Issue: Fall 2014
"I wish my life was a non-stop Hollywood movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die." "Celluloid Heroes,"
Ray Davies, The Kinks
Hollywood movies are increasingly shot digitally, not on celluloid, but the larger point is still true: movie stars never really die. A quick walk around Hollywood turned up five street images and an impersonator of Charlie Chaplin, who shot his first film, "Making a Living," in 1914.
With the power of the images created here, it's no wonder that Hollywood is often said to be haunted by the ghosts, spirits and energies of the stars and wanna-bees of the past. For example, in 1932, aspiring actress Peg Entwistle died after hurling herself off the "H" of the "HOLLYWOOD" sign. Ever since, park rangers and people hiking by the sign or in nearby Beachwood Canyon say they've seen a woman smelling of gardenias, smartly dressed in 1930's style.
And with Hollywood's love of both costumes and the macabre, it's no wonder that Halloween is its biggest holiday. West Hollywood's Halloween celebration boasts over a half million costumed revelers, while nearby Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights attracts thousands more.
To help get in the spirit, Discover Hollywood took a pre-Halloween tour with renowned psychic and medium Patti Negri, recently voted number one psychic in the United States. Later this fall, Negri will host the Spirit of Hollywood. The popular event, a charity fundraiser for the Hollywood Arts council, typically includes wine, "spirits" and hors d'oeuvres served to guests who dress fashionably in film noir or old Hollywood style. But the biggest draw is Negri's Ghost Walks, where guests encounter local spirits.
Negri has had many encounters with local spirits. Even after their death, she says, stars still make a big impression. "Big in life is also big in death."
For our journey to Hollywood's other side, Negri dressed in a stylish all-black outfit. She brought along her tools of the trade: a pair of traditional dowsing rods, an electronic "Ghost Meter" and a smartphone with Ghost Radar. "Spirits love electronics," Negri notes. "Electricity is so easy for them."
Our first stop was the American Legion Post at 2035 N. Highland Avenue. Its 95-year history makes it a powerful site for potential haunting. Opened after World War I, celebrity members and guests included Humphrey Bogart, whose image still greets guests and points them towards the bar, Mickey Rooney, Charlton Heston, Clark Gable, Red Buttons, Aldo Ray and Ronald Reagan. The late Shirley Temple was an honorary Colonel.
The Post is also one of the most popular filming sites in the U.S., with shows from "Cheers
" and "Law and Order
" to "The Devil's Carnivale" shot there. Beyonce shot a music video in one auditorium, and the bar doubled as a watering hole in James Kirk's native Iowa for a recent "Star Trek" film.
The bar also figures in two of the Legion's best known haunting stories. In the 1940's, three stools at the end of the bar belonged to Charlie Chaplin, Humphrey Bogart, a World War I Navy vet, and Clark Gable, an Army Air Force lieutenant. At the dark basement bar, there were "no paparazzi" to bother them, noted the Post's long-time manager, Terry. Gable's habit of cutting grooves in the bar with his pocketknife was even tolerated.
Accused of Communist sympathies by many (including the American Legion) Chaplin left Hollywood for England and Switzerland in 1952. By the time he returned twenty years later to accept an honorary Academy Award, both of his celebrity drinking buddies were dead.
Patti sat on Chaplin's stool and felt an angry energy, as if he was irritated at being pulled away from his friends. "I think he likes to hang there; it really hurt him to be kicked out," said Patti. "He gets to go there now-to that old school old boys club."
She felt a happier energy in the Ladies Room, where she felt the anticipatory energy of "giddy, giggly women" and felt the mirror was an active "portal for spirits." Indeed, the studios held annual dinners to introduce such "Studio Starlets" to the Hollywood community, including future stars Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe and Linda Evans.
While the flag-draped memorial room had a "sad" energy, psychic Negri found the theatre a joyous "patriotic spirit room."
The Post's most reported ghost was a comic character. Marshall Wyatt was a long-time doorman at the Brown Derby and a beloved bartender at the Post, despite his proclivity for chasing naked women around his upstairs bedroom. In his 90th year, he won the pot at a poker game and was carrying his winnings upstairs when he fell, never regaining consciousness. As Patti notes, "A lot of the hauntings are vestigial energies; something strong happened and the energy stays."
It wasn't long before Marshall's ghost started appearing at the pool table and startling grips and electricians at film shoots. Marshall, a friendly ghost, offers to help the Hollywood techs move their equipment-then vanishes into thin air.
The Post is rarely open to the public, but its legends and ghosts are on display this Veteran's Day, November 11, 2014, when the building will be open to the public.
Another popular spot for filming-and apparently for ghosts-- is the Hollywood Athletic Club, at 6525 W. Sunset Boulevard. The building is now used mostly for movie shoots and events, but in its heyday it boasted wild parties and members like Rudolf Valentino and buff "Naked Prey" star Cornel Wilde-both immortalized in a mirror at the Club.
"The Hollywood Athletic Club is one of my top five Hollywood haunts," Negri said. "It was frequented by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Johnny Weismuller and Charlie Chaplin and was home away from home for Hollywood's royalty of the Golden Age. From the moment I walked in the beautiful old building I could feel the place was alive with spirits. I brought my most basic of ghost hunting tools and they immediately starting speaking, sparking, flashing and making themselves known to us. They are good spirits. Hollywood spirits - ready to show themselves and have a good time."
