Saturday, October 22, 2016

HOLLYWOOD HAUNTS





Few places are filled with more hauntings than Hollywood. And few places offer a more perfect backdrop for perpetuating tales of the supernatural: a stardusted Neverland steeped in glamor, fame and fortune, broken dreams, sex, scandals, murder, and suicide.

If all the purported Hollywood hauntings are to be believed, then the entire place is brimming with spirits and ghosts. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these stories have little substance and are generated by rumor, legends, imagination, and pure hokum. It's a deliciously intriguing subject, nevertheless.

I was raised in Southern California but didn't really hit the Hollywood scene until I was nineteen or twenty. At that time I had an insatiable appetite for ghost stories and things macabre and spent a lot of time exploring the dark side of Tinsel Town. I visited just about every place that was rumored to be haunted or had a sinister history.

I saw the shabby apartment on Harold Way where the definitive Dracula Bela Lugosi died, as a penniless drug addict. I found the house in Laurel Canyon where Ramon Novarro, screen star of the silent era, was brutally murdered in 1968 on Halloween night. 
I visited Falcon Lair, the last home of 1920's heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, which is reportedly haunted. At the time that I went there, the home was owned by heiress Doris Duke (who died there in 1993).


Falcon Lair, the haunted home of
silent screen star Rudolph Valentino

When I was in my early twenties I lived for a brief time in a Beverly Hills home that was very near Cielo Drive, where actress Sharon Tate was murdered. Ironically, the Valentino estate Falcon Lair was also near the Tate mansion (which has since been torn down) - - and the horse stables were located on Cielo Drive. A friend took me to see the stables and we were told by a caretaker that it is haunted by one of Rudolph Valentino's horses - - the phantom stallion roams the grounds after dark.

I was familiar with the haunted Chancellor Apartments on Cherokee (just off of Hollywood Boulevard) because an acquaintance of mine lived there. The Chancellor was the last known residence of Elizabeth Short, better known as the Black Dahlia, whose savage murder in 1947 still remains unsolved.

The famous Hollywood sign on nearby Mount Lee has long been haunted by a "mysterious" lady in white. The  original Hollywoodland sign was erected in 1923 as a real estate advertisement. Fledgling actress Peg Entwistle committed suicide by jumping off the sign in 1932. The full story can be read in my post entitled
Suicide Sign 




The places on (or around) Hollywood Boulevard that are supposedly haunted are far too numerous to mention. Among the most well-known are the Knickerbocker Hotel, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the Pantages Theater, the Vogue Theater, and Grauman's Chinese Theater. 

The Vogue Theater had originally been the site of an elementary school. In 1901 the school burned down. Twenty-five children and one teacher were killed. The spirits of children have reportedly haunted the theater ever since. The Vogue Theater is also haunted by the ghost of a German man named Fritz, who was the projectionist for forty years. He died of a heart attack in the projection room in the 1980's.

The Vogue Theater at 6675 Hollywood Blvd.
first opened in 1935 and still exists today.


I especially loved the fascinating history of the Knickerbocker Hotel, but by the time I lived in Hollywood it was no longer a hotel. It had been converted into a home for senior citizens in 1970. I liked to walk past it - especially late at night - and reflect on all the things that had occurred there.

Ill-fated actress Frances Farmer lived at the Knickerbocker, when - in 1943 - she was arrested, dragged half-naked through the lobby, and eventually placed in an insane asylum (at the request of her vindictive mother).  In 1948, silent film director D.W.Griffith died in the lobby of the Knickerbocker. Strangely enough, actor William Frawley (Fred Mertz of I Love Lucy fame) collapsed from a fatal heart attack on the sidewalk near the Knickerbocker in 1966.


The Knickerbocker Hotel on Ivar, near the corner of
Ivar and Hollywood Boulevard was built in 1925.
This photo looks exactly as I remember it.

Even more gruesome was the suicide of Hollywood costume designer Irene Gibbons (simply known as "Irene"). In 1961, while staying on the 14th floor, she cut her wrists and leaped out the window. Her body landed on an awning and wasn't found until the next day. In the 1930's Harry Houdini's widow Bess used to hold seances on the roof of the Knickerbocker on Halloween night.

