November 09, 2004

An amazing thing happened at the Spider Pool

In September I posted here about a search for the mysterious Spider Pool. Seen in numerous vintage nude photo sets, some members of the newsgroup have been piecing together clues and photographs like a long-forgotten puzzle. Photo archives have been searched and sets identified, sometimes with little more than the pattern on a ladies skirt in two different photos. The fact that the pool may be dated from the 1930's or even earlier only added to the challenge.

Slowly, the pieces started to fit, and then last weekend, the Spider Pool was found.

(more in the extended entry)

From the couple who discovered the original site:

Ultimately, the "Cupola" building photo was the one that we used to find the Spider Pool property. The "Graces" photos gave us a defined area in and around Pacific View drive. We started down near the Barham & Hollywood freeway intersection looking up into the hills. We identified what we believed to be the "Cupola" building which is quite visible today. First and foremost, the "Cupola" is no cupola. It is merely a large chimney on a two-story Spanish style house. Today that chimney lacks the metal cover which gave the appearance of windows to many who examined the old photos. Little did we know that our first few photos from that position near Barham actually showed a small portion of a Spider pool wall that we later identified from another location with a high powered telescope.

Moving up the hill and south along the eastern side of the Hollywood freeway we found what we believed to be an advantageous spot at a ridge above the Hollywood Reservoir. This location was slightly below the roof of the "Cupola" building on the opposite side of the Hollywood freeway. There we setup my optical surveying instrument (I am an architect) and aimed it at the "Cupola" building. Now taking into account the information in the "Cupola" building photo. One, that the Spider pool is higher in elevation than the "Cupola" building. Two, the "Cupola" house is oriented in such a way that the main axis of the building points to a position past (north) of the Spider pool. Using the "Cupola" building main axis orientation as a maximum position north and knowing the Spider pool's elevation was higher. We had a tightly defined area to search as the only a small portion of the next ridge beyond was both north and above the "Cupola: building when viewed through the survey instrument. There a small section of white wall with rounded crenellations was barely visible through the survey instrument in the light rain.

We ran home and got the high powered telescope (not easy to move) and returned to the same location as I had the survey instrument setup. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun had come out late in the day back lighting the area in question. Everything was washed out. We couldn't make out any detail. We then moved the telescope north along the ridge until we found a location where a large tree blocked the sun from our lens. Still difficult to make out any detail but my wife began to focus on a slightly darker section of the wall. She screamed, "I see it, the spider, it's still there." Not only was the spider visible, the tile surround was still intact.

Now, go check out the photo here (safe for work), and compare it with the discovery photo here (this too is safe for work).

This is just too cool.

More from the couple who made the discovery:

The remnants of the Spider Pool are essentially just the back wall with some planters and mosaic tiles and, of course the mosaic of the spider in its web. I never noticed before that there is actually a raised wasp caught in that web!

Unfortunately, the pool itself must have collapsed with the hillside years ago. A few blue tiles can be found on the grounds and part of the pool deck (with the broken tile) closest to the wall still remains. Fortunately, the back wall survives because it is essentially holding up the hillside.

Look for the pictures to be posted at the blog Search for the Spider Pool (not safe for work). There you'll find most all of the original photo sets and the reconstructions. Also, it's fascinating reading as you go through the entries and see the mystery unraveled.

There's plenty more to uncover though. Who built it? Why a spider?

Congrats folks, you've all done yourselves proud!

Posted by Ted at November 9, 2004 07:25 PM
Category: History

Your Amazing Ted.


Posted by: vadergrrrl at November 9, 2004 11:37 PM

I'd like to know who owns the property it's on, and, as you said, who built it.

Posted by: Susie at November 11, 2004 10:21 AM

It would be great if the owner of that Spider Pool site could be determined,
and permission obtained to do like an "archaeological dig" there, and unearth
all of the rest of it which slid down the hill and got buried many decades ago.

Posted by: Tzek at December 12, 2004 04:22 AM

While my heart is obviously with those in CA who have recently lost loved ones and/or their residences, I hope the heavy rains & subsequent mudslides didn't obliterate what little remains of the Spider Pool.

Posted by: Bardieu at January 14, 2005 12:53 AM

Spiderpool research has shifted away from Usenet and since the rediscovery of the site considerable work has been been done on this topic by the members of the Spiderpool Research Society ( It turns out that the pool was built in the 1920's by legendary silent film director and screenwriter John W. (Jack) McDermott and was part of his equally fantastic estate. The pool was most likely razed by the City of Los Angeles in 1962 but the spider still remains. Unfortunately, the site is on private property and is very, very difficult to access.

Why a spider? You can find out by visiting the group which mixes mystery with popular culture and pin up photos.

Posted by: Spiderpool Historian at September 22, 2005 02:55 PM
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