The City of Angels despite its name has a dark history replete with murder houses, serial killers that called it home, creepy cemeteries and places that the dearly departed just refuse to vacate. These are some of those places.
CASTILLO DEL LAGO
Castillo del Lago a 9-bedroom chateau on Mulholland Drive was built in 1926, as were other mansions erected with the newly minted money pouring from Hollywoodland in that decade. It was designed by John De Lario for the oil baron Patrick Longdon,
However in 1929, the market crashed and the luxurious home sat vacant for many years. Then Bugsy Siegel came to California and leased the house. He also ran a secret casino there, and no doubt if the walls could talk they would speak of dark deeds that never came to light.
Bugsy Siegel moved to his house in Beverly Hills where he died in 1947, when Lucky Luciano put a hit out on him.
Castillo del Lago became home to many during the intervening years, until it again sat vacant in the 1950s.
In 1988, Tom Murray a photographer doing a shoot there for three days, reported malfunctioning equipment, and his entire crew complained of a creepy feeling inside. He said, "All the Polaroids I shot in the house came out black. I tried different cameras, different film, everything. It was always the same. Everything I tried to photograph inside that house came out black."
In 1993, Madonna bought it, and spent $3 million on renovating the Spanish Colonial house. Despite the expense many of the neighbors thought the result was tasteless, and that she "ruined it".
According to the book Hollywood Haunted (1994) Madonna complained of feeling a "force throughout the house, a force that was not safe." A caretaker complained of hearing a man call his name when he was there alone at night, and doors locking behind when he went outside.
On May 29, 1995, Robert Hoskins trespassed on the property looking for Madonna, threatening to either marry or kill his love. For his trouble he was shot by a security guard after he jumped the fence. He was convicted and served 10 years for the offense. In 2012, he escaped from the Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk to which he was committed. He was quickly recaptured by police.
Joe Pytka bought Castillo del Lago in 1997, from Madonna. Leon Max bought the home in 2010 from him for less than half the $14.9 million asking price.
Charles Cobb started off as a humble lumberjack in Maine. He moved to Washington and became a successful capitalist. He retired in 1915, and in 1918, he and his wife Carrie built a Spanish-themed mansion in the shadow of Echo Mountain on a 107-acre property. It was known as the Cobb Estate.
In 1929, a 72-year-old neighborhood woman was found walking on the grounds of the estate by the gardener. Missing for 3 days, her frantic family offered a $500 reward for her return. Hundreds of volunteers looked for her. She wandered around without food or water, and once found, the family grew perplexed wondering how with so many looking for her she was not sighted earlier. They never got an answer to that question.
Carrie Cobb died in 1935, and Charles followed her in 1939. He willed the home to the Pasadena Scottish Rite Temple which he had been actively involved in. The Lodge placed it for auction in 1941; within a year, the new owner sold it to someone else.
It passed hands several more times, including becoming a nun's retreat for the Sisters of St. Joseph. By the 1950s, it stood empty and was frequently vandalized by criminals who squatted there. It also developed a reputation for being haunted. It was known locally as the Haunted Forest.
The Marx Brothers bought it in 1956, and three years later razed it. In 1963, there was a proposal to turn the acreage it into a cemetery, The Marx Brothers applied for a variance of the code in order to facilitate the sale, however the neighbors in the area were strongly opposed to it.
It sat unused until 1971, when the generosity of a private donor allowed the purchase of the estate by the city, and it became a public parkland.
The entrance gates were featured in the 1979, thriller Phantasm as the gates to Morningside Cemetery.
The Sam Merrill Trail falls beyond the gate labeled “Cobb Estate.” Three miles down it leads to Mt. Lowe Railway which once shuttled Victorian vacationers up and down the mountainside to the tourist destination once known as the "White City". It, along with the railway were abandoned in 1938, after a series of mudslides, windstorms and fires destroyed the attraction.
Those walking on the trail complain of feelings of being watched. Cameras and other equipment also malfunction.
In 2019, a woman's body was discovered inside a tent off a trail at the Cobb Estate. It was sitting along a dirt road leading to a water tank in Las Flores Canyon. It came to the police's attention when a "foul smell" came from the tent. The police commented there was no sign of foul play, and the body appeared to be long decomposed. The woman’s identity remains a mystery to this day. Who was she, where did she come from, and how did she remain undiscovered for so long in such a popular hiking area?
El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Boulevard was built in 1926, and for the first fifteen years only stage shows were shown. Then came the silent films.
In 1941, it was remodeled and became the Paramount Hollywood Theater devoted to first runs of Paramount pictures. Citizen Kane starring Orson Welles premiered the same year.
During the intervening years it was the site of a suicide in the balcony seats, and the death of a manager in its office.
