - Let's Work Together (Video)

The Mystery Continues...

I recently found this comment on renrobot.blogspot.com:

brooks ellis December 29, 2012 at 11:44 AM

"I am a long time topanga resident and avid rock historian... this is definitely not the home of bob hite or anyone for that matter. the homes story is rather unromantic. it was built as a private home and was red tagged due to erosion and improper permits. The house was left unfinished and was never demolished. If you look at the pictures you will notice that there was never any finishing work, as is most evident in the picture of the spiral staircase. the actual home of bob hite is on old cyn blvd near the post office. that house has been destroyed by a flood."

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Comments 26 comments

viveresperando profile image

viveresperando 4 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

I found this so interesting and your sense of adventure delightful! I would also love to know more about the house. Eagerly waiting for more articles. :)


bearnmom profile image

bearnmom 4 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This is a fascinating article. Good job. I will also be waiting for sequels.


chspublish profile image

chspublish 4 years ago from Ireland

Wow! What an amazing find. It sets the wheels of the imagination churning. A great story!


PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Thank you for all of the positive comments. I will definitely share what I find in the future.


That Grrl profile image

That Grrl 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Really great that you did some research and found out more about the house and it's past.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

That would definitely interest me too! I would have to go and explore it, it looks amazing with all that graffiti on it, I often notice that in America there does tend to be old abandoned houses in tv programs, over here its very rare, but saying that the one that intrigued me was along near our old house, I remember it being there when I was tiny, then over the years the boarding came up and covered it, and now 40 years later it has totally disappeared! surrounded by scrubland and old fences it must have sunk into the ground, it always makes me wonder who on earth the owner was or is, fascinating read thanks!


PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 3 years ago from Oregon Author

Nell, are there any photos of that house?


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

No unfortunately, it was crumbling when I was little, not even sure about the address as it was round the corner off an alley, but I will get to the bottom of it! lol!


PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 3 years ago from Oregon Author

Sounds like it's now resting peacefully below, perhaps with some Roman ruins and an old Viking ship?


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Lol!


radiantwriting 3 years ago

very interesting - you could build on this for a very interesting "fiction" spin off!!!


Elliot 3 years ago

Believe it or not, but I actually know the real story of this house. It was the project house that my friends father was working on. My friends dad was is an architect and he was building it for his family to live in. At the time they lived in Topanga as did I. I was about 5-6 years old when he was building it and now I'm 23 so you do the math. It's not that old of a house.


PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 3 years ago from Oregon Author

Thanks for the info, Elliot! Any additional information you have would be appreciated. Do you know why construction stopped?


LaurenB 3 years ago

I stumbled across this house today and thought it'd be an interesting location to make a short film. Do you know if there is a current owner of the house? ..or is it owned by the city?


PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 3 years ago from Oregon Author

I do not know who the current owner is.


travelholidays profile image

travelholidays 3 years ago from India

Creepy house :( Thanks for sharing . interesting to read :)


brandon 3 years ago

this is sick dude, you gotta let me know the address i wanna go check it out!


ryan 2 years ago

so where is the exact site of bob hites old house? was it in the same spot as this house, i hear the original house burned down in the 70's,.

id like to know , and im sure a lot of other canned heat fans would too.

anyone have a photo of the house back in the day?


sarah 2 years ago

I would love to know the address so I could go check it out to use for a photo shoot.


Availiasvision profile image

Availiasvision 2 years ago from California

I love all of the photography and research you did. My brother and I enjoy exploring abandoned places. It's so much fun to learn the history of a place. Great Hub!


Mark 2 years ago

I remember when there was a railroad boxcar used for the bridge, but this was early mid 70's ,..


Sondra455 2 years ago

No guys. I was born and raised around the corner from his house. I remember when it was being built in the 90's by this guy who wanted to make a castle. The land wasn't stable and it was warped as it was being built and he was forced to abandon the project. There, mystery solved.


eugbug profile image

eugbug 2 years ago from Ireland

"The Topanga Canyon Horror" eh? , No I don't think it has a good ring to it! Strange looking place though!


Joe Tartan 23 months ago

My memory was that there was a white two story house on that site that was rented by canned heat which got washed into Topanga Creek in the winter storm of 1969 and Blind Owl did indeed o.d. on that property. Later the concrete structure went up


PDXBuys profile image

PDXBuys 23 months ago from Oregon Author

Joe - Thanks for your information!


anon 21 months ago

How could the house have gotten washed into the creek during the winter of '69?

As I understand, Hite and wife were living in that house in '70!

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