Thursday, January 7, 2021

America the Beautiful

Hollywood’s Golden Age: Haunted Hollywood, Part Four

One of the most haunted locations in Southern California is the Queen Mary. The ship was built in the 1930’s and was used to shuttle travelers from the U.K to New York City in luxury. A who’s who of Hollywood elite would take the trip aboard the elegant ship.

During the dark days of World War II, the ship became a saving grace for Jews trying to escape from Nazi Germany’s clutches. While the ship always tried to do its best at pampering its guests, the ship faced several treacherous voyages through U-Boat infested waters, which often forced it to travel with its lights turned off. During one particularly grim trip, Bob Hope did his best to entertain the guests who were facing possible death. By the time the ship was decommissioned, it had hosted thousands of guests, a handful of which didn’t survive the trek due to illness. The ship had a full surgery that would (most of the time) be used to provide medical care to its guests. Occasionally it might be used to store the bodies of unlucky guests who didn’t survive the trip. While their bodies might have been removed from the ship, some of the unlucky spirits didn’t disembark.

The ship ended up in Long Beach, California after it was decommissioned. Hollywood luminary Jack Wrather, who had heavily invested in the DISNEYLAND Hotel at the urging of his friend Walt Disney, renovated the ship and turned it into a unique hotel and attraction, offering tours and hotel rooms aboard the ship. While the ship had always had a reputation for hauntings, it was at this point that the ghosts seemed to become more active.

The most haunted room is said to be visited by a little girl who tugs at the blankets on the bed, providing a chilling “wake up call” to hotel guests. She is believed to be a child who died on the ship and is forever looking for her family. The room was never rented out for years, but has recently been re-opened for brave guests.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Hollywood’s Golden Age: Haunted Hollywood, Part Three

The Cecil Hotel wasn’t actually in Hollywood, but it was meant to take advantage of the show business gold rush that was streaming into town in the late 1920’s. Unfortunately, the Great Depression intervened. While Hollywood wasn’t affected as much as other sectors of the economy, some belt tightening was needed and the money streaming into Hollywood was just a trickle by the time it got to the Cecil. The hotel quickly went into decline, no longer hosting the who’s who of Hollywood. Instead, the hopefuls and the cast offs found their way to the Cecil Hotel.

One of the Hollywood wannabes who frequented the Cecil Hotel bar was Elizabeth Short. Ms. Short had arrived in Los Angeles hoping to get a job in Pictures. During World War II, she helped out at the Hollywood Canteen, hobnobbing with brave soldiers and the Hollywood elite. None of these opportunities ever panned out and by 1947, Ms. Short was still crashing on couches, meeting gentlemen in seedy places like the Cecil Hotel and trying to make ends meet. Sadly Short would gain the fame she sought in life due to the horrific circumstances of her death. Her mutilated body, bisected in half, was found several blocks away in an empty field. She reportedly still haunts the hallways of the Cecil Hotel, her ghost looking for the fame and stability that eluded her in life.

As the Cecil fell into disrepair, so did its surroundings. Los Angeles had undertaken a cruel citywide sweep of the homeless, shoving them into an area unofficially known as skid row. The Cecil Hotel was right in the middle of it all and began getting a reputation as a place you’d want to avoid. The LAPD began referring to the place as the “Suicide Hotel” because it became the place to end one’s life among the locals. The ghosts of those who committed suicide still allegedly roam the halls of the hotel at night. One suicidal woman actually became a murderer on her way out; she landed on top of a poor bystander who was crushed under her body.

The hotel would continue to House some infamous people like serial killer Richard Ramirez whose “Night Stalker” murders would terrify Southern California in the mid-1980’s. Jack Unterweger, a serial killer who operated under the noses of the LAPD, stayed in the hotel while he committed a series of prostitute murders.

