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 fiancé 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.

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