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Real Places Behind Famously Frightening Stories (an article from Smithsonian Magaine)

English: Cloth Covered, Hard Bound Book, the L...

English: Cloth Covered, Hard Bound Book, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving. Published by Thomas Crowl and Company, New York, circa 1907, with gold foil lettering and silky flower pattern cloth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Real Places Behind Famously Frightening Stories

Light your pumpkin and read about the real places behind some of the world’s classic spo

  • By Robin T. Reid

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The Exorcist stairs in Washington DCSleepy Hollow CemeteryBronte Wuthering HeightsCape of Good HopeThe Stanley HotelThe Mikhailovsky Castle
The Exorcist stairs in Washington DC

(LOOK Die Bildagentur der Fotografen GmbH / Alamy )

When Blatty was a student at Georgetown University in 1949, he read newspaper accounts of an exorcism performed on a boy in the D.C. suburbs. He never forgot them; by 1973, they had laid the groundwork for his bestselling book and Oscar-winning movie.

Blatty set his exorcism in Georgetown and made his victim a young girl. In the film, she lived–and levitated and spewed vomit–with her mother in an imposing brick house at 3600 Prospect Street, NW (Blatty had lived on that street during college). Just a short walk away is the famous outdoor stairway that Father Damien Karras tumbled down to his death. The house is private, but the steps are very public, linking Prospect to the busy thoroughfare of M Street, NW.

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Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

(Kevin Fleming / Corbis)

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” The Sketch Book, Washington Irving
Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

New York’s Hudson River Valley was the backdrop for “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” one of the earliest examples of ghost stories in American literature. Irving, a native New Yorker, relied on local landmarks and the lore about them handed down from Dutch settlers who arrived some 200 years before the story was published in 1820.

The real action in “Legend” begins in what is now called Patriots Park; a monument marks the site where in 1780 three men captured British spy Major John Andre beneath a tulip tree. The bad vibes from the event lingered, according to Irving, and it was not far from the “fearful tree” that the hapless Ichabod Crane first saw “something huge, misshapen, black, and towering.” That something of course was the infamous headless Hessian who chased Crane to the Old Dutch Church.

The church still stands, amidst the small graveyard where Irving’s ghostly Hessian soldier, would tether his black steed to the headstones. The writer himself is buried in the adjacent Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, which offers tours of the real sites behind the legend.

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Bronte Wuthering Heights

(Patrick Ward / Corbis)

Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Ponden Hall and Top Withens, England

Brontë probably had two places in mind when she imagined Wuthering Heights, the haunted house in Yorkshire at the center of her only novel. The Heights’ remote, windswept location could have been that of Top Withens, a ruined farmhouse that overlooks the moors south of her hometown of Haworth. The structure itself could have been based on Ponden Hall, a 19th-century manor house also near Haworth; the single-paned window on the second floor may well have been the one that Catherine Linton’s ghost tried to climb through one wild, snowy night. (Ponden’s owners, Stephen Brown and Julie Akhurst, do offer tours to small groups.)

Cape of Good Hope

(iStockphoto)

“The Flying Dutchman”
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

The story of a ship called the Flying Dutchman doomed to sail the seas for eternity is a trusty old chestnut much loved in the arts. Richard Wagner turned it into an opera, Washington Irving wrote about it, American artist Albert Pinkham Ryder created a moody portrait of it, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” introduced modern audiences to the legend.

Many believe the original vessel was sailing between Holland and the Dutch East Indies in the 17th century. As it approached the Cape of Good Hope near the tip of Africa, a fierce storm arose. The captain, perhaps eager to get the trip over with, vowed to round the treacherous coastline even if it took him until doomsday.

Those who want to see the results of his folly can stand watch from the Cape, now part of South Africa’s breathtakingly gorgeous Table Rock National Park.

The Stanley Hotel

(Stock Connection Distribution / Alamy)

The Shining, Stephen King
Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colo.

One fall night in 1974, King and his wife stayed in Room 217 of this rambling clapboard hotel in the Rockies. En route to the room, King said later, he saw ghostly children in the halls.

That encounter became a pivotal scene in his novel about a hotel caretaker who becomes possessed by the lodge’s evil spirits and in the 1980 film, starring Jack Nicholson. The Stanley didn’t make it into the movie, however; director Stanley Kubrick used Oregon’s Timberline Lodge, a spooky looking manse of stone and wood.

The Stanley embraces its notoriety just the same. Built in 1909 by automaker F.O. Stanley, the 138-room lodge offers ghost tours that include stops in the Kings’ room and the eerie long corridors. Guides also mention the ghosts King didn’t meet, such as a long-dead housekeeper who folks clothes still and a spirit who does not like anyone touching the hotel’s antique Steinway piano.

Not scary enough? Turn on any TV then and watch “The Shining,” which plays continuously on the in-house channel.

Poenari Castle

(Imagestate Media Partners Limited – Impact Photos / Alamy )


Dracula, Bram Stoker
Poenari Castle, Romania

 

The crumbling fortress perched on a cliff above the Arges River was one of several used by Vlad Dracula, ruler of southern Romania in the 15th century and the man behind Bram Stoker’s immortal (pardon the pun) vampire tale. The castle was in ruins when Dracula came to power. To restore it, the legend goes, he forced several hundred prisoners to ferry bricks and stones up the cliff along a human assembly line.

