9 Creepy Places In Los Angeles
L.A. is a sunny town with a dark history. Its palm-tree lined streets are home to murder houses and areas where some swear they've seen a ghost. This list is completely different last year's, so if you're looking for notes about The Cecil Hotel or Griffith Park, click here. If you're ready for a whole new set of true crime and local lore, read below.
The Sowden House in Los Feliz is one of Los Angeles' most beautiful, but it also my have been where one of the city's most brutal and notorious crimes took place.
The Sowden House was built in 1926 and designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, for Jon Sowden, a painter and photographer who was friends with Wright. It's nicknamed the "Jaws House" because some think that the front of the house looks like a shark's open mouth.
Now here's where things get spooky: in 1945, Dr. George Hodel bought the house. Hodel was one of the LAPD's top suspects in the murder of Elizabeth Short, better known to true crime fans as the Black Dahlia.
Short was 22 years old when her body as found cut in half in Leimart Park on January 15, 1947, her face slit into a wide grin. Her murder was never solved and Hodel was only one of several suspects. Short, originally from Boston, was sensationalized by the press. She was nicknamed the Black Dahlia after the film The Blue Dahlia and painted as promiscuous and a risk taker, or even as a call girl. Some say she was last seen in the days before her death in the eerie Cecil Hotel, others say she was seen drinking at the nearby Biltmore.
Numerous people confessed to the crime, and multiple suspects have been posited, but the crime remains unsolved.
Hodel is a particularly interesting suspect because his son, writer and former LAPD detective Steve Hodel, claimed in his book Black Dahlia Avenger that his father is the killer, a theory based on evidence he uncovered after his father's death. This includes two photographs that Steve Hodel believes are of Elizabeth Short that he found among his father's belongings.
George Hodel had a high IQ and was a musical prodigy as a child. He eventually ran a venereal disease clinic, and his son believes his intimate knowledge of certain patients may have protected him from outward scrutiny. He allegedly threw sex parties in the house, and his daughter Tamar accused him of raping her, though Hodel was ultimately acquitted after his lawyers dragged her name through the mud.
Some find Steve Hodel's claims credible, others not so much, but a file from the L.A. County District Attorney's office discovered decades later did confirm that Hodel was a prime suspect—to the point where investigators had bugged his home. "Supposin' I did kill the Black Dahlia," he was recorded saying. "They couldn't prove it now. They can't talk to my secretary because she's dead."
Hodel was also suspected of possibly murdering that secretary, Ruth Spaulding, by forcing her to overdose on pills. The files also indicated that one of Hodel's many lovers, Lillian Lenorak, claimed that Short was also one of Hodel's girlfriends and that she had seen her in the house.
Hodel fled the U.S. in 1950—his son suspects to avoid arrest—and lived overseas for 40 years before returning to the U.S. in 1990 with his much younger, third wife. He died in 1999.
If Hodel was Short's killer, it is believed that he murdered her in the Sowden House—in the basement, in particular.
Some also believe Sowden committed other murders, including the possibility that he was the Zodiac Killer, who murdered at least five, but possibly more, people in the Bay Area in the '60s. Steve Hodel also believes that his father, not William George Heirens, committed the Lipstick Murders in Chicago, citing similarities between Short's murder and the murder of the Lipstick killer's third and final victim.
There's a mansion that sits empty at 2475 Glendower Place. It was built in 1925 and passed through a few hands before a family of five moved into the sprawling, Spanish Revival mansion in the 1950s.
In the wee morning hours of December 6, 1959, Dr. Harold Perelson took a hammer and hit his sleeping wife in the head, says Medium. She asphyxiated in her own blood. Perelson then walked into his daughter Judye's room and swung the hammer at her. His aim was off this time, and though he hit Judye in the head, the 18-year-old woke up, screamed and fled. She ran into her parents' room, saw her mother's body, and ran out of the house. Perelson's two younger kids, ages 11 and 13, had woken up. Perelson told them they were having a bad dream and to return to bed. The two children went downstairs, where they encountered their neighbor, Mashall Ross. Judye had managed to wake him up and he entered the house to check on the family.
