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Issue: Discover Hollywood Fall 2019

Hollywood Haunts: Where the Ghosts Hang Out

James Bartlett

Hollywood may be glamorous, but it has a dark side too. So we investigated a few of the people who dive into the neon-lit shadows of the Boulevard and beyond.  

Scott Michaels was a consultant on the Quentin Tarantino movie Once Upon a Time In… Hollywood, and his Dearly Departed Tours and Museum is a must-visit for fans of the weird and wonderful side of Hollywood. This year was the 50th anniversary of the most infamous murders in Hollywood history—the killing of Sharon Tate and her friends by members of the Manson Family.  

The museum has everything from Mae West’s dentures to the crushed remains of the car thatJayne Mansfield died in, and the beautiful Hollywood Forever cemetery—resting place of a Who’s-Who of famous people—is just across the road.

“The house on Cielo Drive (where the Tate murders happened) was actually razed many years ago,” explains Michaels, as he reaches into one of the museum’s many glass cabinets for a 6” by 6” piece of white metal. “This is from the ‘H’ of the original Hollywood sign,” he says, “and there’s a legendary ghost story associated with it.”

In 1932, actress Peg Entwistle climbed a workman’s ladder to the top of the H and looked out over the city—and then leapt to her death below. Her broken body was found at the bottom of a ravine, and her unsuccessful career was said to be the reason behind her suicide. Ironically her death made her famous, and her ghost, wearing a white dress, has been seen around the sign. Even the smell of her favorite perfume (gardenia) has been noticed there too.

More likely to be found indoors is psychic and “good witch” Patti Negri, known for her appearances on radio, podcasts and televisions series including Ghost Adventures, she most often finds herself in private homes—some owned by celebrities. “Most of the ghosts in Hollywood are great!” she enthuses. “Many people who come to Hollywood have big dreams, big ideas, and big personalities, and the ghosts I encounter are often like that. Big in life, big in death!”

She recalled a séance at the Lloyd Wright-designed Sowden House, where she encountered negative, unseen and not friendly spirits. She suspected it might be related to the murder of Elizabeth Short aka “The Black Dahlia”   by the home’s owner (and suspect) George Hodel. “I felt an intense hatred, especially of women,” she reported.

Keen to move on to her many happier stories, she spoke about the ghosts at the Roosevelt Hotel. “There’s a starlit ghost who wears a wonderful 1960s chiffon dress and appears by the pool,” she says, adding that she has also spent a night in room 928, the one actor Montgomery Clift stayed in during his time filming From Here to Eternity.

Another very friendly spirit was there too. “He was very protective of Monty, asking me ‘who are you?’ and insisting that he was Monty’s confidante, and his attaché. He seemed pleased when I told him that saying he was his boyfriend was completely acceptable today.”

Other Hollywood locations where she’s found contented ghosts include the Chateau Marmont, the Magic Castle, the Pig n’ Whistle pub (where she did clearings several times) and the American Legion Post #43 on Highland, which she visited for Ghost Adventures. “Charlie Chaplin was there, just sitting in his regular seat with a drink. He told me ‘he was back,’ and I later found out he had been banned during the McCarthy era.”

The private visits might see her dealing with spirits and ghosts, but she could also be asked to remove the vestiges of an illness, or a family tragedy, or simply to bring a change in fortune. She also works with real estate agents when a house won’t sell. “I work elementally and shamanically using the elements of earth, air, fire and water, and my techniques include the use of chants, oils, herbs, chimes and bells,” she says.

It’s counter-clockwise to clear things and clockwise to add energy, Patti explains, adding that she has “the best ghost of all” in her own 1921 Hollywood Hills house: that of a French artist who lived there from the 1960s to the 1990s. “My husband and I found examples of her art left behind in the basement, and now we consider her a friend, even when she occasionally bangs our drum set. She loves roses, and takes them out of bouquets.”

Patti holds monthly seances at her home, though they’re usually for family matters rather than summoning the stars of yesteryear. “I’ve had people find a missing will and a widow looking for the code for her late husband’s iPhone, and almost anything else you can imagine. It often gets very emotional.”

To get the chance to go ghost hunting up close and personal, you could join Linda Silverstein, better known as Linda the Ghost Hunter. A former photographer for celebrities including Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Michael Jackson and others, she has lived in Hollywood for several decades and has been operating her walking tours for a couple of years.

On the tour, guests get the chance to use a dazzling array of equipment like the electromagnetic K2 Meter, the high-frequency audio Spirit Box, the temperature-sensitive MEL Meter, infrared cameras and more. “They’re the same equipment used on the investigation television shows,” says Linda, adding that she adds to her supernatural arsenal.

“I invented a static magnetic detector, a small device that allows us to know if any form of static electricity is coming near us,” she explains, noting that she was surprised to discover a couple of stars on the legendary Walk of Fame were haunted.

The part-historical tour starts at—and visits—a number of haunted watering holes in Hollywood “so you have the chance to experience spirits with spirits if you want!” she laughs, “though I can’t guarantee we’ll always find a ghost.”

Curious fans won’t mind that, though—they’ll still want to search for themselves. “Yes, and when you just think of the history of Hollywood and its boulevard, of course, why wouldn’t it would be haunted?”

So if you’re looking for macabre memorabilia, your grandfather’s will, or assorted spirits and “spirits,” Scott, Patti and Linda are waiting for your call.  DH