Nothing gets us gals worked up like having the ever loving sh*t scared out of us, and as it turns out, Hollywood is the place to do it. We’d heard about the infamous Haunted Hollywood walking tour along the walk of fame, but were like–k, but how scary though, for real?
Literally–terrifying. Navigating Hollywood’s dark side is like partying it up in the Grim Reaper’s Disneyland. It’s all fun and games till some lady beheads a live chicken in a twisted Santería ritual to rid a hallway of Marilyn Monroe’s ghost. (Don’t worry–we’ll get to that.)
But first, the Knickerbocker. Seriously: paranormal AF. And not just because our tour guide said so–this place has a rep so freaky not even ‘Lil Kim could keep up. Built in 1925, the Knickerbocker–once famous for housing Hollywood’s kingpins (Elvis, Marilyn, Dimaggio) has had more than enough time to rack up the tragedies. Beyond the strange death of film director D.W. Griffith (homeboy just up and died in the middle of the hotel lobby), the suicide of MGM costume designer Irene Gibbons (not to be outdone, she both slit her wrists AND jumped out of a window), and the bizarre mental breakdown of ’30s film star Frances Farmer, who had to be dragged from her room half-naked, clawing and screaming–you had the hotel’s ongoing occultist activity (like, a million seances) of Bess Houdini on the hotel’s rooftop throughout the ’30s. The bereft widow was searching for a sign from her dearly departed, you guessed it–Harry.
Heebie jeebies all up in it. We weren’t too freaked out to keep going, but we also weren’t putting haunted in air quotes anymore.
Next, we were led down a dark alley (literally) to Boardner’s. Fun fact: this cave of an old Hollywood dive bar is aptly nestled beside Bar Sinister, your friendly neighborhood goth/fetish club. But before goth was even a thing, Boardner’s was well on its way to hosting the dark side. It was frequented by Elizabeth Short, who would later become known as the “Black Dahlia”–a woman whose infamous and grotesque (understatement) murder in 1947 would rock Los Angeles and engrain itself into the city’s gruesome lore forever. Back in its heyday, apartments on the 3rd floor overlooking the bar’s awnings were often after-hours party spots for Boardner’s debaucherous regulars, and more than a few people have reported sighting apparitions staring back at them from the other side of those window panes–most commonly a man with a top hat and a woman with a shawl. NBD, just pissing ourselves.
Things just got creepier as Hollywood Boulevard’s stars called out to us from the grave. We stopped to offer Janis a moment of silence and were told that guests of the room where she O.D.ed at the Highland Gardens Hotel–just a few blocks from the strip–still report the sudden overwhelming stench of cigarettes and doors opening and closing on their own.
But maybe the most haunted spot in all of Hollywood is The Roosevelt Hotel. So many fucked up things have happened in this place it’s hard to keep track. Built just after the Knickerbocker, it’s another one of those classic throwback spots popularized by film’s early elite (read: drunk famous people with obscene amounts of money, clinging to their secrets while the salivating paparazzi looked on–a veritable breeding ground for tortured souls). We first heard the story of a full length mirror in one of the hotel’s long corridors, where time after time, Marilyn Monroe’s ghost was said to be seen standing behind guests, straightening her hair. Till one day, a woman walked straight into the hotel, marched up the stairs to the third floor where the mirror was hanging, and slit the throat of a live chicken she’d smuggled in, an offering to Marilyn’s spirit in the ancient practice of Santería.
Though the bloodbath was probably worse than any ghost sighting, it didn’t stop the hauntings. In the hotel’s early days, two young boys–six and eight–whose father left them alone in their room, meandered down to the pool, jumped in the water, and drowned. Not long after, the hotel operator reported that on the same time each day for several days, she received a call from that room, asking the same question: “When will my daddy be back?” When she checked the registrar, it showed the room as vacant. She quit that same day.
Montgomery Clift’s spirit is said to be seen pacing the halls, a little girl in a blue dress has been reported skipping around the hotel fountain multiple times, Clark Gable’s wife, Carole Lombard, has been spotted on the 12th floor, pianos play themselves, rooms drop ten degrees inexplicably–the list goes on. And even for us–just walking across the Spanish tiles of the foyer and past the svelte socialites lounging poolside–the whole place generates an eerie energy. A disturbing sense of longing–like someone has unfinished business to attend to, and you might be just the person to help them get it done.
Photos by Brittney Christie
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