Haunted Hollywood (story by Evelyn Barge)
Ghosts have always been a favorite topic in Hollywood, where horror films often produce huge box-office figures.
But aside from the smoke-and-mirrors effects of movie studios, the city of Hollywood is purported to possess some real-life specters of its own.
Below is a sampling of Hollywood's most-haunted hot spots and the legendary ghosts who inhabit them.
The Hangout: Vogue Theatre, 6675 Hollywood Blvd.
The History: In the late 1800s, Hollywood Boulevard was known as Prospect Avenue. The Prospect Elementary School stood at the site where the Vogue Theatre, which opened in 1936, now stands. In 1901, tragedy struck the four-room schoolhouse, and it burned to the ground killing 25 children and the teacher, Miss Elizabeth.
The movie theater remained in operation until the spring of 1992, when the Vogue closed its doors and was left empty until 1997. At that time, the International Society for Paranormal Research, headed by parapsychologist Dr. Larry Montz, acquired the property and moved in to set up shop.
ISPR was founded in Los Angeles in 1972 and was the first and only professional parapsychological investigative team of its kind. Montz and his team perform field research to investigate a variety of paranormal activities including entities, hauntings, poltergeists, electronic voice phenomenon and psychic abilities.
"An entity is the technical term for a ghost, and a ghost is a person," Montz said. "It's a person that remains earthbound because they have issues. Sometimes they remain behind because they feel that they died too suddenly in their lifetime. Sometimes they stay to protect family members or because they are confused, and they don't realize they are dead. Sometimes they are here for revenge, so we deal with the nasty ones, too."
The Haunting: When ISPR moved into the Vogue Theatre, the team had no idea the property was haunted by nine resident entities, including six children and three adult ghosts, Montz said.
"When we took over the Vogue, we were intending to use it for offices and a place to do screenings," he said. "When it turned out to be active, it turned into a research center. Now, there have been literally thousands of accounts of people who had paranormal experiences there."
Montz said the Vogue was so active with paranormal occurrences that the ghosts developed relationships with members of the ISPR team.
The children, Montz said, all died in the 1901 fire at Prospect Elementary. One of the adult ghosts was Miss Elizabeth, the schoolteacher who also died in the fire.
Two other adult ghosts identified as Fritz and Danny also took up residence at the Vogue.
Fritz, a German immigrant, was the Vogue Theatre projectionist for 40 years, and he died of a heart attack in the projection room in the 1980s.
Danny was a maintenance engineer for Mann Theatres who also worked at the Vogue from time to time. He died of a drug overdose in the 80s.
For four years, the Vogue Theatre was the home of ISPR and its ghost expeditions, which allowed visitors to participate in a paranormal field investigation combining both scientific and clairvoyant methods.
Among the reports of paranormal activity occurring in the Vogue were accounts of full-form apparitions, poltergeist activities when objects move around the property, strange odors and visits from outside entities who did not regularly haunt the theater. "It was one of the most active sites I've ever worked on," Montz said.
In 2001, after ISPR completed its investigation and research in the Vogue, the team decided to clear the property of all the ghosts, Montz said.
"That means the Vogue is no longer haunted," he added.
The Hangout: Hollywood Wax Museum, 6767 Hollywood Blvd.
The History: The Hollywood Wax Museum, which opened in 1965, celebrated its 40th year of operation this year. The museum annually attracts thousands of visitors who come to see the life-like wax statues of movies stars and celebrities that line its narrow hallways. The museum also features a chamber of horrors, where the ghouls and goblins of classic cinema eerily peer out at spectators.
The Haunting: If local legends about the Hollywood Wax Museum are true, visitors expecting to see lifeless versions of Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera, might get more than they bargained for in the way of scares. Rumor has it that spirits move among the wax figures.
"We have had a couple of seances here, and we've been told on two different occasions that they feel this particular site does have spirits," said Tej Sundher, general manager. "When people take photos at night, weird disturbances often show up in the photos." Other investigations into paranormal activity at the wax museum had terrifying results for the participants.
"We had a gentleman from National Enquirer lock himself up in the museum overnight to try to prove whether it's haunted or not," Sundher said. "By the time we opened up the next morning, he was waiting by the door and completely pale. National Enquirer said they never heard from him again."
For many tourists, a trip to the Hollywood Wax Museum is creepy enough, even without the ghosts.
"All the wax people are scary to a lot of visitors," Sundher said.
The Hangout: The Hollywood Sign.
The History: Erected in 1923, the Hollywood Sign has become an internationally recognized symbol of the glamorous motion picture industry in Los Angeles.
Built in 1923 by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler as a $21,000 billboard for his upscale Hollywoodland real estate development, each letter of the massive sign is 30-feet wide and 50-feet tall. Although it was originally intended to last just a year and a half, the sign has remained in the Hollywood hills for more than 80 years.
