Haunted Hollywood and the Ghosts of Old Hollywood, Part I

If you love spooky stories, and are ready for some super-special Halloween shivers, Hollywood is the place to be. Hollywood is one of the most haunted places in America, for good reason.

At once the most glamorous city and the most corrupt city in the world, Los Angeles can certainly boast of its fair share of shivery ghosts and hauntings.

The glamorous Hollywood of yesteryear was also the dark death of many beautiful women and many handsome and famous (or infamous) men; so come with me as we meet these beautiful ghosts and discover the tragedies that they carry with them.

The "Black Dahlia", Elizabeth Short
The "Black Dahlia", Elizabeth Short | Source
the "Black Dahlia" in death
the "Black Dahlia" in death | Source

The Legend of the Black Dahlia

One of the most shocking murders of young women in Los Angeles was the death of Elizabeth Short, dubbed, "The Black Dahlia" by the Hearst newspapers.

Elizabeth Short was born in Hyde Park, Boston, Mass. on July 29, 1924. Her parents were Cleo Short and Mrs. Phoebe Mae Sawyer Short; they lived in the wealthy Boston suburb of Bedford, Massachusetts, through Elizabeth's growing-up years. Mr. Short was a highly successful developer of miniature golf courses, until the stock market crash of 1929, when he lost practically everything. One day in 1930, Mr. Short vanished altogether, inexplicably leaving his car parked on a bridge. It was thought possible that he committed suicide. Elizabeth was only 6 years old at the time; very young to be so early introduced to tragedy.

Elizabeth suffered from asthma and bronchitis, so she first was sent to winter in Florida at the age of 16, getting waitress work as she could find it. She rediscovered her father at the age of 19; he was alive and well and in California.

Father and daughter moved to Los Angeles early in 1943; however, Elizabeth had a serious fight with her father and moved out on her own. She was a stunning beauty and yet another Hollywood hopeful waiting to be discovered, while earning a modest living as a waitress.

She died in one of the most grisly crimes of the century. Her torso was completely cut in half; her face was terribly mutilated by a knife, as well as her genital region. She was only 23 years of age.

The Hearst newspaper chain made a sensation of the lurid murder, hawking papers labeling Elizabeth as an adventuress (the implication being she was a prostitute or harlot). She was not pregnant, as those same newspapers reported--as a matter of fact, she was virginally intact. She never made a living as a call girl or prostitute, or anything close to that.

Her boyfriend, Mark Hansen, was the obvious suspect, though the case was never solved. Over 50 people had confessed to the murder at the time when it was most notorious.

The Black Dahlia now haunts the Biltmore, in Los Angeles. She roams the corridors and greets guests in an elevator, vanishing from sight on closer inspection. Many people have felt the chill of her passing as they exit the 6th floor corridor and enter the elevator.

Her beautiful face, so notorious in death, has been recognized floating lightly near the ceiling near the elevator of the 6th floor in the Biltmore. Why? Who knows. She was not known to visit the Biltmore in her life, though she may have been there on the night of her death. Her movements after 6 pm that night are completely unaccounted for.

The Mysterious Death of Superman

George Reeves, as "Superman"
George Reeves, as "Superman" | Source

June 16, 1959 was the day the world mourned the death of Superman. It was the death of the first television superhero, and a whole nation of young viewers were astounded that the invincible Superman was mortal after all.

George Reeves was born George Basselo; his mother divorced early in her marriage and moved herself and her baby boy to Pasadena, California. As a young man, George was very buff and athletic. He won the Golden Gloves Boxing competition; his nose was broken in the process, so he retired from boxing to pursue an acting career. After trolling through many small parts on the silver screen, his career took off once he landed the television role of Superman, for the kiddies on Saturday morning. He became nationally famous within months of the launching of Superman on the TV. George was always gracious to fans; most of the men who knew him thought he was generally speaking, a great guy--a really decent person. And George was. He really tried to live up to his superhero image so as not to disappoint the young fans, even after he had become completely disaffected with the role.