The old Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, final resting place of the stars, is reportedly haunted by numerous movie star ghosts - including that of Rudolph Valentino and Clifton Webb. It is located directly behind Paramount Studios (on Melrose) and has recently and inexplicably been renamed the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Tacky. Very tacky. On several occasions I had sneaked into the cemetery after-hours for romantic trysts. One Halloween, I and several friends went there at midnight in search of famous ghosts. It was a very creepy experience but no spirits cared to manifest themselves.


Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery,
now known as the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
A creepy place after dark.

The Roosevelt Hotel at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard (newly renovated) harbors the ghosts of two former residents - - Marilyn Monroe and Montomery Clift. Marilyn supposedly appears in a lobby mirror, and Monty haunts his old room (which is # 928). Also the Blossom Ballroom has several "unexplained" cold spots. This old ballroom was the site of the very first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.

I've heard rumors that John Belushi's ghost has haunted bungalow #3 at the Chateau Marmont on Hollywood Boulevard ever since his death there in 1982. The spirit of Howard Hughes supposedly lingers at the  Hollywood Boulevard Pantages Theater. Hughes didn't die there, but he purchased the building in 1949.

The Hollywood Wax Museum, still located on 6767 Hollywood Boulevard, is a gathering place for restless spirits. A reporter for the National Enquirer once spent the night in there alone and was terrified, claiming that he'd never go back.

There's also a lesser-known Hollywood Boulevard ghost  that still lingers on the famous corner of Hollywood and Vine. There was a bus stop on the northwest corner of this intersection in the 1920's that was frequented by actor Lon Chaney. He would go there every morning to catch a bus to the studios when he was looking for work. His ghost is still seen late at night where the bus stop used to be.

Speaking of ghostly places, the infamous Suicide Bridge is probably the creepiest place of all. Although it's located in Pasadena, not Hollywood, it is worth a mention. Originally called the Colorado Street Bridge, it was built in 1913. One of the workers accidentally fell from the bridge and landed head-first in wet cement. His body is still entombed in the cement, under the bridge.


Suicide Bridge in Pasadena
(the Colorado Street Bridge, built in 1913)
Site of over 100 suicides and ghosts galore

Since the bridge first opened, it has been the site of over 100 suicides. Attempts to make the bridge "suicide-proof" have been futile. It remains a notorious jumping off point to this day. Spirits abound at the Suicide Bridge, and I can attest to the fact that it's an incredibly spooky place to visit at night. There's a strong sense of restless ghosts.

This post is getting too long and I haven't even scratched the surface of Hollywood haunts. Tinseltown has long had a surplus of ghosts and legends - - many of whom are more popular than the undead residents.

Note:
This post was written quickly and I relied solely on my memory. Please excuse any typos or errors.

30 comments:

  1. Jon
    I never knew that about " IRENE," how bloody sad

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    1. Out of all the creepy things about the Knickerbocker Hotel, Irene's suicide bothers me the most. She was 62 when she died. From what I heard she was an alcoholic, and was despondent over her ailing husband's health, and her own declining career.

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    2. I always remember seeing her tag line on film credits......the sad part of Hollywood eh?

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  2. the delaware memorial bridge (bet NJ and DE) is said to have a similar tale of misfortune as your bridge above; I cannot confirm this.

    this is fascinating lore, jon; some of these stories I knew and others I didn't. can't wait to read the next haunting saga!

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    1. I just Googled the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It has an interesting history. They did mention suicides but failed to say how many (perhaps they don't want to encourage any more of them).

      There are so many Hollywood haunts that I really didn't know where to begin. I wrote this post rather quickly and relied solely on my memory - which is hazy at times.....
      I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  3. That image of the Suicide Bridge is wonderfully dark.
    These are great vignettes, Jon. Mostly, I'm intrigued by the phantom stallion.

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    1. I can't remember where I got that image of the Colorado Street Bridge, but I think it's from an old postcard. Anyway, it does indeed look foreboding - and it is REALLY creepy at night.

      I was initially hesitant to post this because it's long and rather haphazard, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I decided to mention the phantom stallion because not many people have ever heard of it.

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  4. What a fascinating post. I'm with you on this subject. I can only wonder if Elizabeth Short haunts in her full figure or just half of her??? Oh, that was terrible of me. I have been to Rough Point, Doris Duke's mansion in Newport on several occasions. She was quite interesting. She even had pet camels there once. I would have loved to take this tour with you and your knowledge.

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    1. There are several places supposedly haunted by Elizabeth Short. I suppose half of her haunts one place, and the other half haunts another......