Poenari (poh-yeh-NAR) is open to anyone able to ascend the more than 1,400 steps that lead to the summit. Once there, spectacular views of the Carpathian Mountains unfold from the battlements–the same ones that Dracula’s wife jumped from in 1462 as she chose death over being captured by the Turkish army encamped below.

The castle Stoker described in his breakout 1897 novel was probably a composite of three. Of those, Poenari was the only one the real Dracula inhabited. He was imprisoned briefly in the second one, Bran Castle, also in Romania. And the third one is Slain’s Castle in Scotland; Stoker stayed near Slain’s for several years and reportedly was inspired by the grim Gothic building on the rocky east coast. It is in ruins now, while Bran is a museum.

Holy Trinity Church

(Lee Pengelly / Alamy)

 

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Holy Trinity Church, Buckfastleigh, England

 

Richard Cabell was not a popular guy. Some said he was such a hellion that when he died in 1677, his neighbors built a sepulcher around his tomb in Holy Trinity’s cemetery to make sure he couldn’t get out; they even covered the actual grave with a heavy stone slab for good measure.

Such precautions, however, did not prevent Cabell’s hounds from surrounding the mausoleum at night, howling for their master to rise up and hunt with them across the moors of southern England. This legend grabbed the keen imagination of Conan Doyle when he visited Devon in the early 20th century, and he based one of his best-loved Sherlock Homes mysteries on those spectral hunters. In his story, giant paw prints found next to the savagely mutilated body of Sir Charles Baskerville led Holmes on a ghost-hunt.

Much of the 13th-century church burned in 1992. But Cabell’s vault is intact; peek through the barred windows if you dare.

Daphne du Maurier country

(Gary Eastwood Photography / Alamy)

 

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
Menabilly, England

 

“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderly again.” And so begins Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic romance about a young bride trying to live in a home possessed by the spirit of her husband’s first wife.

Manderly was largely based on Menabilly, an Elizabethan-era manor the English writer first saw in the 1920s when she trespassed on its grounds near the Cornish coast. Two decades later, du Maurier–flush with the proceeds from the bestselling novel–was able to rent Menabilly. She lived there with her family until 1969.

The manor house is not open to the public. However, the owners rent out two cottages on the grounds as holiday rentals. The beach around Polridmouth Bay–where Rebecca deWinter’s wrecked sailboat washed up–is accessible via a short hike from the village of Fowey.

Fans of the 1940 movie version of “Rebecca” shouldn’t even try to find the baronial estate that features so prominently in the Oscar-winning film. Director Alfred Hitchcock used a model for the exterior shots. He shot the movie in California since England was in the throes of World War II at the time.

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Comments (12)

I would like to tell u that I don’t believe in the sleepy hollows because its just a legend maybe it is real that would be great because I love the sleepy hollows that’s what I would like to tell u thank you very much

Posted by Brooke on February 19,2013 | 01:37 PM

Hi, I’m Romanian and wanted to tell you that the ruler that inspired Bram Stoker’s novel wasn’t named Vlad Dracula, but Vlad Ţepeş. Dracul (without the “a”) was a nickname he got for being a severe, merciless ruler. It literally means devil or demon. Dracula is just the name that Stoker gave his character, probably after mishearing Vlad’s real nickname( Romanian is a very odd and difficult language for foreigners). Vlad used extreme measures against his enemies (like impaling them in huge stakes and leaving their bodies there to rot, as a chilling reminder that he is not to be messed with) and in at least one known instance he called all the court’s trusted men and their families to a feast and he slaughtered them,because he got word they were plotting against him. Plus, the pronunciation of Poenari you wrote in brackets, is incorrect.

Posted by Diana on January 30,2013 | 09:17 PM

Doesn’t sound as if the person who wrote this piece ever read “Rebecca”. Manderly was not possessed. Nice photo of Menabilly though.

Posted by Jamie Curtis on January 27,2013 | 10:34 PM

While everyone was reading “The Exorcist”, I was not. I was living on Prospect Street in Georgetown, and the thought of reading that scary book about something that took place just a couple of blocks from my house (even though that was not the real location), was too much. I did eventually read the book, and saw the film crew around Georgetown when the movie was being filmed. It is still the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, and I have seen it multiple times! The man who was thrown out the window in the book was a friend, not a boyfriend, as I recall. I think the house in the movie was for sale a couple of years ago. Who could actually live in it – although it probably has fantastic views? Such a creepy story!!

Posted by Suzy on December 9,2009 | 12:16 PM

Sprague Mansion in Cranston, R.I., should also be of interest. There have been many sightings there by folks who no nothing about this old estate. There have been sightings of children playing and many other things seen too! Murders have been linked to the people who lived there in the past!

Posted by Melvyn G. Tavares on November 19,2009 | 08:59 PM

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article. Like most people when I heard these stories I would imagine what the places looked like. It was really neat to see some of the places look exactly what I had imagined.

Posted by Tracey on November 12,2009 | 11:51 AM

Although the final exorcisims took place in St. Louis, the boy was posessed and first had signs at his home in the Mt. Ranier neighborhood of Northwest D.C. a few miles north of Georgetown.

Posted by Aysha on November 5,2009 | 01:00 PM

Visitors to Cape Point in South Africa will have to enter the Table Mountain National Park (not the Table Rock NP as stated in your article).It is a fantastic place to visit – and the windswept heights and barren mountains lend an espceially romantic atmosphere to the whole Flying Dutchman story too.

Posted by Caroline Voget on October 30,2009 | 03:15 AM

And the exorcisms actually took place in St. Louis, in a hospital that has since been torn down.

Posted by Miles on October 29,2009 | 06:44 AM

The boyfriend took the first tumble, but Karras throws himself down the stairs, too.

Posted by Sara on October 27,2009 | 11:46 AM

Actually it wasn’t father Damien in the film that took the tumble down the steps. It was the boyfriend of the mother. Just thought you should know.

Posted by Nathan Branstetter on October 26,2009 | 12:56 PM

At some point or another every historian becomes interested in the real Dracula, Vlad Tepes. It is interesting here to learn that it is open to visitors. Great article.

Posted by Stacy on October 22,2009 | 02:02 PM

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Most Notorious Hollywood Deaths. (part 1…suicides)

Lupe Velez Autograph

Lupe Velez Autograph (Photo credit: RockyandNelson)

Who doesn’t want to know whether a certain celebrity was a murder, a suicide, an accident, or just another tragedy? These are our visual heros, and (some of us) we follow their every theatrical move, daydreaming-fantacising-about being like them…about living their lives. What we don’t see, however- thanks to careful Hollywood media management, is that most of them are actually miserable. If you peel away all of the Hollywood hub-bub, the truth is reveiled, and that truth is that they are exactly like you and I, just a whole lot more represeed and fragile. They are born, they live and they die, and sometimes the death is just like their lives- unnatural. Hollywood has a long history of tragedy, and most often it is the most creative and most brilliant members of that community that suffer the most.

Things seem to be changing in modern Hollywood, as far as lifestyle, public interaction, and the health and sanity of the actors and actresses. They aren’t held prisoner by the film studios the way that they used to be (like in the Golden Age of Cinema, late 20’s., 30’s, and so on). Au Contraire, in recent years, more celebrities are dying from accidental overdoses, which occured at social events, or where the product of a “party animal” lifestyle, than any other kind of  death. Suicides, murders, accidents…all are far less frequent than they used to be. These days, a celebrity can come right out and talk to his fans, or to a reporter about what is going on in their lives, so when they die,  psycologically, it isn’t as big of a media ordeal (Kurt Cobaine, Brandon Lee…these are just examples of questionable deaths that were DROPPED by investigators after a minimal length of time). Still, when a celebrity is murdered, or commits suicide, it’s big news. Still, celebrities die in Hollywood. Some have killed themselves, other celebrities have been murdered, some extremely violently. This is a brief listing of the muders, suicides, and “questionable” Hollywood celebrity deaths that I feel are the most shocking or mind boggling. Some of these are unsolved, some are “questionable” or “unbelievable”, some are simply just bizarre…but all are echos of Hollywood.

Suicides

Freddie Prinze

Freddie Prinze, the father of Freddie Prinze Jr., got his start at a standup comedian. He had been born Frederick Karl Pruetzel but changed his last name to Prinze because he decided he was going to become the prince of comedy (he originally wanted to be king, but Alan King already had the name). He was the first comedian to asked to have a sit-down chat with Johnny Carson on his first Tonight Show appearance. Being asked for a sit-down chat by Carson was considered the Holy Grail of honors by comedians. He is best known for his role as Chico in the hit television series Chico and the Man.

Prinze suffered from depression and a drug addiction. January 28, 1977, after talking to his estranged wife on the telephone, he shot himself in the head with a semi-automatic pistol. There are some who believe this was an accident due to Prinze’s penchant for playing Russian roulette to freak out his friends. But his death was ruled a suicide. He was only 22 years old.


 Lupe Velez

Lupe Velez

Lupe Velez was one of the first Mexican actresses to achieve success in Hollywood. She first rose to prominence in silent films including her first starring role opposite Douglas Fairbanks in The Gaucho. She worked with legendary directors such as Cecil B. Demille and D.W. Griffith. Her characters were usually feisty and sensual earning her the vaguely racist nicknames “The Mexican Spitfire” and “The Hot Pepper.” She went on to have famous affairs with Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Erich Maria Remarque, and Errol Flynn.

In the mid-1940s she became pregnant with Harald Maresch’s child, but he refused to marry her. This is the reason she gave for taking her own life with 80 Seconal pills. Her note read:

To Harald: May God forgive you and forgive me, too; but I prefer to take my life away and our baby’s, before I bring him with shame, or killin’ [sic] him. Lupe.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding Velez’s death. People note that she was something of an iconoclast and likely wouldn’t have killed herself over the illegitimacy of her baby. The reason for her suicide is often attributed to her own impulsive behavior and a suspected undiagnosed case of bipolar disorder by those who do not believe her suicide note.

There is also controversy about how she was found. One account claims she was found on her bed, completely composed, and surrounded by flowers exactly as she had planned it. The other account is that she was found with her head in the toilet, likely because of of a bad reaction to the Seconal pills causing her to head to the toilet to vomit. These accounts maintain that she drowned in the toilet.


Dana Plato

Dana Plato

Dana Plato is known mostly for her role as Kimberly on Diff’rent Strokes and for her troubled life. Dana Plato began working in the industry from a very early age, and by the time she got to Diff’rent Strokes at age 14 was already abusing alcohol and hard drugs. She was dismissed from Diff’rent Strokes in 1984 for an unplanned pregnancy. After Diff’rent Strokes, Plato hit hard times. She got breast implants and posed in playboy and could only find work in B-movies. Then she couldn’t even get those and wound up working in a dry cleaners and robbed a video store at gun point. After that she began working in softcore porn.