George's downfall was women. He had a weakness for woman; he was a notorious womanizer, and all manner of actresses and the wives of prominent Hollywood directors and producers were not safe from his rugged masculine charms.

In the three months prior to his mysterious death, George had three nearly fatal car accidents. He was driven off the road by a speeding car on the highway; in another incident, the brake fluid was mysteriously drained from his car, and his brakes failed on a winding road in the Canyon. He was nearly crushed between two trucks when driving down the freeway. He also received death threats on the phone.

George reacted by contacting the LAPD. He accused Toni Mannix, the wife of Eddie Mannix, who was in charge of Loew's Theatres, Incorporated, and a one-time bigwig at MGM. Eddie Mannix was also under suspicion; Eddie had no qualms about using violent means to obtain his ends, and was termed "a thoroughly despicable man" by most who knew him.

You see, George had a long-standing secret affair with Mrs. Mannix, which ended with his engagement to Leonore Lemmon. Their honeymoon plans included trips to Spain and Australia. George was in no way despondent or sad on the night he lost his life.

On the contrary, he and Lenore entertained visitors in his Benedict Canyon home, serving them dinner, then watching TV until bedtime, around midnight. About 1pm, a knock on the door roused Lenore from sleep. The new visitors were good friends, Carol Von Ronkel and William Bliss. With some argument from George, Lenore let them in and poured them a drink. She said, "He's sulking, he might just go upstairs and shoot himself..."

It was then a shot rang out. Lenore and the startled guest rushed upstairs to George's room, where they found him stark and dead from a bullet in the head.

Though officially termed a suicide, it was well known that George would play with a theatrical property gun, which shot blanks, pointing it at his head and pulling the trigger when in a state of irritation with someone. It was a way to comically diffuse his ire.

The gun had a live bullet instead of blanks on this fatal evening.

Was George murdered? Many believe he was, for various reasons, and not the least of them is that his former home is one of the most haunted places in Hollywood.

The new tenants found that a single gunshot would echo inexplicably in the dark, stemming from George's bedroom. People would not stay in George's former home. One new owner could only stay there for one night. They reported disturbances, extreme disturbances in the master bedroom where George met his end. They heard screams and gunshots, and lights flashing off and on and off at night. However neat they left the room, it was a mess of ripped and torn bedding when they re-entered it, with the faint phantom residue of gunpowder hanging in the air.

George appeared to the neighbors in his Superman costume; one time, when his house was used as a television location, George appeared in his regalia to the TV crew, only to vanish instantly.



Source
Poor Peg Enwhistle; she was a leaper from the "H" in the Hollywood sign.
Poor Peg Enwhistle; she was a leaper from the "H" in the Hollywood sign. | Source
A markerMount Lee, Hollywood, California -
Mt Lee, Los Angeles, CA 90068, USA
[get directions]

Home of the Hollywood sign

One of the most poignant tales to date of Haunted Hollywood is the sad, lonesome death of the beautiful and talented Peg Entwistle, and actress who had already made her mark on as a Broadway star.

Peg was born Lillian Millicent Entwhistle in London, England, in 1908. She was the child of theatrical parents, and learned her craft early and well. Her mother died young; her father moved the family to New York, working in the theater. He father also died tragically as he was struck by a truck while crossing Park Avenue. Peg starred in "Hamlet" on Broadway at the age of just 17.. On the death of her father, the orphaned Peg continued her successful New York acting career while her two brothers joined their uncle Harold in Los Angeles, California.

Peg met a fellow actor, Robert Keith, when they worked together on Broadway. The two fell in love and got married. Peg discovered after a while that Robert Keith had been married previously and was the father of a son, Brian Keith (the star of the TV show Family Affair). The marriage turned bad early on. There were rows over money, child support, bad debts. Robert could be violent when angry. Peg soon left, going back to her acting career, where she was very discouraged to learn that all her former glory had faded away, and now it was very difficult for her to find work, owing to the Great Depression. Formerly wealthy people were standing in bread lines, not ticket lines at the theater box office.

