Category Archives: California

An LA Ghost Hunter Watches: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

The 9th film from Quentin Tarantino takes place in 1969 Los Angeles, blending real history with fiction, real characters (Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate) with fictional ones (played by mega stars Leonardo DiCaprio & Brad Pitt).

My series “A Ghost Hunter Watches” usually looks at fact versus fiction.  While we will do the same a little bit in this episode, we will instead focus on what haunted locations where featured at in the film.  Yup, in addition to having a Charles Manson storyline, QT filmed at some iconic locations that were even part of my LA Hauntings tour (one is even featured right here on the movie poster)!

Keep up to date on future live streams on my YouTube page here.  Enjoy the look back at “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”:

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Check out this great behind the scenes video taken by spectators on Hollywood Blvd showing the immense detail the films art department partook.  And this is just for things seen in the background…. beyond just signs, full store fronts and sometimes even interiors were built and dressed just to have Leo & Brad drive past them.

 

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E is for Elizabeth Short, Elisa Lam & Emma Voelcker

We take a look back at three females who’s lives were cut tragically short.  In two of the instances, their deaths are still surrounded by mystery.


C is for (haunted) Cemeteries!

Among the haunted cemeteries I cover in this live stream are…

Mountain View Mausoleum, Altedena, CA

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, CA

Archer Woods Cemetery, Summit, IL

Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, IL

Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, IL

 


Top Haunted Sites of 2018

This may have been the most difficult collection I’ve had to put together so far.  This list of the Top 10 coolest haunted locations I visited in 2018 could’ve easily been a top 20 or 25 without any fall off in quality (I’m considering doing a video of a larger countdown, so subscribe to my YouTube here so you won’t miss it).  So, keep an eye open for other notable mentions throughout.  What are the criteria?  It’s a combination of these three categories:

  1. the location is famously haunted (bucket list trips)
  2. exceptionally unique stories or history associated with the place and
  3. Did we experience any paranormal activity on site?

bucktownpubEvery location mentioned on this list is a place I’ve visited for the very first time in 2018.  Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the release of “Voices from the Chicago Grave,” I’ve made it a point to revisit every location covered in the book.  This is an ongoing process, but it was great to see places like the Bucktown Pub (pictured right), the Frank Nitti suicide location, the Grimes sisters site, Mount Carmel Cemetery, investigate the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre location and more alongside Illinois archeologist Dan Melone and/or Wendy Lynn Staats of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast.  Keep following us on Instagram @WhatsYourGhostStory to continue visiting and investigating the most haunted locations in America!

10  Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans, LA
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There may be no more paranormal an experience than joining the paranormal rock group Sunspot on the road, which I did for the first time in 2018.  After a show, we swung through the oldest bar in the South.  Built around 1770, this building was likely owned by pirate and Battle of New Orleans hero Jean Lafitte, his brother or a close accomplice.  Whatever the ownership provenance, it’s very likely that Lafitte did business here and knowing Lafitte, it wasn’t on the up-and-up.  It’s one thing to read tales of a dark, masculine presence in the building, observing the room from a shadowy corner, as is the most frequent claim, it’s another for a member of the staff to show you a picture of the shadow figure on their phone, which is what we were treated to.

9  Coral Castle, Homestead, FL
Quickly moving from the historically haunted to the roadside attraction oddity, I visited a site so unusual, there are many believers think the place was built by aliens, or at least with the help of alien technology.  I can go on about the place, but who can tell the story better than the show “Ancient Aliens”?  The segment even end with a classic Georgio-style, “I’m not saying it was aliens…” line.

I will say, the place is downright impressive and captivating whether you are into the theory that this entire structure was built by hand by a single, somewhat frail man or that the man was an alien.  Either sounds just a probable.  Also, not mentioned in the AA segment, two people claimed to spy on some of the construction and claimed the massive pieces were moved by sound!

museum-of-the-weird-austinI should give an odd shout out to the Museum of the Weird in Austin, TX, which houses tons of fascinating exhibits and, in fact, is so weird that Johnny Depp lived next door at one point.  The main highlight is the “Minnesota Ice Man,” an alleged Bigfoot corpse kept preserved on ice since the late ‘60s.

8  Hale’s Bar Dam, Guild, TN
Hale’s Bar Dam is a big, imposing structure with a very long and dark history.  Even before construction, the Native Americans of the area considered the area cursed, or at the very least too dangerous to tread on.  A hydroelectric dam was constructed over these dangerous waters in the early 1900s and the death toll rose quickly.  Construction never really stopped due to the constant need for repairs caused by building on unsteady ground.  Sadly, the deaths continued as well.  Use of the dam was discontinued in 1968, but the power station remains, haunted by any number of people who died here.

