The British TV show Dead Famous planned a live three day ghost hunt in the film capital. To make it the best possible show they brought in some of the best paranormal investigators on the west coast. Debbie and I were included in the list of illustrious people selected to take part. We were both flattered to be included but, as the shoot went on we became more and more concerned, for with each day the events became more disturbing . It seems no one had asked the permission of the ghosts for this presentation.
Debbie and I were flown in to Los Angeles airport in a small airplane. Its been a while since I have flown in an airplane with propellers and I had forgotten the rough ride, the loud engines, and the unique side-to-side motion that leaves your stomach in a knot. Debbie was quiet during the ride, her hands white as she gripped the seat. I wondered if she was communing with spirits or praying not to become one just yet.
We met the Butlers, Tom and Lisa, who are experts in Electronic Voice Phenomena, the recording of spirit voices on tape. They were the advisors on the Hollywood film White Noise that came out a while back.
We were taken to the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, a place I have never stayed before. We were given a grand room on the 16th floor, with a view of the LA Skyline. The next day we would be transported to the base of operations for the three day show — an old movie palace not far away. We were not told what was planned for us. We were completely in the dark.
The next day we were gathered with the others for a trip to the Los Angeles Theater, a massive building where movies were once projected. In its day, it was the state-of-the-art and many believed it was haunted by the stars who once came there. We were taken to a side door. Cables, grips, cameramen, and lights were everywhere. The company fed us a simple lunch and we were taken to the opulent lobby, a gold leaf nightmare only Louis XIV or Donald Trump could love.
The lobby was set with tables and chairs. Many who came were dressed in evening gowns and tuxedos. I felt underdressed in my cloth coat and loose tie. The host of the show was a young British fellow, named Chris Parker, a heart throb on a British Soap and a stand in for the actor who plays Harry Potter. A nice enough lad, he seemed a bit confused by it all and a bit skeptical. The group had hoped to contact the spirit of Charlie Chaplin that night. They had invited his grand daughter to attend just in case the comedy genius made an appearance. Alas, he failed to show up at the theater where his film City Lights premiered so long ago.
Chris Fleming, a well known psychic, led a team though the darkened theater seeking ghosts. They got a few cold spots and some feelings, but nothing definite and no Charlie Chaplin. The show had interviews with the owners of the theater who recounted stories of ghostly encounters at the old place. Experts also gave testimony about the haunted behavior at the vast building. A local Hollywood historian told the story of the movie palace and its opening in 1930. Still, without a ghost or two, the show was becoming a bit dull, to say the least. Then they called Debbie to do a séance.
They selected the nursery to hold the séance because a phantom figure of a woman had been seen there. It was dark as pitch in the place, I was glad I had packed a ghost hunter’s most important tool: a flashlight.
Here the walls were painted with murals of animals and fairy tales. In the dim light of candles and flashlights these murals took on a decidedly sinister look. The three bears scowled at us as red riding hood leered and a witch gave us a hateful glance while she tried to lure Hansel and Gretel into her house.
Debbie went into a trance almost at once while cameramen, in a near panic, got the scene ready for the live feed to England. I wondered if Debbie had time to prepare herself. A woman came through, she proved to be a non-celebrity who was seeking her dead son, Dan. With the help of Chris Fleming, the unhappy spirit who passed away in 1942 found her son and moved on as tears flowed. She was replaced by a male spirit who used Debbie’s body to speak. He identified himself as “George” who was a projectionist who died here. He warned us that there was an evil here. As he left, something cold and vile descended upon the group. The room became chilly as Debbie’s face contracted as if in pain. Something was trying to break through. I could see Debbie was in trouble. She wasn’t able to break free of it. Her psychic protections were not strong enough to keep out whatever it was. At last, she came out of the trance. Her hands were cold and weakened. I had to help her up and back to the theater. Mr. Fleming helped, without him I fear Debbie would have fallen. She was out of it for a quarter of an hour. The séance was the high point of the night. The next day we would be taken to another site and still more séances were planned. Debbie was so exhausted that she couldn’t leave the hotel room that night. We ordered hamburgers from room service and rested.
