This year's tasty greeting of chilly tidings from L.A. La Land comes in the form of the Hollywood Ghost. Just as silver screen souls continue to flicker on long after their deaths, so too do movie stars continue to haunt us in our own waking lives. Apparently, even though fate long ago called "cut," the following immortals choose to keep on living, mugging their way through the after-life, and maintaining their scene-stealing ways. Supernatural celebrity sightings have become almost as sought after as the living kind, and with accumulating stories of ghostly encounters piling up, avid fans often make it a point to visit the places their favorite, famous ghouls continue to haunt. Of course, it could all be tommyrot-- myths and legends built up over time in order to keep our idols close to us-- but then the similarities in various accounts are often a bit too startling to ignore. The locales that various celeb spirits continue to haunt is very curious and definitely indicative of who they were in life. Having never come face to face with a spirit, I can only imagine the exciting, frightening adrenaline rush a lucky (or unlucky) witness gets when encountering the eerie remnants of one they have grown to admire. Whether the fear outweighs the awe all depends on the person.
Errol Flynn (right) was referred to as the "Baron of Mulholland" because of his lush pleasure palace (situated at 7740 Mulholland Dr). The stories of his debaucherous parties and shenanigans are legendary. Though many stories of this Tasmanian's deviltry have been grossly over-exaggerated, the architecture of the building definitely suggested his notorious naughty side: from two way mirrors, to a front door that was really the back door, to wall murals with hidden sexual connotations, Errol always had a way of blending his keen aesthetic eye with his boyish sense of humor. But this home was more than a focal point for Hollywood parties-- it was a symbol of Errol's success, the struggles he had overcome, and the familial comforts he always sought but had trouble either finding or accepting as truth. He adored his home, which he filled with his carefully chosen, masculine decor and his beloved Paul Gauguin painting, "Famille Tahitienne." He surrounded himself with things that made him feel safe and secure; things that made him feel at home. Rumor has it that he did too good a job, for future tenants and guests would occasionally catch a glimpse of the mansion's former master.
The most interesting stories of Errol's continued residence ironically include another Hollywood heartthrob, Ricky Nelson, who moved to the address in 1977. Apparently, Ricky was a fan of the notorious lecher, and got a kick out of it when he had encounters with him. He and his family, including daughter Tracy, were constantly experiencing disturbances, such as loud banging sounds and lights turning on by themselves. One night, Tracy arrived home late. Looking toward the house, she happened to see a male figure staring out the dining room window. She thought it was her father, but when she went inside, she discovered that he was not home. When Ricky called not much later, Tracy asked him about the visitor, to which Ricky replied: "Oh, that's just Errol." After Ricky died in a plane crash in 1985, his surviving family drew the conclusion that Errol had been causing these disturbances to warn his roommate of the upcoming danger. Ricky didn't get the message. After Ricky's demise, the presence allegedly got more menacing. Thus far, there has been no word from Justin Timberlake-- who currently owns the property-- if any other odd occurrences have transpired. Since the original structure was demolished after Nelson's ownership and a new structure built, chances are slim that Errol has stuck around.
Rudolph Valentino was equally proud of his Benedict Canyon home at 1436 Bella Drive, which he dubbed Falcon Lair (right) in honor of the unfulfilled film project The Hooded Falcon. The house was a grandiose expression of Rudy and wife Natacha Rambova's notorious passions and exotic tastes. The decor ranged from the oriental to the medieval, and the property housed plenty of room for Rudy's horses and dogs. Rudy became a homebody as he matured and preferred sitting at home by the fire to going out on the town. His home gave him the peace and quiet he needed. Of course, after Natacha left him, the house was also inhabited by bitter memories. Rudy's death in 1926 was a sudden, shocking event to fans and perhaps even moreso to himself. Merely thirty-one years-old at his expiration, Rudy still hasn't accepted the fact that he's dead, and there have been multiple accounts of his presence at his once beloved den. He appears most often in his bedroom and in the former stables. He too has given visitors a creep when they see him peering down from a second story window. Doors are also known to open and shut of their own accord. (George Reeves has also been known to saunter through the halls of his "suicide" house at 1579 Benedict Canyon Drive, ironically wearing his Superman costume, which he continues to bear as his own cross).
