Hollywood, the legendary place where dreams come true, is apparently a mecca for ghosts. Perhaps this is unsurprising given that it’s also the graveyard of ambition. It’s the city where stars shine bright but dreams are torn apart, and beneath the glitz and glamour lurks a seamier underworld of mystery and violence. Is it really so strange to imagine that movie idols and would-be stars are still desperately trying to avoid obscurity by getting the attention of the living from beyond the grave?
10. The Hollywood Sign
Is there a more iconic symbol of Tinseltown than the Hollywood sign? The landmark is instantly recognizable to people across the world, but they might not be aware of its spooky reputation. Access to the sign is forbidden and has been for many years, but that hasn’t stopped some people from trying their luck on the rugged hike to the top of the hill.
The site is reportedly a hotspot for paranormal activity which many commentators link to the death of a struggling young actress named Peg Entwistle. Peg committed suicide at the sign in 1932 by throwing herself off the letter H. Now that’s not an event that Sesame Street is likely to reference any time soon. There have been numerous reports of a blonde woman dressed in 1930s-style clothing who appears to glide around the surrounding trails in Griffith Park in a daze, she is often accompanied by the strong scent of gardenias, which just happened to be Peg’s favorite fragrance.
9. The Comedy Store
The Comedy Store is famous as a showcase for emerging new talent and has hosted many actors including Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey and Michael Keaton, but above all, it is known as one of the most haunted buildings in Los Angeles. Located on Sunset Strip, in the seedier part of town, it used to be Hollywood hot spot Ciro’s from 1940 onwards. Gangster Mickey Cohen, who was the infamous “King of the Sunset Strip,” used the club’s basement as a place to carry out mob business. Not only did Cohen beat his victims to a pulp and kill them, but some say he also buried them under the concrete floor. Others claim that illegal abortions took place, serving the club’s dance girls and the prostitutes from the brothel next door.
The Comedy Store is allegedly haunted by at least five ghosts which have manifested themselves by moving chairs, messing with the lights or even appearing to startled employees or patrons. In keeping with the spirit (cheesy pun intended) of the place, most of the ghosts are pranksters and sometimes hecklers. However, something distinctly malevolent lurks in the basement and has been heard growling and seen manifesting as a huge dark mass, and that just isn’t funny.
8. The Roosevelt Hotel
Hotels are often the preferred hangouts for dead celebrities, with the most infamous being the Roosevelt Hotel. The Roosevelt opened in 1927 and has a long history of catering to the glitterati, cementing its luxurious reputation with the first ever Academy Awards in 1929. Apparently Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn and Montgomery Clift felt so at home here they decided to stick around in the afterlife. The hotel hosts weird paranormal occurrences such as orbs, strange noises, cold spots and manifestations of unknown spirits. If you want a quiet night, don’t book room 928 as Clift’s ghost allegedly haunts it and paces around the ninth-floor corridors playing a trumpet or practicing lines.
Marilyn Monroe lived in Suite 246 for a few years during her rise to fame and she has been spotted there and around the pool where her first photo shoot took place. Her image is also said to appear in a full-length mirror which has since been removed from the room, but that hasn’t stopped witnesses seeing her reflection in it. Other sightings have been witnessed including actress Carole Lombard, wife of Clark Gable, who has been spotted on the 12th floor where she and Gable often stayed. Bizarrely, their suite gives off a strong sexual energy, but presumably that’s not based on scientific fact.
7. The Knickerbocker Hotel
Marilyn Monroe really gets around. Her apparition frequently appeared at other Hollywood locations including the Knickerbocker Hotel’s women’s restroom. She was a regular guest in the bar and honeymooned there with Joe DiMaggio in 1954. These days the building is far less glamorous, having been downgraded to an apartment block for senior citizens.
It really doesn’t look the part of a showbiz hotel, but in it’s day it was the site of some of Tinseltown’s most dramatic offscreen moments, such as the unrelated deaths of actor William Frawley, director D.W. Griffith and a costume designer who jumped out of one of the windows in 1962. The Knickerbocker is also home to all sorts of weird paranormal activity with alleged sightings of Rudolph Valentino, who used to enjoy dancing the tango in its saloon. It hosted a decade of unsuccessful seances by Harry Houdini’s wife on the Halloween anniversary of his death, which still continue to this day at different locations.
6. Hollywood Forever Cemetery
It’s a bit mind-bending that ghosts would ever want to hang around a cemetery, but the Hollywood Forever Cemetery clearly has a hold over them. Founded in 1899, it was the final resting place for loads of celebrities such as Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, and James Garner, and it’s probably the most accessible haunted location in Hollywood.
Some visitors claim they’ve seen a ghostly woman in black kneeling in front of Rudolph Valentino’s tomb, others have seen a rose suddenly appear in the vase on the wall. Some have heard footsteps when no one was there, while others have the feeling they’re being watched. Paramount Studios is located next to the cemetery, so it seems inevitable that some spooky stories have also come out the Paramount buildings too.
5. Laurel Canyon Boulevard
Harry Houdini could seemingly escape any situation…except his ties to the earthly plane. As enigmatic in life as he is in death, it’s unclear whether Houdini even owned the Laurel Canyon Boulevard mansion he allegedly haunts or if it just belonged to friend and he enjoyed spending time there. After her husband’s untimely death, Mrs. Houdini felt compelled to move into a smaller property on the estate and not content with her yearly seances at the Knickerbocker Hotel (see #7), she held weekly seances at her new pad in an attempt to communicate with him. Some believe she may have brought Houdini’s spirit back to the area as his ghost has been seen roaming around the ruins of the old mansion, which burned down in 1959 long after his death.
