Take ride into L.A.’s creepy history with Esotouric, a tour company that offers an often macabre, always eccentric view of the city’s past.
Esotouric isn’t your typical tourist fodder. Instead of drive-by’s of Tinseltown’s celebrity mansions or iconic landmarks, Esotouric brings you by the homes of long forgotten victims of the city’s most horrific crimes, or the watering holes where literatures greatest drunks found their muse.
“Esotouric works because a lot of folks are sincerely interested in history so long as it’s raw and real,” said Kim Cooper, who, along with husband Richard Schave, co-founded the company in 2007 after the success of its flagship tour, “The Real Black Dahlia,” which continues to be their most popular. The tour dispels longheld myths and presents new and theories behind the infamous, unsolved 1947 murder of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. Esotouric takes guests on a ride by her former haunts, sites of interest to detectives on the still open case, and even to the exact spot where her naked, severed body was discovered.
Other crime themed tours focus on specific neighborhoods of Los Angeles, such as “East Side Babylon,” the Downtown L.A. focused “Hotel Horrors & Main Street Vice,” and “Pasadena Confidential.”
Asked what makes Los Angeles attract the kind of residents that create such noirish tales, Cooper says, “We blame it on the weather. The contrast of this idyllic environment as a frame for the truly horrific things that its residents do to one another triggers a cognitive dissonance, which amplifies the awfulness. And it doesn’t hurt that rubes have been flocking here for more than a century, as ripe for the picking as oranges.”
But it’s not all blood and violence for Esotouric, which also goes a little highbrow with tours dedicated to Los Angeles writers Charles Bukowski, Raymond Chandler, John Fante, and James M. Cain. Music afficionados may also appreciate offerings such as “Crawling Down Cahuenga: Tom Waits’ LA,” or the rock history tour, “Where the Action Was.” (In addition to a fascination for crime, Cooper is also an expert on bubblegum and obscure 20th century pop music.)
Esotouric also has a distinction for building a community around its rides.
“Because we don’t advertise, finding out about Esotouric takes some effort, and the result is that the folks who get on our bus are a smart and engaged bunch,” Cooper explains. “This makes for a lively atmosphere and great interactions among passengers and tour guides. We have been fortunate enough to find a community of people who dig what we do.”
This extends to the “LAVA” meetups Cooper and Schave organize on the last Sunday of each month at Clifton’s Cafeteria. While not officially a part of the Esotouric, the Los Angeles Visionaries Association regularly attracts a healthy audience to listen to invited speakers talk about anything from local architecture to L.A.’s occult history.
Esotouric has also recently formed the independent tour guides consortium 7 Days in L.A., offering offbeat excursions every day of the week.
[yelpprofile id="esotouric-los-angeles" align="right"]To keep up with Esotouric, be sure to subscribe to their mailing list, which provides a weekly rundown of news and links of interest for fellow rubes and victims, as well as a schedule of upcoming tours.
And, for the record, CreepyLA gives Esotouric two enthusiastic gangrened thumbs up. (our highest honor!)