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Issue: Issue Fall 2009

Haunted Hollywood


There are those who believe Hollywood is a ghost town. Not a ghost town like you’d find in the Old West; real ghosts who haunt Hollywood for a variety of reasons, according to experts in the field of the paranormal and others who have claimed to see celebrity spirits.

Reported encounters with some of Hollywood’s most famous ghosts include Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Rock Hudson, Rudolph Valentino, Sharon Tate, Errol Flynn, Liberace, Jack Benny, Groucho Marx…

When actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, the star of the CBS television series “Ghost Whisperer,” was stalked by a young male ghost she knew exactly what to do. She called her very own “ghost buster” associate who helped her in the most amazing way. 

In “Ghost Whisperer” Jennifer portrays Melinda Gordon who communicates with ghosts who have unfinished business that prevents them from moving beyond this plane. Her character is inspired in part by the work of the medium Mary Ann Winkowski who claims, “I see and talk to spirits like I see and talk to regular people.”

So Jennifer called Mary Ann for help. She was convinced the ghost was causing the light dimmer switch in her bedroom to go up and down, moving things, staring at her, draining her of energy…

Ironically, Jennifer’s home originally was owned by actor Lon Chaney, who frightened millions in his bizarre and macabre screen roles.

When Mary Ann determined a young man’s earthbound spirit was in love with Jennifer and was haunting her, Mary Ann found a way to help not only the actress but the ghost as well. She created a white light that enables the dead to cross over into the spirit world, and convinced the ghostly suitor to cross over. There have been other “authenticated” experiences with the hereafter as well.

Ghosts have a reputation for being frightening. But, they can be sweetly affectionate and surprisingly helpful, according to April Turkalj, business manager at the Hollywood Tower, an apartment building built in 1929 and listed in the National Register of Historical Places. the Tower, a popular residence for people in the entertainment industry in its day, is currently undergoing restoration. It’s even said to be the inspiration for Disney’s “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” ride.

According to April, a single male resident was awakened at night by ghostly kisses on his cheek. “He was a little shaken, but said ‘At least they’re kissing me and not strangling me. Tey like me.’”

Another resident was sitting in her living room with a friend when she heard water running in her bathroom. “She went into the bathroom and water flowing out of her bathtub faucet,” April recalled. “It freaked her out. She went back in the living room to get her friend. By the time he got there the water had stopped and they went out for the night. When the woman returned at 3 a.m., the stopper was in the tub and it was completely full and the water was shut off. 

“At first she was so scared, she left for two days,” April recalled. “But when she returned her attitude changed.” The tenant told April, “What a nice gesture, somebody drawing my bath.” “We have friendly ghosts,” April said.

The ghost of Marilyn Monroe reportedly has been seen at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood by Jackie Barrett, a psychic, medium and spiritualist and author of the best selling book “The House that Kay Built”. She reports seeing many celebrity ghosts there.

“I was staying at the hotel about four years ago and I saw this beautiful woman in distress in the lobby,” Jackie recalled. It was Marilyn Monroe, according to the medium. “She had on a light pink sleeveless cocktail dress, very shimmering. You could feel the emotions of a broken heart. As she was leaving she turned and saw me, and that I will never forget.” And then she was gone, according to Jackie. “I saw Rock Hudson, gor- geous as ever, coming off the elevator.”

According to Jackie, Frank Sinatra appeared when she was waiting for a cab in Hollywood. Then he vanished.

Elvis is another ghost she said she’s recently seen. “He wanted it to be known that he didn’t purposely kill himself.”

Liberace was the saddest ghost Jackie said she’s encountered. “His spirit told me he was very sad because his mother didn’t accept his sexuality.”

Groucho Marx is the happiest ghost according to Jackie. “He’s happy because he was himself on camera and off camera. He knew how to have fun.”

One of the most notoriously haunted spots in Hollywood is (of all places) The Comedy Store where stars like David Letterman and Robin Williams performed.

“This place used to be Ciro’s, a nightclub run by the mob,” said Alf La Mont, promotional director. People reportedly killed in the club by mobsters are believed to return to haunt the place according to La Mont.

Sharon Tate haunts the home of David Oman who co-wrote and produced the movie “House At The End Of The Drive." He lives just a few houses away from the house where Sharon and her friends were murdered by members of the Manson Family. He says he’s encountered Sharon’s spirit repeatedly, and the movie was inspired by her communication with him.

Laurie Jacobson’s book Hollywood Haunted covers more than 100 years of ghostly encounters. According to Laurie, a Hollywood historian, the house where Hollywood legend Errol Flynn once lived was haunted. When Ricky Nelson lived there with his actress daughter Tracy Nelson there were repeated instances of strange sounds like chairs being thrown against the wall and glass smashing. Yet nothing had been disturbed. Tracy once saw a man inside the house. When she told her father he said, “That’s Errol. I see him frequently.” The house has now been demolished.

Dr. Barry Taff has had repeated encounters with the spirit world both in and out of Hollywood. He is the director of the American Institute of Parapsychology, and reportedly has been the principal investigator in more than 3,500 hauntings.

Barry described what appeared to be one of Hollywood’s most thoughtful ghosts. “There was a place near Paramount Studios where Rudolph Valentino used to live. The people living there would go out and come back and the dishes would be washed. They thought it might be Valentino.” He added, “I’m convinced the phenomenon of what we call ghosts and poltergeists is real.”

Parapsychologist Dr. Larry Montz, creator and director of the International Society for Paranormal Research, said he encountered the ghosts of Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring. They stood on the other side of the locked gate of the house where they were murdered. “I could see them,” he said. “They didn’t say anything. They stood there looking at us. You could feel their distress, their negative energy.”

Lisette Coly, Executive Director of the Parapsychology Foundation, Inc. described one of the most poignant ghostly visitations. Lisette recently re-released the book about her grandmother " Eileen Garrett and the World Beyond the Senses ." Her grandmother was a trance medium who started the Foundation in 1951. 

According to the book, when Eileen met with legendary filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, the ghost of his mother allegedly spoke to him in her own voice through Eileen. Cecil reportedly was moved to tears by the encounter.

Whether authenticated by experts or experienced first hand, few doubt that whether these spirits met an untimely end, or just want to stick around for a while, there’s another dimension to discover in Hollywood. DH