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Hollywood Boo -levard : Ghost stories abound about haunted locales where the rich and famous lived, worked--and died. There's hardly room for Casper in this town.

October 29, 1995|David Kronke | David Kronke is a regular contributor to Calendar.

All the world's a stage, and there are a few former Hollywood stars, it seems, who simply will not relinquish their place upon it.

Ghost tales abound throughout every culture our planet has been able to develop, but in Hollywood, inevitably, they take on a glamorous tint. Where else can you be haunted by Groucho Marx?

There's no reason for "The X-Files" to have to film up in Vancouver when there are plenty of paranormal activities for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to investigate right here in town.

Here's just a smattering of the legends:

* Ozzie Nelson still hangs out in his home at the foot of the Hollywood Hills (he apparently got fresh not long ago with a female resident).

* Joan Crawford's former home in Beverly Hills has a rather chilly spectral visitor.

* In author James M. Cain's former Beachwood Canyon residence, the spirits veer from friendly to ominous, depending on the folks living there.

* A Sunset Plaza place where director John Schlesinger lived was visited from time to time by a female ghost wearing clothing from a previous era who only occasionally wields a tomahawk.

One of the most poignantly creepy Hollywood stories involves George Reeves and his former home in Benedict Canyon. Reeves reportedly committed suicide there in 1959, but that fact is in dispute--many of his fans believe he was murdered.

"That house is haunted to the rafters by George Reeves," declares Laurie Jacobson, Tinseltown historian and co-author of the book "Hollywood Haunted." "He keeps showing up--some say in his Superman outfit, some say in normal clothing. He was supposed to be generous to a fault, but he was murdered and every newspaper around the world carried the story, 'Superman Commits Suicide,' and his legion of child fans were devastated and I imagine that pisses him off. So there may be an agitated air to his spirit as it seeks truth, justice and the American way."

In one case, a foursome were enjoying drinks downstairs in the living room a couple of years ago and heard quite a ruckus upstairs in one of the bedrooms--yes, the same room where he was found shot.

"They raced upstairs and the whole room has been turned upside down," Jacobson says. "The mattress is over here, clothes have been pulled out of the dresser. They cleaned it up, and when they went downstairs, they found their drinks had been moved from the living room to the kitchen. 'Get out,' I think, is what they were being told."

We'll all agree that that's creepy enough, but what about being told that your own father is a ghost? That was the special fate that befell Willie Wilkerson III, whose father, Willie Wilkerson Jr., created and owned the Hollywood Reporter, discovered Lana Turner and conceived the Las Vegas Flamingo hotel ("Bugsy" notwithstanding). He died in 1962; a decade later, an employee of the Reporter reported to Wilkerson that his father was still residing in the trade paper's offices on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

"I thought it was a joke," the younger Wilkerson says. "But here was a guy who was a shop foreman. He was very right-wing, very conservative, and when he told it to me, he told it in a very gruff voice. For this story to come from this very conservative man added more credibility to what he told me. He had no interest before that in anything paranormal."

The Reporter moved in 1993, and the L.A. Weekly made plans to move in. Wilkerson says that his father was angry "that his residence was being remodeled. During remodeling . . . apparitions occurred that caused builders to flee and not work anymore."

They saw things disappearing into the wall, and a radio kept dialing back to a classical music station whenever a worker would try to tune in any other kind of music, Wilkerson says.

"I met with one of the construction contractors," he says. "He had guys who ran off the construction site and said, 'I'm not going to work here anymore.'

"His office is still intact, the original wood and the fireplace is still there. It's now a conference room. I feel that as long as certain things are familiar to him, he'll still be there."

*

Mike Sigmund, publisher of the Weekly, recalls an incident in Wilkerson's former office. "The strangest moment was about a year ago. We were having a board of directors meeting. It was this very intense moment, someone had just made a proposal, and then everyone was silent. At that moment, this wonderful clock above the fireplace, which was solidly secured to the wall, came crashing to the floor. We took pause at that.

"I'm from New York, and never believed in ghosts, but now. . . ."

Judith Lewis, the Weekly's arts editor, remains skeptical. "I don't think there are any spooky things that prevented the move from happening, there were just logistical problems," she says, but apologizes for raining on our parade. "I will say, though, that there are a lot of strange temperature changes. It gets hot and cold really fast. But I don't think it's Willie Wilkerson's doing, it's just a drafty old building."

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