by Connor Bright
Scott and I decided to check out a couple of the historic and noteworthy cemeteries near us. Earlier in the week we drove past Rosedale Cemetery in West Adams district as it was closing and couldn’t wait to go back for a closer look. I have also wanted to see Bela Lugosi’s grave at the massive Holy Cross cemetery. So we grabbed our cameras and headed out grave hunting!
We started out in Culver City’s Holy Cross Cemetery. Opened in 1939, Holy Cross is a beautiful, 200-acre, clean cut, Roman Catholic cemetery that is the resting place to many memorable people, and is still in operation today, Scott and I saw quite a few processions come and go during our visit. We’ve never been able to use the word “bustling” to describe a cemetery before, but this place was absolutely busy. In LA there can even be traffic in a cemetery.
Holy Cross has many a famous burial. Bela Lugosi, who played Dracula on stage and in the 1931 movie (and is famously buried in his cape) is here. As is Sharron Tate the actress, wife of Roman Polanski and murder victim. She and five others were murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. Tate’s grave marker also bears the name of her unborn baby as she was pregnant at the time of her murder.
Lugosi and Tate are buried in front of the grotto at Holy Cross Cemetery near two other noteworthy or famous graves: one of the most popular singers of all time, Bing Crosby and Oz’s Tinman, Jack Haley.
There’s actually three actors from The Wizard of Oz in this cemetery. In addition to Haley, the actor who portrayed the Scarecrow, Ray Bolger, can be found in a wall crypt, as well as Billy Rhodes, one of the Munchkins!
The Adams Family’s Uncle Fester, John Leslie Coogan Jr., also finally finds rest at Holy Cross. Prior to his life as an Adam, he was discovered as a child by Charlie Chaplin and was the kid in the movie “The Kid.” In between, Coogan met tragedy over and over again. Some of his tragedies lead to the betterment of all people as Coogan’s Law, the first law protecting child actors, is named after Coogan’s battle with his parents.
One of the most famous comic actors of our time, John Candy, is found in the communal mausoleum. He died of a heart attack at the age of 43, famous for roles on Second City Television, and on the big screen in Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Spaceballs, Stripes and Uncle Buck, among many others.
Candy is interred just above Fred MacMurray, star of Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity and the small screen’s My Three Sons.
Just outside of the mausoleum one can find Mack Sennett. Sennett was film’s first “King of Comedy.” He started Keystone Studios, built LA’s first soundstage and helped lauch the careers of Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Gloria Swanson the Keystone Kops and was an early collaborator of D.W. Griffith’s. In all, he is credited as producer on over 1,100 films, directed over 300 and personally appeared in over 350 films.
The cemetery is vast though sadly lacking in personality. We imagine it might be against cemetery policy to have unique or upright stones. However, upon visiting Rita Hayworth’s grave, we thought we would see more than simply a name with death dates. The same goes for Lugosi, who likely has one of the more visited graves in LA. We would imagine that a person wanting to be buried in Dracula’s cape would want to express himself on his stone as well. The Pierce Brothers cemetery in Westwood Village is a cemetery with a lot more personality. We’ll write about that site in a future post.
Next, we visited Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery. Rosedale is one of the first cemeteries in Los Angeles, opening in 1884, and is the final home to pioneers, politicians, and businessmen of LA. Rosedale is also home to the first crematory west of the Rockies (second in the nation). The 64-acre plot is the resting place of more than 100,000 people and was one of the first to be open to all races and faiths.
One of the two pyramid tombs at Rosedale belongs to George Shatto one of the first developers of Catalina Island. Shatto, it seems is still being taken care of in the afterlife, we found eggplants left at the opening to his personal mausoleum. Perhaps this is offering of food for him in the afterlife(?).
Phineas Banning rests nearby; Phineas was a businessman famous for his effort to create a busy port in Los Angeles. Another developer, David Burbank, is close by. Burbank is the dentist and entrepreneur of whom the city of Burbank is named.
Louise Peete, a “black widow” serial killer is buried in a unmarked grave at the cemetery. Though stories and numbers on those she lead to death are exaggerated, she remains one of just four women sent death in San Quentin’s gas chamber. Conversely, murder victim Mable Monohan also rests here. Her death lead to the arrests of Barbra Graham, Emmett Perkins, and Jack Santo. Monohan was murdered by the three who were looking for a safe they believed Mable’s son (a casino owner) kept at the house. The execution of Barbara Graham lead to multiple movies, made for TV movies and plays titled “I Want to Live,” however, these stories are greatly inaccurate.
Some of the more surprising interments at Rosedale include Eliza Poor Houghton. She is one of 48 survivors of the famous Donner Party. The group started of with 89 people who became trapped in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the winter of 1846. Maria Rasputin, the daughter of the “Mad Monk,” Grigori Rasputin, also rests at the cemetery! After her father’s assassination in 1917, Maria moved to Bucharest where she became a cabaret dancer. Then she was off to Paris to be a governess, before moving to America as a Lion Tamer with Ringling Brothers Circus. Maria also worked as a Riveter in Florida during WWII before moving one last time to Los Angeles, where she stayed.
Also buried at Angeles-Rosedale is the magician Henry Keller, who is said to be one of Harry Houdini’s inspirations, as well as Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award, for Gone With the Wind in 1939, and Tod Browning, “The Master of the Macabre”, and director of 1931’s Dracula.
Rosedale is also one of the Cemeteries holding LA’s original pioneers and military men. The cemetery at Fort Moore Hill (now downtown LA) was raized with many of the bodies being relocated to Rosedale. However, the relocation was done with little care. Far more headstones than actual bodies made the initial trip. Bodies continue to be found at the former cemetery site and moved to Rosedale with the most recent interment happening as recently as 2011!
Join us on our tour to hear more about Fort Moore Hill, visit the site of the former cemetery and hear other legends of the Fort Moore Hill area! Have you heard any ghost stories about these sites? We’d love to hear about them! Please leave a comment below!