Weird California
Weird California
Weird California - By Joe Parzanese

Alien Trompe-l'Oeil Murals

Map Secret Agent Man With Bird on Hat
400 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Pelican with Money
400 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Alien Saucer Crash
250 Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Spiro Agnew Pushing Alien in Stroller
281 University Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Nun with Airplane
436 University Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Lady Watering with Bird
526 Waverly Street, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Boy Fishing
380 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Robbers Mishap
300 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map Garbage Man
136 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, California 94301

Map The Ornidontist
2741 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, California 94306

Greg Brown painted multiple surreal and whimsical murals throughout downtown Palo Alto!
Greg Brown painted multiple surreal and whimsical murals throughout downtown Palo Alto!

Sometimes referred to as the Palo Alto Pedestrian Series and at times called the Alien Trompe-l'Oeil Murals, several murals in downtown Palo Alto surprise visitors with how well they blend in with their surroundings while providing an image of surrealism to their real world environment. Trompe l'oeil is a French painting style which translates to "trick the eye". This means that the artwork uses shadows and other methods in an attempt to deceive the viewer into thinking what is painted is actually real.

These creative and imaginative murals were painted by Palo Alto resident, Greg Brown. They use aliens, spies, and a comical cast, to add some whimsy to downtown Palo Alto. Originally nine were painted in the late seventies as part of the "Palo Alto Pedestrian Series". Funding for the project came from a federal jobs program. Since then, although three of the original nine murals are now gone, several other murals were added, mostly through private commission.

Greg Brown moved to Palo Alto from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he was two. His first mural in Palo Alto was painted in 1975. He passed away in August 2014 at the age of 62. Many of his murals are still enjoyed throughout Palo Alto, particularly the downtown area.

Emerson at Lytton

Two separate murals are on a building at the corner of Emerson and Lytton. The first is a secret agent walking on a ledge carrying a briefcase, wearing sunglasses and a fedora. A bird sits perched on his fedora. He is on the Lytton side of the building, when facing the building, he can be found on the far right end of the building, around the corner.

Spy with Bird
Spy with Bird
Spy with Bird
Spy with Bird
Spy with Bird
Spy with Bird

The second mural is a pelican exiting a window and can be found on the Emerson side of the building. 400 Emerson to be exact. He clutches money in his beak and is clearly making off with it after having stolen it.

Pelican Money Thief
Pelican Money Thief
Pelican Money Thief
Pelican Money Thief
Pelican Money Thief
Pelican Money Thief

Alien Saucer Crash

Located across Emerson, on the other side of the parking lot, is a crashed UFO, complete with aliens emerging. The aliens pop up in other murals around downtown Palo Alto. The building the saucer is crashed into is at 250 Lytton Avenue.

Crashed Alien Saucer
Crashed Alien Saucer
Crashed Alien Saucer
Crashed Alien Saucer

Spiro Agnew with Alien

Continue down Emerson, then turn left onto University. Walk two more blocks and then turn left onto Bryant. On the wall there, you'll find former Vice President, Spiro Agnew, pushing a stroller with an alien emerging from it. Spiro can be found on the Bryant side of the building located at 281 University Avenue.

Spiro Agnew with Alien
Spiro Agnew with Alien
Spiro Agnew with Alien
Spiro Agnew with Alien

Nun with Airplane

Continuing a few blocks down University, on the opposite side of the street, above a balcony, you will locate a nun holding a toy airplane, above a Peet's Coffee located at 436 University Avenue.

Nun with Airplane
Nun with Airplane
Nun with Airplane
Nun with Airplane

Lady Watering

Head back down University and cross Waverly Street, then turn left down Waverly. On your right, at 526 Waverly will be a woman watering her plants with a hose. She is looking down at the end of her hose in surprise because a bird has landed on the end of it. This mural was first painted back in 1976.

Tiffany with one of the murals
Tiffany with one of the murals
Lady with Bird
Lady with Bird
Lady with Bird
Lady with Bird

Boy Fishing

Continue down Waverly until you get to Hamilton and turn right. Practically across the street will be the Post Office. On the far side of the building, on the side of the building facing Gilman Street, is a boy fishing. The window on the side of the building is also part of the mural, and is fake too! This mural was first painted back in 1976.

Tiffany with one of the murals
Tiffany with one of the murals
Boy Fishing
Boy Fishing
Boy Fishing
Boy Fishing

Robbers Mishap

Continue down Hamilton until you get back to Bryant and then make a left. Walk around the first building, and on the side opposite Hamilton is a mural of two bank robbers and a robbery gone horribly wrong! One robber is dangling by the end of a rope, while the other, dressed all in white is falling to his doom, while clutching a briefcase! The official address is 300 Hamilton and the location is fittingly a bank.

Robbers Mishap
Robbers Mishap
Robbers Mishap
Robbers Mishap
Robbers Mishap
Robbers Mishap

Garbage Man

Continue down Hamilton until you get to High Street. At the corner of Hamilton and High there is a garbage man in a yellow jumpsuit carrying a garbage can. An alien is peeking out of the garbage can. The address of the building is 136 Hamilton. The mural is on the High Street side of the building.

Garbage Man
Garbage Man
Garbage Man
Garbage Man

The Ornidontist

Located down near 2741 Middlefield Road is the Ornidontist. Painted in 2005 / 2006, this mural is of a man in a white apron with a strange two pointed high crown on. He has birds flying around him. From the parking lot on Colorado Avenue, it is back and to the right, then on the wall to the left, which is the back wall of the building. The parking lot on Midtown Court, behind 2741 Middlefield Road also is a good spot to park to see the mural, and the mural is just off the parking lot on the left.

The Ornidontist
The Ornidontist
The Ornidontist
The Ornidontist
The Ornidontist
The Ornidontist

Other Murals

Several murals may have also been removed over time. For example, I've seen pictures of one with a woman walking a pelican on a leash. It is supposedly long gone now. If you know of any other Greg Brown murals that use to be or are still in existence or have pictures of any of the ones I'm missing, both past and present, please let me know!

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Last Edited: 2017-01-07