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The location was featured on an episode of “Ghost Adventures.”  That particular episode was perhaps most notable due to the location getting hit by a tornado during production.  However, they did also capture a compelling human form moving around on thermal camera.  We got a private tour of the structure by someone who had some wild personal experiences.  Be sure to click on the image to the left to see a video from our visit.

7  Elmwood Cemetery, Centralia, IL
elmwood-cemetery-violin-annie2One of my favorite investigations of the year took place at the Southern Illinois Cemetery of Elmwood, where a legend surrounds a beautiful monument to H. Annie Marshall, better known as “Violin Annie.”  The legends around Violin Annie are more plentiful than the facts. The basics are that this gravesite belongs to a girl who died tragically young. In life, quite clearly, she played the violin. Speaking on the legends, there are countless tales of hearing violin music waft through this cemetery at all hours. The uniqueness of this monument, plus its easy access (near the front of the cemetery, just two dozen feet from the access road), makes it an easy candidate for urban legends. Does that mean the area isn’t haunted? Of course not. The restless adventures of “Violin Annie” may very well be legit. It’s also possible that thousands of people over the years, visiting this site, hoping to hear violin music, have impacted the area, imbuing it with a psychic residue from the living. If Annie’s consciousness is here, we brought a trigger item in the form of violinist Wendy Lynn Staats to play songs and simple scales to see if we could coax a musical call and response. With several cameras rolling and even more microphones scattered around the area, it will take some time to dig though all the recordings, but our fingers are crossed!

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Full Spectrum video still of Wendy Lynn Staats playing violin at “Violin Annie’s” gravesite.

6  Sanatorium Hill, Madison, WI
This location is one I feel I’ve just scratched the surface on.  The grounds of Sanatarium Hill claim all sorts of paranormal phenomenon, including physical contact in the form of hair pulling.  To get the full story, check out the video below.  Other haunted institutional locations visited this year include Knoxville’s Lakeshore Mental Asylum, Elgin Mental Health Center & the Green County Asylum in Monroe, WI.

5  Robert the Doll locations, Key West, FL
robert-the-doll-key_westDipping as far as we could possibly dip into the Florida Keys, we found ourselves at the home of Ernest Hemingway’s six-toed cats and a doll that can move on its own. “Robert the Doll” has been a story so sensational, it’s no surprise that people assume the movie “Child’s Play” was based on this legend. In 1904 a young Eugene Otto was given a doll in a navy uniform.  It did not take long before this doll began terrorizing the family, especially little Eugene.  Massacring his other toys, and flipping his furniture over, the parents were understandably suspicious, however even they heard voices and laughing coming from Eugene’s room that were not his own.  Eventually the doll was banished to the attic, where it remained peacefully for decades. Currently the doll itself is on display at Fort East Martello Museum where it apparently does not like being on display.  If you are bold enough to take a picture of Robert without first asking his permission, legend has it that you will be besieged by extreme misfortune.  There is a nearby wall of the museum covered with letters addressed to the doll from people desperately asking Robert’s forgiveness.

keywestcemeteryI was in Key West with family.  My parents have both been exceptionally supportive of my unorthodox line of work.  They’ve attended paranormal conferences to watch me speak and my mom even joined for an exploration of Bachelor’s Grove and was pinched by an unseen hand in the process. They were all for visiting the museum until we took a ghost tour that lead us past the home where the events took place. Upon hearing the full story, I was no longer asked, “Hey, do you wanna check out that museum today?”  I had previously been vague, offering only that there was a “famous, haunted doll on display.”  Not wanting to push them or, honestly, expose myself to something truly negative (just in case), we never visited Robert. However, by total luck and coincidence, we did take a walk through the Key West eugeneottograveCemetery and, coincidentally (again), I stumbled across the grave of Eugene Otto!  I was able to conduct an EVP session at his grave site. While nothing came of it, I do always urge investors to try poking around at all locations associated with the tale you’re investigating, not just the main target. Travel Tip: you can now rent out the room where Robert was banished for decades as the Otto house is now a B&B.

