Bella's Place. A true ghost story by Ben Clickman

I stopped by Bella's place, expecting to see a little wood-framed bungalow like in "Ed Wood" and was surprised to find the court records indicated that Bella Lugosi died penniless in 1956 in the front room of the second story apartment pictured above. Currently, the primary residents of the building appear to be either Russians or some other group of olive-skinned Eurasians. The first man I encountered at 5620 Harold Way looked like a gypsy, straight out of central casting, despite his western dress.

The diminutive man's skin was a wrinkly sun-dried brown, and his eyes were cloudy and half-blind. Nevertheless, I would guess he was about forty because of his full dark curly hair and full set of cracked sharp yellow teeth. I asked the man if Bella Lugosi lived there? His reply was curt, and possibly in Armenian.

Hoping to communicate with him, I asked if he spoke German or English. He just shook his head and walked quickly into the building. I started looking around the place; it looked like a typical run-down Hollywood apartment, except it was relatively clean-looking and the smell of cabbage and exotic spices hung in the air. I snapped a couple of quick shots, wishing I had taken a picture of the man, and noticed an old woman watching me from inside one of the ground floor apartments. When I motioned to her, she got up and left her perch next to the window and didn't come back.

The sun was going down, and I could hear the scream of fire engines zooming down Sunset, which set all the dogs in the neighborhood to howling. I walked up the narrow stairs to Bella's place, hoping that the current renters would let me snap a couple of shots. Perhaps one would have some kind of story to tell, but no one answered. It was twilight in early May, and I didn't want to get rolled as a tourist on a secluded side street, so I hid my camera and started to leave. As I turned to go, there was a hopeful blonde at the bottom of the stairs holding a bag of groceries. "Are you from FEMA?" [Federal Relief Management Organization], she asked.

"No, I'm not," I replied.

"Oh, I thought you were because you were here about the quake damage. Taking pictures. Why are you taking pictures, then?"

I explained that I was a Bella Lugosi fan, and that I was told he died here, so I thought I would check it out. After comparing notes about the last major earthquake, I asked her about Bella Lugosi and the current apartment residents. She confirmed that Bella had died there and that the residents were all recent Serbian immigrants, although the building had changed substantially since she moved in six years ago.

I asked her half jokingly if she had ever seen Bella's ghost. She said no, but one of the back apartments was haunted by a woman. A lot of the residents had seen and heard the ghost, most frequently its sobbing and crying. No one ever knew who the ghost was, only that it was a woman. The poltergeist was basically harmless, except she tended to rearrange furniture and steal things. Interesting, but no Bella!

It was now dark. I could hear gunshots nearby with increasing frequency, so I thanked the woman, hopped in my car and left.

Beachwood Drive. A true ghost story by Lisa White

One sunny afternoon in late summer, several years after moving to Hollywood, I was house hunting and soliciting suggestions from friends. My best friend urged me to look around Beachwood Canyon, a quaint area nestled in the Hollywood Hills. I was hesitant at first,
since I had heard that the Beachwood area was a bit pricey.

However, she showed me several ads for houses that seemed quite reasonable, so I felt I had to at least check on them. The first two were priced low, but it didn't take long to figure out why--they were incredibly rundown and unkempt!

Discouraged, I went on to the third and final house of the day. What a find! It was fairly humble looking from the outside, but one step inside and I was hooked! Lots of sunlight, natural wood, a spacious feeling perfect for an artist. I filed the application, and traded a deposit check for a copy of the front door key so I could stay and take room measurements.

Shadows were growing long, and sunset colours streaked the sky as I sketched the room layout into my grid-paper notebook. The warm dusk air was sweet but still, and surprisingly stifling. I was absorbed in sketching furniture arrangements, and suddenly realized I had barely enough time to measure the back bedroom before dark.

I rushed back and threw open the door, eager to measure the room. I walked through the room and found, at the room's center, a core of cold air. Totally still, no breeze, it was an actual "zone" of cold about 3 feet in diameter, slicing right through the middle of the room. I usually relish the cold, as I'm from a cold climate, and I laugh at Californians for putting on their sweaters at night. I go night swimming routinely in unheated pools and never wear a jacket, even in winter. However, this was a chill straight through to my bones--my hair stood straight up on my arms, and on the back of my neck; I could still see the sunset colors in the sky, but I suddenly felt enveloped in darkness--a heaviness infused me, as if I were trying to climb up a steep and impossible hill, and gravity and hopelessness were pulling me straight down into the ground itself. I felt ready to faint, yet unable to move. Suddenly I was filled with an unspeakable terror.

I ran out of the house as fast as I could, barely clutching my papers and car keys. I jumped in my car, locked the door and flipped on the heat. I started to pull away from the house, and as I turned my back to the place, I felt an immense pressure pushing me forcefully away from the house. I sped away as fast as I could, and saw a reflection of the house in the mirror. It was enveloped in an evil, red glow, and I felt increased relief with each passing block. Needless to say, I never went back!

Sweet Jane. A true ghost story by Sterling Young

"What a Halloween party!" thought Christina Luke as she retrieved her keys from the valet and wound her way out of the Beachcomber Inn. It was the first one of the Halloween season, and it really kicked it off with a bang. In fact, it was her birthday, though no one there knew it! Her sister Jenn usually spilled the beans, but she was out of town.

She would have loved to stay later, but knew she would pay for it in the morning if she did. After all, she wasn't twenty anymore. She wasn't even thirty anymore, though she still looked about twenty-eight. The valet had smiled appreciatively at her when she picked up her shiny, seafoam green 1957 Chevy convertible.

She made sure it was kept in mint condition, and there were those people who still appreciated it's classic design. She liked the look and the power. It felt like a Sherman tank, not a little tin-can. It wasn't as zippy as the imports, not a whiz of modern maneuverability, but much more reliable. It was a lot more fun traveling in a rare classic than a typical modern car--and who could complain about driving around in a convertible at the beach!

She reached to her side and turned on her battery-operated radio. It was the same age and color as the car. Jenn had given it to her a year ago for her birthday, and she marveled that she had found the perfect match. Of course, the car had no built-in, but that was fine with her. And in modern cars, those digital radios drove her crazy. She could never correct the station drift, so why bother listening to static!

The attendant had adjusted the radio to a Spanish-speaking station. Christina switched it back to her favorite jazz station, broadcasting out of Carmel. Now Carmel, that was a little piece of heaven, to be sure...

Christina continued South, noticing that there was a terrible jam-up in the Northbound lanes of the highway. Both directions were always crowded, and frequently slow. Tonight, however, opposing traffic seemed to be at an absolute standstill, while Christina's lane was nearly empty! "My mojo must be working, tonight," she thought, reflecting back on the Halloween party!

It had been so authentic! She had been surprised and delighted to discover that they had arranged a tie-in with the nearby UCLA Museum of Cultural History exhibit: "Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou." An event Maya Deren would have loved, perhaps even filmed, had she still been alive, since she certainly filmed plenty of the real thing. "When did 'vodou' become 'voodoo'?" Christina wondered. She imagined old New Orleans in the early days...

Christina suddenly noticed a mist was blowing in, and she was glad she was heading home early. She had been working terribly long hours lately. And the street felt a little slick, already. She started to think about how long it had been since the last rain, and the build-up of car oil on the road. Well, she'd drive a bit slower than usual, just to be on the safe side.

Christina sighed out loud. "Okay, drive slow, eyes on the road, and stay awake!" she commanded herself. She wondered where her crazy, impulsive youth had gone. Then she thought about what teenagers today had to cope with, and she didn't mind that she had grown up in the sixties...

It had seemed a crazy, dangerous, chaotic decade then. But in retrospect, it was somehow innocent and tame, though impetuous and optimistic. Christina thought about the exploding energy of the music, and the strange unassuming provocativeness of the female icons of the times. She had loved Marilyn, Jayne, Audrey, Sophia and Gina.

She couldn't think of anyone like them in today's world. When Christina was growing up, her mother used to talk about putting initials on Peter Pan collars, and rave about saddle shoes, and Sinatra. What did the Gen-Xers have? Did they feel something was missing? "Well, we're all losing out on the American Dream, each in our own way!" she said out loud as she reached over to turn up the radio a bit.

Suddenly, she heard a great bellowing horn, and was nearly blinded by bright headlights appearing out of the mist, gaining impossibly fast. Christina gripped the wheel so hard her knuckles turned white. She was going sixty, and accelerating to try to outpace the truck. The highway was dangerously slick. Her only hope was to jerk the wheel immediately to the right and get into the slow lane, out of his way.

But she knew that if she did, her car would go out of control and she would surely crash into the cement freeway wall. Probably die instantly. But at least she had a chance to get her car under control--if she could just get away from the truck. If he ran her down, her car would crumple instantly. She steeled herself for the worst and decided to turn the wheel.

Suddenly, time slowed down. The lights were still blinding her, and became suddenly brighter still, but she saw something else very faintly and fleetingly in her rearview mirror. She knew she was going to die, and felt her car slide to the right. She put her foot down on the gas, but missed and slowly applied the break. Her hands were frozen, unmoving on the wheel. In the glare of the light she suddenly met someone's stare. Was she dead already?

A woman was looking back. Solemn, serene and beautiful. Plantinum hair, perfect skin. Eyes as deep as eternity. Flowing white satin. She locked her gaze on Christina and shook her head. Christina froze. The stranger smiled slowly, and her eyes became soft and friendly. The enormous ten-wheeler blasted its horn again and passed by Christina on the right, with just inches to spare The Chevy shook from the impact of the wind and the nearness of the ten ton tanker--it roared so close, it nearly scraped paint!