"The Hollywood Sign continues to be the icon of the entertainment industry, and still attracts visitors from all around the world," said Betsy Isroelit, spokesperson for the Hollywood Sign Trust. But for many Hollywood hopefuls, the sign also embodies all the negative aspects of a highly competitive entertainment industry. This was especially true for 1930s actress Peg Entwistle.
The Haunting: Like many young, ambitious actors who flocked to Hollywood in the 1930s, Entwistle moved to Los Angeles in 1932 with visions of starring roles in the latest talkies. And, like many others, Entwistle found only disappointment. Living at her uncle's house on Beachwood Drive in Hollywood, literally under the shadow of the Hollywood Sign, Entwistle waited for her big break - it was a break that would never come.
On the evening of Sept. 18, Entwistle scaled the canyon hill from her uncle's home to the Hollywood Sign. Using a workman's ladder, she climbed 50 feet to the top of the "H" and jumped to her death. Just 24 at the time of her death, she was nicknamed by the tabloids as "The Hollywood Sign Girl."
Ironically, a letter arrived the day after her death offering Entwistle the lead role in a play at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. She was to act the part of a woman driven to commit suicide.
Today, local legend has it that Entwistle's ghost still lurks near the site of her infamous suicide. Some visitors have reported seeing a young woman leap from atop the famous landmark.
"I would say that is the most famous ghost legend surrounding the Hollywood Sign," Isroelit said. "Like all legends, nothing can be verified, but it's well-known in the area."
Montz said he has heard reports of the actress' image appearing at the Hollywood Sign, but he does not believe Entwistle's ghost haunts the area. Rather, what people describe seeing is what Montz calls a residual.
"At the Hollywood Sign, people report seeing a residual of the actress jumping, if they see anything at all," Montz said. "The energy of that event is so intense that an image remains, and it plays sort of like a videotape."
"People who visit Gettysburg often report seeing soldiers fighting in battle on the field, but ghosts do not reenact their own murders or deaths," Montz added.
Whether a residual or a ghost, in the years following Entwistle's suicide and up to the present, park rangers and hikers have described seeing a young, blonde woman dressed in old-fashioned clothing who vanishes when approached.
The Hangout: The Comedy Store, 8433 W. Sunset Blvd.
The History: Before this popular Sunset Strip comedy club appeared on the scene in 1972, the site was known as Ciro's, one of Hollywood's hippest clubs during the 1940s and 50s.
"All the greats from the era came here," said Tommy Morris, assistant director of operations and talent coordinator at the Comedy Store. "It was a big deal to perform at Ciro's."
Besides showcasing big-name talent like Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and Lucille Ball, Ciro's was also a big deal for another reason - its owners had a close affiliation with the mob.
"These were really people just like mobsters in the movies," Morris said. "They loved to bring you in with a smile, feed you a nice dinner, give you some good wine and then kill you."
The building still has peek holes in the upper walls of the main room that allowed mobsters to see who was coming and going at the club, Morris said.
The Haunting: Montz and his paranormal research team conducted investigations of the Comedy Store in 1999 and found that the site was highly active.
Other psychics have also documented ghost activity at the club, Morris said.
"The Comedy Store feels like a very old place that has a lot of strange things going on that freak people out," Morris said. "Cold spots are very common in the main room. The air suddenly gets ice cold, and you can see your breath. This is known as a sign of paranormal activity."
Morris, who has been working at the club for four years, said employees frequently get calls on the intercom system from line 31, an extension that does not exist.
"It calls us, and it sounds like its outside, and all you can hear is someone breathing," he said. "I feel like it has a sense of humor, though, because it only calls when we're really busy."
Morris said two particularly angry ghosts inhabit the club.
"One of the angriest ghosts was a hit man for the mob," he said. "His name was Gus, and he ended up being tortured and killed by the people he worked for. His spirit is outraged that he was killed."
Another ghost resides downstairs in the original lounge, in which many illegal abortions were performed.
"There is a ghost of the lady who performed the abortions down there," Morris said. "She is angry because she felt like she was helping a lot of people, but she was arrested and publicly humiliated."
Montz said an ISPR team helped owner Mitzi Shore clear the Comedy Store of many of its mob-era ghosts.
"We cleared it, but we left two mafia hit men who still haunt there," he said. "They don't cause any problems, and they are really there to protect the property."
As for employees and visitors to the Comedy Store, reports keep coming of unexplained supernatural activities inside the club.
"From a completely rational, thinking mind, I think it's possible there are places where dimensions cross," Morris said. "I believe that's what happens here."
The Hangout: Silent Movie Theatre, 611 N. Fairfax Ave.
