MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
And Happy Hanukkah!
And Happy Kwanza!
And Happy Festivus!
And eeeeeeverything else people celebrate this lovely time of year. May you have a wonderful holiday, and a safe, healthy, happy new year! See you again in 2012!
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Well, here I am snug in the West Coast once again! And what better way to celebrate my homecoming than by posting another part of haunted Los Angeles! There's a limitless supply for the weird and ghostly in LA, and we've only touched the beginning! Today I'll feature two more places to get spooked by the unknown. One might not necessarily be in LA proper, but it's within the metro area, and easy to get to! Let's get this started, shall we?
What goes on here?
Our first stop takes to Pasadena, and the beautiful Colorado St. Bridge. Its beautiful curves and arches are paired with gorgeous lamps that illuminate the bridge spectacularly at night. It's a very romantic scene as seen from the 134 freeway parallel to it, but this bridge has a very sinister side. It's nickname, one its had since 1932 (according to WeirdCA), is the "suicide bridge." In fact, that's the name I knew for the Colorado bridge far before I learned its actual title. It was built back in 1912, and has seen up to 150 suicides since. Most of these were products of the Great Depression, a time when hopelessness was abundant. Thankfully, when it underwent reconstruction 1993, the bridge gained suicide barriers, and the number of jumpers has greatly decreased.
However, with all of those deaths have to come bumps in the night. There are several ghosts that haunt the old bridge. One off which is a woman in a flowing robe. She is seen standing on the sides of the bridge, and disappears as she falls to the woods below. Another is a man in horn-rimmed glasses. There is a legend that says a construction worker fell off the bridge during its original construction. He was left in the wet concrete and now haunts the bridge and woods. Many people have reported hearing strange noises in the woods under the bridge, and several people have seen strange mists and apparitions. And finally, a man and woman are reported as either dancing or fighting along the bridge and fade away as soon as they come into view.
A friend and I have been to the bridge at night to investigate. We did an EVP session and took pictures, but unfortunately it was much too bright and there was far too much traffic on the 134 to produce anything worthy of listening to. But feel free to investigate for yourselves! Parking isn't too difficult to find, and there's no fee or anything keeping you from the bridge or the grounds below.
(photo from jerre.com)
Next on our list is a hotel I hadn't heard of until doing my research for this blog. The Alexandria Hotel opened its doors in 1906, and became the premiere hotspot of the rich and famous. They frequented the hotel's lavish rooms, and entertained guests in the lobby. With the rise of Los Angeles' popularity also came the rise of industry, however. Soon downtown LA was overrun with factories and plants, and the social nightlife that filled the streets had moved onto bigger and better places. There it sat until the 70's, when restoration was begun and the glory of the Alexandria was restored. As of now it stands as a comedy club and lofts, and that's where the ghostly stories begin.
Since its reopening, tenants have witnessed many hauntings within their pricey lofts. Along with weird feelings, Charlie Chaplin's old rooms are haunted by a male... who's not him! The second floor ballroom boasts the ghosts of many dancers, including a shy teenage girl. And remember Rudolph Valentino? He is reported to haunt his old bedroom, and has been seen on a number of occasions. The basement might even house a pair of mafiosos from LA's mafia days! Last, but certainly not least, there have been sightings of a lady in black, who wears a long gown and a large black hat. She roams the halls of the building, almost completely solid, and doesn't seem to pay attention to those alive around her.
(Valentino. How you doin'?)
So if you're looking for someplace spooky to spend your holidays, check out the locations above! I'm sure there will be helpful people all around. Below are some websites to help you on your way, and give even more detail about the places than I did above. There will not be a blog next week, as I'll be celebrating Christmas with the family, so have safe and wonderful holidays, and enjoy my blog!
Monday, December 12, 2011
In less than a week I'll be traveling home to Los Angeles for the first time in about nine months. I'm very excited to see my family and friends again, and just as excited to strike out and explore my city after dark. I want to highlight a few of the haunted sections of my city before I get home. This is just a taste of the weird that LA has to offer. We are home to Hollywood, after all. Let's get started!
What goes on here?
First on the list is the illustrious Griffith Park, a staple in the LA community and one of the biggest nature areas we have to offer. Home to the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles Zoo and Gene Autry Museum, the park started off as a ranch in the 1700's belonging to Vincente Feliz and family. It was bought in the 1880's by Griffith J. Griffith (you read that right), and turned into an Ostrich farm. Griffith hoped to lure people to Los Angeles County and make it prosper, but not very many moved to the area. One of the reasons is speculated to have been that the area was haunted by Felis himself. The park was donated by Griffith in 1896 to the city of Los Angeles. Since then it has sprouted two zoos (one now abandoned), a world-renowned Observatory, the Greek Theatre, famous Hollywood sign and many trails for running, hiking and picnicking. A rich history has contributed to many odd things happening in and around the park.