On the subject of mansions, another haunted building on the same street has similar supernatural activity and the stories are sometimes blended together. Known simply as “The Mansion”, the building which is used as a recording studio for bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Linkin Park has been haunted since 1918 when the a man pushed his lover off a balcony. The usual suspects of orbs, apparitions and doors opening and slamming have been experienced but with varying opinions of how benevolent the spirits’ intentions might be.
4. The Chateau Marmont Hotel
The Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood resembles a French castle and is famed for its wild parties and endless list of celebrity patrons. Maybe The Eagles were right when they sang about it in their song Hotel California: “You can check out but you can never leave.” There are definitely a few ghosts who really don’t want to leave, including one that apparently climbs into bed with guests. Guests and staff have also reported furniture moving, voices, noises and feelings of being watched when no one was there.
One resident who permanently checked out of the Chateau Marmont, but never really left, is comedian John Belushi, who died of a drugs overdose in Bungalow 3 in 1982. A young toddler reportedly told his mother he couldn’t sleep because the “funny man” was keeping him awake, and she would frequently hear her son laughing and talking to someone in his room. A few years later as they were flicking through pictures in a book, the boy excitedly pointed out John Belushi and recognized him as the “funny man.” It’s nice, if not a little freaky, to know he hasn’t lost any of his comedy magic.
3. Cielo Drive, Benedict Canyon
10050 Cielo Drive is an infamous address for morbid tourism because it is where Sharon Tate and three of her friends were murdered by the Manson Family. The writer/producer David Oman moved into a house down the road and he and other witnesses have experienced a number of strange occurrences there including a full body apparition that resembled victim Jay Sebring. It’s interesting to note that the landlord Rudolph Altobelli moved back into the actual property only three weeks after the gruesome murders and said he felt “safe, secure, loved, and beauty.”
The original house was torn down in 1994 and a new property built in its place, so it’s unclear if the spirits just enjoy wandering down the road or have found someone more open to them. One thing’s for sure, the whole area is pretty creepy with a reputation for murders and suicides. Another famous example is the mystery of the original Superman, George Reeves’ (no relation to Christopher Reeve) death, less than a mile away in the same area of Benedict Canyon. The smell of gunpowder apparently accompanies his presence as he move things around, flickers the lights on and off, and occasionally appears at the foot of the bed kitted out in his Superman spandex.
2. The Cecil Hotel (Stay on Main)
Though this hotel is actually in downtown L.A., it can’t be left off the list because it has arguably the creepiest history of any place in the area. In what seems like a desperate bid to rebrand its image, the The Cecil Hotel has been renamed Stay on Main, but that doesn’t detract from its sinister and morbid past. Built in 1927, it started well enough but then got upstaged by the more glamorous hotels being built in Hollywood and quickly fell into disrepute as a place for transients to stay. By the 1960s it was known as a murder and suicide hotspot, and it became the place where serial killers preferred to stay. In 1962 a woman had an argument with her husband and threw herself out a ninth-floor window, killing a pedestrian below. Two years later Goldie Osgood was found dead in her bed, raped, stabbed and strangled in what remains an unsolved case.
The Cecil Hotel was rumored to be the last place where Eilzabeth “Black Dahlia” Short was seen before her gruesome murder took place. No wonder people report spooky goings on, such as awakening at night to feel a weight on them and a feeling of dread. While most of the creepy happenings took place decades ago, the strangest thing to happen at the Cecil occurred in 2013 when a 21-year-old Canadian tourist’s body was found decomposing in a water tank on the roof. Thus solving the mystery of the strange tasting water guests had complained about. Elisa Lam’s death was controversially ruled as accidental, but this has been debated by numerous people who are convinced it was either murder or some kind of paranormal possession. The strange circumstances surrounding the event and her erratic behavior captured on camera in the elevator have ensured that conspiracy theories abound.
1. The Pantages Theater
The Pantages Theater is Hollywood’s last great Art Deco movie palace, opened in 1930 and named after Alexander Pantages, the entrepreneur who created a collection of theaters around North America. In 1949, millionaire aviator Howard Hughes added it to his empire and loved it so much he set up luxurious offices on the second floor, and his soul never really left. Apparently he appears in his younger form as a tall, lanky apparition, and even when he isn’t seen, people feel a cold rush of air and hear lots of bumping and clicking of drawers being open and closed. The reclusive tycoon did not appreciate a break-in where vandals damaged the upper balcony, and things started to get much noisier and angrier in response.
Hughes is not the only spook at the Pantages, he is joined by a singing female ghost who died in the mezzanine in 1932. Although the woman usually sings when the auditorium is empty, she’s become more confident (and significantly louder) over the years and in 1994 her voice was recorded on a stage microphone and the entire audience heard her sing. Another ghost helped a wardrobe lady out when the auditorium was plunged into darkness, feeling disoriented she felt someone take her elbow and guide her to the exit. As she opened the door and let in the light she turned to thank her gallant helper, only to find herself completely alone — it’s been speculated that the ghost was none other than Alexander Pantages himself.