The History: John Hampton opened the Silent Movie Theatre in 1942, 15 years after motion-picture sound had been introduced in Hollywood.
He started the theater with his own personal collection of silent films and sought to collect and restore the silent classics during a time when most studios were destroying their leftover silent prints.
Hampton preserved thousands of films using toxic chemicals in his bathroom tub above the theater and in film labs around the Hollywood area. In the process of saving many of these classic titles from extinction, Hampton exposed himself to dangerous toxins that would eventually prove fatal. In the late 1970s, Hampton and his wife Dorothy announced that the proprietor had contracted cancer from many hours of chemical exposure. Hampton died in 1990.
The theater reopened in 1991 under a new proprietor, Lawrence Austin, but it wasn't long before tragedy struck the Silent Movie Theatre again.
In 1996, Austin became the target of a murder plot, which was conspired by his live-in companion and theater projectionist James Van Sickle, also a beneficiary of the theater corporation. Austin was shot and killed on Jan. 17, 1997, in the lobby by 19-year-old gun-for-hire Christian Rodriguez during a screening of a Larry Semon comedy short. Rodriguez and Van Sickle were both convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The Haunting: Now under the operation of a third proprietor, Charlie Lustman, the Silent Movie Theatre is known to be haunted by the spirits of its two former owners.
"The first proprietor (Hampton) regularly haunts the upstairs lounge, which used to be his and Dorothy's apartment for over 45 years," Lustman said.
The second proprietor, Austin, has also made the theater his post-mortem stomping ground.
"He is regularly seen in the lobby by many confused employees after hours," Lustman said.
Lustman said the Silent Movie Theatre has a special connection to Halloween.
"I reopened the theatre on Halloween night in 1999, after John Hampton, the original owner, spoke out to me while I was riding by one day on my way to a falafel sandwich seven months earlier," he said.
The Hangout: Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy. Long Beach
The History: Built in 1937, the HMS Queen Mary was a bigger, faster and more powerful ship than its predecessor, the Titanic, and it successfully navigated 1,001 Atlantic Ocean crossings. The luxurious ocean-liner often carried the rich and famous across the Atlantic in style, before it was refitted as a troop ship during World War II. In 1946, the ship resumed its role as a glamorous cruise ship, until airplane technology made travel by sea obsolete. On Dec. 6, 1967, the Queen Mary made a final voyage to the Long Beach, Calif., harbor where the ship remains.
The Haunting: The Queen Mary, now a hotel and popular tourist attraction, is renowned for its paranormal activity. Rather than try to hide these eerie occurrences, the Queen Mary has embraced its haunted status with a Haunted Encounters tour and a Halloween Shipwreck, which transforms the ship into a series of terrifying mazes.
"Hundreds of people are drawn to the Queen Mary because of its reported hauntings and ghosts," said Sonia Sotello, communications assistant at the Queen Mary. "Rather than hide these stories, we try to shed some light on them in an effort to inform and, at the same time, entertain people who visit us in search of that."
The Queen Mary receives about 1.5 million visitors annually and 75,000 visitors during the Halloween season. Of these visitors, there are many reports of ghost sightings.
"We have hundreds, if not thousands, of reports from guests and employees," Sotello said.
Montz said ISPR has confirmed three ghosts aboard the Queen Mary.
Psychic Peter James has claimed there could be as many as 600 separate entities on the ship, although Montz said he finds this statistic unbelievable.
What used to be the Queen Mary's first-class swimming pool is often believed to be a hot spot of supernatural activity.
"This is where the vortex, or portal, between this world and the other world, is located," Sotello said. "Numerous reports on activity come from the pool."
Montz said he knows of two ghosts that haunt near the pool area. "There is a little girl that haunts there who died in the pool," Montz said. "There is also an older woman that had a heart attack who also haunts near the pool."
Another ghost confirmed by ISPR is that of an 18-year-old man who was violently crushed in a watertight doorway during a routine door drill in the engine room on July 10, 1966. Numerous sightings have been reported by visitors and crew members, who describe a young man in coveralls walking the length of shaft alley and disappearing by door No. 13, where the man was crushed to death.
One of the most common apparitions is that of a woman dressed in white who has appeared to hundreds of people, Sotello said. Her figure is often clothed in an elegant white evening gown and she dances alone in the shadows of the former first-class lounge. Montz said this image of a young woman dancing is only a residual, and not the woman's ghost.
Additionally, guests and employees have also reported ghostly activity in the former first-class suites and the third-class children's playroom.
"I think people like the idea of exploring the unknown," Sotello said. "The Queen Mary is such an old and glamorous portal to a bygone era that people find it very probable that ghosts to indeed inhabit this old vessel."
Author: Evelyn Ciattei Monica Barge
Copy Editor / Designer / Freelance Writer
Used by permission