Hollywood Studios

There are celebrities who have passed away and seem to have chosen not to leave their studios. Working during the night at some of Hollywood's older movie studios has proven to be a rather interesting experience for some security guards and technicians. One such long time employee said, "I've seen some things here that I wouldn't want to try to explain to anyone!" One such haunted studio is Universal Studios which in the 1930s made films such as Dracula, Frankenstein and The Mummy. In turn these films made stars of men like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, who began acting in Universal's heyday in the 1920s in films like The Phantom of the Opera. Released in 1925 this film became Chaney's masterpiece and a special stage was constructed, Stage 28 for the filming of this movie. The massive sets of the opera house were so huge that construction on Stage 28 began in 1923 and it has become a permanent fixture on the Universal lot. There are those who say that Lon Chaney has also become a permanent fixture at the studio.

There are visitors and employees to Stage 28, who say that it is haunted. There have been sightings of a man in a black cape who appears to come and go without warning. Those who have gotten a closer look say that the cloaked man is Lon Chaney himself. The man has also been seen running on the catwalks overhead and lights have turned on and off by themselves as well as doors opening and closing on the empty stage at night. Thus, Stage 28 has become a place of legend on the Universal lot.

Culver Studios was started by pioneer filmmaker Thomas Ince, who is considered to be the "Father of the Western". Ince however is remembered more for his scandalous death than for his contribution to the art of filmmaking. Ince died in November of 1924 while celebrating his birthday aboard a yacht owned by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Hearst was romantically involved with actress Marion Davies. He created Cosmopolitan Productions as a company specifically for Marion. Parties thrown at her beach house were the most extravagant in town. Another popular party spot was Hearst's 280 ft. yacht called the Oneida. Hollywood's top celebrities received invitations for the occasion of Thomas Ince's 43rd birthday on November 15, 1924 which was to be held on the Oneida. Among the guests was the British author Elinor Glyn, Charlie Chaplin and gossip columnist Louella Parsons.

The guest of honor Ince missed the boat when it sailed from San Pedro because he had to attend the premiere of The Miracle his latest film. He took a train to San Diego and there he met the Oneida. No one knows for sure what happened later but the version printed in Hearst newspapers was that after eating and drinking too much Ince died of acute indigestion. It stated that he was taken from the yacht and rushed home, where he died later. Unfortunately for Hearst, there were witnesses on board the yacht, like Charlie Chaplin's secretary, who saw the bullet hole in Ince's head as he was being carried off the Oneida. This then brings us to the real reason for the party. Hearst had reason to suspect that Chaplin and Marion were secretly seeing each other. Being a jealous man he invited the actor to his yacht so that he could observe him together with Marion. Further it is believed that Heart saw Marion and Chaplin slip off together during the party and discovered them together on the lower deck. In the ensuing confusion that followed Ince not Chaplin ended up with a bullet in his head.

Ince's funeral was held on November 21. It was attended by his family, Marion Davis, Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Harold Lloyd. Hearst was noticeably absent. Afterwards the body was cremated and no official inquest was ever held. However persistent rumors linked Hearst to Ince's death.

Finally these rumors prompted San Diego District Attorney Chester Kemply to call for an investigation. And once again things came to an abrupt stop when the ship's doctor testified about Ince's "poor health". The probe was called off. It was interesting as well that Louella Parsons was awarded a lifetime contract with Hearst soon after the incident. In the years that followed Hearst provided a trust fund for Ince's widow, Nell, which later was wiped out by the Depression and Nell became a taxi dancer (in those days there were taxi dance halls where women got paid for dancing with male patrons). As for Hearst the entire incident eventually became a sardonic joke in Hollywood and the Oneida became known as "William Randolph's Hearse".

There began sightings of Thomas Ince and rumors that Culver Studios was haunted. Ince built the studios in 1918 and it changed hands several times after his death. Cecil B. DeMille, Howard Hughes, David Selznick, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball made significant contributions to film and television history on this lot. Classics like Gone With the Wind, King Kong, The Untouchables, Lassie, Batman and Citizen Kane were among the many shot here.

As for the hauntings employees have reported ghostly figures roaming the lot at night while others have been frightened by the apparition of a woman who appears on the third floor from time to time. She always disappears quickly, leaving a cold spot of a chilling wind behind. The most famous sightings are those of Thomas Ince. Witnesses have reported seeing the entity of a man climbing the stairs in the main administration building, heading for the executive screening room. During his time at the studio this had been Ince's private projection room.

