Monday, October 31, 2016


 It's dawn on Halloween and I haven't been to sleep yet. I was up all night doing stuff, and when you do stuff after midnight time flies. I drank lots of strong Irish tea and the caffeine obviously kicked in. I'm wired for sound and probably won't sleep until Thanksgiving.

I made this video especially for Halloween and only finished it about an hour ago. It probably looks like a quick cut and paste job, but actually it was a helluva lot of trouble.

The current version of Windows Movie Maker no longer supports the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF files), so I had to put my brain into gear (or what's left of it) and use some ingenuity. I converted each GIF file into a WMV file and then changed the duration speeds so they look reasonably good on video.

In essence, I'm not as stupid as you think. Maybe.

Anyway, the music on this video is The Bogey Wail, recorded in 1929 by British vocalist Jack Hylton.

Actually, I uploaded the video to YouTube without even watching it, so I don't know how it turned out.

I'm going to hop into bed for a few hours and see if, by some miracle, I can sleep.

I might blog again later today - - if I'm in a reasonably good mood. Until then.....
enjoy Halloween! 

My YouTube channel is jayveesonata
I don't know the link  

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Was Halloween more fun long ago, or does it just seem that way in our biased and selective memories?

I'm old, but rumors that I attended the Salem witch hunt trials are exaggerated. I'm not quite old enough to remember good old-fashioned Halloweens of yesteryear: ghost stories by the hearth, taffy pulls, apple bobbing, fortune telling, homemade costumes, bonfires, pranks, and rowdiness.

Nowadays Halloween is sapped of creativity and imagination - sanitized by the Goblin Regulation Police. Squadrons of supervised kids - - attired in fireproof unspooky Made in China costumes - - robotically trek door to door, collect their safety-wrapped store-bought candy, and go home. The End.

Of course, my fondness for children is minimal and I think Trick or Treating should be banned - but that's beside the point. Fortunately I live in a remote area where only wolves dare to trek. My Halloween will be blissfully brat-free.

This blog post is going nowhere but - what the hell - I'll dig my way out of it.

So, how will I be spending All Hallow's Eve? I'm going to have pizza.....and apples, and a big bag of Halloween candy. And I might bake a cinnamon coffee cake if I'm in a good mood. Which is rare.

I wanted to buy a pumpkin when I drove to town yesterday but - - nobody has any! They're all sold out!! The stores are already crammed with Christmas decorations. HOLY SHEE-IT!!

I've dusted off my Halloween dinnerware - mostly so I could take exciting photos that will be treasured forever. *smile*

 This is my favorite Halloween mug for tea. I've been using it in the microwave for fifteen years. Yesterday I noticed a label on the bottom that says Do Not Use in Microwave. I swear to gawd it's true.

 The orange bowl has a black cat in it.
I'll give you a moment to contain your excitement.
How about a witch plate -
and a kinda cool Halloween cat -

Beware of the Cat

That cat has been packed away for years. I just dug it out of mothballs last night.

What's the deal with the cat in your header photo, Jon?

Hey, I'm glad you asked. I love that picture and I colorized it myself. The cat's not mine, but he looks a little like my Bosco.

 Here's Bosco
in a Halloween mode

and Scruffy

 ...and last but not least
Scratch. This pic was taken when I lived in Texas. She looks tough, but actually she was squinting from the camera flash.

This post got way off track. I was initially going to write about a few of my Halloween memories. Well, perhaps it's best that I saved you from being mercilessly bored. 
Hopefully you were only slightly bored.

More Halloween stuff is on the way.
Look out!


Thursday, October 27, 2016


Please read my previous post, which contains supplemental information about this story. 

Halloween night, 1920's.
In the rural, sparsely populated Hollywood Hills was a lavish three-story mansion. It was located on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, which at that time was nothing more than a seldom-traveled road. The mansion was a castle-like structure, complete with parapets and towers. It was situated on nearly four rambling acres, filled with gardens, grottoes, and a secret labyrinth of caves. A perfect setting for a Halloween party - - and for romance and danger.

The mansion was known as the Walker Estate. It was built in 1915 by department store magnate Ralf Marc Walker and he spared no expense. The home had 11 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, a ballet room, a theater, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and every luxury that money could buy.

An old-fashioned Halloween costume party

The Halloween costume party served a double purpose. It was also a birthday party for Walker's spoiled, self-indulgent adopted son George. On this night, to the consternation of his father, the son brought his gay lover to the party.

Legend has it that the two lovers went out on one of the balconies to see the moon. Somehow, during this romantic interlude, a heated argument ensued and eventually turned violent. In a rage, the heir to the Walker fortune pushed his lover over the balcony. The unfortunate man fell forty feet to his death.