Peg went west, to her Uncle Harold's home in Los Angeles. She tried desperately for Hollywood roles, (after all, her Uncle's home was parked right underneath the Hollywood sign) going doggedly to every open audition; she only landed roles in small theater, along with Billie Burke. She eventually got a studio contract with RKO, and though Peg did some good work on her first film for them, most of her part was cut. RKO declined to renew the contract, so Peg was once again haunting the Hollywood cattle calls, hoping desperately for a part, which didn't materialize.

Fed up at last, one dark night in September of 1932, at the age of 24 years, Peg made the lonely climb up the hill, and climbing a ladder that was left there for maintenance purposes, managed to get up on top of the "H" in the Hollywood sign. Each of the letters in the sign was 50 feet high and 30 feet wide, making it visible for miles, though no one saw the lady leap.

Two days later police found Peg's sad, broken body on the bottom of Mount Lee, partly hidden by brush. A hiker had turned in Peg's hat, coat and purse, which had been left neatly at the bottom of the sign. There was a suicide note in the purse, apologizing for her exit from life.

One of the biggest tragedies of this story is that had Peg waited another few days, she would have received the letter offering her a starring role in the next Beverly Hills Playhouse production, which could easily have made her career afresh.

And so she walks...

Hikers and park rangers have seen Peg, dressed in her 1930s fashions, and vanishing when they come near...though leaving her lingering signature scent of gardenia behind. Park rangers have also investigated the alarms installed near the sign, which have gone off with no one near...and only the elusive scent of gardenias to signify Peg's ghostly presence.



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Comments 29 comments

Anne Harrison profile image

Anne Harrison 16 months ago from Australia

The world of movies may seem glamourous but I'm glad I'm not living in it. Glad to have stumbled across your hub - by coincidence, I'm currently reading The Black Dahlia at the moment.

I look forward to reading more of your hubs.


jmartin1344 profile image

jmartin1344 4 years ago from Royal Oak, Michigan

Great hub Paradise7 - as a lover of film and of all things scary or haunted this was a perfect hub for me!

I was familiar with all the fiction versions of "The Black Dahlia" but I wasn't familiar with the actual true story. That is a pretty brutal story. I hadn't heard of Peg Entwhistle either. Sad story.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Doug. I guess they are taking that sign down, now. What a change that will give to the landscape!


Doug Turner Jr. 5 years ago

Creepy, bizarre, fascinating. The Black Dahlia, I am very familiar with -- you give a great account of the grisly murder here. The other two deaths I knew only in passing, so it was interesting to learn more here.

The tale of the woman jumping from the "H" in Hollywood brought a memory to me. I used to live in Los Angeles, and one time a friend from Ohio came to visit. Being 19 and 20 years old, we of course got drunk and hit the streets of Hollywood. My friend got separated from us, and we found out later that he had walked up the mountain until he was only a few hundred feet from the Hollywood sign. Then a patrol cop found him and told him to get lost. Bottom line: there is definitely a symbolic allure to that sign.

Thanks for the interesting post.


successfulblogger profile image

successfulblogger 5 years ago from Los Angeles,Ca

All so interesting!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Yes, Alastar, that poor girl! The pic was Elizabeth Short, before that mad killer dismembered her.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Yes, Alastar, that poor girl! The pic was Elizabeth Short, before that mad killer dismembered her.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Was that first pic really Eliz.Short Paradise? have you read about the ex-L.A. cop who wrote some pretty convincing books about his father being the Black Dahlias killer along with being the Cleveland torso killer and the Zodiac to name just several? Good subject Paradise-Hollywood, the boulevard of broken dreams.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks, epi. I love to visit you, it's my pleasure. I'm better, thanks, but still not quite...totally well. Hope you are well and happy and doing just fine.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...well my first of all dear friend - how are you feeling these days? I am here sending my warm wishes and good energy for your continued good health.

