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The Legend of Midgetville
image For Christmas I received a great book, Weird U.S.: Your Travel Guide to America's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman. Immediately I flipped through it to find anything about San Diego, and soon came across the legend of Midgetville.

Midgetville refers to the legend of a town consisting of scaled-down houses built for little people. Midgetville is said to exist in various places throughout America. As Moran and Sceurman note, the most credible rumor locates such a town in Jefferson Township, New Jersey, on the former estate of circus mogul Alfred T. Ringling. There really is a collection of small-sized houses there that could conceivably have once been home to a colony of midgets. However, another very persistent legend locates a Midgetville in San Diego.

Moran and Sceurman don't go into much detail about the San Diego Midgetville, but I realized that I had heard this legend before (my wife had also heard it). This is how it goes: back in the 1930s a group of little people who had made a lot of money in Hollywood appearing in movies such as The Wizard of Oz supposedly came down to San Diego and built a collection of miniature houses on Mt. Soledad where they could live in comfort together. But of course, nobody seems to know exactly where on Mt. Soledad this group of small houses was or is, though everybody has heard of a "friend of a friend" who once accidentally found the houses (though this FOAF can never remember how to get back there).

Determined to find the houses, I did a google search and came across an article from 2003 written by Kenneth Smith for the Daily Aztec detailing his own efforts to track down San Diego's fabled 'Munchkin Houses'. After many false starts, he finally discovered that they were most probably "a group of four cottages on Hillside Drive in La Jolla... built by famed architect Cliff May." Although no midgets or little people were ever known to live in these houses, Smith says that, "The houses do indeed have smallish features, accentuated by an optical illusion. The steep road that passes them makes them seem even smaller than they actually are." Unfortunately only one of the four cottages remains standing, but Smith provides directions to find it: "take Hillside Drive from Torrey Pines Road. The house will be on your left-hand side. Look for the crazy midget handwriting." He also mentions that if you peek through the window (the house is unoccupied) you'll see "cobblestone-like tiled floors and a little round fireplace."

Of course, I had to see this for myself, even if no colony of Wizard-of-Oz midgets had ever lived there. So on New Year's Day I convinced my wife to accompany me on a search for the Munchkin House. The results were mixed. It was no problem finding Hillside Drive, but as it turns out Hillside Drive is fairly long. We were driving up and down it (as a line of cars formed behind us) wondering 'exactly which house on the left did he mean.' None of the houses leaps out at you and screams 'Munchkin House.' But finally we settled on one house that we figured must be it: Seventy-Four Seventy-Seven Hillside Drive. It had small windows and a small door. Plus, the address written beside the door looked a bit like 'crazy midget handwriting' (though I think Smith was joking about this). Ignoring the 'No Trespassing' sign (even though part of the legend of Midgetville is that the midgets who live there fiercely defend their land from the Bigs), I peeked through the window and saw the cobblestone-like tiled floors and a little round fireplace. So I think I found the Munchkin House, though I'm not 100% sure. It's certainly not anything that would catch your attention if you weren't specifically looking for it since it's really not that small, which made the trip a bit disappointing. But the weird thing is, I've already forgotten how to get back there.
Categories: Places
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 02, 2005
Comments (276)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
This story sounds like Haunchyville near Milwaukee WI. The difference is in Haunchyville the midgets are supposed to get mad and chase you away with axes and pitchforks.
Posted by Mark M.  on  Sun Jan 02, 2005  at  07:05 PM
This sounds like a legend in San Antonio, Texas about a place called Midget Mansion. As I recall, and it's been over 20 years since I heard the story so I've forgotten plenty, is that a house was built by a local oil baron in the mid 1920s. He hired midgets to act as servants and housekeepers and built midget sized passages so they would stay out of sight of guests. The house people say was the mansion was torn down about 15 years ago to make way for an apartment complex so tracking down the truth would be difficult.
Posted by Reinstag  on  Sun Jan 02, 2005  at  08:03 PM
On the photo of the "No Trespassing" sign, there is a piece of paper with printing or writing on it attached to the sign. What did it say? Do you have a close-up or can the existing picture be enlarged?