Do some of these stories sound familiar? If you’re an avid watcher of American Horror Story, the Cortez Hotel was based on the Cecil Hotel and many of its stories were based on incidents that occurred there. Today, the current owners of the Cecil are trying to distance it from its haunted, shady past. Would you stay in a haunted, seemingly cursed hotel?

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Hollywood’s Golden Age: Haunted Hollywood, Part Two

One of Hollywood’s most glamorous and elite hotels is also its most haunted. The famed Chateau Marmont has been catering to Hollywood’s elite since its golden age. Its policy of not allowing those without reservations onto the property made it an ideal spot for the A-List to engage in wild behavior away from prying eyes. Its guest list is a who’s who of Hollywood. So is its ghost list.

Among the famed ghosts haunting the premises are Marilyn Monroe and Howard Hughes. Marilyn was known to frequent the place in life and apparently still chooses to do so in death. Howard Hughes spent much time at the hotel, rarely leaving his favorite room and reportedly still haunts the room today. The character of James March from American Horror Story is reportedly based on Howard Hughes, though the hotel from the series itself is based on the Cecil Hotel, which we will cover tomorrow. 

Guests who claim to have experienced supernatural phenomena have described ghosts who slip into bed beside them, unexplained noises and visits from long dead celebrities. Angela Bassett recalled a frightening visit in which a harmless ghost had neatly folded and put away some clothes she had left out overnight. The most infamous death to take place at the Chateau has also produced the most chilling ghost sighting.

John Belushi seemingly had a successful acting career ahead of him. His career and life would be cut short after he overdosed on heroin in 1982. A family staying in the bungalow where Belushi died reported that they caught their child laughing and seemingly talking to nobody. When they asked him who he was talking to, he told them that it was a “funny man” who was telling jokes. Remembering that John Belushi had died in the bungalow, they showed the kid a picture of him and asked him if that was the “funny man” he was talking to. The boy nodded his head. Apparently Belushi likes making people laugh, even from beyond the grave.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Hollywood’s Golden Age: Haunted Hollywood, Part One

The lure of Hollywood has been a strong one for over 100 years. Millions of people from around the world have answered the siren call of the entertainment industry, arriving daily to try to make a go of their show business dreams. Some of them succeed- most of them do not. Hollywood’s glitz and glamour are huge magnets for the living and also, seemingly, for the dead. Tales abound of the famous, the not so famous and the infamous who, after leaving the mortal world, still couldn’t resist the urge to stay in Tinseltown. This week we take a deep dive into the haunted side of Hollywood.

One might assume that ghosts would stay away from a comedy club, but they apparently wouldn’t agree. Even Hollywood comedy clubs have hauntings associated with their buildings. In the old days, people used to erect what were called ‘buildings’. Inside these so-called buildings were often spaces known as ‘offices’. People used to drive to these ‘offices’ to do what was called ‘work’. If you’re a fan of old Groucho Marx, you might have recognized that as the patronizing tone he often took in his later years. When Groucho was still among the living, he had offices at 8001 Sunset Blvd, the current home of the Laugh Factory. Some say that he still haunts the facility, leaving behind a trail of his trademark cigar ash around the facility. Employees working at night have reported hearing strange noises coming from rooms known to have been used by Groucho. There’s no known reason why Groucho would haunt the building. Perhaps he still feels a need to work because his brother Chico needs the money.

The Laugh Factory isn’t the only Hollywood comedy club that has hauntings associated with it. The Comedy Store has a history of bizarre and unexplained phenomena, though there’s a more interesting reason for that. The club sits on the spot of the notorious Hollywood restaurant Ciro’s, which was a hot spot for both Hollywood and the mob.

The ghosts typically seen at The Comedy Store are described as being big burly mob types, possibly confused about what happened to Ciro’s. The ghosts typically wander the building, move things around and slam doors shut. The most bizarre aspect of the hauntings involve Sam Kinison’s act. Apparently the ghosts didn’t like him and would cause bizarre malfunctions throughout the building whenever he performed. Mr. Kinison was being heckled from beyond the grave.