Some too have reported seeing the ghost of Rudolph Valentino at his gravesite at Hollywood Forever Memorial Park's Cathedral Mausoleum. Strangely, he is often reported as wearing his most famous costume: that of the Sheik. And he's not the only one roaming the stones at this cemetery. Some too claim to see the spirit of the infamous "Lady in Black" still visiting his grave site, as she did for several years until her own death. Also, on the edge of the lake, situated under a large tree, is the grave of Virginia Rappe (left)-- the woman notorious for crying "rape" against Fatty Arbuckle at the St. Francis Hotel in 1921, simultaneously ending his career and Hollywood's pristine image. Virginia actually died from what most scholars now agree was the effects of a botched abortion, which Fatty had nothing to do with. Nonetheless, her death was a tragic one, and the sound of her sobbing can often be heard near her gravestone, where she certainly cries for the film career she never had, the loss of her young life, and the baby she killed. Clifton Webb also has been spotted by his grave in the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum. Tucked down a claustrophobic corridor, the eternal man of etiquette, best remembered as Mr. Belvedere, lies in a simple plot indiscernible from his neighbors, identified only by his name. Having suffered through a complicated relationship with his mother as well as a lifetime of meticulously hiding his sexuality from the public, his restless spirit continues to hover about his final resting place. More than one visitor to the this section of the mausoleum has spotted a man in a finely tailored suit and a well-cultivated mustache walking toward them from the far wall, only to disappear as he comes too close for comfort. (Marilyn Monroe has also been reported to visit her own grave across town at Westwood Memorial).
The famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine has also strangely been momentarily possessed by Ghosts of Hollywood's past. A bench that used to sit at the Northeast corner of the intersection was often occupied by a presence many identified as Lon Chaney. Chaney often sat at this very spot during his younger days, awaiting the bus to take him to the studios where he fought against the other hungry extras for work. As famous or as wealthy as he became, it was these lean years that always remained with him: painful years one can never fully shake off. In the future, after he had achieved success, he would pass this bench on his way to work and offer other struggling actors a ride. For years after his death, people would claim to spot him sitting at the stop, and in time the bench was even dedicated to him (see right, with son Lon Chaney Jr in top left). However, it was eventually (and unfortunately for fans) removed, and with nowhere to rest his weary bones, Lon has been seen no more. (At least not there... There are also accounts of him showing up in his Phantom garb at Stage 28 at Universal Studios where he filmed his most famous role in The Phantom of the Opera). Bela Lugosi also had an interesting moment at Hollywood and Vine... while on the way to his own funeral. Toward the end of his life, the actor was constantly taking long walks down Hollywood Boulevard, often stopping to chat with local merchants whom he'd come to know on the trek to purchase his beloved cigars. During his funeral procession,when the hearse passed through this intersection on its way to The Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, the driver temporarily lost control of the vehicle, and it swerved toward Hollywood-- though this route was not on the agenda. Many believe Bela was hoping to stop for one last stogie.
Thelma Todd is known to prowl around her former Sidewalk Cafe (left), now home to Paulist Productions, at 17575 Pacific Coast Hwy. A cheerful, easy-going gal in life, the "Ice Cream Blonde's" appearances are never menacing, and her apparition is simply observed moving from room to room or perhaps descending the staircase. The garage where she was found dead, slumped behind the wheel of her car above the cafe at 17531 Posetano Road, also continues to experience disquieting quirks. When Thelma's body was discovered, the car's motor was still running, and the death was initially ruled a suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning-- despite the fact that her face had been clearly beaten in. The structure now appears much as it did when Thelma was alive. It was here that she always parked her car before coming down the long steps to her apartment, which was above the cafe. Today, the Posetano address belongs to another owner who-- as last reported-- uses the garage space for storage. Still, some nights, strange sounds emit from the belly of the house, including the faint sound of a motor running. Some have also recounted the scent of exhaust fumes.
Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are still remembered as one of Hollywood's favorite golden couples (right). Carole's humor served to lighten the serious Gable's mood, and Gable's stubborn, little-boy-lost mentality induced Carole to mature (at least partly) into a loving housewife. They seemed to be made for each other, and enjoyed their blessed but simple life on their Encino ranch. After Carole's life was cut short on January 16, 1942 in a tragic plane crash, Gable was devastated. Many said that he was never the same; the light in his eyes had gone out. He would survive the love of his life by 18 years, which included two other marriages, until he was finally laid to rest beside her at Glendale Forest Lawn in 1960. However, it is not here that the two reside. Many people claim to see the duo continuing to enjoy dinner and cocktails in the lounge of one of their favorite "haunts": The Lady Windemere, now (The Georgian Hotel at 1415 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica). Various employs have entered the lower level restaurant, formerly a speakeasy-- and thus named "The Speakeasy"--after closing, to find it very much still occupied by a beautiful blond and her handsome partner. However, when they announce that serving hours are over, the figures simply disappear into thin air. (At least they know when to make an exit). In addition, the sounds of disembodied gasps, laughs, or voices saying "Good Morning," are often reported. Clark and Carole may not be completely responsible. This hotel was patronized by many, including Bugsy Siegel and Rose Kennedy, and was popular for its beauty parlor and barber shop as well. (The Roosevelt Hotel is also famous for its plethora of ghostly guests, including Monty Clift and his incessant trumpet playing, Marilyn Monroe's primping in her former mirror, and a mysterious presence and cold spot in the Blossom Room-- home to the first Academy Awards celebration).
