In October in Los Angeles, when the sun is shining and the thermometer reads 80 degrees, it’s hard to think the City of Angels is haunted. Yet the ghosts of movie stars from Marilyn Monroe to Montgomery Clift, as well as television icons from Ozzie Nelson (from OZZIE AND HARRIET) to Lucille Ball are said to roam hotels, homes and Hollywood sets.
You don’t have to wait until the next Halloween to visit. Hollywood ghosts work all the time.
The 12-story Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard. has been Hollywood’s choice for over 90 years. Built in 1927, the Roosevelt hosted the very first Academy Awards on May 16, 1929. Naturally, it’s considered one of Hollywood’s most haunted buildings, but the hotel and its famous bar are quite accessible if you walk on the sidewalk ‘walk of fame’.’
With Marilyn Monroe headlining, Roosevelt’s hauntings don’t disappoint. Marilyn had a long relationship with the hotel. She posed for her first print ad, a toothpaste stain, on the hotel pool diving board. Unsurprisingly, Roosevelt’s Tropicana Pool is “buzzing” with spiritual energy, “star psychic/medium Patti Negri” told me.
As Marilyn went from starlet to star, she often stayed in a cabana on the second floor of the Roosevelt overlooking the pool. The hotel provided Marilyn with a large full-length mirror with a dark wooden frame which, after her death, was moved to the manager’s office. A maid was dusting the mirror and saw the reflection of a sad-looking blonde woman. The maid turned to ask if she could help, but no one was there. Though the mirror isn’t on display, guests can stay in the Marilyn Monroe Suite overlooking the pool, filled with vintage Eames furniture.
Monroe is called “Hollywood’s hardest working ghost”. Her face also supposedly appears in the mirror reflections at the Santa Monica Pier carousel. The childless actress went there in costume to watch the families perform.
You can also visit Marilyn’s final resting place at Westwood Village Memorial Park. Her nude image helped launch Playboy Magazine, but Marilyn and Hugh Hefner never met. Nevertheless, he bought the crypt next to his, so they could sleep together for eternity.
Another famous Roosevelt guest was four-time Oscar nominee Montgomery Clift. Clift, considered one of the most talented actors of his generation, was a sensitive mind. Her demons included alcohol, drugs, depression, and a disfiguring car accident.
Clift stayed in room 928 at the Roosevelt for several months while preparing for his role in the 1953 classic FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. A Method actor preparing to play an army bugler, he practiced nonstop.
Many guests who stayed in room 928 reportedly fled when they felt the cold or heard the sound of the long-dead actor playing the bugle. The LA Times wrote “the brooding spirit of Montgomery Clift turns up the heat and turns on the radio to let guests know he’s there and still angry at an unfulfilled life.”
Speaking of unfulfilled lives and haunted hotels, John Belushi’s presence has been reported at the famous Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Boulevard. Belushi has starred in SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and classic comedies like ANIMAL HOUSE. Tragically, he died in the hotel’s Bungalow 3 of a drug overdose in 1982.
Al Franken reported seeing Belushi’s presence there a week after his death. Guests currently staying there (where rooms start at $760) report feeling watched, especially if they stare into the bathroom mirror. A couple with a young son was troubled by the fact that the boy was talking to himself. The child said he was talking to “the funny man”.
In a few months, the iconic Hollywood brand will celebrate its 100th anniversarye birthday. The sign was the site of a tragedy in 1932 when aspiring actress Peg Entwistle ran from the “H” of the “HOLLYWOOD” sign, located on Mount Lee in Griffith Park. Even 90 years later, park rangers and hikers at year-round Griffith Park report seeing a woman who smelled like gardenias, dressed in a 1930s outfit.
Years ago, I learned the story of Ozzie Nelson, former bandleader and patriarch of the Nelson family. They starred in one of the first successful television family sit-coms, Ozzie and Harriet. Their son, Rick Nelson, was later a successful rock musician who died tragically in a plane crash.
The family lived in a house on Camino Palmero in Hollywood, which would later be used as the setting in ENTOURAGE. The ghost of Ozzie Nelson is said to turn the taps on and off and scour the channels for his old show. It is also claimed that Nelson’s ghost touched a female landlord inappropriately. Nonetheless, my former editor told me, “A good ghost story never hurt anyone.”
The wealthy neighboring community of Beverly Hills also has its share of ghosts.
In 1959, SUPERMAN star George Reeves died there of a suspicious gunshot wound, one of the first victims of the “Curse of Superman”. The shooting was ruled a suicide, although his fingerprints were not found on the gun, and he was due to be married within days. Since his death, visitors to Reeves’ former Benedict Canyon Drive home have heard gunshots and screams. Others saw an appearance by Reeves dressed as Superman.
The ghost of Lucille Ball, who died at 77 on April 26, 1989, is also said to haunt her former Beverly Hills home. Since his death, new owners have described unexplained broken windows, loud voices emanating from an empty attic, and furniture moving mysteriously around the house. In what was once his former studio, Desilu, guards reported smelling his flower scent and seeing his spirit treading the ground tirelessly.
A number of companies run Hollywood ghost or haunted tours that will take you past many sights. On Sunset Boulevard, the West Hollywood club then known as the Viper Room was the scene of rising star River Phoenix’s overdose death on October 31, 2022 — Halloween. American Ghost Walks reported that the “ghost adventures” crew captured a voice saying “I’m getting confused” that a former Viper Room employee claimed to be River Phoenix.
You can take a ghostly Hollywood hotspot tour or do it yourself. A good place to wrap up is Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard. Stars buried there range from Rudolph Valentino (who is still drawing fans and flowers nearly 100 years after his death) to Mickey Rooney to mobster Bugsy Siegel. Female stars include Jayne Mansfield, “Golden Girl” Estelle Getty, Fay Wray (of KING KONG) and Hattie McDaniel of GONE WITH THE W IND.
Like Hollywood itself, there’s nothing too garish about Hollywood Forever. GET-SMART’s Don Adams has a shoe phone on his grave, while Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone has built a statue for himself. It’s life and death in Hollywood.