Dapper and gay 

The family fortune served to protect Walker and son from scandal.  Every conceivable method was employed to exonerate his son. Newspaper stories were hushed. Cops, attorneys, and even the judge were paid off. The court case was dropped due to "insufficient evidence."

Ralf M. Walker died in 1935 and his widow sold the estate the following year. It fell into disrepair and eventually became a home for unemployed actors. In 1959 a great fire swept through Laurel Canyon, destroying the mansion and everything surrounding it. All that was left was the massive stone stairway to the mansion, the chauffeur's quarters, and part of the garage. That's where the real legend begins.

 This photo was taken on Laurel Canyon Boulevard
directly in front of the Walker mansion (located on the right) probably in the early 1920's. The building on the left (behind the tree) is supposedly the guest house where Houdini lived.

When I lived in Hollywood during my youth the Walker place was known as the Houdini Mansion. Everyone I talked to swore that magician Harry Houdini had owned the estate. Most intriguing of all (at least to me) was that the place was rumored to be haunted. The ghost of Houdini was said to roam the grounds late at night. Sometimes only his floating head was seen. There were other ghosts, too, including that of a woman and an executed bandit. Several Hollywood old-timers whom I spoke with recalled varying versions of the gay lover murder, and believed that the dead lover's ghost lingered there with the others.

The confusion about the ownership of the so-called Houdini Mansion persisted. It wasn't until later that I finally unearthed the true story.

Harry Houdini loved Hollywood but never owned a mansion there. He was a friend of Ralf Marc Walker and occasionally visited the Laurel Canyon estate. In 1919, Houdini came to Hollywood to make two motion pictures for the Lasky-Famous Players Studio, located on Vine Street (the movies were The Grim Game and Terror Island). During this time - a duration of about nine months - Houdini stayed at Walker's guest house. The guest house was a four-bedroom structure which was located across the street from the main mansion. A secret underground tunnel connected the mansion with the guest house.

Harry Houdini

A rare photo of Houdini by the outdoor swimming pool on the Walker estate

After Houdini's death on Halloween, 1926, his widow Bess occasionally stayed at the guest house of the Walker mansion. In 1934 she moved there and held seances in attempts to contact her deceased husband. In the summer of 1935, Bess held a party at the guest house for the Magician's Convention. 500 people attended. When the Walker estate was sold, Bess moved out of the guest house.

Sometime during the following years, Houdini's connection with the Walker mansion became legendary. Walker was completely forgotten and the crumbling estate became known solely as the Houdini Mansion.

One of the only existing public photos of the original Walker mansion, when it was obviously in a state of disrepair.

By the time I knew the place, confusion abounded - - especially because the address was changed. The original address of the estate was 2398 Laurel Canyon Boulevard. In more recent years, it was changed to 2400 Laurel Canyon. The address of the guest house across the street was 2435.

To add further confusion to the saga, a mansion located a block north of the old Walker Estate has also been mistakenly known as the Houdini Mansion. This house was owned by record producer Rick Rubin and had been used as a recording studio. The Red Hot Chili Peppers made an album there in 1991. To this day rumors of a Houdini mansion still persist, as well as tales of his presiding ghost.

The burned-out remains of the guest house were demolished in the 1960's. The remains of the main mansion were demolished in 1970. By the time I saw the place, there were only tattered remnants of what used to be, but it was still extremely intriguing.

The concrete stairway leading up to the ruins of the Walker Mansion, looking just as I remember it.

One Halloween night when I was in my early 20's - -  fortified with a generous amount of whiskey and Rainier Malt Liquor - - I went to the remains of the notorious mansion. The Houdini Mansion, or so I thought. It was extremely dark and moonless. I stumbled over the concrete remnants of steps and made my way through a maze of heavy weeds, empty gardens, and dilapidated places where grottoes had been. If ghosts exist, this was a perfect place for them to congregate.

There were stories that bandits had been hanged from trees here, long before the mansion was built. An unbalanced homeless man known as Robin Hood supposedly lived somewhere on the grounds. The spirit of a mysterious woman in white was said to wander among the trees. 

I didn't see any ghosts, but the general atmosphere was extremely creepy and reeked with potential danger. It was a place few would want to venture sober in the daylight, let alone and drunk on Halloween night.

Harry Houdini died on Halloween night.

The heir to the Walker fortune supposedly murdered his lover on Halloween night.

And I - a humble musician with an adventurous soul - wandered through the tumbling shadows and twisted paths on Halloween night in hopes of encountering  ghosts. No spirits of any form dared to materialize while I was there. But the entire place was filled with rumors of ghosts - - whispers of unfamiliar sounds, phantom shapes of suggested horrors...........
and haunting echoes of a long-ago Halloween party and the cold-blooded scent of murder.