Carole did a little more haunting on her own. While alive, she became close chums with upcoming comedic ingenue Lucille Ball (right). The two had much in common, including incredible beauty mixed with bawdy humor. Lucy, like many, was crushed by the news of Carole's death, and she missed her friend greatly. There were times she wished that she had Carole's ear to confide in. She particularly craved Carole's sage advice to guide her when things got rough and she felt her career slipping away. When the opportunity to do "I Love Lucy" came up, Lucy was skeptical. Television? Should she do it? What if it tanked? What would happen to her career!?!?! Anxious and full of nerves, she went to sleep, wherein she had a dream that Carole paid her a visit and said: "Honey, go for it!" Lucy listened, awoke, and went on to become the most famous television personality in history. Perhaps, in her sleep, her subconscious simply took the form of her beloved friend; but, perhaps Carole sensed a friend in need from the other side and decided to make a special trip and send a helpful message. Lucy too would go on to a future performance as a ghost. She would allegedly haunt her 1000 North Roxbury Drive home on its last day in existence. While the house was being destroyed, a passer-by happened to catch a glimpse of a flaming red-head wandering around the property. She shook her head, pacing, seeming deeply upset at what was being done to her former abode. She then disappeared around the South corner, never to be seen again... except on the boob tube.
To cap off her month as L.A. La Land's star, is Olive Thomas's preternatural tale. Olive (left) called The New Amsterdam Theatre in New York home during her years as a Ziegfeld Follies girl. These were very exciting, important years in her life, which is perhaps why-- after her death-- she chooses to return here rather than Hollywood for her occasional visits. Olive has been seen wandering the building, apparently soaking in memories of past times. Sometimes, she is in her typical, jolly mood; other times, she seems overcome with sadness. On rare occasions, she seems peeved and starts a ruckus. One employee recalled making his rounds on the stage when he surprisingly shined his light on a woman dressed in old-fashioned clothing. He thought she had merely gotten locked in, but when he called to her, she simply smiled, blew him a kiss, and disappeared. When he later compared his vision to a photo of Olive Thomas, he grew pale: it was the same girl! Mostly, Olive appears to men, continuing her worldly flirtations with impish grins and friendly greetings, often calling, "Hey, fella!" She once scared a worker away permanently when she appeared and said, "How are you doing, handsome?" His vanity was not flattered. Olive grew anxious when renovations began on the theater, allegedly becoming more vocal and wandering aimlessly in plain sight. She too has a jealous streak. When reunions involving the surviving Ziegfeld girls occur at the theater, Olive causes some serious shaking of the sets and even makes various light bulbs burn out-- simultaneously. She always appears gloriously bedecked, sometimes even wearing a sash that says "Olive," and at other mournful times, she can be spied carrying a champagne glass-- even the spirits indulge in spirits. She too walks in mid air at an area upstairs where the removed glass walkway used to be. To her, it is still there. It appears that the employees who have the courage to stay have grown accustomed to Ollie and her continued performances, often calling out "Good Morning, Olive" when they arrive in the morning and bidding her goodnight when they leave her alone in the dark with nothing but the stage's "ghost light" to keep her company.
In life, nothing is black and white. Does it not, therefore, make sense that there is not simply life and death? That there is a strange shade of gray that serves as a home for those who cannot choose a side? Our Gods and Goddesses of black and white movies seem to think so. Just as on the silver screen, they flicker on, continuing their intangible but effective presence in the world of us normal, living souls. Perhaps, to them, we are putting on the show as they exist behind the scenes, watching and observing, enjoying entertaining passion plays performed by those so unaware. Or maybe they simply continue on as if they never left, soaking in their happiest or most profound personal moments, unable to let go and unaware that they already have. Then, there are those who seem compelled to ham it up, to penetrate that thin screen between actor and passive audience, and jump out and say "Boo! I'm still here." Attention-hungry fame hounds are never satiated. Are our film players still playing with us? Putting on a show for their own amusement? Or are they simply lost and unable to make their final exit? Maybe it would be easier for them to bid farewell if we let go of them. As it is, we continue to be enamoured, hypnotized, and equally haunted by the stars who touch our lives, even after their own have ended. As we invoke their spirits every time we pop in a DVD, it should come as no surprise that they remain close to us. Until we ask them to go, they really have no reason to depart.