In 1989, Disney restored the theater as well as the adjacent Hollywood Masonic Temple. Rumors circulated that Disney walled off the window above the entry way where one of the ghosts could still be seen.
Employees describe seeing apparitions in shadow form flitting about, as well as a man sitting in a balcony seat when the theater is closed and supposedly empty. When they approach him, he disappears.
A visitor to the theater in 2015, described their encounter with something strange there:
My family went to watch the movie Up! We sat 3rd row from the back and the theater was fairly empty, no one sitting for at least 5 rows in front of us and no one behind us. Right before the lights dimmed, something stroked the back of my neck. I thought it was strange, knowing that no one was sitting behind us, I turned around to look (in case someone had snuck in) but there was no one there. The rest of the movie went without incident until right before the end. We had been shopping before we came in, so I had 2 small shopping bags between my feet. I was using a small camera bag as a purse and it was placed in one of the bags. All of a sudden, I felt something moving by my foot. I looked down and didn’t see anything. Then I felt it again, I leaned down to pick up the shopping bag and I couldn’t quite grab it. The camera bag inside of it was moving, or “rolling” as best a nearly square object can, and as I tried to pick up the bag it was in, it started rolling faster. I kept trying to grab the shopping bag but missing. The camera case rolled over my foot and landed with the shopping bag on the other side then stopped. I picked up the shopping bag to see if there was anything else inside it, but there wasn’t.
The Lincoln Height Jail opened in 1931, on the site of the old East Side Police Station. Built to house only 600 prisoners, within twenty years it held almost 2800 inmates.
In 1951, the "Bloody Christmas" scandal broke when seven prisoners were beaten by LAPD officers. James Ellroy's novel L.A. Confidential was inspired by the incident and the jail was used during as a filming location of the 1997 film.
It was decommissioned in 1965.
But the jail’s menace extended into the more recent past. In 1994, Johnnie Flores, 78, prominent in the Los Angeles boxing circuit and decorated WWII veteran was discovered dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft, at the Lincoln Heights gymnasium. He had been missing for two days.
The fifth floor of the building, once a jail, was converted into the Los Angeles Youth Athletic Club, and parts of the old Art Deco building were in poor condition. It appears the elevator was stuck between floors and he stepped into thin air when the doors opened.
Throughout the years notorious criminals spent time behind bars there. In 1928, William Edward Hickman, was housed at Lincoln and executed at San Quentin. He was convicted of strangling of a 12-year-old girl. He cut off her arms and legs. He extorted ransom money from the family, and later it turned out he carried the girl's body with him when he picked up the money. Wrapped in a blanket, her eyes were "wired open to appear as if she was alive". He had removed her organs which were later found littered around Los Angeles.
Novelist Raymond Chandler slept off a binge in its drunk tank. In its female section, actress Lucile Watson also spent a night for getting too carried away with drink. Locals who participated in the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, and the Watts Riots of 1965, were jailed there.
The boiler room scene in Nightmare on Elm Street was shot there as well.
Throughout the years the location has spawned stories of weird encounters, and sightings of human-shaped shadows that lingered in places that were empty. As late as 2020, workmen complained of feelings of being watched and tools being moved or disappearing.
LOS ANGELES PET CEMETERY
In the 1920s, the land was owned by Hollywood financier Gilbert H. Beesemeyer. In 1929, he was sent to San Quentin to serve a 40 year sentence for embezzling $8M. By then the land was subdivided into 10-acre parcels, and veterinarian, Dr. Eugene Jones bought a track. He buried his own dog on the property, and opened the L.A. Pet Park and a Hollywood pet funeral parlor; the second one in the United States.
Celebrity pets interred there are Rudolph Valentino's dog, Kabar who let out a howl at precisely the time of the star's death, even though his owner was 3,000 miles away in New York. Others are Hopalong Cassidy's horse Topper, and at least one of the Peteys, the bully dog who starred in the Little Rascals, Charlie Chapman's cat, Humphrey Bogart's dog, Mae West's cat as well as the furry friends of Mary Pickford, Harry James, Eva Gabor, Gloria Swanson and Bob Newhart are buried there. Even the MGM lion, Tawny who died in 1940, shares a plot with his best friend a small house cat.
Currently over 40,000 animals are interred within the park. It is Kabar that apparently haunts the grounds, licking unsuspecting visitor’s hands. But then, whose is to say, in truth there is a cast of thousands that could be brushing by your leg, or laying at your feet when you stop for a moment to take in the scenery.
LOS FELIZ MURDER HOUSE
In the early morning hours of December 6, 1959, Dr. Harold Perelson took a ball-peen hammer to his sleeping wife's head. He killed her. Then he headed to his daughter Judy's room and hit her as well. She awoke and started screaming. She was able to escape to a neighbor's house, leaving behind her brother and sister.
