It was a gray and gloomy morning in the City of Angels. Was it the overcast sky and nip in the air sent the chill up my spine? Or was it my mission for the day? My search for...ghosts.
Los Angeles. A city of dreams and promises. A city of loss and regret. A city with more than its fair share of murder and mayhem. A city where countless people die with unfulfilled ambition and unfinished business. A city where many of those people decide to stick around in the afterlife.
Armed only with my trusty iPhone and stealthy Prius, I began my search.
Rancho Los Amigos Asylum
The friendly name of this sprawling place belies its dark and complex history. Built in 1888 in Downey, CA as the Los Angeles County Poor Farm, the place first served as a hospital and care facility for the city's poor and indigent. During the Depression, the hospital was converted into a sanatorium for patients suffering from long-term illnesses such as tuberculosis and polio, then during the 1950s, it was turned into a mental institution. Creepy stuff.
In the 1980s, the hospital was shut down. However, it still stands to this day, a couple of acres of crumbling buildings, still filled with the original furniture, file cabinets and medical supplies. Apparently, the buildings were found to be full of asbestos and lead, but no one seems to know why the place was never emptied, but simply left abandoned.
According to this article in the LA Times, in 2006, the Marines were using the facility as part of a military exercise, and found an old freezer filled with mummified legs. Yep. That happened. The coroner's office decided that the freezer had been used to keep body parts removed during amputations. But nobody knows why they were all left there when the place was shut down. Imagine making that discovery!
The entire complex is surrounded by wire fencing with barbed wire along the top in an attempt to keep out transients and ghosthunters. But many intrepid paranormal seekers like myself have snuck in. YouTube has numerous Blair Witch Project type videos by teenagers who went there at night on a dare.
When I got there, I was amazed to find that though the place was empty (of human beings), the gate was unlocked. I, of course, opened it and drove in. Because I'm crazy that way. I have to say, that I was honest to God freaked out by the place. Creepy building after creepy building. And every time I got out of the car to take a picture, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I felt like I was being watched by a thousand eyes. Which might actually be true, as the place is infested with thousands of feral cats. They kept staring at me, and I felt sure that they would have happily had me for dinner. I took my pictures and fled.
I was too chicken to try to check any doors or go into any of the buildings. Not only afraid of any ghostly denizens but also of the police - I saw a cop car pass by twice, but they didn't see me. But I think I'd be brave enough if I had somebody with me. Anybody in?
Colorado Street Bridge
I'm pretty certain that when the charming and romantic Colorado Street Bridge was built over the Arroyo Seco River in Pasadena, CA back in 1912, forming the last leg of famed Route 66, the builders never suspected that it would soon become best-known by the name "Suicide Bridge". But the moniker certainly fits, as more than 150 people have thrown themselves to their deaths over the last almost 100 years.
The first suicide was reported in 1919, and at least 50 took place during the Great Depression. Suicides have continued to this day at the rate of 10 per year, despite a "suicide barrier" added during the bridges renovation in 1993.
Countless ghosts have been reported on the bridge over the years, including recurring sightings of a man with wire-rimmed glasses and a woman with a long gown, who jumps off the bridge and then vanishes. The misty forms of other spirits are seen roaming the river bank.
One famous story is of a young mother in 1937 who, abandoned by the father of her child and unable to get work, first threw her infant off the bridge, then jumped herself, apparently so that they could be together in the afterlife. Miraculously, the infant was caught in a tree below the bridge and survived. The specter of the mother now roams the river, looking for her lost baby. As a fitting ending to this story, the now-grown baby girl returned to the bridge in 1993 and took part in its reopening after the renovation!
Linda Vista Community Hospital
The Santa Fe Coast Lines Hospital was built in Boyle Heights by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1905 to care for injured railroad workers. In 1937, it was renamed Linda Vista Community Hospital and was meant to serve the entire community.
Unfortunately, over the years the Boyle Heights area of East LA has transformed into a far less affluent area. East LA gang wars filled its emergency room with stabbings and gunshot wounds. The death rate of the hospital soared during the 1970s until it had the highest in the entire LA area. As the neighborhood dropped, so did the survival rate of its patients. Rumors persisted that the death toll was due to negligence and abuse.
The hospital closed in 1991, yet still stands, crumbling and decaying. It is now used fairly often as a location for horror movies.
Reports of ghostly phenomenon from production crew members have led to the hospitals reputation as a haunted building. Three particular spirits have been sighted over and over - a little girl who haunts the operating room, a young woman who roams the halls of the third floor and an orderly who still makes his daily rounds.
The Perelson Mansion
On December 6, 1959, Dr. Harold Perelman bludgeoned his wife Lillian to death with a ball peen hammer, brutally beat their teenage daughter, Judye, then lay down next to Lillian, and offed himself by drinking a bottle of acid. Their huge Los Feliz mansion stands to this day, abandoned and frozen in time to that fateful day.
The story goes that the noisy beatings woke up the two younger Perelman children, who Dr. P gently sent back to bed, telling them it was all a nightmare, before downing his corrosive cocktail. Judye, covered with blood, ran to the neighbors and alerted the police, who made the grisly discovery. On the bedstand in the Perelman bedroom, a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy lay open, with the following verse underlined - "Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost..." He still grasped the hammer in his lifeless hand.
The house was sold a year later to Emily and Julian Enriquez. Neighbors say they saw the couple move a few boxed into the house, but they never moved in. Nor did they ever move anything out. To this day, the house remains filled with the Perelmans belongings, complete with the Christmas tree and presents.
The Enriquez' son, Rudy, inherited the house in 1994. He continues to dutifully pays it's annual taxes, but despite the house being worth at least two million dollars, refuses to sell it, clean it out or live in it.
What is the enduring grip which the house holds over its owners? It remains a mystery.
The Nelson House
Ozzie and Harriet Nelson were the epitome of fine family values throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Their popular tv series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was considered ground-breaking at the time, featuring real-life actor/band leader, Ozzie Nelson, his real-life wife, Harriet Nelson, and their real-life sons, Ricky and David, all playing themselves. Much wackiness ensued. The Nelson's two-story Colonial home in Hollywood was so iconically All-American, that they used it not only for the show's exteriors, but also as a model for the show's the interior sets. The family lived there for more than 25 years.
Ozzie died of liver cancer in 1975, but apparently, he enjoyed his family home so much that he decided not to leave. After Harriet sold the house, numerous subsequent owners as well as home repair workers reported experiences with Ozzie's benevolent ghost, who enjoyed roaming the house and visiting his favorite spots, as well as turning lights and faucets on and off at whim. The only untoward ghostly experience attributed to Ozzie happened to a female resident, who claimed that she was occasionally awakened in the middle of the night to find that her covers were pulled down, and some unseen presence was kissing her neck and breasts.
So I guess the Adventures of Ozzie continued into the afterlife!
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
I visited the last stop on our Haunted Hollywood tour a couple of months ago. Remember when I told you that Michele from It's a Dog's Life visited me during her trip to California? We had a fabulous time driving all across LA seeing the sights. Well...one of our sites was this very cemetery. Michele loooooves a good cemetery, and this one is a doozy.
The cemetery was first opened in 1899 as Hollywood Memorial Park, and quickly became the final resting place for many of Hollywood's biggest and brightest stars.
Michele and I spent about an hour trolling around the graves and taking pictures. Some favorites...
But where are the ghosts, Gretchen? I'm glad you asked.
After Rudolph Valentino's death in 1931, a mysterious woman in black visited his grave every year on the anniversary of his death, leaving behind a single red rose. Most believe her to have been a woman named Ditra Flame. But after Flame's death in 1984, a ghostly women in black has continued to be seen kneeling in front of his tomb, and red roses seem to appear out of nowhere.
Tyrone Powers and Vincent Price had been good friends. On November 15, 1958, Price was in an airplane, flying from Los Angeles to New York. He was trying to read, but suddenly had an ominous feeling, and the need to pull back the curtain on his window. There, written across a cloud he saw the words "Tyrone Power is dead." When he finally reached his hotel in New York, he received a message confirming that Tyrone Power had died of a heart attack.
So on this note, I will end my tour of Los Angeles' most spooky and ghostly locales. If you're just dying (pun intended) for more, check out my previous posts LA Noir, on famous murder houses around my dear city, and last year's Haunted Hollywood, with more famous LA haunted houses.
And don't leave without checking out this week's other Spin Cycle participants!
It's not too late to add your "Halloween" spin to the link below! And this week, Ginny Marie is also co-hosting the Ladies Only Blog Share Linky Party! So when you visit Ginny, be sure and add your Halloween spin to that link too!
And check back on Monday for Ginny Marie and my Spin topic for next week!
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