Thursday, March 26, 2015

HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD HAUNTED HOUSE



When I was a reckless youth roaming the midnight streets of Hollywood there were many places on the Boulevard that thoroughly intrigued me. One was the dilapidated old wooden Victorian house that belonged to the mysterious Janes Sisters.

It was located on 7021 Hollywood Boulevard, which was way up on the dreary west end, away from the centralized touristy glitz. I used to love walking past it late at night because it looked exactly like a haunted Halloween house. It seemed so out of place on the Boulevard, a curious relic stubbornly remaining from a by-gone era.

A few dim lights glowed eerily from the windows, and every once in a while one of the ancient sisters would peak out from behind curtains and glare at me. It was almost as though I could actually feel her annoyance. Annoying them was never my intention. I was merely fascinated.

I had heard a few sketchy stories about the sisters and their peculiarities. I'd even heard that the house was haunted. I didn't learn the truth until many years later. 

The only resident "ghosts" were the four siblings who lived there for many years: Mabel, Mary, Carrie, and Donald Janes. By the time I became fascinated with the house, Mary and Donald were dead. Only Carrie and Mabel remained.


The Janes House as it looks in recent years -
a far cry from the creepy haunted house that I remember.

The house was built in 1902. Herman and Mary Janes lived there - along with their four children (the aforementioned Carrie, Mabel, Mary, and Donald). In 1911, the women of the household opened a school in the house. It was known as the Misses Janes School of Hollywood. Their pupils included the children of such celebrities as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Beery, and film producer Jesse Lasky.

After Mr. and Mrs. Janes died, the school fell upon hard times. It closed in 1926, but the four Janes siblings continued living in the house. Donald opened a gas station in the front yard, known as Janes Auto Service.



Rare interior photos

By 1964 part of the property was converted into a parking lot. That same year, Carrie's husband died (she was the only sibling who had married). Within a decade, the house fell into decay. A handyman was hired to look after the property. The two remaining sisters, Carrie and Mabel, never ventured outside.

After Mabel died in 1978, Carrie moved into the kitchen and slept in a makeshift window box bed. Carrie is the one who would peer out the window at me. In 1982 Carrie was moved to a nursing home in the valley, where she died the following year at the age of 94.

Fortunately the Janes House didn't suffer the fate of demolition, like so many other historic Hollywood buildings. It was purchased in 1985. The new owners had the entire house moved to the back lot, away from the street. After extensive renovations it was used as a Visitor Center, then it became a restaurant called Memphis, and later a nightclub. So far as I know, it's now a 1920's style speakeasy.

Although the radical transformation of the house has served varied (and mostly unsuccessful) purposes, it is at least securely preserved for posterity. The Jane sisters would certainly be amazed - and perhaps pleased.



The house is almost unrecognizable from when I knew it. It somehow looks smaller and benign, rather than like the foreboding, decaying street-side oddity that it once was.

Here's a very interesting fact - and one that had actually crossed my mind long ago:
The Janes House inspired author Harry Farrell to write a novel entitled Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It later became a 1962 hit movie (and a cult classic) starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

The name of the main character in the book, Baby Jane Hudson, was derived from the surname of the Janes sisters - and the name of a nearby street, Hudson Avenue.

Only in Hollywood.








21 comments:

  1. Interesting how our imaginations make things creepy, when the real story is kind of simple.

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    1. For years the story of the Janes House was a complete mystery to me. I still have unanswered questions, but at least I know part of the story.
      ......but sometimes knowing nothing is more intriguing......

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    2. Great story Jon! I've been giving Ghost Tours on the Blvd and passed this property for a year! I'm starting to include it in my separate Haunted Pub crawl!!! This was the story I was looking for-thank you!

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  2. What history resides inside those walls. The sisters sound like quite the characters. The house is beautiful, inside and out. A wonderful Hollywood story. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. It truly is a story worth telling and undoubtedly there's a lot of information that's still uncovered.

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  3. At least you were able to learn their story. Some things we come across in life we never know the whole truth. Hope your pain is better. Take care, Sheila

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    1. I'm still in pain but feeling a LOT better than I did. I hope your husband is on the road to a swift recovery.

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    2. Yes, he is healing well, thank you. Glad you are feeling better. Sheila

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  4. What an interesting, well-written account! The house figures in so much history, in peoples' lives, I can't think of it as small --especially if I had to get on the roof for some reason.

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    1. Perhaps the neat and tidy renovation,viewed in benign daylight, only lends the illusion of the house being smaller. At midnight, in complete darkness, the shadows of my youthful imagination made it seem much larger.

      I doubt if I'd want to climb on that roof!

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  5. Jon,
    An absolutely fascinating story! Wow! By the way, I think I saw this house while we were in West Hollywood. I even think I have a picture of it. But what a history. Thank you so much for this gem of information. Now you HAVE to rendezvous with me and Pat next January when we return to Los Angeles. You could be our tour guide extraordinaire.
    Ron

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    1. I knew you'd like this story, Ron, and I'm sure you probably saw the hose on your recent visit to Hollywood. If you happen to find a photo, let me know. I wish I had a photo of what it used to look like.

      It's strange, but whenever I used to go past this house I'd think of the demented sisters in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?". I was truly amazed when I learned that it was the inspiration for the story.

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  6. Very interesting story of an interesting house. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. I'm always fascinated with old houses and the stories they have to tell.

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  7. Fascinating, Jon! My heart just goes out to Carrie, taking up residence in the kitchen and sleeping in that makeshift bed. One can only guess, but I wonder if she wasn't desperately lonely.

    Gosh, by the time you got to "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end.

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    1. From what I heard, Carrie was afraid to be upstairs alone. That's why she always slept in the kitchen with the light on. I vividly remember the numerous times she would peer out the window at me.

      I was blown away when learned that she and her sister were the inspiration for the Baby Jane Hudson story - - especially since I always thought about that movie when I walked past the house!

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  8. Replies
    1. That's amazing, Tony! I remember Hudson Avenue, but I didn't recall it being near the Janes House.

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  9. Fascinating story! It's always neat to learn the history of the old houses and derelict buildings we've seen. Best thing about this whole post to me is that the sisters in "your" house were the inspiration for the Baby Jane movie. (What a great old classic!)

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  10. How amazing! What a house, what a story! I am not surprised it stayed in your mind. I love spooky old houses too but I confess I wish it was still there in all its spooky glory!

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  11. I liked how the details all seemed to interact. Superbly spooky stuff!

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