Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Haunted Hollywood, Part 3

Personal ghost story number three of six. 

3.  Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90038

Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one trippy place.  My author photo, on the book jacket of Soul Trapper, was taken in the cemetery.  In the close-up shot, I'm leaning on Johnny Ramone's awesome tombstone.  Here's the proof:

I love to explore that cemetery.  So does Kane Pryce, star of Soul Trapper.  Kane describes it like this:

Hollywood Forever is the Vegas of cemeteries.  Parked right in the backyard of Paramount Studios, from the mid-50s on, it was run down and on the verge of closure.  But like other great Hollywood legends, the cemetery made a thrilling comeback with the birth of the new Millennium.  Only in Hollywood will you find the world’s first interactive tombstones, high-def plasma TVs in the chapel, and Blu-Ray tributes handed out to mourners as funeral favors.  You can even bring your picnic basket and have movie night on grandpa’s grave.  No shit.  You should see the crowds that gather to watch classic films screened on the side of the Cathedral mausoleum like a drive-in of the dead. 
While it’s as over-the-top as a Kiss concert, the graveyard’s also one of the most haunted spots in town.

My paranormal experience at Hollywood Forever occurred in 2004.  Research for another unrelated novel I’ve long had in the works required a visit to the Cathedral Mausoleum to pinpoint the crypt of a long-dead murder victim.  The building was spooky, but I wasn't afraid.  It was a bright, sunny morning.  I found the grave I was looking for pretty easily.  While I was jotting down notes, I heard a woman’s voice coming from an alcove down the opposite hallway.  I didn’t think anything of it; it just sounded like another visitor in the mausoleum—maybe a woman speaking aloud to her deceased husband.  I decided to walk toward the voice.  I figured I’d let her see me and I’d see her.  Maybe I’d nod hello.  That way we wouldn’t scare each other if our paths crossed around one of the dark corners. 

The walk down that eerie, thirty-foot-long corridor felt like it took forever.  As I approached the corner leading to the nook where the voice was coming from, I suddenly felt dizzy.   The hair on my arms stood straight up.  I rounded the corner and no one was there.  I looked around.  I was standing directly in front of Rudolph Valentino’s grave.  At that very second, I could hear what sounded like a giant flock of crows cawing from outside.  I could see the silhouttes of crows flying past the stained glass window at the end of the hallway.  And then it felt, and sounded like, the building itself groaned.  Very hard to describe that sound--like a massive generator roaring to life, only it sounded more organic than mechanical. 

Was I brave?  Hell, my ass was out the front door of that mausoleum in seconds.  Waiting on the roof of my jeep  was a big black crow.  He didn’t fly away until I was practically on top of him. 

That fall, a friend from back East came to visit for Thanksgiving.  I told her the story and she asked me to take her to the mausoleum the next day.  We stood where I was originally standing and both heard the woman’s voice coming from Valentino's grave.  And this time, we also heard what sounded like a dog running by—the fast racing sound of claws on the marble floor. 

There are stories about a mysterious “lady in black” who faithfully visited Valentino’s grave on the anniversary of his death.  She is said to be the ghost that resides there. 

There are many theories about the identity of the lady in black.  Some say is was silent film actress Pola Negri, Valentino’s fiancĂ© at the time of his death.  Another story speculates that she a woman who was grateful to Valentino for visiting her when she was a child in the hospital. 

Over the years, lady in black sightings have continued.  They still occur today.  But the most common theory among paranormal buffs is that the ghost that lingers around Valentino’s grave is the original lady in black. 

Whoever she was, or still is, I heard her loud and clear.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Haunted Hollywood, Part 2

This is the second of six paranormal experiences that have occurred to me in Los Angeles.  The location:

2.  The Frolic Room

The Frolic Room, at 6245 Hollywood Boulevard, is a fantastic dive bar--one of my favorites.  The photo of me on the home page of my website was taken inside the Frolic Room.  It's also a favorite hangout of Kane Pryce, the protagonist of my novel Soul Trapper.  Kane describes the Frolic Room in Chapter Six like this:

           I lead Eva to my favorite watering hole, The Frolic Room, at Hollywood and Vine.  You can’t miss it.  It’s the best neon sign in the city, shining like a beacon for drinkers in this Mecca of shattered dreams.  It’s old and grungy and so full of weird energy that I think it has a pulse.  Inside, it’s a small space—forty feet long, ten feet wide—dimly lit by retro saucer-shaped lamps.  Smells as musty as your grandpap’s underwear drawer.  An Al Hirschfeld mural—depicting caricatures of Hollywood legends—stretches along back wall.  The crowd, a dozen or two drinkers when the place is packed, is always a can of mixed nuts.  You’re liable to see a skid row drunk next to a Hollywood agent next to washed-up rocker rubbing shoulders with a transvestite hooker taking a break between blow jobs.  If the bar is mostly empty, you’ll feel the presence of spirits.  You might even see a face in the mirror behind the bar if you mix the right amount of booze with the right level of concentration. 
           Did I mention I pretty much hate everything?  But I love the Frolic Room.  I can stagger home and take a D.U.I. out of the equation.  Plus, it has an old-school jukebox, not one of these bullshit broadband versions housing an infinite well of music.  This one has a little something for every character that walks through the door.  Though I’ve been coming here for years, that jukebox still manages to surprise me. 

Sadly, the jukebox I so lovingly wrote about just went digital.  Broke my heart.  It really used to be the greatest jukebox in town. 

And the sentence about seeing a face in the mirror.  That sentence is in a work of fiction, but it's based on something that really happened to me in 1999.  I was sitting at the bar in the Frolic Room with a buddy.  It was early in the night; I wasn't drunk (yet).  No hallucinogenics in my system--honest.  After slugging the jukebox and making my selections, I returned to my barstool and glanced into the mirror that runs the length of the bar.  It wasn't my reflection looking back.  The fellow staring at me was in his fifties--a chubby-faced, jowly guy with a thick bushy mustache and bald dome with a ring of hair.  I was stunned, caught totally off guard.  When I blinked twice and looked back the image was gone; I was looking at myself again.  Ghost?  Glimpse of a past life?  Who knows, but it happened.  I can still see that face.

The Frolic Room is a place where I really do feel the presence of spirits.  Good spirits and bad spirits.  A lot has happened in this tiny little gin mill, including the mysterious and grisly death of the bar's doorman in April 2010.  Shortly after closing time he was found dead in the camped vestibule of the bar, bleeding from the ears.  Did he faint, fall, and hit his head?  Some think so, including a few of the detectives working the case.  Was he struck in the head with a blunt object?  Some believe so, including members  of the doorman's family and more than one doctor that examined him.  Was he attacked by an angry patron with whom he had a confrontation with earlier that night?  No one knows.  Police have found no witnesses.  The case is still under investigation. 

It's just another Hollywood noir story in a haunted Hollywood noir locale.