; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, October 31, 2011

Just the Facts? Not A Vampire -- Superman Haunts -- Mommie Dearest -- The Lady In Black

Max Schreck Was Not a Vampire

The first screen portrayal of Dracula was so eerie, some critics asked whether the actor himself could be a vampire. But since his death, little has been done to resurrect Max Schreck's reputation -- until now.

Schreck is best remembered for playing the cadaverous vampire Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent classic "Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror," the first, unauthorized cinematic adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel "Dracula."

The rest of his career has been largely forgotten -- unjustly, in the view of German author Stefan Eickhoff, who has written what he says is the first biography of Schreck.

"Whoever hopes to discover a vampire will be disappointed, but they will find an actor of real skill and versatility," said Eickhoff. "Yet he himself remains somewhat shrouded in mystery."

"Nosferatu" failed to make its lead a star, but achieved such cult status that some film scholars speculated his name -- Schreck means "fear" or "fright" in German -- was a pseudonym.

In 1953, Greek-born critic Adonis Kyrou mischievously asked in his book "Le Surrealisme au Cinema" whether the actor was a vampire. The idea caught hold and later inspired a film.

Despite years of research, Eickhoff found there were virtually no anecdotes featuring Schreck, nor any references to him in the memoirs of the many people he had worked with.

Instead, Eickhoff's biography provides a detailed chronicle of the career of Schreck, a civil servant's son who appeared in around 800 stage and screen roles. Glimpses into the man behind the actor's mask remain few and far between.

Only in death does Schreck's character begin to come alive. The most revealing descriptions of the Berliner come from tributes paid to Schreck after he died suddenly in 1936.

Eickhoff's biography, "Max Schreck -- Gespenstertheater" (Ghost theatre).


Contemporaries remembered Schreck, who was married but had no children, as a loyal, conscientious loner with an offbeat sense of humor and a talent for playing the grotesque.

One recalled how he lived in "a remote and strange world" and would spend hours walking through dense, dark forests.

"Nosferatu" helped propel Murnau to a brief but successful Hollywood career, but Schreck faded from the limelight.

The haunting film, which critics later saw as a metaphor for the collective trauma Germany suffered after defeat in World War One, changed the names of Bram Stoker's characters because the filmmakers failed to get permission to adapt his novel.

After the release, Stoker's widow sued the production company for breach of copyright, and won a court order to have all prints of the film destroyed. Since it had already been distributed worldwide, this ultimately proved impossible.

Over time, "Nosferatu" became seen internationally as a landmark of early German film and the horror genre -- while Schreck's other work has languished in relative obscurity.

Schreck died of heart failure aged 56, and was buried in an unmarked grave near Berlin, where he was born in 1879.

In the years that followed, his name has lived on in filmlore, thanks to the undying appeal of his most famous role.

In the 1992 sequel "Batman Returns," Christopher Walken plays a villain called Max Shreck, while in 2000, E. Elias Merhige's movie "Shadow of the Vampire" cast Willem Dafoe as Schreck the real-life bloodsucker hired to star in "Nosferatu."

Unlike Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, stars of later Dracula adaptations, Schreck never reprised the role and spent most of his subsequent film career in small, non-horror parts.

But as an actor, he was the equal of both, said Eickhoff.

"Their Draculas were refined creatures, whereas Schreck's was a more ancient, nightmarish vision," he said. "In a way, he resembled Lee a bit in that he tested himself in the most varied of roles. And funnily enough, both of them sang too." - reuters

In Search of Dracula: The History of Dracula and Vampires

Nosferatu (The Ultimate Two-Disc Edition)


Superman Still Haunts

One of the spookiest stories of a celebrity ghost involves the alleged entity of actor George Reeves, best know to a generation of pre-adolescent Baby Boomers for playing the Man of Steel on TV's Adventures of Superman throughout the 1950s, and whose dark and mysterious tale was dramatized in the 2006 film Hollywoodland.

Although charming and likeable, Reeves was also naughtier than his clean-cut TV alter ego and enjoyed all the illicit perks of the Hollywood nightlife before being found shot in the head in the bedroom of his modest Benedict Canyon home (1579 Benedict Canyon Drive, Los Angeles) in 1959. Los Angeles police ultimately ruled Reeves' death a suicide and blamed it on his inability to get an acting job playing anything other than the caped super hero.

