Los Angeles has many well-haunted landmarks, and Hollywood is at least partially to blame —and thank—for that. Many of the town’s ghosts are film stars: Rudolph Valentino, Carole Lombard, and Marilyn Monroe. Some of them even haunt more than one location. They tend to like hotels—they lived fabulous lives when they were alive, after all—and so do lots of lesser-known ghosts, mysterious little kids, angry teenagers, and silent adults alike.
Below, the spooky histories of seven paranormally-blessed hotels in the Los Angeles area, and an introduction to each of their ghostly presences. Some have been converted to apartment buildings, while others operate as hotels; book with caution.
Converted to a hotel in the 1930s, Chateau Marmont, the exclusive and elegant hotel off the Sunset Strip, has become a hideaway for celebrities. For some, including Britney Spears and Jim Morrison, it has been the setting for meltdowns, affairs, and drunken shenanigans.
John Belushi liked to party here so much, it would make sense he’d stop by in the afterlife. People say Bungalow No. 3, where he fatally overdosed in 1982, is the site of strange occurrences. The most disturbing story involves a toddler whose family stayed there for a stint in 1999. As the Travel Channel tells it, his parents would hear him laughing alone. They got up the nerve to ask him why, and he responded, “The funny man.” Then, “when his mother was leafing through a book of celebrity guests of Chateau Marmont, the boy pointed to John Belushi and exclaimed, ‘The funny man!’”
The Knickerbocker Hotel
The Knickerbocker Hotel, around since the 1920s, began its life as an apartment building. But it wasn’t until it became a hotel that it became popular with the Hollywood set—producer Louis B. Mayer, inventor/aviator/filmmaker Howard Hughes, actress Betty Grable, and singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer were all guests at one time or another during its heyday. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio supposedly came to the hotel’s Lido Room bar for clandestine dates, and then, in 1954, spent their honeymoon here.
It’s alleged that Monroe stuck around post-mortem and haunts the the ladies’ room; the bar is taken by the ghost of Rudolph Valentino. A maintenance worker told The Hollywood Reporter last year that a woman who threw herself off the roof also continues to haunt the Knickerbocker (since converted to senior apartments). “Many have seen her. When I work in the basement, shadows go by and doors close and open by themselves.” He might have been referring to dress-designer-to-the-stars Irene (aka Mrs. Irene Gibbons), who threw herself off the eleventh floor of the building in 1962, according to an Los Angeles Times report from November 16 of that year. Who’s not haunting the Knickerbocker? Harry Houdini. His wife tried for a decade to contact him via an annual séance on the roof, but he never made an appearance.
The Biltmore opened in 1923 and was the talk of the town. Built at a cost of almost $9 million, it had such luxurious conveniences as a bath in every room. From 1935 to 1939, the Biltmore hosted the Academy Awards and during World War II, the hotel became a “rest and recreation facility” for soldiers. Naturally, all that history means it’s a supernatural magnet. (Fitting that it played a Slimer-haunted hotel in the Ghostbusters.)
From the lobby to the roof, paranormal activity has been reported at the Biltmore. There’s a nurse ghost on the second floor, a creepy little girl ghost on the ninth floor, and, according to one account, “a boy with no face” on the roof. The most famous ghost reportedly hiding out in here is the ghost of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia. The story goes that this hotel was one of the last places Short was seen alive before she was brutally murdered. Short’s ghost has been seen on the tenth and eleventh floors, but also in the lobby.
The glamorous Roosevelt opened in 1927 right in the thick of Hollywood and, as such, has a star-studded history. It was often used for movie premiere after-parties, and it hosted the first Oscars. The Roosevelt’s clientele and striking Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture “helped shape the image and myth of Hollywood as a place of glamour and luxury,” argues a 2010 survey of Hollywood-area historic resources.
Not even death can keep many of those stars away now. Marilyn Monroe, the busiest ghost in the biz, supposedly haunts her old room (1200), where she lived as her fame grew; it’s rumored that her first ad was shot at the Roosevelt’s pool.
“Many see Marilyn in the mirror. They also see a little girl in a blue dress,” a maintenance worker told The Hollywood Reporter. The apparition of silver-screen babe Montgomery Clift has been blamed for patting guests’ shoulders and watching maids in Room 928, where he stayed for three months while filming From Here to Eternity, and the ghost of Carole Lombard has also been spotted floating around the upper floors. In the Blossom Room—where the first Oscars were held—two ghosts have been, um, documented: a presence of a tuxedoed man, and a presence of a man in a white suit. Nothing’s worse than an underdressed ghost.
The Alexandria today serves as apartments for low-income tenants, but when it opened in 1923 it was quite luxurious. Guests included presidentsWilliam Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, plus such celebs of the time as Rudolph Valentino, Theda Bara, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin.
The ballroom on the second floor is supposedly haunted by a handful of dancers. “An angry teenager” has been spotted in Charlie Chaplin’s old suite. Rudolph Valentino, when he’s not over at the Knickerbocker, swings by the Alexandria to skulk around his old 12th-floor room. He may or may not be alone: A manager told The Hollywood Reporter that “a famous person” died on the 12th floor.
This eight-story Santa Monica hotel was the one of the tallest in town when it opened in 1933. Its “ocean views, speakeasy and Art Deco design” helped it to appeal to Hollywood types looking to escape; Carole Lombard and Clark Gable were known to stop by, the Santa Monica Daily Press has reported. (It’s rumored that their meetings took place when Gable was still married to his previous wife.) Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, and big-name gangsters like Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone were also frequent visitors.
In the 1960s, the building was converted to apartments; in the 1990s, it returned to hotel form. All that back and forth must have confused some spirits and left them stuck there—a sales rep for the hotel told the Daily Press, “One of our overnight officers tells a story about getting a telephone call from a guest room that was not occupied and he just heard giggling. A guest claims to have checked into their room, put their stuff down and jumped into the shower. When they came out the television was on, the bed was open and the suitcase was empty.”
The former speakeasy became a bar after Prohibition (which ended the year the hotel opened) and is supposedly super-haunted: “At many times when the restaurant is completely empty, employees have heard loud sighs, gasps and have been startled by adisembodied voice who greets them with, ‘Good Morning.’”
The Cecil Hotel
The Cecil Hotel opened in 1925 as a well-furnished hostelry frequented by respectable people. It didn’t have a long heyday, as KPCC has noted—already, “all the action had sort of shifted to the Biltmore Hotel to start a long slow deterioration into burlesque halls and pawn shops.” It was downhill from there, with murders in the 1920 and 1930s; as Downtown became more and more shabby, the Cecil became the kind of place where hung out: both The Nightstalker (Richard Ramirez) and Austrian killer Jack Unterweger spent time there.
The Cecil Hotel may have rebranded itself recently as The Stay on Main, but it just can’t shake its rep as a place where scary things happen. In 2013, a tourist staying at the hotel went missing for weeks, and was eventually found in the hotel’s rooftop cistern. (Yes, people had been showering in and drinking that water.) That story, along with the Cecil’s whole sordid past, inspired the current season of American Horror Story. In real life, the ghost of a boy has reportedly been photographed outside a fourth floor window, but there’s no way that’s the only spirit still lurking around.
A 1920s YWCA turned hotel, this boutique inn has been thoroughly remodeled into a fashionable hotel. But a grisly history, which, according to the LA Weekly, includes two murders and a suicide, can’t be renovated away. One of the murder victims was Cecilia Oswald. According to the Weekly, she was killed in April 1950, her naked body discovered in one of the hotel rooms after her partner confessed: “I killed her. I killed her because I loved her.”