Ghost Stories : Notable Haunts in the World's Fantasy Capital

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ghost stories have long fired the imagination, working their way into literature, films and folklore. At times, they also have provided a steady income for the parapsychologists who claim they can communicate with these disembodied spirits. In Los Angeles--already the world's fantasy capital--tales of the haunted have become a strong lure for tourists, competing with such earthbound landmarks as Mann's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In a few cases, a noted haunting can even add to the cache of Los Angeles' already overpriced real estate. Here are some popular haunts in Los Angeles County:

Pico Adobe

10940 Sepulveda Blvd., Mission Hills--Once owned by Andreas Pico, brother of the last Mexican governor of California, this famous adobe was restored by Pico's illegitimate son, Romulo Pico, and his wife, Caterina, in 1873. Only two adobe walls remained by 1930, when Dr. Mark R. Harrington bought what was then the shell of a building.

After retiring, Harrington said he would hear heals clicking as in a Spanish dance on the downstairs tile floor. The clicking sounds would proceed up the staircase until they were outside his bedroom. The moment he would open the door, Harrington said, the sounds would stop. In a last effort to find out who was disturbing his sleep, Harrington staged a seance and said he discovered that Caterina had resumed residency and only wanted to thank him for restoring her old home.

When the house was half restored, Harrington snapped a picture of his wife against its southeast wall. After the picture was developed, Harrington said he found the form of a senorita dressed in an old California costume with a mantilla with a little girl close by.

Now owned by the city of Los Angeles and open to the public, many visitors have said they felt a presence here, and past caretakers have reported unexplained phenomena. But the present-day caretaker insists she has never seen or heard any ghosts.

Maybe Caterina got restless and moved on.

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

7000 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles--The ghost of actor Montgomery Clift, who died of a heart attack in 1966, is said to wander the ninth floor of this historic refurbished hotel, built in 1927. According to hotel records, Clift rented Room 928 for approximately three months while filming "From Here to Eternity." He played his trumpet and recited his lines out loud while walking up and down the hallway. Security records show that many hotel guests have called in the middle of the night, complaining of loud guests in that room. Each complaint was checked out by security, a hotel spokeswoman said, only to find the room unoccupied each time.

Marilyn Monroe, too, has been known to haunt her full-length mirror, which the hotel acquired from a film studio and placed on the lower-level foyer. A psychic investigated the phenomena and was said to have found the spirit of Marilyn to be very sad, troubled and sinister.

Hotel workers say that when it is empty, a cold spot persists in the main ballroom where the first Academy Awards were held in 1929. One psychic contends that the unknown spirit is that of an older man, with slicked-back, dark wavy hair, wearing a tuxedo with tails and top hat and a belt with a pyramid on the buckle.

Joan Crawford's House

426 N. Bristol Ave., Los Angeles--Actress Joan Crawford purchased this home, which she named "El Jordo," just before her marriage in 1928 to actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Sometime during the 1940s, she removed all the bathtubs because she regarded sitting in bath water unsanitary. Her daughter Christina, in her 1978 book, "Mommie Dearest," told of growing up in this house in a nightmare of alcoholism, abuse and terror.

The current owners hired a minister from the Healing Light Church to perform an exorcism of the house. Nevertheless, the owners say the ghosts of a caretaker and a dog eluded the exorcist and remain there.

Queen Mary

Pier J, end of California 710, Long Beach--The old 390-stateroom liner, now a major tourist attraction, was known as the "Gray Ghost" during World War II because its huge form was seen appearing and quickly vanishing through fog. She is also said to be home to a number of ghosts.

Many unexplained happenings have been reported in the ship's morgue, near the swimming pool, in the engine room, and in one of the kitchens. Among them were reports of a middle-aged woman in an old-fashioned bathing suit diving into an empty basin. (According to ship's records, several people have drowned in the pool during its 31 years of service.)

Other reports include sightings of an elegantly dressed "Woman in White" draped over the piano in the Queen's Salon and dancing by herself in the shadows, of Senior 2nd Officer W.E. Stark, who died on board in 1949 after accidentally drinking acid, and of a young mini-skirted woman pacing around the pool and disappearing behind a pillar.