Ross would say that Perelson told him to go home, but Ross didn't. He watched as Perelson took several pills from the bathroom and then swallowed two Nembutals and 31 other pills. Perelson then lay down on Judye's bed and waited for death. By the time paramedics arrived, it had come.
No one knows for sure why Perelson did what he did. He was reportedly reading Dante's The Divine Comedy before the crime. They found it open on his nightstand to Canto 1, which read: "Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost."
There were rumors that the family was in financial trouble. Perelson had invented a patent for a syringe, but was betrayed by a business partner. Perelson sued, but won much less than he expected. And a few years prior, Judye got in a bad car wreck. Perelson sued, but only won enough to cover medical bills. Court records indicated that perhaps Perelson had tried to kill himself in the past.
Lillian Perelson's sister assumed guardianship of the children and the mansion was sold in 1960 via probate auction to Emily and Juan Enriquez. However, it appears if they moved in, they didn't stay long. The house sat empty for many years and when Emily died in 1994, the house went to her son, Rudy. He never moved in either, though apparently has used the home for storage purposes.
According to some curious folks who have crept up to the house, a Christmas tree and wrapped presents can be seen inside. They likely did not belong to the Perelsons, who were Jewish, and some speculate that at least one family moved into the home after the murder. If that's true, they may have left in a hurry, leaving their presents and many belongings behind.
Neighbors complain that a burglar alarm sometimes goes off without provocation, and they're not fans of the mystery enthusiasts who occasionally creep around the neighborhood.
The Entity House
This Culver City house is one made famous by the movie The Entity, but even if you believe in ghosts, it's not really haunted. The entity was attached to the woman who once lived here, not to the physical property. Still, it's a creepy tale.
As the story goes, Doris Bither lived in the house at 11547 Braddock Drive with her children: a 6-year-old girl and three boys, ages 10, 13 and 16. She was in a bookstore when she overheard paranormal investigators Dr. Barry Taff and Kerry Gaynor talking about supernatural occurrences, according to paranormal website Ghost Theory. She walked up to them and told them that she was having a paranormal problem of her own: her house was haunted.
Taff and Gaynor first went to Blither's home on August 22, 1974. The home was by no means well-kept. Bither and her children lived in squalor, and Bither didn't get along with any of her sons. Bither had a troubled past. She said she was abused by her parents as well as lovers, and it was this trauma that bled into her relationship with her sons. Taff would note that the house had been condemned twice.
Blither's ghosts were malicious. She said she bumped into them, and she claimed they sexually assaulted her. She said they were Asian men, and one of the children who claimed to have seen one called that ghost "Mr. Whose-It."
Taff and Gaynor reported feeling a sense of pressure in their ears while inside Blither's home, but nothing extraordinarily unusual. If not for the reports of ghost sightings from the kids and other family members who had been in the home, Taff and Gaynor may have disbelieved Blither. But there was something else, too: Bither had bruises on her body that seemed to match her story that some ghosts would hold her down during the assault.
So, Taff and Gaynor decided to check it out. They returned to the house with photographers and called in other investigators to help. They stood in her small bedroom and asked Bither to summon her ghosts.
The pair said that they saw lights popping up in the room and a green mist that formed the body of a man. Of course, the only thing any of these investigators caught on film was a photo in which an orb appears to arc over Bither.
Another way to provoke the ghosts was to play Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep, according to Bither's teenage son, and in particular, songs about the devil.
Some speculate that because the ghosts seemed most active when Bither was present, and even more so when she was drunk, and that the spirits were attracted to her and not the home.
Eventually, Bither moved to Carson. The house in Culver City seems undisturbed without her. Bither, on the other hand, claimed that the ghosts followed her. According to her son, Bither died at 58 in 1999.
Barry Taff notes on his website that a woman did come to Bither's Culver City to home to warn her of an evil presence in her house, but how true that all is, we'll likely never know.
Wild Goose Yacht
Last year's haunted boat was the Queen Mary in Long Beach. But people like to say the USS YMS-328, better known as the Wild Goose, in Newport Beach is haunted, too.
