If you head out to dinner in Los Angeles, don't forget to invite the ghost of Charlie Chaplin. If you end up sitting in his favorite booth at Musso & Frank Grill, he just might join you. James Bartlett, author of Gourmet Ghosts - Los Angeles, a guide to the city's haunted bars and restaurants, researched places with a history of spooky sightings.
For the guidebook, I tried to take a story that I either heard or spoke to somebody about and back it up with something perhaps from the Los Angeles newspapers at the time. I wanted to try and give it a bit more validity rather than just a third-hand "they say that this place is haunted."
It's very famous. The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is opposite the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has been there for 86, 87 years now. It's very sophisticated, a very nice hotel. If you want the Hollywood experience, that's the kind of hotel that you stay in. It's beautiful inside, it has a number of bars and a number of restaurants in there. There have been a number of stories there that are well documented.
There's the Marilyn Monroe mirror: a very large, tall, floor-to-ceiling mirror. One day someone was looking in the mirror and they saw the image of Marilyn Monroe looking back in the mirror. It was supposed to be the day after she died. The mirror was in the lobby and a number of places for years and years and years. It is currently in storage -- or rather I was told a number of stories as to where it might be, so there's a mystery with that. It's not there at the moment.
In the hotel there have been stories of children being heard in rooms. There has been a child seen by the fountain in the lovely lobby there, and then specifically on the ninth floor, room No. 928.
There have been a number of reports about the sound of a bugle playing, which was supposed to be Montgomery Clift, the spirit of him. He stayed there in that room when he was doing "From Here to Eternity" and he played a bugle in the movie. He was supposed to pace up and down the corridor when he was there doing his lines and practicing his bugle. It seems like he's still there today.
One of the best restaurants, staying in the old school and also not too far down the road from The Roosevelt, is Musso & Frank's. It really has been there forever. It actually opened before the Hollywood sign was put up, or the Hollywoodland sign as it was originally.
This is very much like an old school -- it's like a library, like a gentlemen's club. It's not very ostentatious from the outside because that's the whole idea. It's one of the few places in town that always had a non-relationship with press and publicity. You'll never see people hanging around outside, you don't get many tourists outside.
The reason is from the beginning, it's been a place where celebrities have gone. It goes all the way back. There used to be a bookstore next door and Bukowski, Faulkner, Hemingway and Chandler were all in the bookstore. Then when the bookstore closed, they would all be in Musso's at the back.
It has huge leather booths. A lot of them are private, some of them are very open depending on what you want. Orson Welles always had a very open booth. There is a booth in there, No. 1, which was Charlie Chaplin's favorite booth. You can usually never get to it because people always want booth No. 1; it's a nice one, it's very private and has a little window view. He's very much associated with there, and his spirit is supposed to be in the building as well.
In the book I have a photograph that somebody took when they were in the booth. Initially you look at it and think it's nothing. I didn't believe it at all. But if you look carefully, it does look like there's a face. It's not necessarily Charlie Chaplin's face, but you can very much see a face: a nose and a pair of eyes. It's not a reflection.
I never judge in the book. I leave it up to people to make up their own minds.
Chateau Marmont is another famous one that's also technically in West Hollywood. It's a super place. It looks like it's based on a chateau in the Loire Valley in France. It looks like a huge castle perched on the side of the hill. It's a hotel and it has suites and bungalows around the side. It's all completely covered by foliage, you can't see anything at all.
There are a number of secret tunnels between some of the apartments and suites. There's supposed to be a secret tunnel from the chateau down to the boulevard where there used to be a club called Players. There are tunnels all over the city. Some of them are imaginary, some of them really exist and some of them I've actually poked a camera down and had a look at -- most of them are bricked up now.
Chateau Marmont is supposed to be the Hotel California by the Eagles -- you can check out, but you can never leave. Nearly every celebrity you've ever heard of stays either short or long term. John Belushi overdosed in one of the bungalows. Boris Karloff lived there for a number of years. A number of reported scary things happened while he was there. There was a woman hovering over a bed and faucets turning on and off.
But it's the most discreet place. They don't really have any stories about anything that happens, because otherwise all the people who stay there would stop staying there.
1. Magic Castle
Resident ghost "Invisible Irma" is more for fun than fear, but she's been known to play the piano when the power is out across the city. Also, Loren the bartender is still mixing drinks and passing the time of night at the Hat & Hare Pub -- yet he died many years ago. The undead are all the rage today, so order a Corpse Reviver #2 (Lillet Blanc, gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and a dash of Galliano).
A fabulous Japanese-inspired "mountain palace" in the Hollywood Hills, original owner Thomas O. Glover still walks the inner court here; it is where his ashes are, after all. Order Norman's Hawaiian-influenced mai-tai (light and dark rum, passion fruit and his secret ingredient), then pick table No. 9 in the Sunset Room and console the female ghost eternally waiting there.
3. Formosa Cafe
Lined with photos of countless movie stars and partly-built from an old train car, this old-school favorite has been a draw for mobsters, actors and mere mortals over 70 years. A blur of red leather booths and low lights, the late co-owner Lem Quon still hangs around his favorite booth -- No. 8 -- and keeps an eye on the staff.
4. Traxx Bar
In 1943 the "Lower 13" murderer, dining car cook Robert E. Lee Folkes, was arrested on arrival at Union Station after killing newlywed Martha Virginia James en route from Seattle. Barely a year later, an antique black trunk sent from Chicago was opened -- and "Jane Doe 13" was found inside. She was eventually identified as the missing Louise Villegas, and her bigamous husband John Lopez was arrested for murder. Order a Traxx Martini (Hendrick's Gin, dry vermouth, a float of Dubonnet Rouge) in this Art Deco transport hub, and watch the living people arrive.
The Biltmore Hotel opened its doors 90 years ago this month. It had a Zeppelin airship hover overhead in 1929 (the crew stayed overnight) and played the "Sedgewick Hotel" in 1984's Ghostbusters. Most famously, it was the last place Elizabeth Short was seen alive; the cocktail inspired by her, the Black Dahlia, is a must (vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, Kahlua).
Removed from its foundations and bought here in the early 1970s, this building brought a former owner named "Delia" along with it. Staff regularly hear footsteps, see flickering lights and opening doors, and when two of her nieces visited and said she'd definitely hang around, they created Delia's Elixir (bourbon, agave, raspberries and lemon) in her honor.
7. Culver Hotel
The city's founding father kept an office on the second floor here, and the windows regularly open and close -- seaside breeze or no. Culver may have died in 1946, but the staff still see his ghost wandering the corridors. Keep an eye out with a Culver Lemonade (Sagatiba Pura rum, fresh mint, lime, sugar and pomegranate juice).
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