4  Bell Witch Cave, Adams, TN
bellwitchcave-hauntedComing straight off the bucket list is a MUCH fabled tale of “America’s most well-documented haunting,” as it’s always called.  The story of the Bell Witch is too vast and spectacular to fully cover in a blurb, but I will tease that it involves a curse, mythical creature, disembodied voices, an intensely violent invisible entity, a homicide blamed on a ghost and some of the paranormal activity was even witnessed by a man who would become president.  You’d think this would be so rich a story that it would make for a great movie.  Well, they tried.  Wendy and I visited the location, then watched the movie before then shooting a new episode of “A Ghost Hunter Watches.”  Check that out below:

3  Seider Oaks & Shoal Creek, Austin, TX
shaol-creek-seider-oaks-haunted-austinMost of the time I find an incredible location with a colorful story… the type of place where I’m dying to find some paranormal evidence, that’s exactly where I’ll find nothing at all.  This was not the case at the darkly impacted Shoal Creek in Austin, Texas.  A Native American massacre of a settler family in 1839 could be enough to generate some paranormal activity, but this area was also the site of skirmishes and battles through the years and countless unmarked burials.  When the banks of the creek flood, taking with it lose dirt, it is not uncommon for more and more human remains to be unearthed.  A recent flood unearthed the remains of a solider who served with General Custer.  There are also multiple tales of gold being hidden in this area by criminals who were apprehended before being able to reclaim their hidden loot.  Might their spirits be the ones still occupying the area, keeping their gold hidden?  Shadow figures are seen in the area and disembodied voices are heard.  Visiting the site in the middle of the afternoon with Mike & Wendy from Sunspot and our local contact Vic Hidalgo, I tried an EVP burst session (a shorter EVP session, reviewing the recording on the spot) and it did not take long before voices did appear in the recording.  It was not clear what was said, but the presence of voices that were not own own was unmistakable.  Another trip to Austin to investigate further is already planned for the spring.

Speaking of Austin, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time at the haunted and historic Driskill Hotel and we were able to see the amazing sight that is upwards of a million bats emerging from under a bridge at sunset.  See video of the bats here.

2  Old South Pittsburg Hospital, South Pittsburg, TN
After meeting the proprietor of the “OSPH” at the Haunted America Paranormal Conference in Alton, Il, we headed down to check out the abandoned, haunted hospital.  After hearing claims of creatures crawling up the walls, our guard was high.  Indeed, simply walking into the structure, a feeling of nervousness set in immediately… very possibly a psychic impression, moreso than intimidation.  “See You on the Other Side” hosts Mike & Wendy heard a shuffling sound in a room followed by a growl.  I followed the sound of scratching on a hallway wall around a corner, onto the ceiling, then back down a wall to the floor.  Thinking I was chasing a scurrying mouse, I stomped on the ground to see if I could make it come out from hiding.  Instead a loud phantom footstep landed behind me, letting me know I didn’t know what I was dealing with.

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We ended up setting up ghost hunting gear in a hallway where people have observed an 8 foot tall shadow figure.  Using an array of cameras including a full spectrum camera, we filmed a music video, hoping to elicit a response from the music.  I don’t think we got anything in the process, but not all experiments end up paying off.  Still, we got a fun video out of it!

senabaugh-tunnel-hauntedAnother location, rife with urban legend-y glory that really deserves to be somewhere on this list is the Sensabaugh Tunnel in Church Hill, TN.  There will be a video of this location coming out later this year, as Wendy and I went out looking for children ghosts in this remote, spooky locale.

1  Horsman Ridge Cemetery, Shelby County, IL (Also called Tower Hill Cemetery, Williamsburg Hill & Ridge Cemetery)
horsmancemetery-haunted-illinoisAre you ever caught in the difficult situation, trying to decide, “Do I want to look for a ghost, a UFO or a crypid today?  Maybe I wanna look into a place that has ties to the ultra creepy phenomena of Black-eyed children.  Well, you’re in luck!  This is the one-stop shop!  Down in very rural and very remote southern Illinois, at the end of a dead end gravel road on the top of a wooded hill is Shelby County’s pioneer cemetery.  When it comes to cryptids, the threat of coming across a werewolf-like creature (better known as an up-right canine in cryptid circles) would be enough, but there is also a winged dragon-like creature seen flying over the area.  As long as you’re looking to the skies for dragons, you might as well keep an eye open for UFOs as well while as lights have been spotted in the skies and cows have been mutilated here.  Indeed, the unnerving black-eyed children have been spotted here and occasionally appear after the fact on video recordings.  That said, the ghostly encounters here probably get the adrenaline pumping the most:  An elderly man charges out from the woods, seemingly ready to attack you, but he vanishes moments before striking!  Wendy and I spent a couple of hours here, but had no experiences ourselves.  This is a place I definitely want to visit again and spend a lot more time on site.  Unlike many outdoor locations, this cemetery is so remote there is no fear of audio interference from a neighboring house or school, nor is there a blanket of traffic noise interfering with EVP recording.

