It was another perfect day in the City of Angels. Perfect weather, clear and cool. The perfect day for a little...ghost hunting.
(CUE LIGHTNING FLASH AND EVIL LAUGH)
Hollywood. A city of bright lights and broken dreams. Many a young star-struck kid has made their way here, only to have their hopes and dreams dashed by cold reality, leaving them to die a tragic, violent death. And according to Hollywood legend, many of these sad souls decided to...stick around.
So after I dropped the kid at school, I headed out out in my stealthy Prius in search for the paranormal.
(CUE MORE LIGHTNING AND LAUGHING)
The Ravenswood Apartments
The Ravenswood is a beautiful Art Deco building, built in 1930 by Paramount Pictures as housing for the stars they had under contract. Though many stars, including Ava Gardner and Clark Gable lived there, The Ravenswood's most famous tenant was Mae West, who moved into Apartment 611 in 1932. Though her stay there was meant to be temporary, she loved the apartment so much that she never left. Ever. Though she signed a Lifetime Lease, many believe that her stay extended far beyond her lifetime. She died there in 1980, sitting in her favorite armchair in her bedroom. Recent tenants swear that they have witnessed twinkling lights around the apartment, and some say they've seen the figure of Mae herself. Maybe if you stop by on your next trip to LA, she'll come up and see you some time.
My next stop was on the western side of Hollywood...
The Silent Movie Theater
Silent Film buff John Hampton opened the Silent Movie Theater in 1942, 15 years after talkies bumped silents off the screens around the country. But Hampton loved the silents, and dedicated his life to collecting, restoring and showing the silent classics. Hampton and his wife, Dorothy, lived in an apartment on the second floor of the building, and he used their bathroom to restore old films using toxic chemicals. Alas, in the '70's, it was announced that he had contracted cancer due to prolonged chemical exposure. He eventually died in 1990, after a long and painful illness.
In 1991, a new owner, Lawrence Austin, took over the theater. Poor Austin didn't fare any better. In 1996, the theater's projectionist, James Van Sickle, who also just happened to be Austin's live-in lover, hired a hitman, Christian Rodriquez to shoot and kill Austin right in the theater's lobby.
According to the theater's newest owner, the building is haunted by both of its former proprietors. According to movie-goers, a crimson blood stain appears and then disappears on the exact spot in the lobby where Austin was gunned down. And Hampton's ghostly figure has been seen roaming the second floor. I guess that neither of them can resists sticking around to watch their beloved silent movies, which still play there nightly. No word on how silent Austin and Hampton are.
I drove north until I reached the famous Sunset Strip...
The Comedy Store
Since 1972, The Comedy Store has showcased the top stand-ups in showbiz. But the building got it's start as the famous Ciro's Nightclub...
Ciro's was a popular haunt (pun intended) of the stars back in the Hollywood heyday of the '40's and '50's. But it was also a notorious mob hangout, and it was rumored that the basement of the building is where the mob carried out their numerous hits.
According to Comedy Store employees, the building hosts two distinctly different ghostly presences. The first is believed to be the ghost of a former comedian. This apparition is said to be a prankster who regularly plays tricks on employees. One waitress reported that many times she would open the main room, arrange all the tables, light the candles and leave. A few minutes later she would return to find the room locked, with all the lights out and the candles extinguished. She would then go fetch the key, but when she returned, the room was open and the lights were on again! Another employee claims that he regularly heard somebody playing the piano upstairs, but whenever he entered the room, there was nobody there. He also says that he once saw a chair float 20 feet across the main stage. Another time, he walked to the back of the empty stage to turn the lights off, but when he turned around he found 40 chairs piled in the center of the stage. Freaky.
The other, and far more malevolent spirit, is said to be an "entity" that emanates from the building's basement. Employees say that they have heard guttural "growl" coming from the basement, where the mob silenced it's enemies. No laughing matter.
Dan Aykroyd's House
My next stop was nestled down a long and winding road high up in the beautiful Hollywood Hills. Back in the early 1980's, Dan Aykroyd and his wife, Donna Dixon, bought this 5000 square foot English Country home. Aykroyd, a man known to have a fascination with all things paranormal, claims that the house is inhabited by numerous apparitions, and swears that a poltergeist has gotten into bed with him, turned appliances on and off, and moved items across tables and dressers. Living here was his inspiration for, you guessed it, Ghostbusters. I doubt, however, that the house is possessed by Zuul and Gozer. It's more likely inhabitant would be former owners Mama Cass Elliot (who died in the house) or Natalie Wood. According to Aykroyd, "I'm sure it's Mama Cass because you get the feeling it's a big ghost."
After leaving the glamorous Hollywood Hills, I made my way down to the infamous Hollywood Boulevard, where I found a plethora of the paranormal...
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
The historic Hollywood Roosevelt is a the home of much ghostly activity. Phantom children playing in the hallways, ethereal dancers in the ballroom, "cold spots" throughout the building. Marilyn Monroe stayed at the Roosevelt so often that she purchased a full-length mirror to be kept in her favorite suite by the pool. After her death in 1962, the mirror was stored in the basement. Decades later, during a renovation, the mirror was found and rehung in the lower lobby. Numerous guests and hotel employees claim to have seen Monroe's reflection in the mirror, primping and applying lipstick.