The cops glossed over the fact that Reeves was launching a renewed career as a TV director, and dodged the fact that the actor's longtime acquaintance who bought the Benedict Canyon home for him, was insanely jealous after Reeves dumped her for another woman. She was married to a powerful studio insider with connections to both the police and organized crime, who quietly cleaned things up when showbiz types landed in serious trouble. Then there was the lovely young club-hopping socialite Reeves planned to marry who's account of the night Reeves died had more holes in it than the actor did by the end of the evening.

Whether suicide or murder, all the unanswered questions may have left one very restless spirit in Benedict Canyon. In 1969, a decade after Reeves' death, rumors circulated about some unusual happenings at the former Superman's home, but his lover Toni Mannix—who inherited it from her ex-lover and had struggled to keep it rented for years—refused to discuss it.

The renters revealed that one night while entertaining guests in the living room, they heard noises. The bedroom—Reeves' bedroom—previously neat and orderly, was a mess: linens torn off the bed, clothes strewn around. They straightened the room and returned downstairs to find that all the drinks on the coffee tables had been moved to the kitchen. Another time, the couple's German shepherd barked at the bedroom door furiously, then suddenly cowered and slunk away as the tenants peeked inside and discovered the bed had been moved across the room.

The last straw came around 3 a.m. one summer morning when the apparent ghost of Reeves, dressed in his TV Superman costume, appeared in the living room. Within the hour, the tenants had moved out.

Daily Planet editor Perry White's oft-quoted exclamation "Great Casesar's Ghost!" might now be modified, exchanging the Roman emperor for the Last Son of Krypton.

George Reeves and his mistress Toni Mannix

The Afterlife of George Reeves

Actor George Reeves died at 1:59 am on June 16, 1959. Not the comic book character, of course, but the man who personified the "real" Superman for an entire generation of television fans. Even though the initial coroner’s report listed Reeves’ death as an "indicated suicide", after more than four decades there are many who do not believe that he killed himself. The death remains an unsolved mystery.

Could this be why ghostly phenomena has been reported at the former Reeves house ever since? Many believe that the ghostly appearances by the actor lend credence to the idea that he was murdered. Over the years, occupants of the house have been plagued by not only the sound of a single gunshot that echoes in the darkness, but strange lights and even the apparition of George Reeves.

After Reeves’ death, realtors attempted to sell the house to settle the actor’s estate. Unfortunately though, they had trouble. Occupants would not stay long because they would report inexplicable noises in the upstairs bedroom where George had been killed. When they would go to investigate the sounds, they would find the room was not as they had left it. Often, the bedding would be torn off, clothing would be strewn about and some reported the ominous odor of gunpowder in the air. One tenant also reported that his German Shepherd would stand in the doorway of the room and would bark furiously as though he could see something his owner’s could not. There is also documentation of an extraordinary occurrence when two Los Angeles sheriffs were assigned to watch the house after neighbors reported hearing screams, gunshots, and lights going on and off during the night.

New occupants moved out quickly, becoming completely unnerved after encountering Reeves’ ghost, decked out in his Superman costume! The first couple who spotted him were not the first, nor the last, to see him either. Many later residents saw him too and one couple became so frightened that they moved out of the house the same night. Later, the ghost was even reported on the front lawn by neighboring residents.

In the 1980’s, while the house was being used as a set for a television show, the ghost made another startling appearance. He was seen by several of the actors and crew members before abruptly vanishing, creating yet another mystery in this strange and convoluted case!

Hollywood Haunted - Laurie Jacobson - 1994
Ghost Stories of Hollywood - Barbara Smith - 2000

NOTE: The Benedict Canyon area is full of ghostly visions...including those of Manson murder victims Sharon Tate, Paul Bern and Jay Sebring. The Tate house was razed and another luxury home was built near the location. Since the completion of the new residence, the owner has reported several paranormal events. If you are interesting in reading about the mysterious death case of George Reeves, let me suggest the following links: The Death of George Reeves - the Original Superman, Relative Revelations and The Man of Steel Mystery...Lon

Hollywood Kryptonite: The Bulldog, the Lady, and the Death of Superman


Horror in Brentwood: Joan Crawford's Haunted Home

Few actresses have rivaled Joan Crawford for star glamour and staying power as one of Hollywood's top movie queens. Her stardom spanned an amazing five decades and included such films as Our Dancing Daughters (1928), Rain (1932), Johnny Guitar (1954), and her Academy Award-winning performance in Mildred Pierce (1945).

Joan Crawford epitomized the essence of the Hollywood rags-to-riches story-a poor shopgirl who, in the 1920s, becomes the very embodiment of America's "flaming youth" and then transcends the role of "dancing daughter" to emerge the heroine of America's favorite melodramas.