Posted by skeptic53  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  01:41 AM
Even though the end was a disappointment, I think there's enough material for a quirky road movie in this extended narrative. All you need is to add some odd encounters with roadside freaks along the way - you've already got a boy and a girl - and perhaps an open-topped Chevrolet. Perhaps you could be chased by mobsters, or something. And you've got plutonium in the boot of your car. Yes.
Posted by Ashley Pomeroy  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  06:47 AM

"A video camera has been installed to watch you and your dog! If your dog defecates here we will unleash a gang of murderous midgets upon you. Turn back now, Mr. Big!"
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  09:50 AM
You may be thinking about Tiny Town, Colorado
Posted by Larry  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  10:16 AM
I live near Gibsonton, Florida. Famous for it's retired Circus performers, equipment, and the like. My husband's great-grandmother lives there. She was a contortionist w/ a circus (not sure which, but the majority of the people in the area are from Ringling), her daughter was some sort of show-girl. They're both retired & living in a trailer park there. The lobster-hand family lived there for a while...we used to see them all of the time. Ever since the murders though, you don't see them as much. Either they left...or just don't like to get out. There are these little empty lots everywhere that hold out-of-use funnel cake carts, name it, it's there during the off season! -or-
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  10:34 AM
These little towns or tiny towns are everywhere. I was driven by one by a friend after a few brews. All I saw was a small house. The same story, angry little people yelling at you and chasing you off. This one was in Vienna Va.
Posted by Oscar  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  12:12 PM
Why do you want to stalk little people? Don't you think they already get enough grief as it is?
Posted by Craig  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  01:04 PM
My husband's great-grandmother says that there is some sort of Little People's Associate...sort of like PETA, but for little people (I think little people is the actual preferred term...).
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  01:07 PM
Santa Barbara (Montecito) supposedly has a whole street of miniture mansions for "little folk". I need to find out the street name again & can't remember if they hate or enjoy the tourists?
Posted by sbnature  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  01:07 PM
When she was a young girl, my mother attended the Texas Centennial Exposition of 1936 (it was the 100th anniversary of Texas declaring independence), which was held at Fair Park here in Dallas.
Among many memorable features of this extravaganza, there was a "midget town," or was it "midget village"? This was a group of houses built to a miniature scale, and the fair organizers hired a few dozen very small people to live in them, and basically be on public display, during the course of the fair. I'm not sure what was supposed to be so amusing about these people except that they were small, but I guess (I hope, anyway) they were well paid for their time.
My Mom told me all about this and other wonders when I was a pre-schooler, but I have since seen it mentioned in histories of the Texas State Fair (which is still held every year, but without the freak shows of old).
Of course, this was a temporary "Midgetville" built as a deliberate tourist attraction, not any kind of permanent settlement.
After the 1936 Exposition, it is said that many of the same performers went on to play Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz movie (which was made in 1939, if I remember correctly). I doubt that any of them made huge amounts of money at it, though. Remember, this was the Great Depression, and there wasn't exactly a surplus of jobs for people of very diminutive stature, and it was also the era when movie studios were all-powerful and regarded actors as pretty much interchangeable.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  05:10 PM
That house looks pretty much like a run-of-the-mill southern California house to me. No tiny little door, tiny little mailbox, tiny little furniture, half-size stairs, or the like.
Posted by Big Gary C  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  05:33 PM
I have actually lived in houses smaller than this!
Posted by Myst  on  Mon Jan 03, 2005  at  07:36 PM
:-) Thanks for writing this article and posting the pictures! I'm a native San Diegan and have been hearing the stories about "Midget Land" (at least that's what people I know call it) since high school. I've even tried going there a few times.

The urban legend states you have to pass 4 bridges or the like. I'd sworn I found it once, but wasn't really sure and could never find it again. It's been years and the directions are still hidden in my car somewhere (even though they don't really take me to the same place I thought it was). Anyway, me and a friend mine had recently gotten "curious" again... and I'm just thankful someone's actually taken pictures! THANKS you've saved me a tank of gas! :cheese:
Posted by RT  on  Sun Jan 09, 2005  at  09:47 PM
i have heard of a "midget town" in downey, california. i have friends that swear they have been there. i finally got the directions out of them, and even located it on a map, where this place is supposed to be, but they say its closed off by a chain marked "private property" and that i wouldnt be able to get in anyway. i still wanna try though.
Posted by Lex  on  Sun Jan 16, 2005  at  11:39 PM
I'm also a native San Diegan, but frankly, I have never in my life heard stories about Midgitville until now. Maybe if I'm ever up in that area I'll go drive by myself.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Sat Jan 22, 2005  at  10:30 PM
There is one in Fort Worth, Texas. It consists of about 4 minature houses, a minature church and minature stables. It's on the estate of a mansion that came up on the market last year. The little houses had air-conditioning and appeared to be recently occupied.

My uncle had told me about several years back. Complete with the aggressive little people living there. I didn't believe him, but when the place came up on the market, sure enough there it was just like he had said.
Posted by Joe  on  Tue Feb 08, 2005  at  10:15 PM
Posted by jojotigerlily  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  12:18 PM
Let's get small...
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Mon Feb 14, 2005  at  12:36 PM
There is a midget-house-village in San Diego somewhere near-ish to a large hospital. I don't remember exactly where because I was only about 9 when I visited it. However, I had a relative living there (some kind of great aunt, ancient tiny woman) and we spent a whole day at her house and her neighborhood. She was in a wheelchair and the ceilings in the house were only 5 feet or so high. The doors, fixtures, bathroom, everything, were really low. There were at least 10-20 or so homes like this in the cul-de-sac.