Post Script:
The present owner of the property has completely restored the mansion and the grounds. It is now used for charity events, film productions, and various other rental purposes. Unfortunately it is still (erroneously) advertised as "The Houdini Estate" -  capitalizing on the famous magician's name.

For further reading:

I'm too damn lazy to turn these into direct links - - just copy and paste. You'll eventually get there.


 Stairway to Scandal
the stairs leading to the Walker mansion

This is supplemental information to The Houdini Mansion Mystery, which I will post later today.

My story was solely intended to be about mysteries and ghosts, with a Halloween flair. I felt that if I added too much historic/biographic information it would bog down the story and greatly subtract from the original intent.

A quick recap:
My story is about the old Laurel Canyon mansion in Beverly Hills that was supposedly owned by magician Harry Houdini and haunted by his ghost.
In fact, the mansion was never owned by Houdini.
The real owner was department store magnate Ralf Marc Walker.
Legend has it that, at a Halloween party in the 1920's, Walker's son pushed his gay lover off a balcony and the unfortunate man fell to his death.

In recent years there has been some speculation as to whether Ralf Walker indeed ever had any children - and there has been doubt as to the authenticity of the legend.

What I know for a fact is that Walker was a man of great mystery and much of his existence has been clouded by a heavy shroud. Long ago when I was living in Beverly Hills and researching this story, I talked to several Hollywood old-timers who swore that the death at the party was true.

This much is certain:
Ralf Marc Walker married Eliza Fitzgerald in 1908. It is assumed that they never had children, mainly because none are listed in the Los Angeles census. The census is not always accurate, however, and children weren't always listed.
Even Ralf M. Walker wasn't listed in the 1920 census, simply because he was traveling in Europe at the time.

One thing is definite: 
Ralf Walker and his wife did have a foster son named George. He is listed as living with the Walkers in the1920's - and very possibly even lived with them before that time.

George A. Scott was born in Scotland, migrated to Canada, and eventually wound up in Los Angeles - where he worked as a stock boy at Walker's downtown department store. Ralf Marc Walker took a very keen interest in the young man and unofficially "adopted" him. No one knows what their exact relationship was, but they were unusually close companions. George moved into the Walker mansion. Ralf Walker and George even took extended trips to Europe together (without Walker's wife Eliza). 

Ralf Walker and George Scott eventually became business partners. They were on the verge of opening a new San Diego department store in 1935, when Walker died of a heart attack.

Did Ralf M. Walker have homosexual inclinations? Was his "adopted" son gay? Where they lovers? Was there a third person involved who inspired  jealousy??

The whole "affair" could certainly have been innocent, but my keen intuition smells something very gay about the entire situation.
There is always some truth in rumor and legends. 
The pieces of the puzzle aren't all there, but what lingers is the echo of authenticity:
a Halloween party at the Walker mansion, gay lovers, jealousy.......
........and even possibly murder.....

And ghosts??
Hell, why not?

I will post the whole story later tonight.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Naw, no way!

We interrupt this blog for an unscheduled stop. Please remain seated and stay calm.

I've always considered my blog to be nothing more than entertainment. Mediocre entertainment, but entertainment nevertheless. I never felt a need to include reference sources or bibliographical data with my posts.

I try to write about uncontroversial topics (which for me is difficult, to say the least). After recently writing several anti-Hillary political posts my readership has dropped. I was expecting that. After all, 98 percent of my readers are liberal Democrats. I wasn't expecting some very nasty comments (which I deleted) calling me a Nazi and equating me with the Ku Klux Klan.
That irked me a little bit.

After considering shoving some burning crosses up those bastard's asses, I finally calmed down and said

"To hell with politics. I'll write about something fun and benign and non-controversial - - like Halloween!"

So far, so good. I was back on my mundane track.....and my three remaining readers seemed pleased.
(do I need to insert a *smile* here?)

Then, last Monday night, I proudly posted my Halloween tale of the "haunted" Houdini mansion. I thought it was a reasonably good read.
I was happy.

The Blog Gods saw that I was happy and decided to kick me in the balls.
I immediately received this somber comment (paraphrased):

"Your story doesn't add up. Please email me....."

Holy shit! What did I do wrong now?
Was this from the Blog Police?
An attorney? 
Houdini's ghost??

I had no idea. In a foolish panic, I quickly reverted my post to a draft.
I emailed.
I'm still waiting for the damning reply.

I plan to post my haunted Houdini story again - but before I do, I'd like to present my case and try to clear some things up.