A day before her death she went on the Howard Stern Show and talked about how she was clean and working to come back. The next day she OD’d on painkillers in her and her fiance’s RV, parked outside her fiance’s mother’s house. That was in 1999. In May 2010, her son committed suicide as well.


Anton Furst

Anton Furst and the Batmobile

Anton Furst was an Academy Award winning production designer who designed the sets forFull Metal Jacket in which he created a convincing Vietnam in England and Tim Burton’sBatman for which he earned his Oscar.

He killed himself by jumping from the eighth floor of a parking structure in Los Angeles in 1991. He was 47 years old.


George Sanders

George Sanders

George Sanders was known for his brilliant mind, his wit, and his booming voice. The voice was the reason he was often cast in villainous roles such as Shere Khan in The Jungle Bookand Addison DeWitt in All About Eve. He also guested as a villain on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and as Mr. Freeze in the Batman TV series.

Sanders married Zsa Zsa Gabor and then later married her older sister Magda. In his later years, his health deteriorated which depressed and frustrated him and drove him to drink. What destroyed him even more was the deterioration of his mental faculties which was the source of his greatest pride and joy. He was prone to fits of rage and delirium as his wits left him and we began wandering. It was in this stage of his life, at a hotel in Barcelona and taking a drug called Nembutal that he decided to take his life. He was found dead, 10 miles away from his hotel. It was ruled a suicide after authorities found his suicide note which has to be one of the most fascinating suicide notes of all time.

Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.


Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer

Charles Boyer’s surprising legacy is as the inspiration of Pepe le Pew. The french actor was known as a great on-screen Lothario. Even with his short stature, pre-mature balding, and paunch he became a sex symbol, wooing the greatest leading ladies of the day. Except off-screen he wasn’t like that at all. He was bookish and shy. He married his wife in 1934 and stayed faithful for 44 years until his wife died.

Boyer had a son, Michael, with his wife who committed suicide at age 21 (1965) by playing Russian roulette after separating from his girlfriend.

Then in 1978, his wife, Pat Paterson, passed away due to cancer. Two days later Boyer took his own life with an overdose of Seconal.


Andrew Koenig

Andrew Koenig

Andrew Koenig, son of actor Walter Koenig, is best known for his role of “Boner” on Growing Pains. He didn’t act much after leaving Growing Pains, but he did get very involved with human right activism. His activism mostly focused on the oppression of the Burmese people which involved visiting refugee camps in Thailand and protesting the Chinese government. The latter of which led to an arrest during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In February 2010, Koenig went to Canada to watch the Olympics. On February 14th, his family reported him missing. His body was later found hanging from a tree in a densely wooded area of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The family confirmed that Koenig had been depressed and took his own life.


Spalding Gray

Spalding Gray is an American icon. He was a writer and actor, known mostly for his minimalist autobiographical monologues, the most famous of which is probably Swimming to Cambodia which started its life as a play and was then turned into a movie. He was known for being neurotic, funny, and moving. His monologues were considered searingly self-exposed and brave.

Gray struggled with depression and bipolar disorder for his entire life. Then in 2001, he suffered a car accident that immobilized his left leg and injured his brain. He began suffering deeper bouts of depression, likely because of the injuries. Then in 2004 he went missing. When his body was later found in the East River, it was concluded that he had jumped off the Staten Island Ferry.

 Margaret Sullavan

Margaret Sullavan was born with a muscular disorder that prevented her from walking. As a child she overcame this and became a tomboy to the disapproval of her parents. She also had a hearing defect called otosclerosis which was the cause of her unique, throaty voice. She was known for her rebellious spirit and chose her scripts carefully. She only made 16 films, four of them opposite Jimmy Stewart who was head-over-heels for her.

Sullavan’s first marriage was to Henry Fonda, but it was her third husband, Leland Hayward that touched her the most. They divorced when Sullavan found he was cheating on her with Nancy “Slim” Keith. Their three children stayed with their mother, but over time, the lavish gifts from their father convinced them to stay with him full time prompting Sullavan to have a nervous breakdown.

From then on Sullavan became increasingly depressed, unable to sleep until she took her own life by overdosing on barbiturates in 1960. Her daughter Bridget took her own life through suicide nine months later and her son Bill committed suicide in 2008.


Richard Jeni

Richard Jeni was a famous stand-up comedian who was known for his stand-up specials (one of which is credited with creating the phrase “Thank you, Captain Obvious) and his appearances in The Mask and The Aristocrats. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest comedians of all time.

In 2007, Jeni shot himself in the face and was rushed to the hospital where he died. Jeni had recently been diagnosed with “severe clinical depression, coupled with fits of psychotic paranoia” and his girlfriend reported hearing him talking to himself a week earlier saying “just squeeze the trigger.” His girlfriend was in the apartment at the time of the shots. They had just discussed his next career move when she went to the kitchen to cook breakfast at his request, when she heard gunshots.


Jonathan Brandis

Jonathan Brandis

Jonathan Brandis was a 90s teen idol thanks to his starring role in the TV show SeaQuest. But he had actually been working since he was five years old. In fact, audiences already knew him from The NeverEnding Story IIIt, and Ladybugs. At the peak of his popularity Brandis received as many as 4,000 fan letters a week and needed three studio guards to escort him through the mob of female fans onto the SeaQuest set.

In November 2003 Brandis hanged himself. He was rushed to the hospital and died the next day. Friends speculated that Brandis was depressed about his career, but no one really knows why he took his own life.