The next day we were spirited away to Culver City to the Culver Studios. Once the silent movie studio of early movie mogul Tom Ince, the place has been in continuous use from the 1920s to today. It is also well known as a haunted location. The studio builder, Tom Ince is rumored to haunt the lot along with Vivian Leigh the actress who filmed Gone With the Wind here in the late 1930s. Ince died under mysterious circumstances aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst. Some believe that he was shot by the newspaper king and the crime covered up. It was hoped that the psychic information gathered tonight might solve the mystery of his death once and for all. The place has a large office building that is constructed to resemble Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington in Virginia. This building and an old projection room used by Ince are singled out as haunted.
Debbie was dreading the live broadcast tonight. She was still suffering from the séance the day before. Powerful headaches gripped the back of her head and she was taking pain pills in a vain attempt to stop the massive migraine. A bungalow was the first target. Debbie, Chris Fleming, and the co-host Gail Porter walked through the place and Debbie channeled the spirit of a hair dresser named Margaret who wanted to re-arrange Chris’s hair. He felt hands moving through his locks as the ghostly hairdresser tried to continue her labors long after her last picture was wrapped.
The hall near the projection booth provided more chills as Debbie contacted the ghost of Ince. He proved an angry phantom who didn’t want to talk about the last hours of his life. In another location at the Mansion the cameraman encountered the well-dressed ghost of Vivian Leigh. In that spot, where an ornate staircase was located, Debbie contacted the spirit of Ms. Leigh. For a moment or two the ghost, speaking through Debbie, preened before the cameras once more.
Lastly, a séance was held in what was called the boat room. This was near the offices of Tom Ince. This time candles and a table were gathered for a proper séance circle. Here Debbie once again fell into a trance. Once again she sank deeper into a trance and from her lips the soft voice of a woman came through. She identified herself as a Jacqueline Logan, a silent movie actress who played in the film King or Kings. She was here seeking Cecil B. DeMille. Saddened that she was not remembered the teary-eyed Jacqueline went on only to be replaced by the angry Ince. From him the story of his death was pieced together. He was on the yacht sleeping when a bullet accidentally came through the bulkhead striking him in the head and killing him. The person who discharged the weapon: Marion Davies, Hearst’s mistress! The awful deed was an accident. No wonder the accident was covered up. The scandal could have damaged the Hearst Empire had wind of the truth gotten out. Debbie was exhausted and the severe headache was worse. I took her for a short walk through the mall near our hotel, then a simple meal and bed. Little did I know that the next day would be the worst.
Our next site was Hollywood High School where many stars had attended. The target for the day was the spirit of actress Lana Turner. A woman who was discovered while still a student at the school. Her business manager was present to confirm the data on the actress when and if we managed to make contact. To hedge their bets, the Dead Famous people brought out a number of psychics. This is never a wise idea as psychics interfere with one another. "Too many cooks and not enough Indians," as my father would say.
Schools are always filled with energy and this site was no different. Energy was picked up near the pool where an unfortunate student had once struck his head and passed away. The boys’ locker room was also haunted as was the performing arts center and the library. The pressure was starting to tell. Attempts were made to seek out the spirit of Ms. Turner but without success. I later learned she was a student here only 28 days before she dropped out and took a studio contract. A ghostly woman was contacted in a brief séance in the library and at one point the spirit of Tom Ritter came through. One spirit was that of a teacher urging what he though were students to continue to rehearse for the next school play. The group went back to the boys’ shower room. There was a presence there, but alas, it proved to be someone dead but not famous.
Debbie was a shaken heap at the end of the day. We posed for pictures, hugged cast members, and made our way back to the hotel room The three day event was done. It was a mixed success for us. We managed to make contact with some spirits, met some wonderful people, and got to visit places closed to the general public.
It was an experience Debbie and I will not forget even if we live to the age of a hundred and three. To us, all of the sites selected were confirmed as haunted . Though we may not have gotten the celebrities we were targeting, it would be well to remember that in the land of the dead all are equal.