In 1978, Christina Crawford, Joan's adopted daughter, wrote Mommie Dearest and shocked the United States with her heart-wrenching story of what it was really like growing up with one of Hollywood's most famous leading ladies. Mommie Dearest was on the New York Times best-seller list for forty-two weeks and was made into a 1981 film star-ring Faye Dunaway.

In 1989, we heard rumors of haunting manifestations in Joan Craw-ford's former home, and Christina seemed genuinely surprised that we knew about the stories.

"Not many people know that the house I grew up in may be haunted. It is not in print anywhere," she said.

When asked if there were manifestations or hauntings that she could remember as a child living there, Christina recounted the following:

I have vivid memories of some things, but when you are severely abused, you tend to block out other things. I'm positive that there were manifestations occurring when I was little. I saw them! There were places in the house that were always so cold that nobody ever wanted to go in them.

As a child, I was always told that I had an active and vivid imagination; I was always scared by things, but people just told me that I just had an "active imagination." Years later, I thought, oh well, maybe that was good to have had an active imagination, and I became a writer because of that.

But as a child, I saw things in the house! There was, of course, no context or framework in which to put what I saw and felt. I had nobody to speak to about the occurrences.

Any time I would become extremely frightened and would get out of my bed to try and find somebody, I was always treated as though I were just being a "bad child" that didn't want to go to sleep. I always expressed my fear to my mother because it was she that I went to find to help me ... because I would be very upset and I'd be crying.

I used to have terrible nightmares and that kind of thing, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that I saw things in the night; so the solution to that finally was just to leave the lights on everywhere. One of the things I saw seemed like an apparition of a child ... or children, but as I said, I may have blotted out a lot.

Christina told us that she had not been back to the house since she was seventeen. "That was when I went to college [in 1956], at which point, Crawford still owned the house."

Christina recalled her last day there:

I remember the woman who had taken care of me and my two younger sisters since I was four years old just watching me, without saying a word. I was going from room to room in the house, without saying anything, just standing in the middle of each room, then going on to the next one. She finally asked me what I was doing. I told her that I would never see this house again, therefore, I was saying goodbye to it.

Many years after I had left, we met again. She was now an elderly woman and had retired. We always had been quite close. She told me she had always remembered the look on my face when I said my goodbyes to the house. It seemed a strange thing to do, to say, 'I'll never see this house again,' when at that time there was absolutely no inkling of the house being sold. In fact, it was not sold for another two and a half to three years, and, indeed, I never have been back.

Christina had learned recently that the current owners of the house had called in the Reverend Rosalyn Bruyere of the Healing Light Center to work with the house:

Rosalyn described what she had seen in the house when she went there. She picked up on some things that astounded me because they seemed to validate what I may have seen and experienced when I was little. It gave me goose bumps when Rosalyn told me that she discovered so many spirits in the house and there had been signs of ritual abuse in one of the rooms. Many of the spirits had "underworld" connections.

I was sent to boarding school when I was ten years old. I came home infrequently after that. I always believed that I was sent away partly because I was too much the eyes and ears to the world--a witness. I saw too much, I guess.

Some of the things that I saw that were going on were very violent. Her [Joan Crawford's] relationship with men, a number of men, was extremely violent. I was getting too old, and I was beginning to understand what was going on.

That house is so weird! Now, evidently, the walls are starting to catch fire! Other people have heard children's cries in the walls! Every single owner has had trouble.

The first one was Crawford. She built the majority of the house. It was a small cottage when she bought it, but most of the house, she built. She sold it to Donald O'Connor, who sold it to the Anthony Newleys. They sold it, I think, to the current owner, who is a friend of the Reverend Rosalyn Bruyere, and they asked her to "work" on the house.

Every single family that has lived in that house has had horrible things happen . . . illnesses, alcoholism, addictions, relationship problems, and now, evidently with the current owner, the walls are breaking out in flames! I've heard that in particular it's the wall that was behind Crawford's bed.

Although the scene is in her book, Mommie Dearest, Christina re-minded us that the last words that Joan Crawford uttered were to a woman who was kneeling at the foot of her bed, praying for her.

"As she was dying," Christina said, "Crawford opened her eyes and said directly to the woman, 'Don't you dare ask God to help me!' ... and then she died." It was such arrogance, Christina said, that she believes is a major part of the difficulty with the seemingly accursed house.