When renovations to the studio were done n 1988 it upset Ince's ghost quite a lot. He would often appear to workmen and once turned and said, "I don't like what you're doing to my studio" and then vanished into the wall. Today Culver Studios remains one of the busiest lots in town.

It appears that the most haunted studio is Paramount. It is the last major studio to be actually located in Hollywood. It is situated next to Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which serves as the final resting place for stars like Valentino, Fairbanks and others. The cemetery is located the closest to Stages 29 through 32. The spirits seen entering the studio lot are usually wearing clothing from the 1930s and 40s. The most activity seems to revolve around Stages 31 and 32. At night footsteps are hear and equipment turns on and off and operates by itself. A well-known fact is that the stage doors make a very loud sound when they are opened or shut. Three guards had secured Stage 32 for the night. One of the men went outside closing and locking the door behind him. The other two guards looked around the place making sure everything was in order when they heard someone walking behind one of the stage flats. Looking behind the partition they saw that no one was there. Then moments later they heard the stage door being opened. Being convinced that it was the third guard they secured the rest of the stage and went out to find him sitting outside. He had not entered the sound stage.

Another guard experienced something more frightening on this stage. Having secured Stage 32 he turned out the lights and was just leaving when he heard someone walking across the stage. He wondered how they could see in the dark. However the footsteps continued, crossing the dark stage with no problems. The startled guard turned on his flashlight to check things out and saw no one. Paramount Studios has many entrances and some of them have walk-in gates, like the one at Lemon Grove, which is located just a few feet from the cemetery. Here many entities enter the lot. Heads have been seen to poke through the cemetery wall and then disappear. One ghost to have walked through the gates has been that of Rudolph Valentino. Valentino died in 1926 at the age of 31 and was buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It is said that he was buried in the white costume he wore in the film The Sheik and it is in this costume that his ghost has been seen.

One night working the late shift a veteran security guard noticed an unfamiliar face. He followed the man to the corner of the wall to the cemetery and figured that he had him cornered. The guard waited for the man to come out. After a minute or two the guard looked around the corner and saw the man vanish into the cemetery wall. However the most haunted site on the studio lot is the Hart building. One of the oldest buildings on the lot and it was once part of the DesiLu Studios, owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. It is said that the spirit of a woman haunts the upper floors and that she gives off the strong scent of an old, flowery-like perfume. She is mostly seen by men and stories have circulated that she often takes things from desks and private places and throws them onto the floor. A security guard working at night in the Hart building was checking that all the windows and doors were locked. Suddenly a door that is on a hinge that causes it to shut very slowly slammed shut by itself as it somebody had violently pushed against it. There have also been stories about windows and doors to have unlocked by themselves, lights turning on and off and people being touched or tapped on the shoulder. An actress decided to set up her production offices on the third floor of the Hart building. One day the executive of the company went into the bathroom to wash his hands. He looked into the mirror and saw that his eyes were glowing red. He got frightened and ran into his office. He asked his secretary to look into his eyes. She too saw the red color and began screaming then ran for the door. The executive tried to get up from his chair but claimed to have felt hand pressing down on his shoulders. Finally, he managed to escape. The production company moved out the next day.

Another incident was recorded in the security record on December 30, 1993. It was holiday time and few people were assigned to duty. One person was assigned to the main gate and four others to patrol the lot. That day a trainee worked alongside a veteran officer. They were assigned to cover an area between the Chevalier and Ball buildings. As they were walking between the buildings the trainee noticed someone looking down at them from the second floor of the Ball building but moments later the person was gone. He told his partner and they went to investigate. Having no keys to get to the second floor they called a supervisor. While waiting for the supervisor another guard came over and said he has seen a light come on in the Chevalier Building across the way. The older guard and the third officer went to investigate. They searched the building but found no one. Meanwhile the supervisor arrived and had the bottom floor checked out while he went to the second floor but the building turned out to be*empty.

One other strange incident to have taken place in the Ball building is that late one night, a man and a woman were leaving their office on the second floor. They were convinced that they were the last to leave because the building was empty and quiet. However on the way out they passed an old woman who was walking toward them. Neither recognized her and they thought that perhaps she was lost. Moments after she had passed them, one of them turned to inquire if the lady needed some help but she had disappeared.

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