I was determined my book Gourmet Ghosts – Los Angeles would only include places that people could visit – bars, restaurants and hotels – and of course they had to be the haunt of ghosts or the location of mystery, murder or suicide. Halloween brings Hollywood’s dark and dangerous past into focus, so here are five of the best places to visit in Tinsel Town; some of them even have specific haunted tables or booths that you can sit in (if you dare)…
7000 Hollywood Boulevard
Another grand hotel dame on the Boulevard, it’s famous for its “Marilyn’s Mirror”, a large mirror that many people say reflects an image of the actress, and also the sight of Montgomery Clift pacing the 9th floor while learning his lines – and sometimes playing the bugle – for his role in From Here To Eternity.
Right now the mirror is missing – presumably in storage – and there are many other creepy tales here, though few know about the suicides. One was part of what the Los Angeles Times called an “epidemic” of “self-murders tries” – five in one day in 1929 – and then former child actor Tom Conlon checked in one day in 1940 to make his second attempt of the day…
1652 North Cherokee Avenue
An art deco-style celeb favorite (the walls are lined with decades of signed photos and Lucille Ball often talked about going for a drink here in her “I Love Lucy” shows), it was also a regular joint for Elizabeth Short, easy-going cops and many others. Some hard drinkers have bellied up to – and died – at the bar, and there is still someone in residence as well as some strange sights in the alley, according to owner Tricia LaBelle:
“…. through the window you could clearly see two apparitions – a man and a woman – looking in. They seem to be an old man with a top hat and woman with a shawl.”
Boardner’s is also home to the whip-crackingly good fetish/goth night “Bar Sinister”, and as for any ghostly guest appearances while you’re visiting, LaBelle is sure of one thing:
“They still love to party!”
The Magic Castle
7001 Franklin Avenue
To its 4500 members, this private club is part-museum, part-library, part-restaurant and all magic. The distinctive castle was dreamt up by “Magic” Milt Larsen and is an olde worlde haven of theaters, chandeliers, sliding bookcases, mystery staircases and corridors – and five bars, so there are plenty of those spirits here, that’s for sure. There’s a séance room dedicated to Harry Houdini, and also a resident ghost, the piano-playing “Invisible Irma.”
Milt has had a less entertaining experience here too. One night the city suffered a power cut:
“… and then I heard the piano playing downstairs. I knew that this just couldn’t be if there was no electricity, so I went downstairs with a flashlight, and then just as got to the bottom of the grand staircase, the music stopped!”
He has another story about a ghostly bartender and a dearly departed magician, but you’ll find them in the book…
Musso & Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Boulevard
Another favorite on the ghost trail, this 90 year old Hollywood restaurant is paparazzi-free, so is nearly always hosting someone famous in one of their booths or at the bar. The Thursday chicken pot pie is a legend in its own lunchtime, and back in the day this place used to be a writer’s haunt too.
Charlie Chaplin had his preferred booth – number 1 in the Old Room (at the back) – and a photo taken a few years ago at the booth features “orbs”, one of which (when examined carefully) reveals what looks like a man’s staring left eye and a long, straight nose.
More frightening was an apparition seen by one of the staff, who said he had seen “La mujer sin cabeza” (an apparition or ghost) of a woman without a head, while the building next door – the Vogue Theatre – is said to be the most paranormal place in Los Angeles. Children are said to flee down the corridors there, and it was supposedly the scene of a fatal schoolhouse fire over 100 years ago. The search for the truth about this fire can be found in the book…
1999 N. Sycamore Avenue
At the top of a hill some 250 feet above Hollywood Boulevard, Yamashiro arguably has the best view in Los Angeles – and at nearly 100 years old, has the checkered history to match. An exotic and ornate “Oriental Bungalow”, it had a spectacular beginning, was subject to wartime suspicions, and is still home to one of the owners – literally. Keeping nighttime security guards has always been a problem here, and who knows whether stories of the underground tunnel in the basement are true. I was given a tour, and the floor certainly sounds hollow – they even drilled a small peephole to have a look – but what’s underneath?
Security guards have heard voices in the gardens, footsteps inside and outside, and seen a light on in the groom’s room (which is only used for weddings). Inside the room, they heard the distinct sound of a child crying:
“He switched off the light and came downstairs, pale as hell. He and the security guard went up again. They could both hear the crying, but there was no one there – and the light was back on.”
Also, someone made their feelings crashingly clear when there was talk of selling Yamashiro, and table 9 in one of the many dining areas is home to a long-term paranormal resident as well. There have been suicides in the grounds too, and they’re one of the reasons Yamashiro has one of the longest entries in the book.
Gourmet Ghosts – Los Angeles by James T. Bartlett is available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook and at local independent bookstores, or direct via www.gourmetghosts.com More info on Facebook or Twitter – @GourmetGhosts
James T. Bartlett will be signing and leading a mini-walking tour from the Last Bookstore in downtown L.A. on October 26 at 7.30pm and at Chevaliers in Larchmont on October 27 at 1pm.