Another Roosevelt denizen is actor Montgomery Clift. He is said to haunt Room 928, where he lived for many months in 1952 while filming From Here to Eternity. Guests say that Clift wanders the halls of the 9th floor rehearsing his lines and practicing a trumpet for the role. One woman says she woke up in the middle of the night and found a man sitting on her suitcase next to the bed. Thinking she was dreaming, she went back to sleep, but when she woke up in the morning, she found the contents of her suitcase spread all over the floor. Naughty Monty.
Back in the 1800's, Hollywood Blvd. was known as Prospect Avenue. At the turn of the century, the Prospect Elementary school stood right on the site where the Vogue Theater now stands. In 1901, the four-room schoolhouse burned to the ground, killing 25 children and their teacher, Miss Elizabeth.
The Vogue was built on the spot in 1935, but went out of business in 1992. At that time, the International Society for Paranormal Research moved into the building and set up shop. Over the next several years, they carefully researched and documented the paranormal occurrences in the building. According to the ISPR, the theater had nine resident entities - 6 children and 3 adults. The children are said to have been killed in the Prospect Elementary fire, and one of the adult ghosts is their teacher, Miss Elizabeth. The other two adult ghosts are known to be Fritz, the theater's projectionist for 40 years, who died of a heart attack in the projection room, and Danny, a maintenance engineer who died there of a drug overdose in the 1980s.
When the ISPR moved out of the building in 2001, they decided to "cleanse" the building. I like to think that this means that Miss Elizabeth and her students finally "moved on" to the other side, because for a while after that, the building served as an XXX theater, and that would have been inappropriate for children, dead or alive.
The gorgeous Art Deco Pantages is one of the last of the glorious Hollywood movie palaces. In 1949, the theater was bought by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes as part of his national movie theater chain when he bought RKO Pictures. Hughes set up offices on the theater's second floor, and apparently, the known recluse holed up there whenever he had to be in Hollywood. According to more recent owners, Hughes himself haunts the place, and has been known to walk through the offices, open and close drawers and send a cool breeze through the hallways.
The theater has another famous ghost, stories of which date back as far as 1932. That year a woman died in the mezzanine during a film. Since then, when the theater is quiet and dark, a woman can be heard singing from the mezzanine. The theater is now host to live Broadway touring company shows, and her voice has been said to have been picked up on microphones during a live performance.
Some of you may remember that Jude and I got to tour backstage at the Pantages when we saw my old friend Blake as Uncle Fester in The Addams Family. I wish I'd know this then, and I'd have tried to go on a Howard Hughes hunt!
The Hollywood Tower Hotel was built in 1929, and hosted many a Hollywood star - Errol Flynn, W.C. Fields and John Barrymore. The ballroom on the top floor was a grand and popular location for fabulous Hollywood parties, with it's upclose view of the Hollywood Sign.
In 1939, Sally Shine, a Shirley Temple-like child star, entered the Hollywood Tower elevator on her way up to one such top floor party. With her in the elevator were her nanny, Emmeline Partridge, aspiring actress Carolyn Crosson, her male admirer Gilbert London, and bell hop Dewey Todd Jr, the son of the building's owner, Dewey Todd Sr. The elevator started to ascend, but when it reached somewhere between the twelfth and fifteenth floors, it suddenly exploded and fell all the way to the basement, killing everyone inside. Big Dewey was so distraught over the death of his son that he closed the hotel and sold it.
Later, the building was made into apartments, which is the way it remains today. Stories of ghostly activity in the building are legendary, and anyone who's been to Disney's California Adventure or Disney World, know that it's the inspiration for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride.
Back in the '90's, I had a good friend, Deasa, who often...sensed things. She could see auras. She held seances and communicated with the dead. Well she told me that she once went to visit a friend living in the Hollywood Tower. Before entering the place, she had never heard any stories of the building's supposed haunted history. She said that she entered the building and immediately started to freak out. She said she rode the elevator up to her friend's apartment, and that the elevator was filled with what she described as "whooshing", spirits floating around back and forth. She said she couldn't even stay, and had to take the stairs back down. Creepy.
The Hollywood Sign
Certainly, Hollywood's most iconic landmark, the Hollywood Sign has stood high in the Hollywood Hills since 1923. The sign has long been a symbol of the showbiz success which every wannabe star has dreamt of.
In 1932, Peg Entwistle, a young starlet who had had a bit of success on the Broadway stage in the 1920s, moved to Los Angeles, looking for her big break. It never came. Living in an apartment on Beachwood Drive (the very street where I lived when I first moved to LA!) Peg walked out of her dreary apartment every day and looked up at the sign, and apparently, it became for her a symbol of everything she would never have. On September 16th, 1932, Peg Entwistle scaled the canyon to the sign, climbed a workman's ladder and jumped to her death off the top of the letter "H".
Ever since then, her ghost has been seen by countless hikers and park rangers, who have reported seeing a young blond woman, dressed in old-fashioned clothing, who has vanished when they approached her. The next time Jude and I hike up to the sign, we'll have to look around. I feel a little sorry for her, because according to the legend, a couple of days after Peg's body was found, she received an offer in the mail to star in a play at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. The character? A young woman contemplating suicide.
So there you have it. My 10 cent tour of Haunted Hollywood. The next time you vacation in the City of Angels, be sure you check out the sites. You've been warned.
(CUE LIGHTNING AND LAUGHTER FOR THE LAST TIME)
If you don't visit our other Spooky spinners, I'll be sure and send Mama Cass's ghost to get you!Vandy J at The Testosterone Three and Me
Next week on The Spin Cycle...
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