Before he died, Vincente Feliz bequeathed the majority of his wealth not to his family, but to a man called Don Antonio Coronel. It is not certain whether he did this of his own accord, or was manipulated, but either way, the land did not pass down to his children. After Feliz' death, his niece put a curse on the land, the lawyer and Coronel and proceeded to drop dead. After that, Coronel was shot dead, and his family suffered from disease and most of them perished from that and their huge loss of money.
Unfortunately most of the story isn't true, but there is no proof that a curse was not placed on Griffith Park. Many people have seen an apparition floating around the grounds that is said to be Feliz himself. Go out for a run at dusk and you just might catch a glimpse of the first owner of the park.
There is also the legend of the haunted picnic table. The legend says that on October 31, 1976 two lovers were crushed by a falling tree while they were.. ahem, gettin' down, if you know what I mean. It's not for certain if the place is actually haunted, but the legend still persists, so perhaps there are spooky voices, chills in the air and static on car radios.
(Griffith J. Griffith, or President Roosevelt?)
The second location is not far from the Park. It is the equally-famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A gorgeous, well-planned and frankly huge cemetery in the middle of Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood Forever is home to just about any and every celebrity. It boasts the graves of Douglas Fairbanks to Johnny Ramone. It's even home to Griffith J. Griffith.
One of the more famous graves, and subject of two hauntings, is that of Valentino. Valentino was a very successful silent film star, and often called the "latin lover" of cinema. He met an untimely death at age 31, however, suffering from appendicitis, and complications from its removal which lead to pleuritis. His female fans especially were devastated. One seems to be more hurt than all the others. Valentino is said to be visited on the anniversary of his death by a "lady in black." She walks through the cemetery, stops at his grave, and lays two long-stemmed roses in front of the headstone. It's reported she's seen every night, but I can't find much else on the topic.
Another fan of Valentino's still stops by to see his master long after death. It has been reported that Valentino's dog comes to the grave after dark every once in a while, still loyal to his owner from beyond the grave.
Clifton Webb, the original "Mr. Belvedere," is reported as strolling in the Abbey of the Psalms Mausoleum. People have witnessed the smell of cologne, cold drafts and low voices inside the mausoleum.
And last, but sure not least, is the ghost of Virginia Rappe. A young starlet, she had just signed a contract with "Fatty" Arbuckle when she died suddenly at age 26. Arbuckle was accused of rape, but found not guilty, but the trauma Rappe went through the night she died could give credence to the cold spot felt above her headstone, or the whispering voices some report.
There is so much more to LA, that this will become a multiple-parter. I hope you enjoyed part one, and will go experience some of these places for yourself! I recommend a jog through Griffith Park just before dusk, and then a trip over to Hollywood Forever to see if you can catch a glimpse of the Lady in Black.
As always, if you'd like to know more, click the links below!
(Info and pictures are credited to the websites below)
This is an incredible article on the history and corruption of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Check it out if you've got the time!
Friday, December 2, 2011
I have been in love with the city of New Orleans since April 2006. Since then I have only been two more times (one within that same year), but my adoration of the Big Easy has grown exponentially. It is a city after my own heart, full of culture, romance, tragedy and triumph. There honestly aren't enough words to describe the streets of New Orleans, from downtown, to the French Quarter, to the Lower Ninth. Seeing is truly believing. Not only does that phrase apply to New Orleans itself, but it also applies to the myriad ghosts and spirits that reside there. In honor of a friend of mine, the Violin Monster (http://www.violinmonster.com), who is spending his first time in New Orleans as I type this, and the wonderful time of year I normally spend in the city, here is a blog devoted to just a few of the myths, legends and haunts of New Orleans. There will be several more parts to come, but here's a taste of what lurks in the alleys and history-laden buildings of the Big Easy.
What goes on here?
First, let's start with a creature even the Violin Monster might be frightened of. The werewolf, or Loup Garou (in Creole, Rougarou), has been in New Orleans since the very beginning. It seems vampires weren't the only things to be brought to the new world by the French. The legend of the werewolf came down from Canada back in the 16th century, and it spread all across the Bayou. According to Journey into Darkness... Ghosts and Vampire of New Orleans, written by Kalila Katherina Smith, werewolves are still very much a part of New Orleans. There were still werewolf sightings as recent as 2004. She offers a tale from her own encounter...
Smith was driving in the swamps outside New Orleans on a black and foggy night. Going about 70 mph, she sped past a very large, furry creature standing in the middle of the road. She described the beast as being taller than her van, she could only see the legs. Its fur was grey and matted, and it obviously wasn't scared of oncoming traffic. She didn't stick around to investigate- she'd seen enough!
Another man, trapping in the woods, came across a large dog-like creature at sunset. It growled and bared its teeth, and fog grew up around it. He said the dog stood on two feet and was covered in grey fur. He didn't stick around, either. He raced back home on his boat and didn't tell a soul for a year and a day about what happened.