When it was built in Washington state in the 1940s, the Wild Goose was a minesweeper. But after WWII, the ship because a private yacht which was eventually purchased by John Wayne in 1962, who named it the Wild Goose and hosted lots of parties on board. Wayne kept Wild Goose for 17 years, before selling it to Santa Monica lawyer Lynn Hutchins, a few weeks before his death. Currently, you can go on a dinner cruise and some say that if you do, you may run into the ghost of The Duke.
Hutchins claimed that Wayne's ghost roved the boat, making noise and appearing in glass. In a 2009 article in the L.A. Times, an event manager for the cruise line that now operates the ship, said that while he had never seen anything on board, he'd "felt something." He also said that several employees attested to hearing someone—or something—calling their names. A captain on the ship once claimed that he was tossed out of Wayne's old bed by a mysterious force.
The ship also supposedly drifted on its own to its old dock in front of Wayne's house, but the ropes that had been holding it to the dock had not been cut.
The yacht is now managed by Hornblower Cruises and Events, and you can book private events, dining cruises and tours.
The Forest Lawn Cemetery
Cemeteries are inherently creepy for a myriad of cultural reasons, and even the smallest of them have their local lore. The Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale is no exception, despite its creator's best intentions.
Founded in 1906 by Dr. Hubert Eaton, Forest Lawn Cemetery at 1712 South Glendale Avenue in Glendale is the final resting place of a number of stars, including Walt Disney (whose head is not frozen), Nat King Cole and Elizabeth Taylor. There's also the Great Mausoleum, where Michael Jackson was privately interned.
Eaton wanted the cemetery to be pretty, believing in a paradise after death—perhaps only for some people. Its serene nature aside, the creepiest thing about it might be that black, Jewish and Chinese people weren't allowed to be buried there for a long time.
It's also the home of the less glamorous. Marion Parker lies here. Parker was the daughter of Perry Parker, a well-known Los Angeles banker. In 1927, when Marion was only 12 years old, William Edward Hickman, a former employee of the Parker's bank, kidnapped her from her school by telling school officials that he was an employee of of the bank who had been asked to pick the girl up. The woman who let Hickman take Marion testified that she was swayed by his "apparent sincerity and disarming manner." Over the course of the next few days, Hickman sent ransom notes to Parker, asking for $1,500. He would sign his name as 'The Fox,' 'Death' or 'Fate.' While Hickman bailed on the first attempt to exchange the girl for the money due to police presence, Hickman eventually arranged to meet Parker at South Manhattan Place and West 5th Street.
When Parker arrived, he gave Hickman the money after spotting Marion in the passenger seat, wrapped in cloth. Unfortunately, Marion was already dead. Hickman had chopped off her limbs, then strangled and disemboweled her.
It turned out that Hickman had been arrested while working for Parker after Parker turned him in for stealing and forging checks. They were eventually able to trace him to an apartment in L.A. where he was living under a false name. Hickman was able to flee, but was arrested in Oregon where he was recognized from a wanted poster. He was hanged in 1928. Marion lived on in a number of dreary folk songs.
Yolanda Washington was the first victim of the Hillside Strangler, a notorious serial killer that actually turned out to be two people—Angelo Anthony Buono, Jr. and his cousin, Kenneth Bianchi. Her body was found near the cemetery on October 18, 1977. The pair murdered 10 women in the Los Angeles area before their arrest.
Before there was Supperclub at 6675 Hollywood Boulevard, there was the Vogue Theatre. And before that, there was a four-room schoolhouse called Prospect Elementary School. In 1901, the school supposedly caught on fire and burned to the ground. The teacher, identified as Miss Elizabeth, perished, as well as 25 children. Paranormal investigators claim that six of the children and Miss Elizabeth remained in spirit form to haunt the area, along with two male entities that, when living, had been theatre employees.
There's not a lot of solid research on this fire. The teacher's last name is not given and any information about the fire are generally articles talking about the property's supposed hauntings. It's hard to say how much lore vs. fact makes up this tale.
