The San Diego Real Estate BLOG:
Secret San Diego #1
This week on the San Diego Real Estate BLOG, we let you in a few of San Diego’s secrets know only to locals. Enjoy!!!
SUNNY JIM CAVE STORE
Did you know there is a hidden cave beneath a store front in La Jolla?
The Sunny Jim Cave Store has the only entrance to any sea cave in California that you can access via land. The entrance is a narrow and dim tunnel that leads from the store to a staircase made of 145 damp steps that descend directly into the sea cave. The narrow tunnel and cave walls are incredibly colorful, due to the natural minerals and the effect the saltwater has on them. They’ve also become a home to pigeons and sea birds, giving this already dark tunnel a vibe that Hitchcock would approve of.
The tunnel was created Gustauf Schultz, a German painter, struggling artist, and mining engineer who hired two laborers and they started digging in 1902. These two men completed the tunnel just a year later and Gustauf began charging a few cents for the opportunity to be lowered into the cave via a long rope. The rope has since been replaced with a steep staircase that can be just as treacherous due to dim lighting and ocean water spray. It is not recommended for the elderly, the very young, or the impaired. After Gustauf’s death in 1912, his fellow La Jollans were surprised to find his widow arrive to run the shop, considering most of them had no idea he had been married. She continued to run the curio shop and cave attraction into the early 1920s, when the tunnel was allegedly used during prohibition to smuggle alcohol into San Diego.
The cave gets its memorable name from L. Frank Baum, the creator of the Wizard of Oz. When he visited, he named it that because the cave mouth reminded him of the profile of a 1920s British cereal cartoon mascot of the same name. Trinkets featuring the famous visitor and that cartoon character’s profile can be seen in the store above as well.
Did you know that San Diego is home to the most haunted house in the United States. The home is reported to be haunted by docents, visitors, and yes, even Regis Philbin.
Aside from housing the Whaley family, the home also served as San Diego’s first commercial theater, a general store, and the county courthouse. The house is currently furnished in tribute to the many functions it served before being turned into a museum.
Volunteer docents in period costumes are quick to point out rooms that are said to be haunted by Whaley family members who died in the home and others who were hanged on site.
You can even get a peek at some of the roped-off rooms on if you visit when the San Diego Ghost Hunters hosts a Whaley House Museum Paranormal Investigation Tour on the last weekend of every month.
LEMON GROVE MUMMIES
Yes you heard that right. Mummies. In San Diego.
In 1966, two California boys went to Chihuahua, Mexico in search of mummies. Quite the mummy fanatics, they knew Indian tribes had once brought their dead to the cool, dry caves near Chihuahua, and considered the area prime hunting grounds for a mummy of their very own. For over a month they peeked into every nook and cranny of the caves, until their tenacity finally paid off—the boys not only found a coveted mummy, they found two.
The boys gazed at their prizes, the mummified remains of a teenage girl, as well as the tinier corpse of a one-year old. Despite their determination to find them, they were now faced with the reality of having them. They couldn’t exactly carry the bodies out of the country in backpacks, and the gravity of their mothers finding out began to become a very worrisome, previously overlooked issue. So the boys did what any secret-keeping teen would—they smuggled the bodies over the border, and convinced a friend to hide them in her garage.
With no real endgame in sight the boys left their macabre finds in this safe location—safe that is until their friend’s mother decided that it was tie to do some spring cleaning. 14 years after being stashed away behind the garden tools and moving boxes, the girls were found.
The woman who found them was understandably shaken, and naturally assumed that some sort of murder had taken place. Stolen mummies stashed there by neighbor kids isn’t exactly the first place the mind goes. The police recognized immediately that the bodies were not likely to be murder victims, but could not figure out how the two ancient cadavers found their way into this suburban family garage—the teen is thought to have died between A.D. 1040 and 1260. While they investigated, the mummies were delivered to the San Diego Museum of Man for safe keeping.
Fondly nicknamed “The Lemon Grove Girl”, the teenage mummy and her infant companion were stashed away until rightful ownership could be sorted. Eventually the police caught up with the boys, who were now grown men of course, and asked for an explanation. The men told their story, and in an ever so generous act of contrition offered to donate their mummies to the Museum of Man.
The officials, eyes rolling, informed the men that due to their juvenile status when the crime was committed and the time that had passed, they were lucky that no charges would be pressed, and thanked them for the charitable offer, but the mummies were not theirs to give. The museum however was very keen on becoming the keeper of the girls, and after being granted permission by the Mexican government to retain them, included the Lemon Grove Girl in their gorgeous Ancient Egypt and Mummies exhibit.
SPRUCE STREET SUSPENSION BRIDGE
Located in the residential Bankers Hill neighborhood, the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is supported by cables embedded in massive concrete slabs beneath the soil. Walking over the long bridge isn’t for those with a fear of heights—the bridge literally suspends over the canyon, and a sharp wind gust can make it swing slightly.
Build in 1912, and engineered by Edwin Capps, this footbridge was initially designed to provide pedestrians a passage across the deep canyon, to get between the new trolley lines built on Fourth and Fifth avenue. It now serves as a secret, serene, and very romantic spot, beloved by locals and visitors to San Diego alike.
To find the bridge: Turn west onto Spruce street from First avenue and drive all of the way down until the entrance is seen. Parking is in a residential neighborhood. Be respectful, mindful and enjoy. If you are walking from the park, just walk down Spruce street and it turns into the bridge, you cannot miss it after front street. (It is about a 30 minute walk from here to Harper’s Topiary Garden found in the atlas, AND it is hilly…get those walking boots on)
Check back often for even more fun San Diego Real Estate news and tips, community posts, and event calendars!!!
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