Peg Entwistle, the suicide blonde of Hollywoodland

 

Today, September 16, is the 78th anniversary of the suicide of Peg Entwistle. In remembrance, here is a rerun of an article recently posted. Rest in peace Peg.

By Allan R. Ellenberger, Hollywoodland

 On the evening of Sunday, September 18, 1932, a mysterious phone call was received at the Central Station of the Los Angeles Police Department:
“I was hiking near the Hollywoodland sign today,” said a feminine voice, “and near the bottom I found a woman’s shoe and jacket. A little further on I noticed a purse. In it was a suicide note. I looked down the mountain and saw a body. I don’t want any publicity in this matter, so I wrapped up the jacket, shoe and purse in a bundle and laid them on the steps of the Hollywood Police Station.”

The officer asked for the woman’s name but she hung up before he could get more information. He called the Hollywood station and the package was found as described, including the alleged suicide note which read: “I’m afraid I’m a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this thing a long time ago it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”

Detectives made their way to the Hollywoodland sign, where they found the body of a woman, described as being about 25 years old, with blue eyes and blonde hair. She was reasonably well dressed. With no other identification except for the “P.E.” on the suicide note, her body was sent to the morgue where it remained unclaimed.

Meanwhile, the following morning, Harold Entwistle read in the papers about an unidentified woman, dubbed “The Hollywood Sign Girl” by the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, who had apparently jumped to her death from the top of the letter “H” in the fifty-foot-high “Hollywoodland” electric sign. Entwistle, an actor, lived at 2428 Beachwood Drive and could see the sign from his front porch. He was suspicious about his niece Millicent, who he had not seen since the previous Friday evening walking up Beachwood towards the Hollywood Hills. She said she was going to buy a book at the drug store and then visit with some friends.

Millicent, a struggling actress, was known professionally, and to her friends as Peg. It was Peg’s absence and the alleged suicide note that Entwistle regarded as significant — the report said it was signed with the initials “P.E.” After contacting authorities at the county morgue, Entwistle’s fears were confirmed when he identified the dead woman as his niece.

“Although she never confided her grief to me,” Entwistle told officers, “I was somehow aware that she was suffering intense mental anguish. She was only 24. It is a great shock to me that she gave up the fight as she did.”

Entwistle denied reports that a broken love affair had actuated his niece to take her life. Instead, it was determined that disappointments for a screen career, equal to the success she had enjoyed on stage, were attributed as the reason behind the spectacular suicide.

Millicent Lilian Entwistle was born in Port Talbot, Wales to English parents Robert and Emily Entwistle, on February 5, 1908 while her parents were visiting relatives. They returned to their West Kensington (outside London) home where she lived until age 8. Peg’s mother died in 1910 and four years later, Robert married Lauretta Ross, the sister of his brother Harold’s wife Jane.

In August 1913, Robert was brought to New York by famed Broadway producer Charles Frohman as his stage manager. After a few years, on March 20, 1916, Peg, along with her parents and aunt and uncle, arrived in New York on the SS Philadelphia. In 1918, Robert and Lauretta had a son Milton, and two years later Robert was born. In 1921, Lauretta died from meningitis and a year later, on November 2, 1922, Robert was struck down by a hit-and-run driver on Park Avenue. He lingered for weeks and died just before Christmas 1922. Now orphans, Peg and her brothers were taken in by her uncle Harold and aunt Jane.

A few years later Peg was living in Boston where she made her first appearance on the professional stage with the Henry Jewett Reparatory Company where she was taught to act by Blanche Yurka. In October 1925, Harold Entwistle’s employer, actor Walter Hampden, gave Peg an uncredited walk-on in his Broadway production of Hamlet with Ethel Barrymore. A young Bette Davis was inspired to act after seeing Peg perform in Henrik Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. Over the years Davis made several references to Entwistle, saying that she “wanted to be exactly like Peg Entwistle.”

After serving an apprenticeship with them for several seasons, she came to New York and was recruited by the prestigious New York Theatre Guild and obtained a small part in The Man from Toronto in June 1926. Afterward she was cast in an important role in The Home Towners, which George M. Cohanproduced in August of that year. Over the next six years Peg performed in ten Broadways plays in such Theatre Guild productions as Tommy, which was her longest running play. Reviewers said that Peg was “attractive in the manner of a number of other fresh ingénues.”

Other plays followed including The Uninvited Guest, a revival of Sherlock Holmes with William Gilletteand Getting Married. Some of her plays lasted no longer than a month or two; however she always received good reviews for her performances regardless of the quality of the production.

In April 1927, Peg married fellow actor, Robert Keith, who was the father of Brian Keith, best known for his role in the television sit-com, Family Affair. The Keith’s toured together in several Theatre Guild plays until their divorce in 1929.

Peg’s final Broadway play was in J.M. Barrie’sAlice-Sit-by-the-Fire in March 1932. The production starred the popular actress, Laurette Taylor whose alcoholism caused her to miss several performances and forcing producers to end the play several weeks early.

In May, Peg was brought to Los Angeles to costar with Billie Burke and Humphrey Bogart in theRomney Brent play, The Mad Hopes at the Belasco Theatre. The play opened to rave reviews with standing-room-only audiences. One reviewer commented:

“…Belasco and Curran have staged the new play most effectively and have endowed this Romney Brent opus with every distinction of cast and direction. …costumes and settings are of delightful quality, and every detail makes the production one entirely fit for its translation to the New York stage. In the cast Peg Entwistle and Humphrey Bogart hold first place in supporting the star (Billie Burke) and both give fine, serious performances. Miss Entwistle as the earnest, young daughter (Geneva Hope) of a vague mother and presents a charming picture of youth…”

When the play closed, Peg was preparing to return to New York when she was offered a screen test at RKO. On June 13, 1932 she signed a contract to appear in Thirteen Women where she is billed ninth in the opening credits. The film starred Irene Dunne and Myrna Loy as a half-caste fortune teller’s assistant motivated by revenge against the bigoted schoolgirls who tormented her in school years earlier.

