Hollywood sure has changed a great deal over the past 100 years. Back in that Golden Age of Cinema, from the 30’s to the 50’s, nowhere was more glamorous than Hollywood. Stars were like Gods, and movie studios were flourishing centers of creativity and dream making. Then came the 60’s and 70’s, a time when American Cinema began to mature, and studios delivered new edginess to the screens. Some of the best films of all time came out of the 70’s, and with them came a new identity for Hollywood, and those who live and work in LA LA Land. Actors weren’t as glamorous as they once were, but rather, more focused and artistic. Directors began breaking the boundaries of studio shoots, and productions were spread across the globe as location shooting became the precedent. With the slow decline of the studio’s came an identity crisis for a town once idealized in lights and glamour. Compared to the booming Golden Age, the Hollywood studio system was becoming, in a sense, a ghost town.
Well, apparently, those long passed stars, producers, directors, and writers that once lifted Hollywood to its greatness, are a bit upset of what has become of their beloved tinsel town. Paramount Studios is thought to be the most haunted of the spectrally spooked studios of Hollywood. It’s not so much the nature of the haunting that is the most interesting part of this story, but rather the rich film history behind the haunting.
Located next to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, formerly known as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, it is without question that there would be some spooky stories coming out of the studio over the years. Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a famous tourist spot, a stop on the Haunted Hollywood tour, as well as countless other tours catering to the Movie Town tourists. Buried in the cemetery are numerous celebrities, directors, producers, writers, and studio execs, as well as some oddball burials that seem a little out of place in what is basically the Hollywood equivalent to the Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. There are no national heroes buried here, but there are plenty of people considered national treasures for their works in Film and Television. From the “Man of a Thousand Voices,” Mel Blanc, to Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, Douglas Fairbanks, Victor Fleming, and even the gangster Bugsy Siegel, Hollywood Forever has its share of Golden Age Hollywood bricklayers.
Haunting’s on the Paramount Lot have long been attributed to stars buried in the cemetery that can’t rest, and prefer spending their time walking the soundstages and scaring the hell out of security guards. Stage 31 and 32 are the most common locations for ghost sightings, and creepy unexplained occurrences. It is in and around these lots that security guards and film and TV crews have witnessed apparent apparitions of people dressed in clothing from the 30’s and 40’s. Large Stages on the lot are kept secure and locked down after hours, but numerous official security records report sightings of people who seem to disappear into thin air, as well as doors opening from the inside with nobody behind them. Reports of door openings may seem like no biggie, but were talking the large steel and aluminum doors that tower over the stage, doors that are unmovable and very loud. Some guards have even reported sound and film equipment lighting up and turning itself on in stages that were locked securely from the outside.
The Lemon Grove gate separating the studio from the cemetery is the second most common sight of strange occurrences. People have reported seeing heads peer through the large cement wall. Some guards have even reported on the record that they have chased intruder’s right into the wall only to have them disappear into the wall itself. The most commonly sighted spook around this part is a man in an all white costume, many believe to be Valentino in The Sheik costume he was buried in.
The Hart Building, a part of the DesiLu Studios formerly owned by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball is another spot famous for weird phenomenon. Here, a strong odor of woman’s perfume has been smelled in the upper offices, mostly by men. This seemingly flirtatious spirit is known for tossing things off of office desks and knocking furniture onto the floor. One famous encounter tells the tale of a studio executive who was using a bathroom in one of the Hart Buildings upper offices. Looking into the mirror in the room, his eyes appeared to glow red, as if Zuul himself had taken over his body. Running downstairs, the executive asked a young secretary to see if his eyes were red, and sure enough, they were. As she ran screaming out of the office, the man claims that his arms were pinned into the chair by some unseen force, and he had to struggle to get up.
The best stories come from Stage 19, where Happy Days once shot. In the early 90’s, during the filming of the show Wings on this same stage, frequent reports of strange laughter and lights turning on and off were widely shared across the studio. One of the crew members for Wings reported entering the Stage late one night with a friend, only to have the lights turn off unexpectedly around them. On the catwalks above them, they heard running and childlike laughter. It is thought that one of the most prominent ghosts haunting Paramount is that of Heather O’Rourke, the young girl who starred in Poltergeist as the girl in the TV. Heather died tragically and unexpectedly, the victim of a medical malpractice accident at the age of 12. O’Rourke starred in Happy Days, which was shot on Stage 19, and her cast mates have expressed that while filming she used to love playing on the catwalks above the Stage.
So is the ghost of the little girl from the Poltergeist trapped in the TV…studio? Makes for a great story, but who knows. There is a Sioux Indian Chief buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery next door to the studio, so it could be. Or it could be Maila Nurmi who played Vampira (TV’s first Horror Host) that’s haunting the studio; she is buried nearby after all. If it were screams instead of laughter people were hearing, Fay Wray who is also buried next door would have made for a great headline; First Scream Queen Haunts Paramount. Most of these stories and claims are your generic run of the mill ghost stories, with no great backing outside of personal accounts. I’m a great skeptic, and who knows if any of this is true or not? One thing is absolutely certain, as a film fanatic, it’s some really fun ghost lore to entertain.