Christina stared after the vanishing red tail lights of the oil tanker. She looked down at her speedometer and saw that she had slowed down to forty. Her hands were still gripping the wheel, unchanged. The freeway was dark and empty. She looked up to her rear view mirror and saw that the woman was gone. The mirror was cracked from the center like a spider web. She was totally alone, and all was silent, except for the very soft voice of Frank Sinatra: "Luck be a Lady Tonight!" he crooned.

"How had the freighter swerved over and maintained control?" she wondered. "He was going over eighty miles per hour!" Her adreneline rush began to accelerate, and Christina started to shake all over. She pulled off of the highway and put on her emergency lights, looking back. She suddenly saw two cars approaching, one practically on top of the other, as the oil tanker had been with her Chevy. As they grew nearer, she realized that the second car just appeared to be behind the first. It was really in the slow lane on the far right! It was an optical illusion that they were in the same lane, due to the strange angle of the curving highway.

Christina lit a cigarette. She suddenly realized that, if she had jerked the wheel to the right, she would have moved directly into the path of the speeding truck. She was flooded with relief and wonderment. Luck truly was a lady, tonight!

The Gates of Hollywoodland. A true ghost story by Gerry H.

A couple of my friends live in the Hollywood hills near Hollywoodland, which is the housing development that the original Hollywoodland sign was built to promote. The "land" portion of the sign was torn off the huge sign, by the city, in 1949 when it looked like it was going to collapse onto the houses below. One of my friends (I will call him "Bob") is a successful comedy writer. At the time, he was in pretty bad shape due to his failed marriage, as well as financial problems growing out of the long WGA strike. Still, I liked Bob and his wry wit.

It was really hot in late September of that year and I was over at Bob's house. From the balcony you could see a glow from the fires that were burning in the neighboring valleys and canyons. Bob is perhaps the most amiable person I know, despite his litany of financial and personal problems. Nevertheless, his normally cheerful New York demeanor had turned into an almost catatonic pallor.

After a few minutes of this mope, I started making fun of him as was our custom, hoping to snap him out of his gloom. I put on my "best" Southern California accent and sprinkled my barbs with surferisms and valley girl argot to give my gloomy friend a wide target at which to fire. Suddenly, Bob started to cry and shake. This made me feel really stupid because I was trying to cheer him up. After a few minutes of an earnest pep talk from me, and a long apology, I was still confused by his silence and getting ready to take off and call it a day. Bob began to speak. He told me it had nothing to do with me. It was the strike, Glen, his wife or anything else. He was going to kill himself. This really disturbed me because I knew he meant it. He went on to tell me he planned to end it because he feared he was going insane.

I interrupted with something that sounded canned like "you've been under a lot of pressure." Before I could finish my sentence, Bob cut me off. He said he had been walking around at about 2 that afternoon looking at the old houses in Hollywoodland. He was on his way home. It was hot, so he decided to walk through and not around the stone archway tunnels that lead in and out of Hollywoodland, something he almost never did because of fear of earthquakes.

As he approached the tunnel, he saw a fair, pale young woman dressed in black coming from the opposite side of the short tunnel. He thought she was crazy, dressing in black and wearing a veil on such a hot day, and that perhaps she was a religious zealot. As she grew closer, she smiled and he smiled back. Just as Bob was stepping out of the tunnel, she passed him. From the corner of his eye it appeared that her flesh melted away, leaving only a skeleton in the dress! Bob said it took a second for what he saw to register. When it did, he looked behind him and the woman was gone.

I pointed out that the temperature was over 100 degrees that day. Little wonder that he had been seeing things after baking his brain in the sun for several hours. Also, I reminded him that he had insurance and that he should see a doctor. Bob agreed with me, and added that he had been living on coffee and cigarettes since the crack-up of his marriage. He looked a lot more cheerful when I left around midnight.

That weekend, I was over at my other friend's house, who I will call Anton. Anton is another writer, about seventy years old. I met him when I first moved to Los Angeles and was working in the mail room of one of the studios. His crazy-quilt mansion with two swimming pools is near Bob's place. Anton is French, an eternal bachelor who likes it when I bring my girlfriends over to swim in his pool. We sit around, swim, drink and swap blue stories.

We're both talking about the heat when I start to tell him about Bob and the woman in the tunnel. Before I got to the end, and how she disappeared, Anton finished the story for me. He then told me that people have been telling that story for years, and that Bob was probably pulling my leg. "As the story goes," he explained, "the woman only appears when it is very hot and very bright like it's been the past few days. Nobody knows who the woman is, or why she haunts the arch. She's been appearing since the development was built, and the story is always the same, except when she appears to a child. In that case, she merely drops a silver certificate on the ground, and when the child picks it up to return it to her, she's gone."

That evening, I called Bob and told him the story which he laughed off. He said I was right the first time--he should wear a hat when it's hot. Also, that he had a complete check up and he was in perfect health and had nothing to worry about. Cover Page Index