The film received poor reviews and negative comments from preview audiences. The Los Angeles Timessaid of the preview: “…its picturization is an utterly implausible tale of mediocre worth.” The premiere was delayed and the film was edited to reduce its running time, significantly cutting back Peg’s screen time. Once it premiered after Peg’s death, one reviewer called it “a dreadful mess of a picture with more defects, deficiencies and lapses than any offering since Chandu the Magician.

Peg Entwistle’s home at 2428 Beachwood Drive 

(this is a private residence; please do not disturb the occupants)

The sidewalk in front of Peg Entwistle’s home on Beachwood Drive where she took her last walk

RKO did not option Peg’s contract and she was broke and could not return to New York. She tried finding roles on both the local stage and at the film studios but nothing was available. On Friday evening, September 16, 1932, Peg told her uncle she was going to walk to the local drugstore and then visit friends. Instead, she walked up Beachwood past Hollywoodland and then hiked up the side of Mount Lee to the Hollywoodland sign. There she most likely wrote her suicide note, took off her coat and shoe, and climbed a maintenance ladder behind the letter H and, at some point, jumped to her death.

The coroner determined that death was due to internal bleeding caused by “multiple fractures to the pelvis.” Her Episcopal funeral service was conducted on September 20 at the W. M. Strother Mortuaryat 6240 Hollywood Boulevard (demolished). Her body was cremated at Hollywood Cemetery and held in storage until December 29 when her ashes were sent to Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio for burial with her father on January 5, 1933. Her grave is unmarked.

The burial card at Oak Hill Cemetery where Peg Entwistle’s ashes were interred. H Milton Ross was the father of Peg’s stepmother, Lauretta. (Photo courtesy of Scott Michaels)

Peg Entwistle was buried with her father at Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio. Their grave is unmarked. (Photo courtesy of Scott Michaels) 

Some sources claim that shortly after Peg’s death, she received a letter from the Beverly Hills Community Players, offering her a role in a play where her character commits suicide. Since this tale was related in Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon II,” the veracity of it is questionable. Other false claims made by Anger are that Peg jumped from the last letter D because it was the thirteenth letter and she associated it with the film Thirteen Women. He also wrote that she was the first of other “disillusioned starlets” who followed her lead and committed suicide from the sign; this is not true. Peg Entwistle is the only confirmed suicide from that famous Hollywood landmark.

Click below to watch Peg Entwistle’s appearance in Thirteen Women (1932)

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Peg Entwistle

Peg Entwistle’s death is particularly shocking and tragic because it is more memorable and notable than her film career. Entwistle was born in the UK in 1908 and dreamed of the bright lights of Hollywood. She had a successful Broadway career before moving out west where she only had one film credit to her name. She played a small supporting role in a movie calledThirteen Women.

When the film received bad reviews and her role was greatly reduced she decided to take her own life and did so in a dramatic fashion. She climbed to the top of the “H” in the famed Hollywood sign and jumped off. Her suicide note is also famed as it states:

I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.

She was only 24.

In this context it’s easy to see the tragedy of Tony Scott’s death as a continuation of a long line of bewildering suicides among both great and small in Hollywood. Perhaps all this says something about the cost of creativity or the depravity of the entertainment industry, but mostly it just makes me sad.

Lou Tellegen, the rise and fall of a matinee idol

By Allan R. Ellenberger

A matinee idol for almost two decades, a romantic actor whose chief pride was his unswerving faith in himself as “the perfect lover,” both on and off the stage and screen, Lou Tellegen is probably best remembered as the untried and unheard of youth chosen by Sarah Bernhardt as her leading man on her last two American tours. He was also known for his marriage to Geraldine Farrar, a union which ended in a bitter divorce. Tellegen became one of the theatre’s legendary figures.

His career was tumultuous throughout most of his life. Born in the south of Holland on November 26, 1883, the son of Bernard and Maria Von Dammeler, Tellegen was christened Isidor Bernard Von Dammeler. He made his stage debut at the age of 5 under the guidance of his mother, who was a dancer of great beauty.

Ten years later, motivated partly by the desire to travel which never left him and partly by a family quarrel, young Tellegen ran away from home. His journeys took him through many countries and eventually to jail in Moscow. Upon his release he returned home to find that his father, a supposedly rich man, had died and disinherited him.

He travelled to Paris, where he found whatever job he could. At different times he was a baker’s apprentice, a trapeze artist, a pugilist and a hack driver. At one point he became acquainted with the sculptor, August Rodin, who induced him to become a model because of his Grecian features and his Hellenic physique. During his stay at Rodin’s studio in Meudon, near Paris, he posed for “Eternal Springtime,” the original which is now in the Metropolitan Museum. It was during this time that he married his first wife, Countess Jeanne de Broncken.

He soon began a series of travels which took him to Egypt and Africa and finally to South America. Upon his return to Paris he was taken in the Sarah Bernhardt troupe just as it was leaving for the United States in 1910. Bernhardt was pleased by the handsome youth and took the trouble to give him acting lessons. He learned his roles on the boat which brought the troupe to America.