And that has nothing to do with me! So it would not surprise me in the least if the "haunting" spirit that is in the house is Crawford! She was capable of real evil. If you have never experienced that "look" from another human being, it is almost impossible to believe that such an experience could even exist! I think perhaps that's why so many people are unwilling to deal with the shadow side because they can't really get themselves to believe that such a dimension exists.

My brother and I were absolutely terrified of her. In fact, there is a passage in Mommie Dearest that describes ('the look" on her face) when she tried to kill me when I was thirteen. We all saw "that look." My brother and I talked about it extensively ... it was not of an ordinary human being!

Later, we were able to contact the Reverend Rosalyn Bruyere of the Healing Light Center, who kindly agreed to share her thoughts on the manifestations in Joan Crawford's former home.

"It is true that the house was afflicted with spontaneous fires, primarily in the wall behind where Joan Crawford's bed used to be. However, I did not pick up that Joan Crawford's ghost was there."

The Reverend Bruyere expressed her opinion that the house had been poisoned in some way before Crawford had moved into the place but that the evil in the house had added to Joan's neuroses. The actress had apparently built onto a pre-existing cottage in a very chaotic man-ner.

"Nothing is where it should be," Rosalyn commented. "She added dining rooms and hallways that led to other dining rooms. It all combines to form an H-shaped house. Turn a corner and you're lost."

The noted healer, who in this case served as an exorcist to clear the home, said that she found the haunting existing in levels.

"It was a place of conspicuous negativity. I called it an 'Astral Central,' a gathering of spirits that were attracted to the negative vibrations. People had been tied up and tortured in that house. I picked up on gangland figures, corrupt politicians. There is an area in the house where a child [not Christina] had been tortured and molested. Terrible things went on in that house."

The Reverend felt that ghosts themselves were trying to burn the house down.

"Once the Beverly Hills Fire Department spent four days there attempting to solve the mystery of the spontaneous fires that would break out on the walls," she said. "I feel the spirits were trying to burn the house down to protect some horrible secret. There is something hidden there. I am certain that there are bodies buried in that basement."

She said that there had only been one recurrence in the house after she had exorcised and cleared it. "The house had become an astral dumping ground, but it seems clean now."

When we [Brad and Sherry] visited the former Crawford home in the early 1990s, the current owners graciously allowed us to enter to film a segment for an HBO special on haunted Hollywood. The couple told us that they had experienced some mysterious pyrotechnic phenomena and had witnessed quite a number of apparitions of quite a wide variety of entities in various parts of the home. The couple said that the small cottage next to the swimming pool very often seemed to be center of haunting phenomena.

We kept in touch with the couple for quite some time. It was not long after we had filmed in the Crawford home that they decided to move. We have no comment from them whether or not it was because of any haunting phenomena.

It would seem over the past decade that the once haunted mansion of Joan Crawford has found peace, for we have heard of no further ghostly activity occurring in the home.

The Joan Crawford Collection (Humoresque / Possessed (1947) / The Damned Don't Cry / The Women / Mildred Pierce)


The 'Lady in Black' Ritual Continues at Valentino's Crypt

In the decades since Rudolph Valentino's death in 1926, one of Hollywood's odder, more macabre rituals has unfolded every Aug. 23 at his crypt -- the mysterious appearance of a Lady in Black.

Her face obscured by a black veil, her identity more or less unknown, a Lady in Black (or sometimes several of them) would silently place roses at the tomb of the silver screen's "Great Lover" on the anniversary of his death from natural causes at age 31.

"So many mysterious women in black moved in and out of the mausoleum in Hollywood Cemetery yesterday that it took on the appearance of the salesgirls' entrance to a large department store," The Times reported in 1938.

The Italian actor, one of the silent era's most popular movie stars, was among Hollywood's earliest sex symbols and is best known for his roles in the 1921 films "The Sheik" and "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

It is believed that the first Lady in Black (or Woman in Black, as The Times sometimes called her) appeared at the Cathedral Mausoleum at what is now Hollywood Forever Cemetery on the first anniversary of his death in 1927, and anonymous mourners in black continued to show up through the years. By the 1950s, the bizarre tradition had turned into what Valentino's family thought was an offensive publicity stunt.

One of the more enduring Ladies in Black was Ditra Flame (pronounced Flah-may), who said Valentino visited her as a young girl when she was ill. Flame quit visiting after 1954 because there were so many competing Ladies in Black, but she resurfaced occasionally -- notably in 1977, inspired by the death of Elvis Presley.

Another legendary Lady in Black was Estrellita de Rejil, who claimed that her mother was the original Lady in Black. De Rejil died in 2001, leaving the role of the Lady in Black to mourners born decades after the screen legend's death.


