A New Ghost Hunting Tour Uses Scents To Explore 13 L.A. Haunts
We love the creepy, crawly tours that let us in on the seedy side of Los Angeles, but Phantosmia takes it to another level. They have recreated the scents that ghosts have supposedly left behind in 13 of L.A.'s most haunted spots for an aromatic tour of the city's spirits.
Phantosmia is the actual medical name for when you hallucinate a smell. On occasion, this can be a sign of a deeper medical problem, but some believe it can be a clue to paranormal activity. The tour Phantosmia is a project among Ghost Hunters of Los Angles (GHOULA), the Institute of Art and Olfaction and IAO's Smelly Vials Perfume Club that is being billed as "a historic guide to aromatic hauntings in L.A." Those who choose to embark on this self-guided tour will use a scent kit to recreate the phantosmia, if you will, that some have claimed they experienced when they were in 13 different ghostly spots. Whether you're a believer in ghosts or not, Phantosmia is a fun, unique way to learn about Los Angeles' darker side.
Though the tours officially begin on October 3, we received a sample kit courtesy of Kendra Gaeta, a member of Smelly Vials. Inside, we found several handcrafted scents—ranging from flowery and pleasant, to something called "pungent stench"—some scent strips, a few souvenir buttons, charcoal and a map.
With your kit in hand, you can use the map to hit the spots at your own pace and in any order you please. At each stop, you should spritz the corresponding scent onto the scent strip and breathe in the aroma as you read the story printed on your map. Then, you must find a dog tag marker that will have been placed nearby. You can use the marker to make a charcoal rubbing on your map—like a gravestone etching—proving that you've been there. By no means do you have to hit each stop, but those who do will be treated to a special session at IAO where they will show you how to make the scents.
Here's an example of what kinds of smells and stories are covered on the tour: a gross scent based on Charles Love, a stuntman who worked in silent movies. He killed himself in the basement of the Oban Hotel on Yucca Street in Hollywood. Those who say they've seen his apparition report a pungent stench that accompanies a man in a bowler hat. The Oban Hotel isn't called that anymore, but it is referred to as the Hotel Hollywood. In its early Oban days, it was supposedly a place frequented by big stars before they were famous. With this scent, be prepared to sniff a mix between body odor and burning rubber.
There's also the scent of Strong Soap in the kit, which comes from a meticulously clean but horrible businessman in Calabasas, and a whiff of car exhaust from an ill-fated actress who ended her life in her car in the Pacific Palisades. The item in Calabasas is the outlier—it's both the farthest west and north. The phantom of a mysterious handyman who can be found in Heritage Square is the farthest east. And the tour won't go south of the 10 Freeway.
For those who want a little more insight into the hauntings, go to the kickoff party on October at IAO. There, you'll be able to grab a glass of wine and hear about Los Angeles' most notable ghosts from GHOULA found Richard Carradine and learn about how the scents were created from Smelly Vials members. You can also use the opportunity to pick up a kit. There is some possible replay value to the kits, too. The scents come in 3 ml spray bottles, so you could possibly wear some of the scents—like the Mitsouko scent rumored to be actress Jean Harlow's favorite perfume, or the citrus cologne of Rudolph Valentino—at a later date.
Guests are also invited to attend the kickoff party just to hear about the ghosts (free of charge), and can purchase a map without the scents for $5.
You can get your own kit on October 3 at Phantosmia's kickoff party, or online here. The newsprint map was designed by artist Micah Hahn of design studio Allies. If you can't make the pre-party, you can preorder a kit here and then pick it up at IAO on October 6 between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., or October 7 between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Though, you can just walk in and ask to buy one between those same orders; preordering guarantees one will be saved for you, just in case they sell out.
Phantosmia is a self-guided tour that takes place all over the L.A. area. The kickoff party is October 3 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Institute for Art and Olfaction, located at 932 Chung King Road in Chinatown. Kits are $60, maps only are available for $5.