The Vogue Theatre opened in 1936, screening films until 1992. In 1997, Daena Smoller and Larry Montz of the International Society for Paranormal Research said they moved into the theatre and that it was no longer haunted as of 2001. Which is lucky for Supperclub, which opened in 2010. However, Supperclub LA is closing on October 30.
Rancho Los Amigos
Sometimes referred to as the Hollydale Mental Hospital, the abandoned south campus of the Rancho Los Amigos hospital lives in lore.
The Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center is a hospital in Downey. It's still around, but the southern campus across the highway is abandoned. The hospital's history takes us back to the County Poor Farm in 1888—a catchall for the L.A. County-USA Medical Center—where the poor, disabled, mentally ill or elderly could go. It was also a farm with crops and animals.
The hospital grew in 1918 with the Spanish influenza epidemic, admitting anyone who needed treatment and changing its name to simply County Farm. In 1932, the name changed again to Rancho Los Amigos, and offered occupational therapy. In 1933, the Long Beach earthquake damaged much of the property. Many patients went to the Hall of Records to ask Supervisor Roger Jessup to help them with the damaged buildings, telling horrendous stories that upset his 35-year-old secretary, Grace Wagner, to such an extent that she jumped out a window to her death.
The hospital served as an emergency hospital during WWII before switching its focus to treating polio patients, the wards full of iron lungs. The farm and mental health facility closed towards the end of the '50s, and most of the operations moved to the north campus in the '80s where they remain today.
The abandoned buildings are draped in urban legend, from unsubstantiated claims of a priest who was murdered by a deranged patient, to the ghosts of those who had perished there. While that's all hard to prove, there was a morbid discovery made in 2006. U.S. Marines were using the grounds for military exercises when they found an old morgue freezer full of body parts. Not so odd for an old hospital, but a grisly find, nonetheless.
Trespassing among the facility is highly discouraged by the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, but thrill seekers find it mighty tempting. Feel free to freak yourself out with the video above.
The Comedy Store
The Comedy Store in West Hollywood has embraced the claims that it's home to a ghost or two with, what else, laughter.
Before the Sunset Strip comedy club opened in 1972, it was a nightclub called Ciro's, where the who's-who of the time came to chill—Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Dean Martin, Mickey Rooney and Cary Grant, to name a few.
In a 1996 episode of Unsolved Mysteries, comedians Blake Clark and Joey Gaynor claimed that they'd encountered ghosts at the club. Clark reported seeing a gate rattle in the basement and said an evil spirit burst through and approached him.
Writer Laurie Jacobson told the L.A. Times that she was a waitress at the Comedy Store in the early '80s and encountered lots of paranormal activity in the basement, too.
Believers in the Comedy Store's ghosts attribute the spirits to mobster activity that occurred when the building housed Ciro's. The Comedy Store has in the past done a ghostly show or that delves into the building's history with a little comedy and concludes with a tour.
The Home of Judith Barsi
Judith Barsi was a 10-year-old girl in July of 1988, but she already had an impressive acting resume. She was the voice of Ducky in The Land Before Time, Thea in Jaws IV: The Revenge, and had appeared in dozens of commercials and TV shows including St. Elsewhere and Growing Pains.
Her life was cut short by her own father, József Barsi, who shot her while she slept in the family's home at 22100 Michale Street in Canoga Park. He then killed her mother, Maria Barsi. Two days later, he set the house on fire before shooting himself in the garage. József was reportedly a mean drunk who was paranoid, jealous and frequently threatened to kill them all and burn the house down. Judith's success only made his horrific behaviors worse. Judith at one point broke down while auditioning for All Dogs Go To Heaven. She was taken to a child psychologist who alerted Child Protective Services, but the investigation was dropped when Maria told the case worker that she planned to divorce József and move with her daughter into an apartment in Panorama City, which she had already been using to escape from József during the day. However, Maria fretted about losing the home as well as her things, and her reluctance ultimately ended in tragedy.
A county advisory panel would later reprimand CPS for dropping the case.
The wrought iron fence that surrounds the home today was reportedly installed by József as a result of his paranoia.
According to Zillow, the home was last sold in July of 2011 for $272,000.