The Secret Cave of Lincoln Heights

[From the archives]

Awhile ago a reader asked me if I found the hidden cave of Flat Top Hill. I heard the stories from many long-time residents near Griffin Ave about this cave, that had been covered up to discourage children from playing in it. I used to live on Griffin Ave and the hilltop was my backyard. I spent lots of time exploring the hill but never quite found the location of the cave.

Recently, I asked Don Quixote, my blog compadre on LA Eastside if he could explain where the cave might be. Here it is for those of you still on the quest. Please let me know if you are able to locate it. I still have not.

If you stand on Griffin Ave just past the last parking lot at Arroyo Seco Playground and look up the hill towards the Debs Park Pond (which wasn’t there years ago), between the old sanitarium bldgs, you’ll be able to see the green vegetation that comes down the hill from the old springs. I think there is a storm drain culvert under Griffin Ave that directs water from the hill into the Arroyo Seco River. At the bottom of the hill near the parking lot there is a bunch of Sycamore Trees that I think were fed by those springs. I remember how good those Sycamore trees smelled in the summer, especially at sundown.
And as for the cave above Griffin Ave below “Flattop”, if you look for the house on Griffin Ave with the wide driveway and the u shaped buildings at the rear, (I think there are two large Jacaranda trees in front), what you are seeing is what used to be the old “Indian Head Water Co.”. Above this bldg you will notice a lot of thick vegetation, we used to call it “the Baby Jungle”. At the top of the Baby Jungle can see a rocky discolored area, bare rock and granite as opposed to the grass and weeds around it. I can see this scarred area from the Pasadena Frwy when I pass. This is the entrance to the old cave, but it was collapsed or filled in many years ago. Inside the cave, which goes back towards flat top quite a long ways, it was very damp, dripping water, and a kind of moss or roots hung down from the roof of the cave. Someone once told me that this cave was used during prohibition to stash liquor by organized crime people, I can’t verify if this is true.

Just yesterday I was out on a walk and noticed what looked like a dark spot on a rock in the hill. I wondered if this was some kinda mini-cave that’s been uncovered. I would like to go investigate but I rarely walk those hills anymore.

Who is behind the camera?

Who is taking this picture? The faux seductive looks of my great-grandmother, grandmother and great aunts have piqued my interest. Who was this person, capturing their daily activities, asking them to pose on the porch? They had many suitors and I’ve been told many fellas would visit the house and family. But my grandmother swore to me they were chaste and innocent. I believe her.

Found in Lincoln Heights: Little Waves

“Come on back to the water mama!”

Like a lot of other Lincoln Heights residents, I’ve moved from one rented house to another, sometimes moving one house down from the previous, sometimes one block over. All of my neighbors did the same and we’d often find ourselves neighbors again on a new street.

It seems we are all pretty settled now, our wandering ways curbed by the bad economy and the tight rental market. When we do move, it’s due to a reason not of our own choosing: eviction, gentrification and the other assorted maladies that affect the landless class.

It was in one of these houses I found this photo. I’m fairly certain it was the 1907 Craftsman house on Griffin Ave. I do remember finding the photo right when we moved in, maybe behind a drawer, in a door jam or under the carpet we pulled out. It was a treasured find which I taped to the wall as a tribute to the families that once made the house their home.

Five Feet High and Rising-Johnny Cash

“How high is the water mama?”

Favorite Video(s) of the Week: Serial Killers

I’m no reader or researcher of serial killers, they hardly interest me. Unlike lots of Chicanos from this part of town who seem to be fascinated with the genre, the less I think about the ugliness of humanity, the better. However, they have been the theme of some great songs, a few examples below.

Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy Jr

A song documenting the sad evolution of John Wayne Gacy, one of this country’s most notorious serial killers.

His father was a drinker
And his mother cried in bed
Folding John Wayne’s t-shirts
When the swingset hit his head

Sufjan Stevens asks at the end of the song, “And in my best behavior, I am really just like him. Look underneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.”

Super Heroines – Night Stalker

Super Heroines were a popular band in the early 80s LA punk/goth rock scene. According to local punk rock historian Jimmy Alvarado, the lead singer Eva was penpals with The Night Stalker. I guess she was taken in by the cheekbones and pentagrams.

Most everyone else in Los Angeles during this time was terrorized by Richard Ramirez. He was dubbed The Night Stalker by the media for his night time criminal activities which included horrific murders and rapes and the infamous juvenile Satanic scribblings he left behind.

I lived in South San Gabriel during his summer rampage, it was an extremely hot brutal summer too. Our family seared in our stuffy house, all our windows and doors were closed and fortified at all times. A few of his first victims were killed a mile away in nearby Monterey Park causing much fear in our household – my mother slept with a bat keeping vigil at night. My mom’s comadre and her daughters who also lived in South San Gabriel swear they were followed home one late night by The Night Stalker after leaving our house. The city was in a state of paranoia and true terror! When his photo and name were announced, we were all taken by surprise. A Chicano serial killer? There was an unspoken sense of collective shame. Imagine how proud we Chicanos and Eastsiders were then, when Richard Ramirez was caught and beat down in good ol’ East LA! Everyone celebrated on that day.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of this infamous bit of Los Angeles history, my blog compadre Al Desmadre is planning a kick-ass walking tour “..with numerous stops and sights beginning in Downtown’s Skid Row and a trip to the “Eastside”, culminating on Richard’s street of broken Satanic dreams;…Hubbard Avenue in E.L.A.” Sounds interesting, no? Here’s the link for more info: The 25th Anniversary Night Stalker Tour.

Amandititita – La Mata Viejitas

Amandititita, the queen of excessive Mexican diminutives and the originator of anarcumbia (anarchist cumbia) uses her music to explore the everyday life troubles of Mexicans, especially of DFeros. With songs covering everything from metrosexual boyfriends to not fitting in on Mexican television for being too dark and short to this “fun” song about a crazy nurse who befriends elderly women and kills them to collect their dentures.

One last note, while doing a small amount of research for this post, I discovered both Richard Ramirez and John Wayne Gacy suffered moderate head injuries as children, Gacy from a swing and Ramirez had a dresser fall on him. In both cases, some feel there might be a relation between these injuries and the abnormal behavior that followed them into adulthood.



My great-great grandmother Matilde Vizcarra Tellez, Los Angeles, circa early 1930s.
Such mystery behind her small smile.

Favorite Things: Amok Bookstore


In my early years, I lived in Echo Park. I went for long walks with Amok Bookstore being my main destination. The folks who worked there never much talked to me or my friends but they didn’t hate us either like other Silver Lake shop proprietors who gave us the “buy something or leave” look.
We appreciated their selection of radical literature, strange music guides and bizarre ephemera. There were no hipsters in the 90s but if there were, they’d probably like Amok.

The original location was right behind where Casbah Cafe is now.

Hollywood Jail


Teens and novelty photos, does anyone remember the good times? The concept of a Hollywood jail is a peculiar one, I don’t quite understand the appeal. A novelty photo on a stuffed donkey, now that I understand. Despite the kitsch, their faces say so much, too much.

In this photo: my mother, some of her cousins from Mexico and a very young future Silver Lake optometrist.