The Mysterious Abandoned House in Topanga Canyon, California
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
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."
Canned Heat Biography on Rolling Stone
- Canned Heat | Bio, Pictures, Videos | Rolling Stone
Canned Heat was rare among the American blues-loving bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s: The group had a few hits. As one critic noted, the music