Always open to the public, and apparently to a legion of spirits as well, is the venerable Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. Its Blossom Ballroom was the site of the first Academy Awards presentation, held in 1929.
Patti found the Roosevelt's ballroom full of happy energy, although she noted,"I've seen a spirit walk on that walkway." She used her dowsing rod to find cold spots at the ballroom, where she felt celebration and joy.
That's a big contrast to her experience at the Roosevelt several years ago, when a television show paid for her to stay in Room 928. Negri brought along a trumpet. One muffled blast was enough to summon forth the ghost of an older, protective man, followed by the shy spirit of departed actor Montgomery Clift. "The ghosts knocked me out and went into a dream," says Patti. Clift had stayed in the room for several months while preparing for his role as an Army trumpeter in the 1953 classic, "From Here to Eternity." Clift, considered one of the most talented actors of his generation, was a sensitive spirit who battled an array of demons, including alcohol, drugs, a disfiguring car accident and depression.
Marilyn Monroe, also known for her troubled life, is closely associated with the Roosevelt as well. Starlets hung around the hotel pool, and Marilyn posed for her first print ad, a toothpaste spot, on the diving board. Not surprisingly, the Roosevelt pool (recently painted by artist David Hockney) is "buzzy" with spirit energy, according to Negri. When we visited, she felt the spirit of a female spirit named Leila, a wanna-be starlet wearing a flowy chiffon cover-up, hoping to be discovered. "She floated around the pool-and does now," says Negri.
As Monroe's career took off, she often stayed in a second floor cabana at the Roosevelt overlooking the pool. At her request, the hotel provided Marilyn a tall, dark wood framed full-length mirror, which after her death was moved to the manager's office. A hotel maid was dusting the mirror and saw the reflection of a sad-looking blonde woman. The maid turned to ask if she could help, but there was no one there. The hotel later hung the mirror above a stairway, but the mirror is no longer in evidence at the Roosevelt.
Still, ghost sighting abound there. Carole Lombard is said to haunt the penthouse where she lived with Clark Gable until her tragic death in 1942. And though he loved to drink at the American Legion, the ghost of Humphrey Bogart reportedly haunts the Roosevelt's Tropicana Bar.
Strolling down Hollywood Boulevard from the Roosevelt brought us by the El Capitan Theatre, now Disney's showplace for family films like "Frozen." We asked an older usher if he'd felt anything paranormal. "All theaters have something. But we're not allowed to talk about it," he winked. Indeed, another Hollywood theatre, the Pantages, was owned by Howard Hughes, whose workaholic ghost is said to haunt his old second floor office. During a restoration of the theatre, a man was seen walking along the scaffolding to inspect the work, before vanishing.
Our tour took in many historic buildings, like the spooky First National Bank Building at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard. Although the building has a long Hollywood pedigree and a fantastic location on the corner of Highland and Hollywood, it's locked up and empty. The Outpost Building, 6715 Hollywood Boulevard, has a very Raymond Chandler-like vibe; Negri felt a defiant Italian spirit, like a gangster who wanted to be big. The nearby Lido Apts. at 6500 Yucca are known for the lobby's appearance on the cover of the Eagles' Hotel California album. Building workers wouldn't discuss it, but The Lido was also the site of the murder of actor Victor Kilian, said to be the ghost at the nearby Chinese Theatre.
We wrapped up our tour at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, where stars from Rudolph Valentino to Johnny Ramone and Mickey Rooney are permanently at rest. "Rudolph Valentino would like visitors and fresh flowers," Patti believes. "He was spoiled by the lady in red."
Hollywood Forever had a surprisingly cheerful energy, a green park in the middle of a concrete city. And in some of the memorial halls, there were glass containers that contain not only the name, dates and remains, but also items of importance to the deceased, like family photos, baby shoes and even a bag of Halvah candy.
There's much more to see in haunted Hollywood. A house on Camino Palmero is supposedly haunted by former owner Ozzie Nelson of "Ozzie and Harriet" fame. His ghost is said to turn on and off the faucets and flick through the channels searching for his old show. There's the Yamashiro Restaurant high above Hollywood, haunted by a bartender and a crying bride, and the Hollywood Tower, the inspiration for Disneyland's Tower of Terror, where a man in 1930's clothing reportedly stands on the seventh floor staring at the Hollywood Hills. Then there's the Knickerbocker (1714 Ivar Ave.) where a woman threw herself from the same roof where Harry Houdini's widow held her 10th séance to try to reach her late husband. Perhaps she was looking in the wrong place. Houdini's ghost has been reported to haunt the grounds of a mansion where he lived for a year at 2400 Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The building burnt down in 1959 and has never been rebuilt.
If you plan your own haunted Hollywood tour, psychic Negri says "Feel for the difference, feel for the energies." Negri got her start doing a séance at age seven for the recently departed Marilyn Monroe and JFK. "I ran out screaming. But inside, I felt, 'Yes yes yes, this is real.'" DH