Elfin Forest – Escondido, California - Atlas Obscura

Elfin Forest

This dark, quiet forest on the outskirts of San Diego is dense with rumor and lore. 


In what seems to be a concentration of urban legend and tall tales, this fantasy-soaked forest is located in the unlikely demographic of sunny San Diego.

Also known as “Questhaven,” the area is rumored to have once been inhabited by gypsies at the turn of the 19th century. Local legend has it that residents from neighboring communities came in and drove them off, slaughtering those who stood their ground. In turn, the surviving gypsies cursed the Elfin Forest and its surrounding lands.

There is evidence that possible ancestors of the Northern Diegueno Native American tribes lived in the Elfin Forest area. Many artifacts have been found and efforts to preserve others are underway; mortars, metates, pictographs, and petroglyphs discovered there help shed light on the Yuman language they were known to have spoken, and contribute to a clearer understanding of their way of life which began more than 9,000 years ago.

With its curving roads, twisting trees growing over pathways, eerie sights and sounds, and a total lack of cell phone reception, the Elfin Forest—thought to be haunted by superstitious locals —is the subject of dozens of urban legends. Many revolve around its abandoned, gated insane asylum, the entrance to which is marked by an old wooden fence and a sign with sleeping elves painted on it reading ‘Elfin Forest’. Behind the torn fence lie acres of land and decaying building foundations. 

Other tales of haunted spirits and paranormal activity attached to this area include trees that bleed, a ghost lady dressed in white that follows hikers throughout the trails, Native American bodies hanging from trees, shadowed figures that hide in the shrubbery, and other strange apparitions taking place over the rumored Native American burial grounds. With more than its share of myth and mystery, this wooded area is perfect for those with an active imagination and time to stroll through the trees searching for signs of ghosts and goblins.

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