The neighbor returned, found the other children unhurt, and came upon Harold Perelson on the second floor, agitated and dripping blood. Perelson told him to leave, and once alone took an overdose of pills. He was found dead, laying on the floor next to his wife's blood-spattered bed with the hammer still in his hand.
Financial stressors were believed to have been the cause, but later it was revealed that reports of coronaries Perelson had supposedly suffered, were in reality failed suicide attempts with drugs. Lillian Perelson, was considering committing her husband to an institution for the mentally insane shortly before her murder.
An aunt took custody of the children, and the house went up for auction. It was bought by Julian and Evelyn Enriquez. Strangely enough they kept the house as it was, full of the Perelson family's belongings. They did bring some of their own things, and connected a phone but never lived there, No one could understand why they would never remove the traces of the horrible event that took place in 1959.
Julian died, and his wife Emily followed him in 1994. Their son Rudy inherited the property, and in the same tradition as his parents he kept everything as it was for over fifty years.
Squatters snuck into the yard, and neighbors complained. One commented, "Hookers were coming in. Everybody was bringing guests up there. One night I was sitting outside and I noticed that people were over there having a picnic in the backyard.”
Despite a security system, curiosity seekers continued to try to gain entrance and see with their own eyes the mementos left behind from 1959.
Since the six decades when Perelson lost his mind, those snooping through the interior of the house have described weird experiences and flitting shadows in a supposedly empty house. Neighbors complain of having the alarm system in their homes go off inexplicably.
Rudy Enriquez died in 2015, and without an heir, the house went up for sale. The millionaire hoarder kept everything inside the home, including Dr. Perelson's patient records, and personal belongings from each family member.
Attorney Lisa Bloom bought it at auction for $2.29 million, but within three years she put it back up for sale. A large portion of the home was gutted in an effort to renovate it, but further remodeling stopped due to additional expenses required to meet local ordinances.
It sold in July 2021, for $2.35 million.
Less you believe the Perelson's were the only ones to suffer premature and unexpected death, it started many years before with the first owners of the house on 2475 Glendower Place.
The home was built in 1925, for Harry Schumacher, a fruit shipper and his wife. They did not live long to enjoy their new home.
Florence Schumacher died July 1, 1928, at age 41 from heart disease. The day after her burial Harry Schumacher became ill and died July 30, from pneumonia, he was 41 years old as well.
In 1932, the Schumacher estate was offered on auction. This included the house and the furnishings.
The NY Post reported:
In the book, Hollywood Obscura, legend trippers and paranormal investigators describe unusual experiences around the house.
"A common occurrence seems to be the sounds of screams and moans being heard by intrepid ghost hunters in the wee morning house. The hunters have reported hearing the sound of a woman calling out, "No!" in a terrified voice, followed by her frantic screaming and then silence."
As to sightings, the most reported "are faces that stare out of the windows of the old mansion. The hunters tell of seeing the face of a woman staring at them through one of the upstairs windows; she will gaze at them for a few minutes and them simply vanish from sight."
Rudy Enriquez dismissed the stories of ghosts. He said, “I’ve never looked at it as being haunted. The only spooky thing there is me. Tell people to say their prayers every morning and evening and they’ll be OK."
Many neighbors thought the house would be demolished. One who was interviewed in 2009, said, “You can’t have a house sit empty for 50 years and not expect it to fall apart. It’s a tear-down now. It’s a shame.”
However fate intervened, and now it hangs in the balance whether it will be razed to conform to local ordinances, or if the new owners will continue to keep the memories, and perhaps the ghosts among familiar surroundings.
The castle was built in 1926, for the Basque rancher Sylvestre Dupuy, based on his memories of a chateau he saw as young boy growing up in Southern France. Within ten years he lost his fortune and died in April 1937.
His children sold it in 1946.
Renamed the Pyrenees Castle Apartments, it was converted into an 8-apartment structure. Anna Dupuy, Sylvestre's widow lived there until her death in 1949.
By 1977, it was up for sale, and now called the Dupuy Castle. Every time it changed hands, the name would be changed as well. In 1985, it was called the Alhambra Castle by the realtor handling the new sale of the property. It did not sell for several years, the price being lowered until 1998, when Phil Spector bought it for little more than a $1 million.
It was rumored he moved to the property to escape accusations of drunken rages and domestic abuse. He'd been married several time, and had four children. His nine-year-old son Phillip died in 1991 from leukemia.
In 2003, he was arrested for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, 40. He shot her in the mouth, and said she had accidentally committed suicide, however his driver, who made the emergency call from the castle, later testified that Spector said, "I think I've killed someone." He was convicted of her murder in 2009. He died January, 2021, age 81 serving his prison sentence.
In May 2021, The "Pyrenees Castle" sold for $3.3 million, a 40% discount from its original $5.5 million listing price in 2019.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer