The Tales Behind The 8 Creepiest Places In Los Angeles
You'd think a place so sunny couldn't be so dark, but Los Angeles is rife with urban legends, grisly tales and famous ghosts. While some are rooted in true crime, others are more the work of urban legends and overactive imaginations. We've compiled a list of local lore and morbid history associated with eight L.A. area haunts—some of which you can still visit today, whether you're a Mulder or a Scully.
Stay On MainThough it has since rebranded as Stay On Main, The Cecil Hotel is, in our humble opinion, the creepiest place in Los Angeles. Built in 1927, the hotel was once an okay place to lay your head, but as time passed, the Cecil became home to more and more transients—and unsettling happenings. While most of the creepy happenings on our list take place decades ago, the strangest thing to happen at the Cecil occurred less than two years ago.
In January of 2013, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist named Elisa Lam checked into the Cecil Hotel, but vanished on January 31. Detectives searched the hotel, but could not find her. On February 19, after several guests complained to management about strange tasting water, the hotel sent an employee up to check the four water tanks on the roof. And in one of them, they found Lam's decomposing body. The case was eventually ruled a suicide, but it gets stranger.
On the night Lam went missing, she appeared on security footage from an elevator. She appears to be talking to someone who isn't there.
Numerous conspiracy theories exist on the Internet surrounding Lam's death, including one from Tila Tequila, who believes both Lam and Paul Walker were killed in some kind of "ritualistic murder." It's supposed to be getting a horror movie treatment.
The Cecil Hotel was also home to Richard Ramirez, better known as serial killer The Night Stalker. He lived at the Cecil from 1984 to 1985, during which he was actively killing. He was a self-described Satanist and was convicted of killing 13 people in 1989.
Another serial killer, Jack Unterweger, murdered three women while staying at the Cecil. Unterweger had already murdered several women, all prostitutes, in his home country of Austria, but was eventually released and touted as a prime example of criminal rehabilitation. He later became a crime journalist and was sent on assignment to Los Angeles to report on the difference in American and European attitudes toward prostitution. He frequently communicated with police and even went on ridealongs to learn more about prostitution. During this time, he murdered three prostitutes in his room at the Cecil. By the time law enforcement caught on, he was on the run. He was eventually arrested in Miami and sent back to Austria, where he hanged himself while in prison.
Bonus Creep Factor: The Cecil Hotel was, according to some, one of the last places Elizabeth Short, better known as The Black Dahlia, was seen alive. Also, it's said that so many people jumped off the roof in suicide attempts that the adjacent parking lot sued the hotel.
Stay On Main is located at 640 Main St., downtown. Book your room today here.
Griffith ParkGriffith Park already has a shady past in its namesake. Griffith J. Griffith may have given Los Angeles the land the park sits on and the cash to build the Greek Theatre and the Griffith Observatory, but he was also a drunk who shot his wife. She survived and he served only two years for the deed.
The land, however, was supposedly cursed before Griffith even acquired it. It was first owned by a man named Don Antonio Feliz who was supposed to bequeath the park to his niece, Dona Petranilla, but gave it to another man instead. Petranilla cursed the park, and it's said that her curse resulted in cattle dying and crops being destroyed by fire. The land was eventually sold to Griffith, who would give it to the City. Some say Petranilla's ghost still haunts the park.
The creepiest legend is that of Picnic Table 29. The stories say that two young lovers—Rand Garrett and Nancy Jeanson—were doing what young lovers do atop the picnic table on Halloween, 1976, when a tree fell over and crushed them. Their bodies were said to be cremated with their ashes sprinkled around the table. Numerous people report spooky happenings, particularly whenever anyone tries to remove the tree, which still sits on the picnic table to this day.
People also claim to occasionally see the ghost of Peg Entwistle, an aspiring actress who committed suicide by jumping from the Hollywood sign in 1932 when she was only 24. Entwistle left behind a note in her purse that read:
"I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E."
There's also an abandoned zoo people say is haunted, currently in use as part of the L.A. Haunted Hayride.
Queen MaryThe Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner now docked in Long Beach, enthusiastically embraces its spooky legends and offers a daily ghost tour for $15 and their annual 'Dark Harbor' Halloween attraction even boasts the tagline 'SoCal's only haunt that is actually haunted.'
The Queen Mary has been docked in Long Beach since 1967. There have been 49 confirmed deaths on the ship between passengers and crew members (most of them crew members), but the alleged ghosts don't necessarily match up with the logged deaths. (For instance, some of the ghosts are said to be children who drowned in a pool—but there's no official record of that ever happening.) There's the ghost of a woman who wears all white and wanders the cabins. Then there's the ghosts of workers on HMS Curacoa, one of the Queen's escort ships, that the Queen Mary crashed into in 1942 while being used as a military vessel in World War II. Only 99 of the Curacoa's 338 crew members survived. Most infamously, there's Cabin B340. B340 is the smallest room on the ship, and according to legend, it's so haunted by a malevolent ghost that it can't be rented to anyone and has been sealed.