In addition to strange tales of curses and a “Lady in Black”, Valentino may be one of the most traveled ghosts in Hollywood. There are a number of sites that his ghost reportedly frequents.

One such location is the house known as “Falcon’s Lair“, Valentino’s home in Beverly Hills for one year until his death in 1926. According to the stories, and to Natacha Rambova (who claimed to be in contact with the actor’s spirit for many years after he died), Valentino refused to accept the idea that he was dead. This is allegedly the reason why his ghost remains behind in the mansion.

Actor Harry Carey was one of the subsequent owners of the house who encountered Valentino’s ghost there, but he would not be the only one. In fact, Millicent Rogers spent only one night in the place before being “chased away” by Valentino.

His life-like apparition has appeared in dark corridors, in his former bedroom and in the old stables, where his beloved horse was kept. One stable worker reportedly walked out the front gate and never returned to the place after seeing the former master of the house petting one of the horses. Another account tells of a caretaker who ran screaming down the canyon in the middle of the night after meeting Valentino face-to-face. It has also been said that passersby have seen a shadowy figure looking out of a window on the second floor of the house. When they remark that the figure looked a lot like Valentino, they are shocked to learn that the mansion was his home!

Not long after Rudy’s death, a friend of the caretakers at Falcon’s Lair was staying in the house while visiting Los Angeles from Seattle. She stated that she was up late one night, writing letters, when she heard footsteps in the hallway and actually witnessed doors opening and closing under their own power. Her only companions in the house at the time were Rudy and Brownie, Valentino’s two favorite Great Dane watchdogs. The animals had been trained by Valentino to bark and snap at any intruder... except for Valentino himself. The witness remembered that the dogs were strangely quiet that night, as if in the presence of someone they cared for!

Valentino’s ghost continues to be sighted, not only at Falcon’s Lair (which is now a private residence) but in other locations as well. One such site is Valentino Place, an old apartment building that used to be an elegant speakeasy back during the days of Prohibition in the 1920’s. Legend has it that Valentino often used to frequent the place for parties and romantic interludes and that his ghost still makes an occasional appearance.

In fact, his ghostly appearances may just be romantic interludes, even today!

In April 1989, a young actress who was living in the Hollywood apartment building said that she encountered the rather amorous apparition of Valentino in her bed. According to her story, she was drifting off to sleep one night when she felt a heavy weight press down onto the side of the bed. It sagged as though someone were sitting on the edge of it while she lay there, too frightened to even move. The weight on the bed became the solid figure of a man and it shifted beside her, moving beneath the thin sheet. The form then slid closer to her, and pressed against her so that she could feel the bulge of the man’s...er, excitement. As heavy breathing washed over her, she finally dared to open her eyes.

She lifted the sheet and there she saw the face of Rudolph Valentino! She was so terrified that she fainted. When she awakened, the figure was gone, but the bed sheets and pillows were left in a complete disarray and strewn about the room.

Other sightings of Valentino’s ghost have reportedly occurred at his former beach house in Oxnard. The house is now a private residence but over the years, many witnesses have reported a dark figure who paces back and forth on the home’s veranda. Valentino stayed at the house while filming “The Sheik”, which was released in 1921. Many believe that he has left an indelible mark on the location.

Another Valentino haunting is said to occur at the Santa Maria Inn in Santa Maria, about 30 miles south of San Luis Obispo. It is said that Valentino returns to his former suite here and that guests who stay in Room 210 feel a heavy presence on the bed and hear eerie knocking sounds from inside the wall. The inn was a favorite getaway spot for the actor. - latimes

Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino


Ghost in 1937 - Picture of Spooky House

Rick Phillips has posted an interesting photo. Can you see the apparition?


The Little Book of True Ghost Stories - I highly recommend this book! Lon

Barroom brawler ghosts, a ghost prayer group, Peeping Tom ghosts, a ghost who hates children, and even a ghost who didn't know he was dead are just a few of the wild assortment of characters in Echo Bodine's delightful new collection of true ghost stories. A psychic who has been hunting ghosts for 40 years, Bodine shares her story of how she became a ghost buster along with the stories of ghosts, hauntings, and possessions she encountered along the way.

Wondering if those flickering lights, jangling door knobs, and mumbling sounds in the middle of the night mean you have a ghost? Bodine offers step-by-step instructions for getting rid of them along with clearing and protection prayers to keep them away. These funny, sometimes unnerving, and always entertaining stories will provide reassurance to anyone who has ever encountered things that go bump in the night.