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Upon putting this list together, one thing became clear…. This list is impossible to create the year.  There are too many wonderful locations to cover.  The Wonder Bar in Madison, WI should be on this list.  The Old Slave House in Equality, IL should be on this list.  The Brown Hotel in Louisville, the Red Wood Room in San Francisco, the Palace Restaurant in Sault Ste Marie, MI, the Sutter Home Vineyards in Napa, CA…..they call belong on this list.  So, stay tuned to our YouTube as we do a top 20+ countdown.  This year was so spectacular because of the support of so many amazing people.  What really made 2018 amazing was all the support from Dan Melone, Mike Huberty, Jordan Murphy, Allison Journlin, Lisa Van Buskirk, Chuck “C.E.” Martin, Vic Hidalgo, Kathleen Wickes, Chelsea Duke, my parents and my partner in life and in the field, Wendy Lynn Staats.

I do have to take a quick moment to thank everyone who organizes paranormal conferences and to encourage everyone else to attend them!  It’s a tremendous opportunity to meet people with similar “out there” interests and a great place to share information and theories! They played a big role in our 2018.

2019 promises haunted excursions in Hawaii, a return to searching for rebobs in Napa Valley and trips from New York to Los Angeles.  Happy New Year to one and all.


A Review of “The Nun” + Some Ghost Stories & Elisa Lam’s Mysterious Death

This is a review of the horror movie, “The Nun,” but we also get into a lot of real life Ghost Stories in LA, the mysterious death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel and the Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee.


Taking a Look at Some Paranormal Photos

Coming to you from Culver City, overlooking Culver Studios and the Culver Hotel, I take some time to analyze some possibly paranormal photos! If you have some of your own to share, please send them over to me!


Roosevelt Hotel (Haunted Oscar Locations, Pt. 2)

This is the thrilling conclusion of Haunted Oscar Locations Pt. 1, which you can find here.

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Roosevelt Hotel, 1924

The glamorous, though perhaps long and drawn-out, annual rite of passage known as the Academy Awards, checks in around three hours if we’re lucky nowadays.  The first ever awards only lasted 15 minutes.  It was held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which is just across the street from the Chinese Theater and down the road from the Pantages.

Sid Grauman, Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks at Mary & Douglas's cement signing. They were the first people to have their prints and signatures added to the Chinese Theater courtyard.
(L to R) Sid Grauman, Mary Pickford & Douglas Fairbanks at Mary & Douglas’s cement signing. They were the first people to have their prints and signatures added to the Chinese Theater courtyard.

The Roosevelt was put up by Louis B. Meyer, Sid Grauman, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, the later two, of course, were Hollywood’s first power couple (see picture to the right).

Hauntings here happen throughout the building, but especially at the pool area (which is one of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles… well, one of my favorite places in the world).  The pool is set back from the streets, nestled between the main hotel building and a series of bungalows.  This location is a hidden gem that’s open to the public due to the poolside bar that caters to guests and curiosity-seekers, alike.

RooseveltHotelPool-Haunted2It’s not uncommon for a security guard to see that somebody’s down in the pool area after it’s closed.  A guard gets dispatched to kick out the after-hours guest, but when they arrive, there’s nobody’s there.  So, he gets on his walkie-talkie to report it, only to hear back from a person in the control room, still watching on a monitor that, “No, they’re still there… and they’re standing next to you.”

When I was doing the LA Hauntings tour, I had a hotel employee in the van with us who claimed that he himself has seen these spectral people on security cameras as well.  It’s noteworthy to point out that these cameras shoot in infrared, allowing for recoding after dark.  Ghost hunters believe paranormal activity happens frequently in light spectrums that the human eye cannot observe, including Infrared.  The same employee told us that it’s not just one individual that’s observed – there will be groups of phantom people hanging out poolside.

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Thirteen floors up, the crack of the bat is heard on the rooftop. Babe Ruth used to spend some of his offseasons hanging out in Hollywood (pictured below in front of the Roosevelt).  He allegedly had a batting cage installed on the roof and people apparently still hear the crack of the mighty Bambino’s bat.

Babe Ruth at the Roosevelt Hotel

Montgomery Clift was in the Sinatra film “From Here to Eternity.”  In the film he had to play a bugle.  This is not something he knew how to do, so he would have to practice.  He was staying on the 9th floor of the Roosevelt and loudly practiced while pacing the hallway, likely annoying everyone in earshot.  To this day, the front desk still gets complaints of horn playing coming from the hallways.  Usually, only this phantom sound is observed, but apparently on one occasion his specter was sighted.  He vanished by walking through a wall where a doorway used to be after tipping his cap to the witness.