What my parents told me, was the homes used to be chicken coops! (seriously) There were no midgets living there, only elderly handicapped people in wheel chairs.

It was really weird though, all the homes were very small and it was a secluded little area. I think this may be the source of the midget village myth. If you drove by this street, you'd look down it and see both sides of the street lined with teeny houses. It was like something from a kiddie land at an amusement park. The home I visited, I would say had to be only around 20 feet wide, 20 feet deep and around 6-7 feet tall (flat roof). The front door was like 4 1/2 feet tall. I was 9 and had to crouch to get in. It was as wide as a normal door though, and could accomodate a wheel chair. This was around 1980 or so.

Anywho, just thought I'd post this somewhere, as I've heard of midget towns for many years, and always hear they are a myth. Not so, in San Diego!
Posted by cyco  on  Wed Feb 16, 2005  at  05:30 PM
I don't believe that is all there is to "Midget Land." I am a San Diego native & I think it's heaven on earth. In high school we used to drive all around that mountain searching for "Midget Land." They used to say that it is by a sign that says "Not a Public Thoroughfare." So we'd all pack into a Toyota Camry and search around for it, but we would never find it. One time on Halloween night we even stopped in the middle of some road on Mount Soledad and I popped my head out of the back window and yelled out to some guy standing in front of his house and said, "Excuse me, do you know where Midget LAND is??" The guy just looked at me with a confused look on his face. I was serious, but then we realized how riduculous the question was and we all started laughing and we drove away.

The myth also said that the people who lived at Midget Land were mean and defensive and could kick your ass.

The other urban myth was that there were four bridges on Mount Soledad and if you found the fourth you would warp away and never come back. I found one by accident one time and it was pretty exciting.
Posted by Kamran  on  Mon Apr 11, 2005  at  06:46 PM
As a young boy in the early 1960's Fort Worth, I remember a place everyone called "Midget Village" within walking distance from my house. Seems like it was a little abandoned town with stores a church etc. No one I talk to seems to remember it. I lived over on the West Side off of Burton Hill Road.
Posted by Mike Rogers  on  Mon May 02, 2005  at  10:51 AM
hey im curious does anyone got that directions for tha one in nj in jefferson county yo that b great if u do thanx me an my boyz wanna c sum lil people an my freind a lil person we call him lil mini write back pleez thanx.
Posted by thug nigga  on  Mon May 16, 2005  at  08:10 AM
I've been there, I've seen the 4 houses that you mentioned. 3 have been torned down however. The houses are actually pretty easy to get to and are off of Via Le Sienna or something. Anyway, cool story!
Posted by Juan Martinez  on  Fri Jun 03, 2005  at  03:43 PM
vicodin side effects
Posted by abc  on  Fri Jun 24, 2005  at  12:23 AM
The place is real. It's across from Thoreau Middle School off Cedar Lane. Going north on Cedar, take a left on Wedderburn and you'll see some weird trees and two dirt roads that lead back, with some vandalized mailboxes out front. I went to a high school nearby and as a young teenager I would go there all the time. My neighbor drove his wrangler into there one night and came out with bullet holes in the side of his car (the midgets shot his car with a bbgun). There is a dead end though so that's how they are able to attack you because in the process of turning around they trap you in. They have children who are normal size who come to protect their parents, and that's when it can get dangerous. If you do go to check it out be careful and try to be respectful about it- don't play loud music and laugh at them!
Posted by Danielle  on  Tue Jul 12, 2005  at  10:26 AM
can some one please e mail me and tell me how to get to midgetville from raritan NJ. My friends were telling me about it and we want to go there, but we dont have any clue how to get there. If some one can please e mail me with directions to get there I would really appreciate it.
Posted by jake  on  Tue Jul 26, 2005  at  11:49 AM
has anyone ever been to the "tinytown" in new york either in long island or suffouk? people have told me about it but they werent really sure where it was... please if anybody knows respond back!!!
Posted by courtney  on  Wed Jul 27, 2005  at  11:55 AM
i know the exact directions, here's how to get there, from torrey pines rd, go up hiddend valley rd, then make a right at via siena, and you'll come to a fork in the road not to far a head, go right at the fork in the road, and then not too far down about .1mile you'll see the house 7477 on your right hand side, you'll see a house in front of it w/ a gate. go be4 it's gone.
good luck.
Posted by Simon  on  Thu Aug 18, 2005  at  12:00 AM
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