The Legend of the Spider Pool

We try to keep everything on The Hula Girls page about tiki, but this project/ story that I was involved in is just too interesting (and relevant in a midcentury kind of way) to not post here.

I was at Don the Beachcomber, one night, about three years ago. Dan Edwards (of the Sun Demons and Link Wrayford bands) was telling me about the Hollywood legend of the Spider Pool. It seems that Jack McDermott, an eccentric silent film director in the 1920s, had built a mansion out of props and movie sets in the Hollywood hills. 

The house featured a tunnel and shaft entryway which led into the center of the living room. A manhole cover was the 'door'. There was a photo of McDermott's girlfriend on the wall, framed in a toilet seat. In the bathroom, the handle to flush the toilet was hooked up to a loud alarm. On the outside of the house were 'mosque-like' minarets and cannons from the movie "The Sea Hawk" sat on the roof, aimed out toward Hollywood.

The house had underground passages, trap doors, and an upside-down room. The rugs and furniture were attached to the ceiling while a chandelier sat in the middle of the floor. McDermott would watch through a peephole as his passed out from partying guests would wake up in the crazy room. 

He posed as a tile dealer in order to have expensive Italian tile samples sent to him. With those, he built a pool and a mosaic wall that featured a big spider in it's web. Jack had lavish parties where he would spy on his guests through hidden rooms and secret passageways. He would offer the girls bathing suits so that they could go swimming... Disintegrating bathing suits! 

In 1947, the house burned down. But this is where things get interesting... All kinds of pinup/ nude/ cheesecake photoshoots began happening there, at the pool and in front of the spider mosaic. Burlesque and B-movie starlets like Dixie Evans and Tura Santana have photos at the pool.

So back to my conversation at Don the Beachcomber with Dan... He says that the spider is STILL ON THE HILL.

So I told my photographer friend, Tom Stratton, about this story and this is where he quickly became obsessed with this place as well... We HAD to do a modern pinup shoot there.

The wall is land-locked by private residences and on a very steep part of the hillside. It is not a good idea to go find the wall. But we did.

This video is our search for the Spider Pool

The following text is from photographer, Tom Stratton.

Hollywood Virtue - A BTS look
by photographer, Tom Stratton

In my search for obscure beauty and mystery throughout each city I've lived in or visited, I can't think of another location that's been as exciting to learn about and ultimately discover.

It started innocently enough, when my close friend Matt, pointed me to a series of racy photos taken more than 60 years ago at a secluded home, high in the Hollywood Hills. A place affectionally and notoriously called The Spider Pool.

Little did he know I would spend my free time, over the next two weeks, digging through random bits of information found online.

Convinced I pinpointed the spot, I revealed the research I'd compiled and we made a trip up to Hollywood.

If found, my goal was to do a classic model shoot. Something that hadn't been done since the bygone era of the b&w photos from the 1950's.

Well, we found it. And after lots of planning, a tense drive through the hills, and hold-your-breath and don't look back moments, we settled in and spent a beautiful spring afternoon shooting.

It was such an amazing day, with all sorts of anecdotal challenges that made the experience even more fantastic and memorable. The photos are everything because of Ashlyn Coco and Matt Marble. Their enthusiasm and encouragement is infectious. Determination and patience is virtue!

What an amazing adventure and a really fun experience. Hope you enjoyed the story!


  1. I sure would like to find this place and do a shoot there. Great story guys!

  2. Very cool. I'd love to visit and take some photos too!