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This story first appeared in the Oct. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Los Angeles is a hard city to leave, but for those who have lost their lives in the land of promise and opportunity, it can be even harder. If you’re the sort who believes in ghosts and wants to see them in their supernatural habitat, this city has a host of places where the most notorious specters are more than readily accessible.
1. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd.)
BUILT IN 1927
Early in her career, Marilyn Monroe apocryphally lived here for two years before getting her break — her first magazine spread was done at the hotel’s old pool.
Spectral Residents: People report seeing Monroe in Room 1200, where she lived. “Many see Marilyn in the mirror. They also see a little girl in a blue dress,” says a maintenance worker named Rico. The ghost of Montgomery Clift also has been seen there.
2. The Hudson Apartments (6533 Hollywood Blvd.)
BUILT IN 1917
Co-founders of Paramount Pictures and MGM built what was then called The Hillview Hollywood to cater to aspiring actors in silent films. Charlie Chaplin once owned the building, and Rudolph Valentino had a speakeasy in the basement.
Spectral Residents: “A man from the ’20s was downstairs,” says former manager Mia Ciambria. “I couldn’t rent the place; he’d show himself to prospective renters.”
3. The Gershwin Apartments (5533 Hollywood Blvd.)
BUILT IN 1926
James Earl Ray lived there in 1967, when it was called the St. Francis Hotel, while making plans to shoot Martin Luther King Jr. “Many have died and committed suicide there,” says former manager Crysta Lynch. “The back wing was closed after an earthquake and named ‘The Dead Zone.’ The Gershwin is very haunted, and everyone there knows it.”
4. The Hollywood Tower (6138 Franklin Ave.)
BUILT IN 1929
A plaque by the front door calls this building, which inspired Disney’s Tower of Terror ride, “sophisticated living for film luminaries during the Golden Age of Hollywood.”
Spectral Residents: “There are many spirits here,” says April Brooks, a manager at the Hollywood Tower. “A lot of people report the ghost of a man standing on the seventh floor, in ’30s period clothing, staring at the Hollywood Hills. Then he disappears.”
5. The Knickerbocker (1714 Ivar Ave.)
BUILT IN 1925
Now a senior home, the Knickerbocker opened as a hotel in 1925. On Halloween 1936, Harry Houdini‘s widow held her 10th annual seance to contact the magician on the roof.
Spectral Residents: “A woman threw herself from the roof,” says Hector Garcia, who works in maintenance. “Many have seen her. When I work in the basement, shadows go by and doors close and open by themselves.”
6. The Alexandria Hotel (501 S. Spring St.)
BUILT IN 1923
Now an apartment building, it was one of the most luxurious hotels in Los Angeles when it opened. However, it crumbled into disrepair along with the downtown neighborhood around it. It’s been featured in many movies, including Seven, where it served as the residence of Kevin Spacey‘s John Doe. “The area is sketchy,” says Scott Markus, co-owner of tour company Los Angeles Hauntings. “This year, a man committed suicide by stepping off a fourth-story ledge.” Jimmy, one of the new managers at the building, also says that “a famous person is known to have died on the 12th floor.”
7. The Millennium Biltmore Hotel (506 S. Grand Ave.)
BUILT IN 1923
One of the largest hotels in the U.S. at the time, this downtown landmark was an early home to the Academy Awards ceremony.
Spectral Resident: Elizabeth Short, known as the Black Dahlia, was last seen at the bar before her 1947 death. Mike, a maintenance worker at The Biltmore for eight years, says: “Everyone refuses to go on the first floor. About seven years ago, in the mezzanine area, a women in a black dress appeared. When she was told to leave, she walked to the wall and disappeared.”
8. The Queen Mary (1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach)
LAUNCHED IN 1936
Now a tourist attraction hotel docked in Long Beach, this luxury liner was once in service as a World War II transport ship. Laura Lopez, who has worked as a tour guide at the ship for seven years, says that “Room B340 used to have a lot of spirit activity when it was in service, but it stopped being used after several complaints from guests.”
Spectral Residents: “Most hauntings are reported at the old first class pool, where we believe there is a vortex, allowing spirits to come in and out,” says Lopez, who adds that the ghost most frequently seen at the pool is a young girl named Jackie.
9. The Avila Adobe (10 Olvera St.)
BUILT IN 1818
The longest-standing residence in L.A. was damaged by massive earthquakes in 1870 and 1971, which made it uninhabitable. Today, it has been restored and can be toured, free of charge.
Spectral Residents: “The house is frequented by Francisco Avila,” says Los Angeles Hauntings’ Markus. “Avila’s first wife, Maria, died there in 1822, and he remarried a woman named Encarnacion. Encarnacion’s ghost inhabits the house. Some report seeing a female sitting on the front porch, while others hear her crying in the master bedroom.”
10. The Pico House (424 N. Main St.)
BUILT IN 1870
This hotel, one of the most luxurious west of Chicago, opened just a year before the Chinese Massacre — in which 18 people of Chinese descent were chased by a white mob through downtown L.A. and hanged. The lynching took place where Union Station now stands … mere blocks from The Pico’s front door.
Spectral Residents: “It is believed that the spirit of a Chinese immigrant is responsible for some hauntings,” says Markus. “Gov. Pio Pico, the last governor of the region under Mexican rule, can be seen to this day walking along the rooftop.”
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