Haunted Hollywood

Taking a tour around the world’s most famous ghost town

When a ghost stalked actress Jennifer Love Hewitt she knew exactly what to do. She was, after all, the star of the former CBS television series Ghost Whisperer.

It was a young male ghost that was stalking her. No, she didn’t whisper to him, as the title of her TV show might imply. She called her very own “ghostbuster” associate who helped her in the most amazing way.

There are those who believe Hollywood is a ghost town of sorts.

It’s not a ghost town like you’d find in the Old West. We’re talking real ghosts who haunt Hollywood for a variety of reasons, according to experts in the field of the paranormal and others who have claimed to see celebrity spirits.

Reported encounters with some of Hollywood’s most famous ghosts include Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Rock Hudson, Rudolph Valentino, Sharon Tate, Errol Flynn, Liberace, Jack Benny and Groucho Marx.

In Ghost Whisperer Love Hewitt portrayed Melinda Gordon, a character inspired in part by famed mediums James Van Praagh and Mary Ann Winkowski, who claims, “I see and talk to spirits like I see and talk to regular people.” When Love Hewitt believed a ghost was stalking her in her home she called Winkowski for help. The apparent apparition was causing the light dimmer switch in Love Hewitt’s bedroom to go up and down, moving things, staring at her, draining her of energy.

Ironically, Love Hewitt’s home originally was owned by actor Lon Chaney, who frightened millions in his bizarre and macabre screen roles.

When Winkowski determined an earthbound spirit of a 30-year-old admirer of Love Hewitt was haunting the actress, Winkowski said she found a way to help not only the actress but the ghost as well. She said she created a white light that enables the dead to cross over into the spirit world, and convinced the young man to cross over.

Sure, ghosts have a reputation for being frightening. But, they can be affectionate and surprisingly helpful, says April Turkalj, business manager for the Hollywood Tower. It’s an apartment building with 52 units that was built in 1929, and is listed in the National Register of Historical Places. The building is being restored to look like it did in its heyday. The Hollywood Tower reportedly was a popular residence for people in the entertainment industry. As for being spooky, it is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror rides.

How would you like to be awakened at night by ghostly kisses on your cheek? That’s what happened to a male resident who lived alone in his Hollywood Tower apartment, according to Turkalj. “He was a little freaked out. He said, ‘At least they’re kissing me and not strangling me. They like me.’”

Another resident said she was sitting in her living room with a friend when she heard water running in her bathroom, according to the manager. “She went into the bathroom and noticed water coming out of her bathtub faucet,” Turkalj said. “It freaked her out. She went back in the living room to get her friend. By the time he got there the water wasn’t running any more. They went out for the night. When the woman returned at 3 a.m. the stopper was in the bathtub, the bathtub was completely full of water, but the water was no longer running out of the faucet.

“At first she was scared and left for two days,” Turkalj recalled. “When she returned her attitude changed.” The tenant told the manager, “What a nice gesture, somebody drawing my bath.”

“We have friendly ghosts,” Turkalj said.

Jackie Barrett, a psychic, medium and spiritualist, reportedly has seen the ghost of Marilyn Monroe at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Barrett, author of the book The House That Kay Built (iUniverse, 2005), reported seeing many ghosts of celebrities there, calling the Roosevelt a “cocktail lounge” for spirits.

“I was staying at the hotel about four years ago and I saw this beautiful woman in distress in the lobby,” Barrett said. It was Monroe, according to the medium. “She had on a light pink sleeveless cocktail dress, very shimmering. You could feel the emotions of a broken heart. As she was leaving she turned and saw me, and that I will never forget.” Sinatra, Barrett said, appeared when she was waiting for a cab in Hollywood. Then he vanished. Elvis is another ghost she said she’s recently seen. “He wanted it to be known that he didn’t purposely kill himself.”

Liberace was the saddest ghost Barrett said she’s encountered. “His spirit told me he was very sad because his mother didn’t accept his sexuality.” On the other hand, Groucho Marx was the happiest ghost Barrett encountered: “He’s happy because he was himself on camera and off camera. He knew how to have fun.”

One of the most notoriously haunted spots in Hollywood is the Comedy Store where stars such as David Letterman and Robin Williams performed. You might assume that ghosts, too, enjoy a good laugh. But, that’s not believed to be the reason for the alleged hauntings. “This place used to be Ciro’s (nightclub) run by the mob,” said Alf LaMont, vice president of marketing and development for the Comedy Store. People who were killed in the club by mobsters are believed to return as ghosts, he pointed out.

At the Magic Castle, séances have been conducted for years in an effort to contact the ghost of magician Harry Houdini. The Magic Castle is the showplace for magicians from around the globe, and houses a collection of Houdini’s tools of the trade, according to Leo Kostka, its resident medium.

Kostka rattled off an A-list of séance attendees, including Johnny Depp, Michael Douglas and President Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy. According to Kostka, Nicolas Cage attended a séance years ago with Lisa Marie Presley. The medium recalled, “Someone said, ‘Let’s bring back Elvis.” Lisa Marie replied, ‘We don’t have to. He’s still alive.’”

Sharon Tate, the actress murdered in 1969 by Charles Manson and his followers, allegedly haunts the home of David Oman, who co-wrote and produced the 2006 movie House at the End of the Drive. He lives just down the road from the house where Tate and her friends were killed.

His fictional movie is about four people who travel back in time and become victims of a horrible massacre. Oman said he’s encountered Tate’s spirit repeatedly, and the movie was inspired by her communication with him.

Laurie Jacobson’s book Hollywood Haunted: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland (Angel City Press, 1999) reviews more than 100 years of ghostly encounters. According to Laurie, a Hollywood historian, the house where movie legend Errol Flynn once lived is haunted. When entertainer Ricky Nelson lived there with his actress daughter, Tracy, there were repeated instances of strange sounds like chairs being thrown against the wall and glass smashing. Yet nothing had been disturbed. Tracy Nelson once saw a man inside the house. When she told her father he said, “Oh my God, that’s Errol. I see him frequently.”

Barry Taff, director of the American Institute of Parapsychology, said he has had repeated encounters with the spirit world—both in and out of Hollywood. He reportedly has been the principal investigator in more than 3,500 cases of hauntings.

Taff described what appeared to be one of Hollywood’s most thoughtful ghosts. “There was a place in front of the Paramount Studios in Hollywood where Rudolph Valentino used to live,” Taff said. “The people living there would go out and come back and the dishes would be washed. They thought it might be Valentino.”

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