Thursday, April 14, 2016

DEVIL'S GATE DAM



Photo:  Van Stein



Devil’s Gate Dam is in a neighborhood of Pasadena called La Canada, in a canyon called Arroyo Seco, and is accessed by a trail where La Canada Road dead-ends.  

(The devil would soon swipe the sunglasses I'm wearing.)

In the background is NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), founded on Halloween in 1936 by a group of rocket scientists including Jack Parsons.



Born and bred in Pasadena, Parsons ran the only American branch of Aleister Crowley’s sex-and magick religion, Ordo Templi Orientis, from a house he bought on Orange Grove Avenue and turned into a bohemian rooming house for Order initiates.

Crowley by then (the mid 1940s) was in poor health with catastrophic dental issues and a huge heroin habit, barely scraping by in London on handouts, and willing to trade his occult figurehead status for a monthly stipend from fat cats in Pasadena.  

(Crowley had visited southern California in 1916 but found Hollywood too wicked by his own demonic standards, describing movie stars of the day as “cocaine-crazed sexual lunatics.”)

Parsons’ passion beside the occult was rocket fuel and as a young swashbuckling pioneer of rocketeering helped found JPL in Pasadena and worked closely with it until J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI caught on to his darker interests and got him fired.

Parsons continued to dabble with explosives, and the occult, until he accidentally blew himself up at the age of thirty-seven in 1952, but not before forging a deep friendship with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard who in time cultivated what Aleister Crowley could only dream about:  a worldwide religion with militant disciples and millions of followers.  

(Hubbard stole Parsons’ girlfriend and conned Parsons out of his life savings before conceiving Dianetics.)


As a kid, Parsons hung out in the canyon called Arroyo Seco (considered haunted by Native Americans indigenous to the region) experimenting with firecrackers and cherry bombs.  

As an adult Parsons conducted rituals here with Hubbard, and when he took Aleister Crowley to Devil’s Gate, the master occultist pronounced it “a portal to hell.”