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'It Feels Like A Secret': The Hidden South Coast Gem That's A Star Of The Silver Screen

Wildlife, boats and homeowners live in harmony at Malibou Lake
Wildlife, boats and homeowners live in harmony at Malibou Lake

Did you know there’s a hidden South Coast lake which has doubled as a Bavarian mountain lake, in one of the most famous horror movies of all time?

Frankenstein’s monster played by Boris Karloff accidentally drowns a little girl – Maria, in the 1931 horror classic Frankenstein.

The lake in the movie is supposed to be in the Bavarian Alps in Europe.

In fact, it was filmed about four miles from the 101 Freeway, near Agoura Hills, at one of the best-kept secrets in our region. Malibou Lake.

"Probably the single most famous scene of horror cinema was shot here at Malibou Lake," says local historian and author of Three Magical Miles, Brian Rooney.

Rooney says the idyllic lake has featured in many TV shows and movies – not just because of beauty but also because the location is close enough to Hollywood for crews to have to work on a day rate.

"Charlie Chaplin shot two movies out here," says Rooney.

"Probably the biggest modern movie shot on the lake is Muscle of Dogs with Diane Lane and John Cusack, they were out here doing the rowing scenes for that film.

"Modern Family has been here shooting three times. Billy Crystal has been here. Cult TV show Twin Peaks has filmed here. Parks and Recreation. Bruce Willis. Even Sons of Anarchy," he adds.

Local resident Shannon Ggem travels by boat on the private lake

"It's 40 acres and we all have docks and little boats," she explains.

Ggem loves being surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains, and thousands of acres of park, yet being close to a freeway and only 35 miles from Downtown Los Angeles.

Malibou Lake
Malibou Lake

"It feels like a secret," she says of the location. "People trip upon it usually when they're looking for somewhere else."

The Lake and club are nearing their 100th anniversary – one of the biggest challenges for residents was when the Woolsey wildfire raged through the area in 2018 claiming 69 of the 250 homes in the community.

"It was the only time in the 96 year history of the club that any structure had been taken by wildfire," says Ggem.

Shannon says the community is now rebuilding and looking forward to celebrating their centenary in style.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 7 Golden Mike Awards, 4 Los Angeles Press Club Awards and 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.