      Camels in Newport?? They would have been more at home in California.

      Doris Duke was in very bad health during her final years at Falcon Lair - after having a stroke and many surgeries. I've heard that her staff and caretakers really took advantage of her feebleness. Life's a bitch even with wealth....

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  5. Ironically, I was just reading this ghostly Hollywood blog with a segment about Frances Farmer. My gawd, what horrible things she went through. Tinseltown isn't very alluring when you get a dose of reality behind those scenes ...

    Interesting post, Jon. The phantom stallion ... intriguing.

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    1. I've always been fascinated with Frances Farmer and published a few magazine articles about her long ago. What a tragic life.....and what a vicious and vindictive mother she had!!!

      Tinseltown has an extremely dark and seedy side and I'm completely intrigued by it. The phantom stallion story isn't very well known, which is why I decided to mention it. I wish I knew more details.

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  6. I must say, the Colorado Street Bridge is one of the creepiest structures I've ever seen. Posted photo does it justice.

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    1. I agree - and it's even more creepy at night. That photo is from one of my old files - I think it was originally a postcard.

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  7. Lots of weirdness on and off the screen. Great bridge.

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    1. I've always loved the weirdness of Hollywood more than the glamour.

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  8. Your really setting the mood for Halloween!

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  9. Seems to me I saw a movie about Frances Farmer a long time ago, poor thing. I should try and look it up again on Netflix. I've seen a few documentaries about The Black Dahlia. Never heard about poor Irene, though. So many. No wonder there are so many ghost stories and sightings. And you wandered about on dark nights in the very spots! ;)

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    1. The movie was called "Frances", made in 1982 and starring Jessica Lang. I saw it long ago but I honestly can't remember much about it.

      Frances Farmer wrote an interesting autobiography entitled "Will There Really Be a Morning?" - - but I think much of it was "ghost written" by a friend after Frances died. I used to have a copy of it but have no idea whatever happened to it.

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  10. I didn't know that about Bela Lugosi, sad, he was so typecast one dimensional career that I wonder if he could have done other stuff.
    Nice post, enjoyed reading it.
    Mike

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    1. Lugosi was definitely the definitive Dracula, but the role destroyed his career. He was typecast in Dracula roles the rest of his life and had no chance to expand his acting talents. In the end, he was completely forgotten by Hollywood.

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  11. Those dark clouds set the scene to make that suicide bridge look even creepier.

    Lots of interesting tales, but I'm most intrigued about the ghostly stallion. Neigh, you don't often hear about horse ghosts, except for the one under the headless dude.

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    1. I'm surprised that so many people are interested in the Valentino's ghostly stallion. I wish I knew more about it, and I should have asked the caretaker more questions. The weird thing is that the stables are so close to where Sharon Tate was murdered.

      That's my favorite photo of Suicide Bridge. It really looks sinister!

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  12. I don't believe in ghosts, as there is no law in physics that allows them to exist, but I DO believe in over-active imaginations. Even mine has "sensed" creepy presences at times, realizing that I am just letting my right brain take over and freak me out. That said, I know that some people have seen and heard actual strange things, and who knows what they are? Hollywood, which I have lived in for 15 years, has plenty of walking dead on the streets so it does not need ghosts!

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  13. The walking dead seem to be everywhere, Tony, but Hollywood has a surplus. As for ghosts - - I think the living are much more scary....

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  14. As you know I'm not a ghost believer, but my sister in law swears she has seen and heard things from my brother (her husband) that had a heart attack and died in nineteen ninety two. I ask her a while back did they still communicate and she said it stop after my younger sister paste away in nineteen ninety five. I love your ghost stories. Take care. Jean

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    1. It's really difficult to believe in ghosts or spirits unless you've had an experience. I've had a few creepy experiences and I do believe in spirits.
      I'm glad you're enjoying the posts!

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  15. I think I'm having a "blur". I could have sworn you posted something about an estate with a gay son and Houdini.

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    1. Jimmy, it's not your imagination. I plan to post it again - - but I ran into an unpleasant "detour" which I will explain soon.

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  16. Jon,
    A fabulous posting! I will send this posting to Pat. Pat and I will visit Hollywood again this February. Hopefully we can go to some of these locations. It is interesting, we "feel" something when we walk around Hollywood, especially Hollywood Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard. We LOVE Hollywood! Thanks for this posting Jon.
    Ron

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