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Hunting for a Haunting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the mood for a haunting? Check out these local haunts, all investigated and certified as truly spooked by the International Society for Paranormal Research, a Los Angeles-based ghost expedition outfit, a la “Mission Impossible.” The society’s seven-member team uses high-tech equipment (such as a magnetometer that reads an electromagnetic field), psychics and clairvoyants to channel the spirits and learn about paranormal behavior. You don’t have to believe in ghosts to check out the group’s ghostly findings:

* The Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Los Angeles.

Opened in 1906--and the site of the creation of United Artists by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and others--the hotel was once downtown’s grandest and host to glamorous events. That could explain why the second-floor ballroom is said to be haunted by many dancers, including a very shy 17-year-old girl. In the original Charlie Chaplin suite on the 11th floor, an angry teenage male presence--not Chaplin’s--rules. People get a “weird feeling” in the room and have seen his image, says Daena Smoller, an investigator and channeler with the research society. “All kinds of atmospheric fluctuations occur.”

The 12th floor’s suite was Rudolph Valentino’s. “Every single time we have done an investigation there, someone in the group ends up having a channeling experience,” Smoller says. “And it’s always in the bedroom.”

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The basement, a maze of three tunnels, is haunted by Larry and Gus, both Mafioso and very communicative, Smoller says. “We get the impression that Gus was a hit man from the old Ciros nightclub days on Sunset, which is now the Comedy Store, also one of Gus’ favorite haunts.”

* The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

Four ghosts--two men and two women--are believed to roam the club. One of the guys is Gus, who does not get along with the other, a shy guy.

“Gus laughs hysterically, so being at the Comedy Store is perfect for him,” Smoller says. “And he loves to touch women. If you feel a chill, he’s probably touched you. He’s very friendly.”

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One of the women is Ellen, in her 50s, with a mean disposition. She used to perform back-street abortions for the Mafia. The other female is a young woman who died during one of those abortions.

* Vogue Theatre, 6675 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

Six children and their teacher, Miss Elizabeth, are said to live here on the former grounds of the one-room Prospect Elementary School, which burned down at the turn of the century, killing the kids and their teacher.

The most communicative is Annabell Taylor, a happy 7-year-old. Another child, Michael, also 7, is mute and has manifested his little fist in the mist, his fingers signing rapidly. All the kids also have been reported playing and romping nearby, inside Mann’s Chinese theater.

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In 1936, the 800-seat Vogue opened and remained in operation until 1992. The image of a former projectionist named Fritz--a chubby older man with curly salt-and-pepper hair and small spectacles--has been seen walking past the projection room windows. And people have been known to have near “heart-stopping episodes,” says Smoller, maybe because Fritz died of a heart attack in the projection room. He is protective of the equipment, including old reels.

“He’s very lucid and knows he’s a ghost,” she says. “He’s friendly most of the time--if you keep your hands in your pockets.”

Another entity discovered at the Vogue is Danny, in his late 20s, dressed in overalls with greasy brown shoulder-length hair. He died of a heroin overdose about 10 years ago, and many a man has run screaming from the men’s restroom, telling stories of being pushed while standing at a urinal.

* Stage 28 at Universal Studios, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

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For years, Stage 28, where “The Phantom of the Opera” was filmed with Lon Chaney Sr., has reportedly been haunted by Chaney, running on catwalks in a black cape. Wrong, says Larry Montz, parapsychologist and research society founder.

Earlier this month, he and the team conducted a six-hour investigation on the stage that still houses the original “Phantom” set, built in 1923. The team did, indeed, find it haunted.

But the ghost was that of a man with a real attitude. “ ‘I’m the one in charge here,’ he seemed to be saying,” Montz said.” So he could be a producer or a director.”

On Stage 28, the team also picked up on the spirit of a friendly 10- to 12-year-old girl, who may have died in the 1970s and whose name could be Janet. She has long, dark brown hair, giggles a lot and “haunts Universal Studios as a whole.”

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Several employees have reported seeing the little girl running through the grounds. Says Smoller, who channeled the little girl: “They’ve gone up to her and asked, ‘Are you lost? Do you need help?’ And then she disappears in front of them.”

* Occidental Studios, 201 N. Occidental Blvd., Hollywood

One of Hollywood’s oldest operating studios, built in 1913, Occidental was home to such film stars as Pickford. Montz says his team found a male presence here, possibly a writer who died of a heart attack. “He was bossy. ‘This is my place,’ he told us. ‘I’m the important person here.’ But overall, he was cooperative.”

* The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood

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Guests, psychics and paranormal experts have found the ghosts of many a celebrity at this home of the first Academy Awards: Montgomery Clift pacing up and down a hallway, a vision of Marilyn Monroe in a mirror and a man in a dapper black suit roaming the lobby.

The research society agrees that the Roosevelt is haunted, but who exactly is spooking the place is not clear, except for a man in a tuxedo with tails and a top hat who haunts the lobby and the ballroom.

“He follows people and imitates them,” Montz says. “He has a good time being there.” The man, of medium build, is from the 1930s. “He’s not telling why he’s there. Most hotels are haunted because ghosts like to return to places where they’ve had a good time,” Montz says, adding that hotels are also popular because they often are places where people have committed suicide.

* Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, end of Long Beach Freeway in Long Beach

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Many ghost sightings have been reported on the decks of the former luxury liner, long considered haunted, proving that there is something about Mary.

Montz says his team’s investigators have found several ghostly on-board entities, including an 8-year-old giggling girl who hangs out in the swimming pool area. She appears as a full apparition, then disappears. Another popular sighting is that of a maintenance man or a ship engineer in coveralls.

* Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Named for Col. Griffith J. Griffith, who donated more than 3,000 acres to Los Angeles--now the site of Griffith Park--the observatory is reported to be spooked by a former grounds janitor.

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“He wears a beige uniform and seems to be very friendly,” Montz says. “When you walk through the front door of the observatory, he’s sitting there on a bench or he’s walking around, hanging out.”

Montz’s team members also have seen the ghost of a sailor believed to have been killed near the site before the observatory was built. “He walks the exterior of the observatory in a sailor suit. He’s very elusive. He really didn’t want us to find him.”

*

A two-hour tour of some of Los Angeles’ haunted properties will be held at 7 tonight, followed by a video presentation by the research society of actual paranormal investigations it has conducted. The presentation will be at the society’s headquarters at the Vogue Theatre, 6675 Hollywood Blvd.

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Montz and psychic Peter James, who recently joined the society’s team, will lead a discussion on paranormal activity followed by a party and the chance to meet team members. For ticket information, call (800) 422-4002; for society information, call (323) 644-8866 or send e-mail via https://www.hauntings.com.

Miss Elizabeth and her kids should be there.


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