This year's 'Dark Harbor' has a maze that play up legends. 'B340' tells the tale of a 1948 passenger, Samuel the Savage, who was locked in the small room after a "violent outburst," only to be found later "violently ripped apart." Did he do it himself, or did something else? Oooooooh.
The Wonderland HouseAt a home on Wonderland Avenue in Laurel Canyon known for drug activity, there were four murders on July 1, 1981. Killed were Billy DeVerell, Ron Launius, Barbara Richardson and Joy Miller—all were bludgeoned by an intruder while they slept. Susan Launius was the only survivor of the attack, but could provide police with no clues as to who the killer was.
Police believed that the group was targeted by Eddie Nash, your all-around nightclub-owning, mob-associating, drug-dealing bad dude. Nash suspected that the Wonderland group had recently robbed his home and he wanted revenge. But how it all played out and who actually swung the lead pipes has never quite been figured out.
A potential suspect for the murders was none other than porn star John Holmes, who performed in adult films as Johnny Wadd. Around the time of the murders, Holmes' drug addiction made it hard for him to keep his lifestyle and his legendary member up, and he was reportedly doing small-time crimes to get by. He was also hanging out a lot at the Wonderland house with Nash. According to the Crime Library, Holmes helped the Wonderland gang break into Nash's home. The next day, one of Nash's men saw Holmes wearing a piece of jewelry stolen during the heist. Nash then had Holmes beaten in attempt to get him to squeal on the other robbers, which led Nash to set his sights on the Wonderland crew. Within 72 hours of the robbery on Nash's home, the Wonderland house had been turned into a bloody crime scene.
Holmes' first wife said that Holmes claimed he let Nash's men into the Wonderland house and was forced to watch them die. Other times, Holmes claimed he was held at Nash's house during the murders. Some people think it was Holmes himself who helped Nash's crew do the killing.
Detectives found Holmes' prints at the Wonderland home, which led to his arrest. According to prosecutors, Holmes willfully helped Nash carry out the murders, raw about not getting what he perceived as his fair share of the what was stolen from Nash's home. The defense argued that Holmes was forced to help the killers by giving them entry to the Wonderland home, but didn't kill anyone himself. Holmes, who did not agree to testify, was acquitted, but spent 110 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with the investigation. Holmes died six years later from AIDS.
Meanwhile, Nash was tried and acquitted. Several years later, Nash was arrested again, this time for drug trafficking and money laundering, as well as bribing a young woman on the jury of his first trial regarding the Wonderland murders. He eventually told authorities that he asked some people to retrieve the items stolen from him from the Wonderland house and that the situation may have escalated to violence. To this day, no one knows for sure who murdered those people.
As for the house, it's still there today. In 2008, it was up for rent for a mere $3000/month.
The Wonderland House is located at 8763 Wonderland Avenue, Laurel Canyon.
CinefamilyThis former Silent Movie Theatre may be known for its eccentric and fun programming today, but it was once the scene of a grisly murder in the late '90s when the projectionist had Larry Austin, the owner, shot and killed while patrons watched a film.
James Van Sickle first arrived at what was then called the Silent Movie Theatre to help fix up the place. Over the years, Austin and Van Sickle had a sometimes turbulent on-again, off-again relationship. Austin supposedly named Van Sickle the only heir to his theatre (or so Van Sickle would claim) and all the valuable old films he possessed. Van Sickle put a hit out on Austin to get the money, hiring 19-year-old Christian Rodriguez to do the deed.
On January 17, 1997, Rodriguez bought a ticket for some short films and watched for about a half an hour before he exited into the lobby. He demanded to speak to a manager. When Austin arrived, he acted as though he meant to rob the theatre. Though Austin was ready to hand over the cash, Rodriguez shot him once in the face, then turned his weapon on a young woman working at the concessions counter, shooting her once in the chest. Rodriguez then fired at Austin's body several more times. All the while, customers watched Sunrise with Van Sickle manning the projector.
The young woman survived and helped police track down Rodriguez. Van Sickle and Rodriguez were both convicted of the crime.
Some say Austin haunts the theatre alongside the original owner, John Hampton.