His first appearance was in Chicago as Raymond, opposite Bernhardt in Madame X. The second night after the play opened his name was placed in lights beside that of the star, and from that moment on, his future was assured. Later he starred in Sister Beatrice, Sapho, Camille, Jean Marie and other plays. At the time she was nearly 70 years old and he was not yet 30.

His first New York appearance was not with Bernhardt, but as the leading man in Maria Rosa withDorothy Donnelly. He became an overnight matinee idol and was flooded with “mash” notes and besieged by interviewers.

After his last tour with Bernhardt, Tellegen made the decision to stay in the United States. He appeared in scores of plays and was most popular during the late teens and the early Twenties and was quick to make the most of it. It was also expected that motion pictures would knock on his door. Nearly all of the last fifteen years of his life were divided between Hollywood and New York.

Geraldine Farrar and Lou Tellegen 

On February 9, 1916, Tellegen married Geraldine Farrar, the Metropolitan prima dona. In August 1921, after they had lived apart for some time, Tellegen entered a suit for separation in Westchester County. Farrar retaliated by suing for divorce in New York county. A decree was granted to her two years later.

He was the leading man, and co-author with Willard Mack, of Blind Youth, a play produced in New York in 1918. His second venture, and a far less auspicious one, was a book of reminiscences, “Women Have Been Kind,” published in 1931. The book named names and places and raised a storm of condemnation.

Close friends said that besides waning fame, and illness, which had made it impossible for him to carry out several of the infrequent engagements offered to him during the last few years, had completely broken his spirit. In his last years he had found little work on stage or the screen. In 1928, when his name was becoming less prominent, he was forced into bankruptcy. That same year his third wife, Nina Romanodivorced him and obtained custody of their child, Rex, who at the time was four years of age.

On Christmas Day, 1929, while he was in the try-out of Escapade in Atlantic City, he fell asleep in his hotel room with a lighted cigarette in his mouth and was severely burned. He was in a hospital nearly three months while the play, its titled changed to Gala Night, went to New York and opened without him. It closed before he could rejoin the cast.

In 1930, at Asbury Park, Tellegen married Eve Cassanova. A year later the actor underwent a facelift in the hope of regaining his screen popularity. A few months afterward, his ex-wife obtained a default judgment for more than $12,000 against him claiming that he had failed to pay $100 weekly for the support of their son. Tellegen did not answer her suit.

Several months before his death it appeared that he might stage a comeback on the screen with the filmCaravan (1934), but an illness of six weeks in the hospital lost him the part. Tellegen’s last stage appearance was in a minor part in The Lady Refuses in New York in 1933. His final screen role was inTogether We Live (1935). When he walked on the set, a newer actor inquired: “Who is the new character actor?”

“Why, that’s Lou Tellegen, once the husband of Geraldine Farrar,” another replied.

Tellegen soon became obsessed that he was losing him mind. He brooded over that. His friends said he had been morose and downcast. Within the previous year he had undergone three major operations. His physician said Tellegen never knew that he had incurable cancer.

Tellegen had become friends with Mrs. Jack Cudahy, the widow of the meat packing heir whose mansion at 1844 N. Vine Street, was just south of Franklin. Tellegen was broke and Mrs. Cudahy allowed him to use one of her rooms. While he was ill, Tellegen expressed his last wish to Mrs. Cudahy. “He told me,” she later said, “that if he should die, he wanted his body cremated and the ashes scattered over the sea that in its restlessness was like his own troubled life.”

On October 29, 1934, Tellegen arose and seemed depressed according to Cudahy’s maid. “He refused his breakfast,” the maid said. Worried, Mrs. Cudahy went to his room to ask if he was ill. She received no response. Then she heard a movement in the bathroom, and asked if he was there. A weak voice replied in the affirmative. She summoned her butler and together they forced open the door. Tellegen collapsed at their feet. “He’s hurt, call a doctor,” Mrs. Cudahy cried.

The butler dashed across the street to a clinic, and brought a doctor, however Tellegen was unable to speak, breathing his last. Mrs. Cudahy added that she had been unable to get any word from him. He died in her arms on the floor of his room.

The police determined that Tellegen had stood before a mirror in his bathroom, shaved and powdered his face, then stabbed himself in the chest seven times with a pair of scissors, the ordinary kind found in sewing cabinets. A final plunge found his heart, and life ebbed slowing from his wounds. How he managed to repeatedly stab himself while in such a weakened condition, and bear the pain of thrust after thrust, mystified police. The autopsy disclosed that two of those stabs penetrated the heart.

Though Tellegen died in comparative poverty, several of his friends guaranteed that he would be given a burial to befit his position in the theatrical world. Mrs. Cudahy assured that Tellegen would receive a suitable burial. Norman Kerry and Willard Mack, also close friends, gave assurances that his last wishes would be carried out.

In New York, when Geraldine Farrar was told of her ex-husband’s death, she  told reporters: “Why should that interest me?” she snapped. “It doesn’t interest me in the least.”

Eve Casanova, his current wife and from whom friends say he was never divorced, referred them to “a cousin in Los Angeles” when she was wired regarding disposition of the body. Notwithstanding, when the “cousin” could not be located, no further word was heard from her.

Meanwhile, Tellegen’s body lay forgotten in the county morgue although friends still promised that a proper burial would be provided. No definite date was set for the funeral as they awaited word from his wife, in the belief she might express some wish as to the disposal of the body.

