Did Marilyn Monroe’s ghost really appear in a mirror at the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel? Does the haunting sound of haunted star Montgomery Clift playing the bugle from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY still echo down its hallways? Did the spirit of George Reeves, Hollywood’s original TV Superman, really appear in costume at his former home? Does Harry Houdini’s ghost haunt the grounds of a Laurel Canyon estate that burned to the ground in 1959?
Hollywood has long been said to be haunted, not by flops, but by the ghosts of bygone stars. It’s no wonder, considering the power of the images created here. Do they really come back? As my former editor put it, “A good ghost story never hurt anybody.”
In a city full of movie monster makeup artists and “fright night” creators, Halloween is Los Angeles’ most emblematic holiday. This year, the coronavirus made Halloween celebrations that once garnered 200,000 a subdued affair. Local officials even claimed trick-or-treating might cause a super-spreader event. Nonetheless, whether one risks the Black Death now or waits for a virus-free future, you can still visit the sites of these ghostly visitations.
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard, figures in many a ghost tale. The 12-story hotel opened on May 15, 1927 and has been a center of Hollywood life since, including hosting the first Oscars in 1929.
Marilyn Monroe had a long association with the Roosevelt. She posed for her first print ad, a toothpaste spot, on the diving board of the hotel pool. Ghostly guests have also been reported swimming in the pool. Not surprisingly, the Roosevelt’s Tropicana Pool (with a recently restored mural painted by artist David Hockney) is “buzzy” with spirit energy, Patti Negri, “psychic/medium to the stars,” told me.
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As Monroe’s career took off, she often stayed in a second-floor cabana at the Roosevelt overlooking the pool. The hotel provided Marilyn a tall, dark wood-framed full-length mirror, which after her death was moved to the manager’s office. A hotel maid was dusting the mirror and saw the reflection of a sad-looking blonde woman. The maid turned to ask if she could help, but there was no one there. While the mirror is no longer in evidence at the Roosevelt, guests can stay at the Marilyn Monro suite overlooking the pool, replete with vintage Eames furniture,
Monroe is called “the hardest working ghost in Hollywood,” as her spirit has also been reported around her former home in Brentwood. She also supposedly appears in mirror reflections at the carousel on Santa Monica Pier, where she went in disguise to watch families at play. You can also visit her final resting place at Westwood Village Memorial Park. Hugh Hefner is her next-crypt neighbor.
Another famous Roosevelt guest was four-time Academy Award nominee Montgomery Clift. Clift stayed in room 928 for several months while preparing for his role as an Army bugler in the 1953 classic FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. Clift, considered one of the most talented actors of his generation, was a sensitive spirit who battled demons including alcohol, drugs, a disfiguring car accident and depression. Guests who’ve stayed in Room 928 report “the brooding spirit of Montgomery Clift turns up the heat and switches on the radio to let guests know he’s around—and still angry about an unfulfilled life.” The mournful sounds of the method actor playing a bugle are said to echo down the hallway.
Fans certainly “loved Lucy,” but how many would want to encounter the late comedienne’s apparition at her Hollywood studio? Lucille Ball, the redheaded sitcom star of I LOVE LUCY, was also owner of Desilu Studios, now part of Paramount, where the show was filmed. (She also green-lit the original STAR TREK.) Studio guards claim to have seen her spirit restlessly walking the building’s halls at night—and to have smelled her distinctive flowery perfume.
Also in Hollywood, a house on Camino Palmero (used as a set in ENTOURAGE) is supposedly haunted by former owner Ozzie Nelson of “Ozzie and Harriet” fame. His ghost is said to turn on and off the faucets and flick through the channels searching for his old show. The ghost was also said to touch a female homowner inappropriately.
Feeling claustrophobic at this point? How about a hike in nearby Griffith Park? While the great outdoors may protect from the coronavirus, Hollywood ghosts are still lurking. In1932, aspiring actress Peg Entwistle hurled herself off the “H” of the “HOLLYWOOD” sign, located on Mount Lee in Griffith Park Almost 90 years later, park rangers and hikers in Griffith Park report they have seen a woman smelling of gardenias, dressed in 1930’s attire.
Not far away, West Hollywood diners report encountering the spirit of Doors singer Jim Morrison in the toilet of a restaurant at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard, once a recording studio known as The Doors Workshop. A plaque commemorates the recording of LA WOMAN there in 1970. Morrison reported laid down his vocals for the album in the bathroom.
Is the site haunted by Morrison’s ghost? Home to a seemingly endless series of restaurants, the former Doors space is available yet again. “Due to Covid-19, Blackship has permanently closed,” Yelp noted.
West Hollywood is also the location of the Chateau Marmont, at 8221 Sunset Boulevard. The hotel is famed for the alleged presence of an equally famous ghost. John Belushi starred in SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and in classic comic cinema like ANIMAL HOUSE. Tragically, the beloved Belushi died at the hotel‘s Bungalow 3 of a drug overdose in 1982. Guests staying there now report feeling watched, particularly if they glance into the bathroom mirror. A couple with a young son were perturbed that the boy was talking to himself. The child said he was talking to “the funny man.”
The adjoining community of Beverly Hills has its own ghosts, like that of SUPERMAN star George Reeves. He died in 1959 of a suspicious gunshot wound, an early victim of the alleged “curse of Superman.” The shooting was ruled a suicide, although his fingerprints were not found on the weapon and he was to get married within days. Since his death, visitors to Reeves’ former Benedict Canyon Drive have heard gunshots and screams. Others have seen an apparition of Reeves dressed as Superman.
Houdini’s ghost has been reported to haunt the grounds of a mansion where he lived for a year around 2400 Laurel Canyon Boulevard. The famed magician and escape artist died on Halloween, on October 31, 1926. The building burnt down in 1959 and has never been rebuilt. It has, however, been used as a site for spooky high school graduation after-parties and seances seeking to contact the magician, who hated the occult.
There are guided tours of ghostly Hollywood hot spots, or you can do-it-yourself. A good place to wrap up a tour is at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, (6000 Santa Monica Boulevard) where stars from Rudolph Valentino (who still draws fans and flowers 94 years after his death) to Mickey Rooney to gangster Bugsy Siegel are buried. Female stars there include Jayne Mansfield, “Golden Girl” Estelle Getty, Fay Wray (of KING KONG) and Hattie McDaniel of GONE WITH THE WIND.
Like Hollywood itself, there is no such thing as too garish at Hollywood Forever. Dying of cancer, Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone watched Reagan’s funeral, and decided to build a statue to himself. Don Adams, the comedian who starred in beloved TV comedy GET SMART, is pictured speaking on the show’s “shoe phone.”
The inscription for Mel Blanc, “man of 1000 voices” like Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, reads “That’s all folks.” But with Hollywood ghosts itching for a comeback, you just never know.