Secondly , thank you so much for dropping by and seeing me - believe me it's always a thrill and an honor.

Thirdly I will be posting this most sensational hub subject to my Facebook page with a direct link back here - because if anyone can put together a world class hall of fame hub - it's you my friend - and I will return back a little later for part 2 and the hotel hub also - lake erie time ontario canada 5:31pm


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

Wow, I'd never heard the story of Peg Entwhistle before...how sad and haunting. Voted up and interesting. I couldn't stop reading it!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Neither had I, and it was just too "spooky" that the only time I've ever know it to happen, as well as the first time I noticed it, was on a "haunted" hub! My mistake was using the URL for the pic and not a screen shot, because whatever happened corrected itself almost immediately and then I had no proof that a man's pic had been temporarily substituted for mine. But it sure made for a lively time in the forums for about an hour! ;D


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

This is WILD, Jemma. I've never known that to happen.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I was wrong. The profile pic next to my comments is NOT mine. Thought it was only happening on the second HH hub, so this one must be haunted too.

This is the first time in my 3+ years on HP I've ever known this to happen...and a week before Halloween to boot! ;D


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, donate timeshares.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Patty. I think George was murdered, too. I'll have to look for that film, "Hollywoodland". It sounds like a good one.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

I saw Hollywoodland and still think George Reeves was murdered. I enjoy seeing him in old films such as one with Lucille Ball and another where he is a crewmen on a ship during WWII - he's so happy and energetic in that one, he should have been a film star.

The Black Dahlia is a thoroughly horrible murder!

Thanks for this Hub - rated Up and more.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Rob. The "Black Dahlia" murder was just so VERY brutal, it's no wonder she walks. I really think George Reeves was a murder, too. The circumstances were too strange; George was NOT suicidal before his death.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Ghost stories. Everyone loves them. The 'Black Dahlia' was such a tragedy. Too bad she never got justice. I still lean toward suicide for Reeves but I don't rule out murder as a possibility.

Looking forward to more.

Rob


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Sweet Angel. The next installment is posted now.


sweetoneangel profile image

sweetoneangel 5 years ago from New Jersey

Voted up! Great article, look forward to part 2.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Jama Genee. We'll probably never know, but I think it was either Eddie Mannix or Toni Mannix, or both.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I can't go along with George Reeves committing suicide either. The fact that he haunts his former home indicates he wants the world to know he didn't kill himself. At this late date, however, we'll probably never learn who murdered him.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comments, Gypsy Rose and Dr.

Coming up next is Part II, of course! And Gypsy, I've also been fascinated with Marilyn Monroe. Such a beautiful woman, and so tragic that her life was cut short.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

I've heard a lot of these hauntings their fascinating. Marilyn Monroe makes her home in one of Hollywood's hotels too. If I could visit LA and see anyone of them I would find it interesting if I could speak to them or make some sort of contact.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Very eerie and very fascinating stories, Paradise. Easy to be hooked by these kinds of tales. Thanks for bringing them to our attention. What's next?


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comments, Judi Bee and Flora.

It is gruesome, but fascinating. I'm gripped by these stories

too.

Flora: I read Rob's very well written story. I also favour the murder theory, as there was forensic evidence indicating that the bullet entered his head at an impossible angle for a suicide, for one thing, and for another thing, the lead investigator of George's death was killed...also, that gun was not supposed to shoot live bullets, and everyone, including George, knew that. He would have never used it for a suicide attempt.


Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK

Oooh, gruesome, yet fascinating. Looking forward to Part 2.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I've always been fascinated by Hollywood history.I loved this article.

p.s. Robwrite an article on George Reeves. He thinks Reeves committed suicide. I favour the murder theory.

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