Finally, word arrived from Leonia, New Jersey from Casanova saying she was “horribly, horribly shocked” by her husband’s death. “I will not go to Los Angeles for the funeral,” she said, “however, you see, I am supposed to start rehearsals for a play. A-Hunting We Will Go, and I know Lou would want me to stay here and stick it out.”

She said that in his last letter to her, Tellegen wrote: “I am doomed, for my illness is affecting my mind.” The actress said that he was suffering from cancer, which he thought was only a tumor and that if he had known the truth he would have ended his life sooner.  While his death came as a shock, she said that she was “not surprised.”

It was felt that an unintentionally misconstrued remark may have been the indirect cause of Tellegen’s suicide. A few months earlier, Tellegen was invited to a small party. While he was out of the room for a moment once of the men said:

“He is just a ‘has-been.’ He should realize his position and try to make his career over as a character actor. Some of the best character players in the movies are men who, when they realized they were no longer handsome, made the best of it. And the best is a fine character actor.”

One of the women, who had heard only the first part of the statement and that incorrectly, rushed to tell Tellegen that he had been called a “ham actor.” Tellegen flushed and responded: “I guess that’s right. I am just a ham actor.” Months later, seriously ill and delirious in a hospital, Tellegen insisted he was a “ham actor” and a “failure.”

Mrs. Cudahy received permission from his widow to continue with plans for the funeral to be held at theEdwards Brothers Chapel, 1000 Venice Boulevard (razed). One of the mourners was Countess Danneskjold, known on the screen as Nina Romano, the third of Tellegen’s four wives and mother of his son. Entering the chapel on the arm of her husband, the Countess listened as Rev. Arthur Wurtell, of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church, read the funeral eulogy. They left without waiting to view the body.

First to arrive at the chapel was Mrs. Jack Cudahy. Other friends of Tellegen’s later years who attended the funeral service were Norman Kerry, Julian Eltinge and George CalligaClifford Gray, composer;Harry Weber, agent, and Michael Cudahy, son of Mrs. Cudahy. These six acted as pallbearers. Willard Mack, who himself would die of a heart attack only three weeks later,  visited the chapel earlier in the day, as did several others from the Hollywood film community.

The service was simple but impressive. Ivan Edwards, the chapel soloist, sang “In the Garden” and “Lead Kindly Light.” Rev. Wurtell read the eulogy and offered a brief prayer. The chapel organ played softly as the small group of mourners filed by the flower-banked bier.

Tellegen’s body was cremated, and his ashes were strewn over the Pacific Ocean.

 

Sources:

http://allanellenberger.com/category/hollywood-suicides/

http://www.heavy.com/entertainment/2012/08/the-12-most-shocking-hollywood-suicides/

The Inquisitr http://www.inquisitr.com/509955/black-dahlia-case-solved-cadaver-dog-finds-evidence-of-human-decomposition/

The Bob Crane Case – Crime Library on truTV.com

Was George Reeves, “Superman”, death a suicide or murder? – Crime Library on truTV.com

Hollywood Crimes : Thelma Todd : Investigation Discovery

The Black Dahlia Web Site: The Murder

Couple haunted after ghost caught on CCTV (video)Reblog from Weird World News

Cover of "Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the...

Cover via Amazon

A Nottinghamshire couple have been left mystified after seeing a white ghost-like image float in front of their CCTV cameras in the early hours.

Lisa and Phil Rigley, of Clifton, were amazed when they replayed their CCTV camera later in the day to see a white blur the shape of a small person float over their car in the driveway.

It disappeared off screen for about a minute or so before dashing across the road again in front of their house.

The couple, who live in Sturgeon Avenue, installed CCTV a while ago after damage was caused to their cars.

Last week, a neighbour asked them whether they had seen anything suspicious on their CCTV after finding something missing from the garden.

However, when they played it back in the morning they were shocked by what they saw.

Mrs Rigley, 44, said: “The image of a child jumped over my fence, landed over the roof of my car, flew down the street and flew back.

 

 

 

“I’m absolutely gobsmacked by this. I’ve got the footage here, it’s the image of a young child about four or five.”

The couple have four cameras but only the one black and white camera picked up the image.

“It’s a ghost, it’s got to be,” said Mrs Rigley, who said their dog always woke up and barked if there were people around the house but did not disturb them that night.

“The dog hears everything,” she said.

“It really was spooky. It was one of those weird feelings where you just think to yourself, ‘what on earth is it?’”

She added: “It looks like Casper the friendly ghost”.

She was in the house with daughter-in-law Sam at the time but neither woke up or heard anything around 1.30am, which is when the image appeared on the CCTV.

“Phil is very cynical,” she said. “He doesn’t believe in ghosts. I’m quite open-minded but I just don’t know. I’ve never seen a ghost in my life but to see that – it’s mind-blowing, it’s very strange.”

 

 

 

America the Beautiful! America the Haunted?

Flag of the United States of America

Flag of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States is only about 237 years old, merely a baby in comparison to other major countries, and yet- we are quite proud of our overwhelming numbers of hauntings, paranormal and unexplained phenomenon. What is it about the United States that encourages such frightful and mysterious activity? Why are we Americans so prone to a fascination with what might happen after we depart this life? Well I haven’t the answers to these questions, but I MIGHT be able to point out which cities in the United States are the MOST haunted, for the avid enthusiast. Let’s start with public opinion…as I begin the digging in the paranormal dirt for some much needed information.

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