Haunted Roosevelt Hotel

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I had the privilege of appearing on a couple of episodes of “Monumental Mysteries,” which was a spin-off of the popular Travel Channel series “Mysteries at the Museum.”  The east coast-based production crew would come to LA and interview me if they were covering something unusual like a haunted Spanish Mission or odd UFO experiences.  While setting up a shot, the producers asked me if the Roosevelt Hotel, where they were staying, was haunted.  One producer talked about watching her closet door slowly open by itself.  Not thinking too much of it, she closed the door and went into the bathroom to wash up.  When she returned, the closet door was again open, but now the iron was sitting on her bed.  We’re talking about a heavy object somehow transporting itself to a new location, not just falling off a shelf.  Predictably, when I asked what floor they were staying on, the answer was, “the 9th.”

A lot of the best stories I know about haunted Los Angeles and Hollywood come from doing the tour when people on the tour share their own experiences.  This one came before the tour even started.  The clerk at the rental company where I rent the van picked up the van asked, “What are you renting this van for?”

When I told him about the tour, he said, “You go to the Roosevelt Hotel, right?”  He obviously had a story to tell. He talked about checking in to the Roosevelt.  Unpacking, he the closet door, revealing a maid standing inside, warmly smiling back.  In an instant, she vanished.

The only rational reaction would be to hit your head on the ceiling while jumping out of your skin in fright.  This is an interesting case to me because it shows how a paranormal experience can override rational thought and emotion.  He claimed he felt very welcome, that it was a warm greeting.  Whatever happy maid is still there, she is projecting a loving, positive feeling – a psychic impression.  It’s also a nice reminder that paranormal experiences, while they’re always unexpected, they’re not always negative.  One has to wonder if this helpful maid was the one to took out the iron for the “Monumental Mysteries” producer.

None other than Marilyn Monroe, probably Hollywood’s most sighted female ghost, was seen at the Roosevelt, but not in the most conventional way.  Her ghost isn’t seen directly, but as a reflection in her very own mirror.  Marilyn stayed here for a time and had a large mirror, about the size of a doorway, installed in her room.  She would rehearse the next days’ scenes into it, being able to see, from head to toe, how she would appear on camera.  After countless hours of emoting into this inanimate object, perhaps she left some deeper imprint on it.  For a time, the mirror was placed in a second floor lobby, allowing anyone a chance to try to catch a glimpse of the blonde bombshell (the hotel even had a sense of humor about it, placing a cardboard cut-out of Marilyn in the distance for a good photo op).  In 2008, the mirror was placed into storage for safekeeping while some construction took place.  A decade later and the mirror has still not reemerged.  Word around town is that Lindsay Lohan purchased the mirror.  Hopefully it’s in a safe place, wherever it is.

As an interesting side note, as mentioned in part one of this article, Marilyn had her hair dyed blonds in the salon at the haunted Gaylord Hotel and her first photo shoot as a blond took place here at the Roosevelt, poolside, for a sunscreen lotion print ad.

Not every haunting at this location is a positive one.   At one point, an employee of the Cinegrill, one of the Roosevelt’s bars, was on the tour.  He told me that he was talking to some security guards who heard screaming coming from a hallway.  Looking at the security tapes, they saw one of the maid staff seemingly get thrown out of a room, hitting the wall opposite the doorway.  She ran, screaming down the hall.  As these stories tend to go, she left the premises, never to return and, unfortunately, never telling her story.

Haunted Roosevelt Hotel

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What in the world happened?  Is that story even true?  We won’t know, but I’m just passing this interesting, spooky story along to you, to create a timestamp of the first negative story about this location that I’ve ever heard.

RooseveltBlossomBallroom-HauntedFinally, our last story is an Oscar story! Apparently people in the Blossom Ballroom, which held the first-ever Oscar Award ceremony, feel a constant cold spot in the area where the podium stood.  Unlike other stories about cold spots, where it comes and it goes, this oddity is focused in one spot all the time and it’s there almost constantly.  I wonder if somebody’s still giving their award acceptance speech, continually reliving the biggest highlight of their career.  Some wonder if the cold spot is some some sort of a doorway that’s allowing for all this energy to be coming and going, allowing all these entities to continually make their presence known.

Outside of Linda Vista Hospital, which is now an off-limits, private location, I believe the Roosevelt is the most haunted building in all Los Angeles and a must visit, whether you’re a local or just passing through town like to many a soul have done in the past.