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The Mysterious Abandoned House in Topanga Canyon, California

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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

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

brooks ellis December 29, 2012 at 11:44 AM

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"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


Anonymous on November 19, 2019:

Bob Hites house original house was destroyed in the 1981 flood. It did not fall into the creek and wash away, it was severely damaged and not habitable.

anony on August 09, 2019:

This story is inaccurate. The house there now was built by a man getting his masters in architecture. A landowner above the house decided she was going to cut a bunch of roads with no engineering and no permits. She managed to cause a landslide that rendered the land around this house unstable and made it impossible to complete the house. She also ruined two other lots on either side of the house as well as causing permanent flooding issues to Topanga Creek. This happened in the mid 1990's. There may have been a different house on this site at one time, but this isn't that house.

anon on March 05, 2015:

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!

PDXBuys (author) from Oregon on December 28, 2014:

Joe - Thanks for your information!

Joe Tartan on December 28, 2014:

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

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on December 01, 2014:

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

Sondra455 on August 19, 2014:

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.

Mark on August 04, 2014:

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

Jennifer Arnett from California on May 04, 2014:

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!

sarah on March 19, 2014:

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

ryan on January 29, 2014:

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?

brandon on October 06, 2013:

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

travelholidays from India on May 25, 2013:

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

PDXBuys (author) from Oregon on April 16, 2013:

I do not know who the current owner is.

LaurenB on March 29, 2013:

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 (author) from Oregon on March 27, 2013:

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

Elliot on March 26, 2013:

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.

radiantwriting on January 12, 2013:

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

Nell Rose from England on January 03, 2013:


PDXBuys (author) from Oregon on January 03, 2013:

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

Nell Rose from England on January 03, 2013:

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 (author) from Oregon on January 03, 2013:

Nell, are there any photos of that house?

Nell Rose from England on January 03, 2013:

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!

Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on July 11, 2012:

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

PDXBuys (author) from Oregon on May 14, 2012:

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

chspublish from Ireland on May 14, 2012:

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

Laura L Scotty from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 14, 2012:

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

viveresperando from A Place Where Nothing Is Real on May 14, 2012:

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. :)

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