There have been other strange sightings as well, particularly in the ship's galley. It was there a cook was said to have been thrown into a heated oven during a wartime brawl. Some have reported lights going on and off by themselves, utensils disappearing, dishes moving on their own and a stranger who enters and then vanishes.

Only a few of the ship's resident ghosts have ever been identified, and the incidents that bind them to the ship--whether truth or fiction--are mostly lost to history.

Hollywood Memorial Cemetery

6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles--Legends lie buried with many Hollywood stars and famous Los Angeles pioneers. Among those interred here are Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Peter Finch, John T. Gower, Jayne Mansfield, Harrison Gray Otis, Tyrone Power, and Rudolph Valentino.

According to legend, two portions of the park are haunted, including the vicinity of the Abbey of the Psalms, where strange night lights and sounds have been reported. The park's main ghost is said to be that of actor Clifton Webb who, as the story goes, walks the marble floors in the Sanctuary of Peace, where he is entombed. Webb, who died of a heart attack in 1966 at age 73, is reputed to haunt his old house in the Hollywood Hills as well.

Parker House

1631 S. Wilton Place, Los Angeles--Marion Parker, a 12-year-old twin, was strangled and dismembered in 1927 by a 19-year-old college student named Edward Hickman in his room at the Bellevue Arms, now known as the Brownstone Apartment Hotel, on Bellview Avenue.

Michelle Pelland and Steve Daley, who in 1988 purchased and then sold the house, said they believed that the ghost of Marion Parker lived with them. According to many parapsychologists, ghosts seek places they were happiest at or attracted to during their earthly lives. The reason they bought this house, they said, was because it felt like there had been a lot of love in it. They reported hearing footsteps on the stairs and finding certain objects displaced at times, lights going on and off for no known reason. They said they felt they were sharing space with a benevolent, childlike and non-threatening spirit.

Leonis Adobe

23537 Calabasas Road, Calabasas--In 1878, Don Miguel Leonis, a powerful Basque immigrant who was feared and hated for the dictatorial way he controlled his massive ranch, moved to this house with his Indian wife, Espiritu. After Leonis' death in a wagon accident in 1889, rumors about murder began to spread, but nothing was ever proven. Espiritu held onto the ranch until her death in 1906. Later it was sold to a couple named Agoure--from whom the town of Agoura got its name.

New owners reported hearing the sound of heavy footsteps upstairs at times when the only people known to be in the house were downstairs. Doors are reported to have shut by themselves. Visitors said they have seen ghostly forms and heard crying, while residents reported hearing the heavy slamming of things and footsteps above the dining room. Back in the 1930s, a woman living in the house reported that she was saved by an unseen presence. She leaned on a second-floor porch railing, heard a creaking sound, then she said she felt hands grip her shoulders and pull her back. The next day an inspection revealed rotted railing. The woman insists that if she had leaned a tiny bit farther, it would have broken.

Point Vicente Lighthouse

Rancho Palos Verdes--The white stucco lighthouse with its red tile roof--which stands in relative isolation on a point of land--has warned ships away from the dangerous Peninsula cliffs since 1926 and was a key lighthouse and communications station during World War II.

Its lore includes a female ghost in a flowing gown seen walking near the lighthouse. Legend has it that she is searching for a lover who was lost in a shipwreck. Those more skeptical of the story say the apparition was created by an unusual reflection from the rotation of the lighthouse lamp.

Sources:

"This is Hollywood, An Unusual Movieland Guide," by Ken Schessler.

"Mysterious California, Strange Places and Eerie Phenomena in the Golden State," by Mike Marinacci.

"Fallen Angels," by Marvin J. Wolfe and Katherine Mader.

"The Ghostly Register," by Arthur Myers.

For the Record Los Angeles Times Saturday September 15, 1990 Home Edition Metro Part B Page 2 Column 4 Metro Desk 2 inches; 50 words Type of Material: Correction Burial sites--On Sept. 4, The Times reported that Charles Chaplin and Jayne Mansfield are buried at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery. Charles Chaplin is buried in Cosier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland; his son, Charles Chaplin Jr., is buried at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery. Mansfield is buried in Pennsylvania, while a cenotaph honors her at Hollywood Memorial.
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