Haunted Hollywood

Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera
Universal Studios in Universal City, Calif., has been tagged "Universal Horror" because of the series of scary movies produced there. Universal's Stage 28 was originally built for the production of the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney, who is said to wander the studio.CORBIS
/ Source: Forbes

Hollywood is an excellent spot for ghost hunting.

From scorned starlets to personable pets, some of Tinseltown's most famous faces are still haunting the town, decades after their deaths.

Take Culver Studios, on West Washington Boulevard in Culver City, Calif. Stagehands have reported seeing a ghostly figure resembling Thomas Ince, the silent filmmaker and founder of the studio, roaming the catwalks. Ince supposedly died from indigestion on the yacht owned by newspaperman William Randolph Hearst. However, witnesses claim Hearst actually shot Ince in a case of mistaken identity. Legend has it that Hearst mistook Ince for comedian Charlie Chaplin who he was convinced was having an affair with his mistress, actress Marion Davies. Many suspect Ince haunts the Culver's hall, seeking revenge for his untimely death.

Laurie Jacobson, author of Hollywood Haunted: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland, explains that ghost stories are based on very human emotions. Ghosts acting on feelings like anger or deceit makes them even more frightening and real.

And, of course, there is nothing like a good old-fashioned murder to fashion a restless spirit.

The silent film actress Virginia Rappe is buried in the famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the resting place for many stars of the silver screen. If you go near her grave, you may hear sounds of sobbing. Rappe was allegedly violently raped by the comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle at the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco in 1921. She died a few days later. Although Arbuckle was eventually acquitted of murder charges, the scandal ruined his career, and Rappe’s expressive spirit seems to remain in eternal turmoil.

Put a little pep in your step when you pass by Rappe's resting place. "People who were murdered are seeking revenge," warns Jacobson.

Other actors seemingly take their most famous roles with them. Consider Lon Chaney, the actor renowned as "The Man with a Thousand Faces." One of Chaney's signature roles was as the Phantom in Universal Studio's 1925 production of The Phantom of the Opera. And it seems that Chaney cannot let go of the part. Chaney has been spotted lurking around Stage 28, where the film was partially produced, wearing his black Phantom cape. It is said that crewman attempting to work on the studio have experienced mysterious — sometimes fatal — accidents.

402088 05: An award-winning mausoleum for William A. Clark II, who became rich on copper and railroad investments and founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was built in the lake for his death in 1934 at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery March 8, 2002 in Hollywood, CA. The historic cemetery, final resting place for many Hollywood stars, offers digital rememberances of the deceased which are viewable at the cemetery and over the internet at no charge. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)David Mcnew / Getty Images North America

Many struggling actors and actresses say they would die to become famous, and some of them actually do. Welsh actress Peg Entwistle moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s to find her fame in film. Unfortunately, Entwistle's career didn't exactly take off. Distressed, she climbed to the top of the "H" in Hollywood sign looming over the city and threw herself off, dying on impact.

After her death, Entwistle made national headlines as the "Hollywood Sign Girl." And Entwistle seems to enjoy her fame, dead or not. There have been many reports of a beautiful, but sad, blonde dressed in 1930s clothing wandering around the Hollywood sign.

Not every ghost story is ghastly. For a more cheerful apparition, visit the L.A. Pet Cemetery, the final resting spot for many famous furry friends. One of these is 1920s Italian actor Rudolph Valentino's Great Dane, Kabar. It is said if you walk by Kabar’s grave, you may receive a friendly lick from this spectral hound.

Searching for ghosts in Tinseltown will not only give you the heebie jeebies, but a bit of Hollywood history as well.

"The retelling of stories is very a powerful thing," says Jeff Belanger, author of Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. And storytelling is what Hollywood is all about.