"The Greats of Silent Film Still Restlessly
by Donna L. Wilks
Settle yourself in a comfortable chair. Dim the lights. Are
you alone now? I have some tales to tell you - tales of ghosts,
haunts, spectres, spirits from early Hollywood; the golden era
of silent film.
Years pass, and the images from those glorious films fade
in the hearts and minds of both moviegoers and moviemakers. But
still in the dark catwalks and stages of Universal, Paramount
and Culver Studios the greats of silent film still restlessly
roam, reminding us of their presence. The fabulous homes that
once resounded with the sounds of glamorous parties and shocking
secrets now echo with the sibilant whispers of the past.
Could these tales be true? Are they just the wishful thinking
of those who do not want to forget
the greatest era of cinema?
Sadly we can no longer visit this home, the "palace"
of the King and Queen of Hollywood, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary
Pickford. However, there are stories of several memorable haunts
One of the ghosts was said to be Douglas Fairbanks himself.
He was frequently spotted in the gorgeous entrance near the hand-painted
murals. Another famous ghost was Mary Pickford. After her death
in 1979, she was seen by many witnesses, including Buddy Rogers,
in a ruffled white dress in the den.
THE REAL PHANTOM
Lon Chaney, Sr. is one of the most active apparitions from
the silent era . . . possibly only outdone by Valentino himself!
This tale began in 1913 when Chaney was working as an extra in
the cinema. He would wait on a bench at the corner of Hollywood
and Vine at the bus stop. This was how he got to the studios in
those days. After he became a star, it was his habit
to drive by that particular bench and give rides to other aspiring
stars who were waiting for the bus so they, too, could go work
as extras in the movies. After his death, Chaney's ghost was often
seen sitting on that bench. Eventually, a spot was reserved for
Chaney which no one else sat on. The bench was removed in 1942
and the sightings ended at that time.
However, Sound Stage 28 at Universal Studios is rumored to
be a habitual haunt of Chaney's now. A caped phantom has been
spotted there on frequent occasions running the catwalks above
the stage. This stage was used for the infamous Phantom of the
Opera set. Many sets are sometimes built there, but the Opera
set still remains mostly intact. Other phenomena reported by employees
and other witnesses include lights that turn on and off and doors
that open and close by themselves.
Silent screen idol, Ramon Novarro, was brutally murdered in
his Laurel Canyon home on October 31, 1968. Visitors to the home
following his death spoke of an "eerie feeling" surrounding
it, and many think it was caused by the restless spirit of Novarro
This home has since been torn down, but the reports of the
eerie sensations still continue to this day.
THE MAN IN THE BOWLER HAT
The setting is Culver Studios. The star this time is a man
in a funny bowler hat. However, there is something odd about that.
First, because the man was never an actor and second, because
the man has been dead for seventy-five years! Yes, we are all
familiar with the legends and rumors surrounding the untimely
death of Thomas Ince, but are you familiar with the legends that
have surfaced SINCE his death?
Ince has been spotted on the sound stage catwalks of his beloved
Culver Studios, ostensibly grumbling about the changes that have
been made to his studio, walking through walls, and climbing stairs
to the executive screening room (which was Ince's private projection
room during his heyday), among other spooky happenings. On one
memorable occasion Ince appeared to a worker during remodeling
of the studio. According to the worker, it was on Stage 2-3-4,
and the man in the odd bowler hat appeared and, turning to the
worker, stated uncompromisingly, "I don't like what you're
doing to my studio." Then the spirit vanished through a wall!
Quite a bit of Ince's original lot has survived until this
day, and we hope that Mr. Ince is happy with that and the fact
that it is one of the busiest and most successful lots in town!
SILENT SCREEN COWBOY
Santa Clarita is the home of the Hart Mansion and the ghostly
presence of William S. Hart. However, he is quite picky about
the people he will appear for and seems to favor the docents.
Both he and his sister (another phantom) are the only people to
have ever lived in the home. Other ghosts include a nurse as well
as Mr. Hart's dogs. Another interesting occurrence is that coffee
is frequently smelled in the museum.
RUMOR AND SCANDAL
Hollywood Memorial Park is the home to phantom sobbing at
the grave of Virginia Rappe. Rappe was the infamous girl whose
death ruined the career of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.
Although Arbuckle was completely exonerated in his third trial
with an unanimous acquittal, he was unable to ever regain his
place in the silent film world. The question is what exactly causes
Virginia's sobbing? Guilt, sorrow over dying so early? Or something
we don't know? It forever will remain a mystery.
THE BARRYMORE ESTATE
If the accounts of ghostly activity are true, John, Ethel
and Lionel Barrymore still remain in their earthly home. They
have been seen and heard in several instances.
Another odd story concerns a cuckoo clock that was enjoyed
by John. A friend, Gene Fowler, planned to position the nonworking
clock's hands to the time of John's death when that unhappy event
should occur. However, fate settled that for him. John Barrymore
passed away at precisely 10:20 P.M. There was no need for Mr.
Fowler to reposition the clock's hands. They already pointed at
10:20 P.M. Coincidence?
HOLLYWOOD'S MOST ACTIVE GHOST
It is only fitting that one of Hollywood's most well-known
actors, even to this day, should also be its most active ghost!
Rudolph Valentino and his entourage (the Lady in Black and a pet
dog) have been sighted many times.
Falcon Lair is one of Valentino's favorite haunts. First off,
it is located in Benedict Canyon which
is rife with ghostly activity of all kinds. After his death, the
house was auctioned off for $145,000. However, the owner never
moved into the house. Falcon Lair stood empty for eight years
before selling again in 1934 for the ridiculous sum of $18,000.
He has been seen wandering the property, touring the stables,
and looking out his favorite window on the second floor. However,
he does not linger only at Falcon Lair. He has been sighted at
his beach house in Oxnard. Also, the Santa Maria Inn in Santa
Maria is another one of Valentino's haunts. Room 210 has been
beleaguered on occasion by mysterious knocking and an invisible
presence that likes to recline on the bed.
Another favorite haunt is at Paramount Studios. The Sheik
himself has been seen floating among the old clothes and props
in the costume department. He is also suspected of being the spirit
who roams the catwalks above Studio Five.
Part of Valentino's entourage include his late Great Dane,
Kabar. The dog died in 1929 and was buried in the Los Angeles
Pet Cemetery. However, the playful pooch hasn't quite figured
out he is dead yet. He has been caught panting and licking people
who wander near his grave.
The last spirit we shall discuss here is the infamous "Lady
in Black." Long after she must have passed on she has been
spotted hovering near Crypt 1205 at Hollywood Memorial's Cathedral
Mausoleum where the legendary Sheik was laid to "rest"
in 1926. Such a legend as Valentino apparently inspires undying
Now you have been introduced to these spectres. Do you hear
them? The best way to keep them happy is to enjoy their many fine
films. Keep the legends alive!
And now you can turn on the lights!
Haunted Hollywood: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland by Laurie
Jacobson and Marc Wanamaker, 1994, Santa Monica, Angel City Press.
This Is Hollywood by Ken Schessler, 1993, Redlands,
CA, Ken Schessler Publishing.
"Hollywood Hauntings Web Page" - http://gothic.vei.net/hollywood/hhome.htm
"Haunting Visions" - http://www.eonline.com/Hot/Features/Haunted/park.html
"Hollywood's Ghosts" - http://www.vaportrails.com/USA/USAFeatures/Ghost/Ghost.html
copyright 1999 by Donna L. Wilks. All rights