The (nonexistent) little people

There’s nothing like a good urban legend. A post here about a weird mist in Chino Hills continues to draw a comment or two per month, with the total currently at 43!

So let me create another perennial blog post by noting the popular urban legend about a community of little people in one of the foothill communities in the San Gabriel Valley, or slightly east.

I’ve heard these stories and read them on the Internet over the years. Someone claims they were walking in the middle of nowhere and stumbled across a cluster of smaller-than-usual homes with small doors and windows. Or their friend’s cousin saw it, or they saw it themselves but could never find it again.

They’ve heard those stories at the Padua HIlls Theater in upper Claremont. When I toured the place a few weeks back, two people told me young people have parked in the lot to go in search of this mythical community, whose location varies depending on who’s telling the story.

Apparently there are rumored but nonexistent communities of little people all over the country. In SoCal, Long Beach, Downey and San Diego are frequently mentioned.

Anyone ever heard these stories locally or tried to investigate in person?

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  • Kristin McConnell

    Ha Ha Ha!! That’s just as good as the ghost stories we hear about Sleepy Hollow. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Ramona

    Back in my high school days, the kids with cars would go to the hills around Chino and the Aerojet plant to check out the eerie mists. I never heard of anyone actually encountering anything unworldly, but what was discovered were some great make-out spots. Not that I know from personal experience, of course.

    I never heard the legend of the little people. “Middle of nowhere” and “young people parked . . ” searching for legendary gnomes sounds like the local younguns creating a scary tale to enhance their own devices.

    Good luck to them in finding many deserted spots in the IE now days.

  • Jim Downs

    Maybe it has been Brigadoon all along??!!

  • JMac

    Hmmm, were these the same people who used to hold the submarine races at Puddingstone?

  • Bob House

    David, I thought you said you didn’t drink? I’ve never heard the little people story, but I haven’t actually lived in the area for some time.

    I do have kind of a related question, though, since you refer to the area around the Padua Theater. What is the deal with Palmer Canyon? Years ago, I drove up the dirt road behind the Theater and saw, as I recall, a few seemingly hand-built abodes, making up a definitely “alternative,” off-the-grid community. Something like “Sleepy Hollow,” but with fewer people and a more rural environment. I know the area was affected by a big fire in the past couple of years, but that’s all I know about Palmer Canyon. I’m wondering if you or your readers can provide any additional information?

    [There’s a community up there known as Claraboya and a lot of them got burned out in the fires a few years ago. We wrote a zillion stories about the neighbors, their hardy pioneer spirit, difficulty in rebuilding, etc. I think a lot of the homes weren’t up to modern codes and relied on a septic system. I’m not sure of the status of the area now. — DA]

  • Linda Frost

    I’m only 5 feet tall. Does that make me a little person? I’ll never tell you where I live, but there aren’t any more like me. Im the shortest person I know.

    I remember the Spadra cemetery getting play as the source of ghost stories.

    Regarding Palmer Canyon, it’s up beyond the Padua Hills Theater. Claraboya is near Johnson’s pasture west of the Claremont Wilderness Park entrance. A number of houses in Claraboya burned as the fire hopscotched through the area. More than 50 homes in Palmer Canyon burned in the Grand Prix/Padua fire, and there are only four remaining, one of which is owned by a friend of mine. A peaceful, wooded streamside community of houses and cabins was incinerated in a matter of minutes. To date, litigation, politics, and new building codes have prevented residents from rebuilding.

    And no, there aren’t any little people up there.

    [Any 5-footers, though? Just kidding. — DA]

  • DAve

    Hey Dave here’s a free scoop for ya —,ca/auction/view?auc=378506

  • S.

    Funny you should post this now: I was thinking about Claremont’s so-called “midget colony” (urban-mythmakers tend not to be extremely sensitive about this sort of thing, sorry) the other day when I read an article in the Telegraph discussing “a community of dwarves [in China which] has set up its own village to escape discrimination from normal sized people.”

    Anyhow, I first heard about the MC from my brother, who’d heard about it from a friend who claimed to have been turned away at the entrance by residents bearing swords. (No word on the size of the swords.)

    My friends and I spent a fair number of evenings “searching” for the place back during high school. We’d try to convince new members of the search party that the Padua Hills Theater was part of the colony. (Our strategy for dealing with the Theater’s “regular” proportions was straight denial: “Are you kidding? This place is TINY.”) Ditto the fire camp up near the Marshall Canyon Golf Course, which, being set back a ways from the road and surrounded by fences, was a (slightly) more plausible candidate.

    The best game, though, if anyone decided to stay in the car while the rest of us went wandering into the hills, was to come running back screaming START THE CAR! and stay in character for a good ten minutes even though nobody came even remotely close to buying that there was anyone after us.

    [Bwahaha! Thanks, S. — DA]

  • Desdave

    Wow, I didn’t realize the Green Mist post kept on going! Oh, and I never saw any dwarf communities on any of my million or so missions in the West End of the IE for “out of the way” private places to, umm… relax.

  • jess

    yesss i have in claremont at the top of padua by the theatre its a little private road called the wilderness park

  • Jessie

    I went up there last weekend and got chased by a lady in a truck. She clearly said “what are you doing?! Looking for MIDGETS?!” She was quite crazy about us going up there…. why would she go to such extent of getting us caught and out of there if there was nothing there….? hmm… I’m going there next weekend too.

    [If you don’t report back, Jessie, we’ll fear the worst. — DA]

  • Jessie

    I went up there last weekend and got chased by a lady in a truck. She clearly said “what are you doing?! Looking for MIDGETS?!” She was quite crazy about us going up there…. why would she go to such extent of getting us caught and out of there if there was nothing there….? hmm… I’m going there next weekend too.

    [If you don’t report back, Jessie, we’ll fear the worst. — DA]

  • Ginger Najar

    I lived in Corona Calif in the early 60’s. We would sometimes travel through a town called Sleepy Hollow and the houses were small and cottagy, I loved it as a alternate route to L.A. Our normal route was the Riverside Freeway. My Dad would indulge us sometimes and take this mountainous alternate route we loved to see the little houses and look for little people, it always seemed deserted though. Never saw any people.

  • Blake Sarnowski

    Yep, the legends of midget ville, midget colony or whatever you call it are real. My mom is an insurance agent for state farm in rancho cucamonga. A little while back she had to go check out a house she insured up there because of fire damage. There is only a couple houses, but they are dwarfed. Everything is smaller and they drive small cars like smart cars haha. Quite funny. I’ll have to go and check it out someday.