Hampton founded the theatre with his wife, Dorothy, in 1942 as The Movie Theatre. Hampton owned several silent films already as, at the time, they were very cheap. The Hamptons ran the theatre themselves for many years until 1980, when Hampton was too ill to do it anymore. The theatre reopened in 1992 after being purchased by Austin, then became the Cinefamily we know and love in 1999. Some say it was Hampton's hobby of using dye and chemicals to treat nitrate film that led to his illness.
Cinefamily is located at 611 N Fairfax, Hollywood
Linda Vista Hospital
When the Santa Fe Railroad Company built this hospital in 1904 for its employees, it was a beautiful, top-of-the-line facility. But as the railroad's importance decreased and as the surrounding neighborhood of Boyle Heights worsened, the hospital fell into disrepair. The hospital staff began dealing with more victims of violent, gang-related crimes and drugs, alongside budget cuts and waning staff. The hospital finally shut down for good in 1991. Abandoned for many years, numerous films and music videos have used the abandoned hospital as a creepy location. In modern times, the hospital is being renovated into a senior living community. Every abandoned hospital has its urban legends, and the Linda Vista is no exception. According to Crimebo, a clown that will take you on a grisly tour of L.A., rumor has it that some patients disappeared, never to be seen again. Why? Well, some say they were used for experiments and when those had ended, the hospital would dispose of them using the crematorium it had on site. Crimebo will point out the crematorium's smokestack, which you can still see to this day.
Another legend says that the hospital is haunted by a doctor who was killed by malicious gang members when he couldn't save one of their crew who'd been shot by a rival gang.
The Linda Vista Hospital is located at 630 S. St Louis St., Boyle Heights.
Colorado Street BridgeThis bridge was built over Colorado Street in Pasadena in 1912, but by 1932, it was known as 'the suicide bridge.' Over 100 people have committed suicide by jumping off the bridge, many of them during the Great Depression. This has led to reports of hauntings, from misty figures to ghostly whispers and mysterious sobs in the night. According to Weird California, some say the reason the bridge is so cursed is because a construction worker fell while it was being built and his body became imprisoned in the cement. It's his spirit that lures others to the bridge and encourages them to jump.
Another story surrounds a mother who in 1937, after being left by her husband, tossed her toddler over the bridge, then threw herself off. However, the child managed to get caught in some branches and was later rescued. The mother was not so lucky, and people say they can hear her searching for her baby on dark nights.
In 2008, a man jumped from the bridge after murdering the mother of his child, as well as her mother.
Paul Bern's House
Paul Bern was a writer and director in the 1920s, but he had a troubled personal life. Bern met his first love, aspiring actress Dorothy Millette, in NYC. The two were involved in a common-law marriage. However, Millette became ill and ended up in a mental institution in Connecticut while Bern financially supported her. Bern later fell in love with actress Jean Harlow and married her in 1932. He bought them a house in Beverly Hills that sat upon five acres in Benedict Canyon.
Only months later, however, Bern was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. There was also a note left behind.
"Dearest Dear, Unfortuately (sic) this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done you and to wipe out my abject humiliation, I Love (sic) you. Paul You understand that last night was only a comedy"
Though Harlow said she had no idea what this was supposed to mean, police ruled Bern's death a suicide. That ruling has been disputed, however. Some believe that Bern was actually murdered by his first wife, Millette, who was known to have come to Los Angeles around the same time and may have visited Bern. It's said that Bern sent Harlow to stay with her mother so that he could work on a screenplay that night, but some speculate that it was to meet with Millette. Another interesting point is that when the butler found Bern's body, he didn't call the police. He called MGM, where Bern worked. No one is certain what happened in between MGM arriving at the scene and when they called the police two hours later.
Millette died the day after Bern. She committed suicide by jumping off the Delta King as it was en route from San Francisco to Sacramento and her body was found two weeks later by a fisherman. Screenwriter Ben Hecht wrote in an article in Playboy that Hollywood had covered up his murder because a suicide would be "less of a black eye" for Harlow and her career than to say that she was being cheated on by her husband. As for Harlow, she died from kidney failure five years later.
But the house itself has had more creepiness surrounding it. In the 1960s, it belonged to Jay Sebring, a celebrity hairdresser. Sebring was once involved with actress Sharon Tate before she married director Roman Polanski. Tate and Sebring would remain good friends after the split, and would both be murdered in 1969 by the Manson family in one of America's most horrific crimes.
But in 1966, Tate was staying alone in the house. She said that not only did she see the ghost of Paul Bern wandering around that night, she also saw a figure at the bottom of the staircase with his or her throat cut. She also claimed to have been drawn to a bookcase where she pressed a certain book to reveal a hidden bar. Some say this was a premonition of Tate's own fate.
Paul Bern/Jay Sebring's House is located at 8920 Easton Dr., Beverly Hills.