In October in Los Angeles, when the sunny is shining and the thermometer reads 80 degrees, it’s hard to think of the City of Angels as haunted. Yet the ghosts of film stars from Marilyn Monroe to Montgomery Clift, as well as TV icons from Ozzie Nelson (of OZZIE AND HARRIET) to Lucille Ball are said to wander the hotels, homes, and sets of Hollywood.
There’s no need to wait until next Halloween to visit. The ghosts of Hollywood are working all the time.
The 12-story Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard. has been the choice of Hollywood for over 90 years. Built in 1927, the Roosevelt hosted the very first Oscar ceremony 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’re wandering the sidewalk ‘walk of fame.’
With Marilyn Monroe as headliner, the Roosevelt’s hauntings do not disappoint. Marilyn had a long relationship with the hotel. She posed for her first print ad, a toothpaste spot, on the diving board of the hotel pool. Not surprisingly, the Roosevelt’s Tropicana Pool is “buzzy” with spirit energy, Patti Negri, “psychic/medium to the stars,” told me.
As Marilyn went from starlet to star, she often stayed in a second-floor cabana at the Roosevelt overlooking the pool. The hotel provided Marilyn a tall, dark wood-framed full-length mirror, which after her death was moved to the manager’s office. A hotel 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 there was no one there. While the mirror is not on display, guests can stay at the Marilyn Monroe suite overlooking the pool, replete with vintage Eames furniture.
Monroe is called “the hardest working ghost in Hollywood.” Her face also supposedly appears in mirror reflections at the carousel on Santa Monica Pier. The childless actress went there in disguise to watch families at play.
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. Nonetheless, he purchased the crypt next to hers, so they’d sleep together for eternity.
Another famous Roosevelt guest was four-time Academy Award nominee Montgomery Clift. Clift, considered one of the most talented actors of his generation, was a sensitive spirit. His 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 prepping to play an Army bugler, he practiced incessantly.
Many guests who stayed in Room 928 reportedly bolted when they felt the coldness—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 switches on the radio to let guests know he’s around—and still angry about an unfulfilled life.”
Speaking of unfulfilled lives and haunted hotels, the presence of John Belushi has been reported at the famed Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Boulevard. Belushi starred in SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE and in classic comedies like ANIMAL HOUSE. Tragically, he died at 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 staying there now (where rooms start at $760) report feeling watched, particularly if they glance into the bathroom mirror. A couple with a young son were perturbed that the boy was talking to himself. The child said he was talking to “the funny man.”
In a few monts, the iconic Hollywood sign will celebrate its 100th birthday. The sign was the site of a 1932 tragedy when aspiring actress Peg Entwistle hurled herself off the “H” of the “HOLLYWOOD” sign, located on Mount Lee in Griffith Park. Even 90 years later, park rangers and hikers in Griffith Park, open year-round, report they have seen a woman smelling of gardenias, dressed in 1930’s attire.
Years ago, I learned the story of Ozzie Nelson, former bandleader and patriarch of the Nelson family. They starred in one of the first hit 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 home on Camino Palmero in Hollywood, which later would be used as a set in ENTOURAGE. Ozzie Nelson’s ghost is said to turn on and off the faucets and flick through the channels searching for his old show. It’s also claimed that Nelson’s ghost touched a female homeowner inappropriately. Nonetheless, my former editor told me, “A good ghost story never hurt anybody.”
The wealthy adjoining community of Beverly Hills also has its reported share of ghosts.
In 1959, SUPERMAN star George Reeves died there of a suspicious gunshot wound, an early victim of the “curse of Superman.” The shooting was ruled a suicide, although his fingerprints were not found on the weapon, and he was to get married within days. Since his death, visitors to Reeves’ former Benedict Canyon Drive home have heard gunshots and screams. Others have seen an apparition of 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 her death, newer owners have described unexplained broken windows, loud voices emanating from an empty attic, and furniture mysteriously moving around the house. At what was once her old studio, Desilu, guards have reported smelling her flower perfume—and seeing her spirit restlessly walking the grounds.
A number of companies run ghost or haunted Hollywood tours that will drive you past many of the sites. On Sunset Boulevard, the West Hollywood club then known as the Viper Room was the site of the overdose death of rising star River Phoenix on October 31, 2022—-Halloween. American Ghost Walks reported that ‘ghost adventures’ crew captured a voice saying “I get confused” that a former Viper Room employee claimed was River Phoenix.
You can take a tour of ghostly Hollywood hot spots, or do-it-yourself. A good place to wrap up is at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard. Stars buried there range from Rudolph Valentino (who still draws fans and flowers almost 100 years after his death) to Mickey Rooney to gangster Bugsy Siegel are buried. 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 is no such thing as too garish at Hollywood Forever. Don Adams of GET-SMART fame has a shoe phone on his gravesite, while Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone built a statue to himself. That’s life—and death—in Hollywood.