This is just one of many superstitions regarding the werewolf. If you look into the eyes of a werewolf, you become one as well. But if you can keep the secret for a year and a day, the spell will be broken on you and possibly even the werewolf you witnessed. Surviving a werewolf attack will turn you into one as well. However, if you pass on the curse to someone else, you are freed from it. Just like vampires, any number of things can get you into and out of werewolfism.
I doubt any of those, though, can play a violin.
Another story very dear to me is that of the Singing Rain. A very popular legend in New Orleans, many people have heard, and a few witnessed, the singing of Pere Dagobert, a Capuchin monk. In 1762 King Louis XV gave Louisiana to King Charles III of Spain. Having not told the colony there that a switch had been made, citizens were quite upset when a Spanish governor arrived to claim the territory as his own. In fact, they rebelled by organizing an army lead by six Creole men, and literally ran the Spanish out of the colony.
Unfortunately, three years later in 1769, a new Spanish governor showed up... with the Spanish army in tow. He had the six leaders of the rebellion killed, and to disgrace them further, left them all to rot in the New Orleans sun for the entire colony to see. One man, however, Pere Dagobert, could not let these brave men decay without the proper rites and burial. On a stormy night, he and the families of the men placed the bodies in coffins, and Pere Dagobert led the procession down Pere Antoine Alley and to what was then the St. Peter Street Cemetery. He sang the Kyrie the entire way.
His courageous act made a mark on the rain itself. The legend is that you can hear Pere Dagobert singing on a rainy night. The closer to dawn and the closer to the cemetery you get, the louder and clearer his singing will be.
I have a friend who claims she has personally heard the song on a late night in August, during a heavy rain storm. While she, a very skeptical person, will not confirm it was indeed singing she heard, I like to believe Pere Dagobert's beautiful voice is still ringing throughout the alley. It's a comfort and inspiration to do what is right, and remember that there is always someone looking out for you.
The last feature of part one is a lot more gruesome than the others. After learning about this mansion in the French Quarter during a Vampire Tour (courtesy of Haunted History Tours, link below), I can't look up at the beautiful domed windows without shivering.
On the corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls streets sits the gorgeous and tragic LaLaurie Mansion. What the LaLauries did here has become the "blemish of New Orleans." Madame LaLaurie was known for mistreating her servants badly. She had been to court three times for the cruelty she inflicted upon her servants. One girl, who had been brushing Madame LaLaurie's hair, caught a tangle. The lady of the house took a bullwhip to her, and hurt the girl so badly she, Leah, climbed out on the balcony and fell to her death in the courtyard. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
One evening in 1834, during a party at the mansion, the servants set fire to the separated kitchen purposely to get firefighters to the residence. They arrived and put out the flames. The servants showed them a locked door on the third floor of the mansion. Hearing human voices in agony through the door, they beat it down. No one could have imagined the atrocities waiting in that room. The firefights could not take the awful stench of rotting human and feces that filled the air. Some even vomited then and there. It seems the LaLauries had a fancy for medical experimentation. Several people were chained to walls and kept in small cages around the room. Smith describes one woman having her arms and legs amputated, and her skin peeled in a circular pattern to resemble a human caterpillar. Another woman had her joints broken and reset in the shape of a human crab. A man had undergone a crude sex change. One woman had broken free from her shackles, but not recognizing the firefighters as help and afraid of more torture, jumped out of the window. It is still boarded up and unused.
Madame LaLaurie and her family, however, escaped. They slipped out another entrance and were never seen again.
I would love to say that this is the end of the horror in the LaLaurie Mansion. But this is the event that started it all. It sat vacant for forty years, superstitious New Orleans residents hearing blood curdling cries and wails from the outside of the house. After those forty years it was home to several immigrant Italian families, who claimed to see apparitions of a bloody man, and a woman carrying a whip and screaming. Animals were found decapitated all over the grounds as well. The house was again abandoned.
A furniture shop moved in, only to move out again when twice the owner found his entire inventory covered in blood, urine and feces. A saloon set up shop, but no one would patron it. The mansion stood empty again.
The mansion's bottom floors were eventually turned into apartments. When the floor was removed to be replaced, workers found the bodies of over seventy people under the floorboards. Seventy. Those cries and wails the residents of New Orleans heard weren't ghosts at all. The people had been buried alive. Tales are still told about the LaLaurie Mansion. Smith interviewed several people who had occupied the building at one time or another. They all had stories of furniture moving, weird sounds and scary apparitions.
While beautiful and historical, the LaLaurie Mansion is one of the most frightening buildings in New Orleans. Its history is utterly tragic. It is astounding to think that one family could be so cruel and heartless, and leave such a strong impression.
If you ever have the chance, take a Haunted History Tour in the French Quarter. All three of the above have a good chance of being talked about, and you can learn more from the citizens of New Orleans themselves. There are dozens of more sites around the city I want to show you, but for now, these three are enough to get you started. Below are some links to more information and pictures of everything above. Look for New Orleans, a Love Story part 2 coming in the near future.
What to know more? Click the links below!
These three stories are copyright Kalila Katherina Smith and Haunted History Tours