First of all, I have written many articles about Hollywood history for very respectable publications. I'm not a novice at this game and I'm a staunch advocate of thorough research. 

My Houdini story has never been published. It was buried in my old files for years. I dug it out of the dust simply because I figured it would make a fairly good Halloween blog post.

My interest in the so-called haunted Houdini Mansion, and my research about it, began long ago when I was in my early 20's. At that time I was sharing a rental home in Beverly Hills with a fellow musician. I was very familiar with the area and was extremely interested in unusual stories about Hollywood history.

Several people had mentioned that there was an old haunted mansion on Laurel Canyon Blvd. that once belonged to magician Harry Houdini.

That was more than enough to intrigue me. When I finally found the address, I  discovered that the mansion no longer existed. Only the burned out ruins were there - on four acres of wild wastelands.
This setback intrigued me even more. All of this happened in the month of October. On a whim, I made a date with myself to visit the ruins on Halloween night. Getting drunk fortified my "courage". My midnight ramble through the ruins was interesting but yielded no ghosts.

Around this time I happened to discover a book entitled This Is Hollywood by Ken Schessler. He was one of the first writers to ever mention the Houdini mansion. I wrote to him and received a reply, and we exchanged stories that we heard about the mansion.

Later, I began my own research. In the main downtown branch of the L.A. Library I discovered some records concerning the mansion, which included the fact that the original address had been 2398 Laurel Canyon. It was changed to 2400 in later years. I also found out that the mansion was built and originally owned by department store magnate Ralf Marc Walker. In the 1920's he owned a popular discount department store in downtown L.A. located on 5th and Broadway.

My biggest discovery was that Harry Houdini never owned the mansion, but was a friend of Walker and did stay there as a guest.
Despite this revelation, the place is still referred to as the Houdini Mansion.

I began talking to a few old-timers who lived in the area during that era. I remember one old man named Mr. Scheffmeyer who was born in 1899. He told me that a party took place in the Walker mansion sometime around or just after World War I. During that party, a guest fell from the roof and was killed. 

This coincided with a later story I heard about Ralf Walker's son pushing his male lover off a balcony during a Halloween party. To my surprise, many years later a writer named Troy Taylor wrote about this exact same incident in one of his books (I think it was The Ghost Hunter's Guidebook, 1999).

Since my initial long-ago interest in this subject, many new articles about the so-called Houdini mansion have been written - - and many of my initial findings have proven to be true.

I am definitely not an expert on Houdini or the Walker mansion, but I know enough to stand firmly behind my findings. I've seen the place firsthand, have talked to numerous people who lived in Hollywood during that era, and I have dona lot of reading on the subject.

I plan to post my story again, and I'll include a few other links for readers who might want to learn more.

My account might not "add up" to some high standards, but I've written as honestly as possible about what I know. 

My main objective was NOT to give an historical textbook account, but rather to pique interest in a subject that I find fascinating.


Thursday, October 20, 2016


Autumn intoxicates my senses and I savor its delicious uniqueness like a fine wine.
Don't snicker. I'm trying to be poetic.
Having been raised in temperate Southern California, I never experienced the splendor of a real autumn. I had traveled with my parents, of course, and saw glimpses of the changing seasons - but it wasn't the same as permanently living in a seasonal environment.

It wasn't until I was 33 and moved to the Missouri Ozarks that I experienced genuine seasons - and became completely obsessed with autumn. On the first brisk October days, with the first sign of the changing colors of foliage, I would go out and immerse myself in nature's glory: drives in the country, long walks in the woods. I collected colored leaves, pine cones, acorns, and decorated the house with pumpkins, apples, and gourds. I sat by the fireplace on frosty nights - drinking hot chocolate, spiced tea, or spiked cider. I spent hours wandering in old graveyards, accompanied by the ghosts of imagination.

When I moved to Texas, autumn vanished and was replaced by surrealistic dust storms and ruthlessly howling winds. I was determined to survive long enough to see a real autumn again.

So here - nestled in the unfamiliar but satisfying solace of rural Tennessee - I have finally found another autumn. I'm admittedly tired, worn out, plagued with health problems, and haunted by the turmoil of emotional ghosts - but the gentle cloak of autumn is comforting. It rekindles life in the living dead.....

The best part is that I only have to step out my door to be reunited with nature.
Yesterday was unseasonably warm and gorgeous. Recent winds have stripped some of the trees of their leaves, but the remaining foliage is ripe with color. I ventured outside again with my camera. These precious days are fleeting and need to be captured and remembered.

 This was the full Hunter's Moon last weekend. Photo taken just before dawn, when it was setting in the west.

