Among the first books that Angel City Press published was Hollywood Haunted: A Ghostly Tour of Filmland. Written by Hollywood historians Laurie Jacobson and Marc Wanamaker, the book documents the ghostly and phantom sightings found in tinseltown. Since the book’s 1994 publication, a number of others have produced books, podcasts and articles about haunted Hollywood, often citing Hollywood Haunted in their resources. In his 2015 book, author Tom Ogden described Hollywood Haunted this way in his Appendix, “After more than a decade in print, this fascinating work can now rightly be considered a classic.”
From this classic, here’s a haunted tale about the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine, known for two ghostly reports that feature two actors known for playing Hollywood monsters, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney.
Wax figure of Lon Chaney as the 1925 Phantom of the Opera as seen at Movieland Wax Museum in 1962. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Lon Chaney (not to be confused with his son Lon Chaney Jr., who also played Hollywood monsters) was a silent film star who portrayed Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the phantom in the Phantom of the Opera. According to Jacobson and Wanamaker, Chaney had a fondness for the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. After his death, many reported that his ghost was spotted sitting on a bus bench at this intersection. When the bench was removed, the sightings stopped.
Bela Lugosi also had an affinity for the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. He made it a daily habit to stroll along Hollywood Blvd and, according to his friend Marie Staats, “walking that stretch was a ritual for him.” After his well-known career in Hollywood horror films, Lugosi died on August 16, 1956. Dressed as Dracula, Lugosi lay in state at the Utter-McKinley-Strother Mortuary (a block from Hollywood and Vine) as fans walked past to pay their last respects. According to the Los Angeles Times:
With thespian aplomb that followed him even in death, Bela Lugosi went to his grave yesterday in the same black cloak he wore to fame as the sinister Count Dracula of the screen. To the…mourners who passed by his bier to pay their respects, it was a dramatic and solemn finale for the veteran actor who once terrified movie audiences by climbing in and out of coffins.
For the funeral procession to Culver City’s Holy Cross Cemetery, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce asked the mortuary to alter the route to avoid driving down Hollywood Boulevard. Businesses did not want a somber funeral to distract their customers. The mortuary changed the route so that the procession would only cross over Hollywood Boulevard. Authors Jacobson and Wanamaker describe what happened as the hearse driver came to the intersection:
Suddenly...it was as if someone tugged at the wheel. Instead of crossing Hollywood, the hearse veered left and up the Boulevard. The driver struggled, but the coach had a mind of its own. He was unable to regain control of the wheel until they crossed Vine. ‘I don’t know what happened…I just don’t know,’ he told her, visibly shaken. But Marie [Lugosi’s friend] knew, and she smiled. It was Bela saying goodbye to his beloved Hollywood Boulevard.
While it is now only available online via iTunes or Amazon, the book continues to be a resource about Hollywood’s supernatural history, as do its authors Jacobson and Wanamaker. Just recently, the Los Feliz Ledger referenced the book in its article about local ghosts. While all cities have their ghost stories, filmland’s ghosts remain fascinating as its ghouls will always wear that shroud of Hollywood glamour.