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Hauntings of Downtown Los Angeles

By David Markland
Published: Wednesday, October 27, 2010, at 10:12AM
Ghost hunting at the Million Dollar Theater David Markland

Amanda Aguirre, Nick Matonak, Richard Carradine and Yoli Gonzalez scout for ghosts before Sunday’s Million Dollar Ghost Hunt.

There’s no reason why Downtown Los Angeles shouldn’t be infested with ghosts. It may not have centuries of history like other haunted hot spots like Atlanta, New Orleans, or Salem. But it has been a hotbed of horrors.

In 1871, over 500 white men rioted through Chinatown, killing 23 of the neighborhood’s 200 Chinese residents. During a union dispute in 1910, a bomb leveled the Los Angeles Times building, taking the lives of 21 newspaper men in the explosion. Richard Ramirez, the infamous Night Stalker, was a frequent resident of the Cecil Hotel before he was convicted of killing over a dozen women in the mid-to-late ‘80s. And this isn’t to mention numerous homicides and suicides throughout Downtown that seem to be the seeds of hauntings.

In the February 8th, 1882, issue of the LA Times, a reporter writes that he was present at a New High Street home when a number of people there witnessed the ghost of a man known as “Rose” appear to them riding on a horse. “As soon as everyone was paralyzed,” according to the article, “he vanished, yelling like a Pinte Indian.” Two days later, a followup article reported that two Times staffers sent to reinvestigate were approached on Temple Street by the ghostly steed and Rose. Spooked, they made a hasty retreat, closing the report with the words, “If the editor-in-chief wants the ghost interviewed tonight, he will have to send the devil or go himself.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Rose house appears to have been located near the current site of the Hall of Justice, which is where numerous shootings and hangings took place in the 1800s, and is also where Charles Manson and RFK assassin Sirhan Sirhan were both convicted.

Author Jeff Dwyer, who wrote “Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Los Angeles,” reported that the Hall of Justice itself has had numerous reports of spectral activity. He also claims that down the street at City Hall, council meeting have been interrupted by the ghostly sight of a man dressed in stylish, 19th century era clothing. And a little north, on Olvera Street, Dwyer says the widow of once LA Mayor Francisco Avila can be heard sobbing in the master bedroom, while Avila himself has been spotted traversing the grounds.

Based on numerous accounts, the Alexandria Hotel is infested with paranormal activity, including sightings of the ghost of a little girl in a white gown roaming the halls, and a Lady In Black, who may be there to visit Rudolph Valentino. Valentino frequented the hotel so often that a 12th floor room was named after him. Unfortunately, the Valentino Suite is closed to the public.

On the 13th of every month, the Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles (GHOULA) meet at a different LA bar or restaurant to talk about reported hauntings there, always hoping to see a ghost themselves. Downtown, they’ve visited Philippe’s the Original, the Biltmore, Unions Station, and Gorlinda restaurant on Olvera Street.

During their time enjoying some French dip at Philippe’s the Original, a psychic with the group felt the presence of a Madame who worked there when the second floor was, allegedly, a brothel. The spirit is known to pace the hallways in search of, or to protect, a bundle of long-forgotten hidden money that some believe is still hidden in the brick walls of the eatery.

This Sunday, GHOULA president Richard Carradine will lead 100 amateur paranormal investigators into the Million Dollar Theatre for what has been referred to as the largest ghost hunt ever. The event’s reservation list was filled within days by brave souls hoping to witness supernatural activity. Carradine remained tight lipped when asked for ghost stories from the theatre, as he wants everyone to walk in with an open mind.

Update: the original post said that a standby line for the fully booked ghost hunt would form outside of the Million Dollar Theatre. An event coordinator notified me that instead, additional spaces would be made available at the LAVA event beginning at noon at Clifton's Cafeteria If interested, bring $5 cash and a flashlight... proton packs and other ghost detecting devices optional.

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