 Bosco, enjoying the warm weather

Afternoon view from the back porch

It's a good thing I took photos yesterday. It's pouring rain tonight and the temperature is dropping.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


When I was nineteen I became a state-licensed (as opposed to unlicensed) California security officer. It was in complete contrast to my artistic nature, but in my youth I enjoyed delving into unusual adventures. Besides, the work usually entailed the late-night shift, which coincided with my notoriously nocturnal persona.

My very first security job was a stint at Hughes Aircraft in Irvine (Costa Mesa, actually), where I was armed (though not particularly dangerous). It was an easy job because I didn't have to make any patrols or rounds. My most perilous duties included operating one of the night switchboards. I remember that a group of women from the front office took photos of me because they thought I was cute. I also received numerous phone calls from a male executive who propositioned me for sex.
I'm not bragging, boys and girls - - I'm just telling it like it is. And I'll politely refrain from revealing what happened.....

Late night security work wasn't all fun and games. I had some unbelievably horrific the time I worked at Goodwill Industries and the janitor turned out to be a murderer. He left the body of one of his victims outside my office door! I wrote about this in a previous post:
My Night With a Corpse

I was fearless back then, and often purposefully reckless, but the murder incident admittedly scared the living jeeters out of me.

A few years before the murder incident, I had applied for a late-night security job at Westminster Memorial Park Mortuary on Beach Boulevard. The supervisor liked me, but admitted that he thought I was too young. He preferred someone older and more "mature". 

During the duration of our interview, he finally admitted the truth: all of the previous security guards had quit - because of strange occurrences at the mortuary. It was supposedly haunted. Loud footsteps were reportedly heard in the hallways and apparitions frequently appeared. After careful consideration of the applicants, a fifty-year-old security guard was chosen.

Three days later I was surprised to get a phone call from the mortuary supervisor. He told me that the new security officer abruptly quit, after experiencing a few "difficult" nights. The job was open, if I still wanted it.

"Hell no", I said. "I'm a guard, not a ghost hunter." 

Eventually I did work in another spooky place. It was a company in Brea that manufactured sinks, showers, and bathtubs.  The facility consisted of two large buildings - - the factory and warehouse. The entire place was closed on weekends, and that's when I worked there: twelve-hour shifts, from noon 'till midnight, Saturday and Sunday. I was entirely alone and had to patrol the two buildings every hour  (12 times a day). Patrolling during the daylight hours was bad enough, but after dark it was especially unnerving.

My apprehension increased when I learned (from my supervisor) that there had been a long-ago accident on the upper floor of the warehouse, where a worker was crushed to death. It was rumored that his ghost lingered there, and his screams could be heard.

That upper floor was extremely creepy - gloomy, dank, and filled with lots of weird noises. Creaks, groans, and muffled human-like gurgles echoed through the cavernous walls. I always dreaded going up there and hurried as quickly as possible. I never did see a ghost, but the noises were strange.

One night I discovered a drunken derelict hiding on the first floor of the factory building. I feigned toughness and managed to scare him out of the building.
Unlike Hughes Aircraft, I was completely unarmed on this job and only had a flashlight. And it was before the era of cell phones. 

My work as a security officer was only a small part of my many youthful adventures, but I could write a book about the experiences. 

Cabinet of Curious Treasures 

Sunday, October 16, 2016


 This morning

Actually, it's my first forest walk of the autumnal season. There's not much to see in the summer - except eternal greenery, bugs, spider webs, moss, and snakes.

Now that it's autumn, the only thing I have to fear is being shot by a hunter - - or intimidated by a ghost.....
The autumn foliage isn't at its glorious peak yet, but it's such a beautifully warm day that I was inspired to get up off my sedentary ass and wander. 

I didn't really wander too far at all (only on my property), but it was enough to absorb the essence of my surroundings.....whatever that means.

I have several Halloweeny-type posts lined up, but decided to do a few photo posts first - - in order to disarm you with my charm and photographic expertise - - and hopefully to expunge the bitter taste of my recent political rants.

I'm actually a harmless sweetheart, but there are a few clueless souls who don't realize it (I'm writing this accompanied by a wry smile).

This has been a fairly good week, by my standards. On Tuesday my cousin Nancy drove me into one of the big cities (big meaning population over 100....just jesting...). We visited a huge bookstore and later had a fantastic dinner - which we both deserved.

On Thursday I drove into town to get much-needed supplies (photo documentation on my previous post).

Here are some of the pics I took this morning.

This was taken at around noon, and I'm surprised at how low the sun is this time of year.

It's difficult to see on the photos just how tall some of the trees are.

Scratch preferred to watch from a window.