The following is a guest post by James T. Bartlett, author of Gourmet Ghosts 2.
Hidden in the pages of Gourmet Ghosts 2, my latest guide to murder and mystery in L.A.’s eateries, joints and flophouses, are tales of the supernatural. Don’t be fooled this Halloween – there are spirits all over this city and not just behind the bar… join us on a journey.
No matter what, a supernatural sojourn in Los Angeles has to take in Downtown. It’s old, beautiful, and filled with stories of death and the unexplained, from Elisa Lam (found decomposed and naked in the Cecil Hotel water tank in 2013), to a century ago, when you could buy poison at the drug store, get away with murder, and disappear all too easily.
Table of Contents
The Millennium Biltmore Hotel
You’ll see angels all over the Biltmore, and they’re celebrating – and maybe protecting – this luxury hotel that’s nearly 100 years old. You’ve also seen it in many movies (including the 1984 Ghostbusters; it was where “Slimer” got his just desserts) and in fact it hosted a number of the early Oscar ceremonies.
Many guests have reported seeing ghostly figures in their rooms here too, a man in a stovepipe hat has been seen standing in the corner of the Tiffany Room, and kids have been reported running across the – inaccessible – balcony in the Crystal Ballroom.
Security guard Louie also told me how two cleaners had been frightened by something in Bernard’s, a former restaurant in the Rendezvous Court area, calling the presence “a black ghost or spirit.”
Of course, the Biltmore was the last place “Black Dahlia” victim Elizabeth Short was seen alive (at least according to police records. The Frolic Room in Hollywood, among others, claims she was there after that; details are in Gourmet Ghosts 2).
Perhaps the most famous murder in L.A.’s archives, Short’s killing was never solved. She suffered a gruesome death, and so why wouldn’t she come back to enjoy the glittering chandeliers and ornate artwork she saw here, before everything went dark?
Raise a glass to her memory in the Gallery Bar here; they created the Black Dahlia cocktail (vodka, Chambord black raspberry liqueur, Kahlua) for her.
506 S Grand Ave., Downtown
(213) 624 1011
Sunset Tower Hotel
Over in West Hollywood, you’ll find two unregistered guests at old school hangout the Sunset Tower Hotel. Built in 1931, it was where gangster Bugsy Siegel called home that decade, and if you have a drink (maybe the Tower Smash cocktail) in the terrace bar you’ll be standing right where he slept – and made his deadly plans.
Gossipy Truman Capote reveled in the scandal of the Sunset – it was the best place for the best call girls – and, after insisting on anonymity before speaking to Gourmet Ghosts, a staff member revealed that many people have seen a small girl running around the 12th floor.
More frighteningly, an engineer here once saw an elderly man sitting in a chair reading at the end of the corridor beside the empty penthouse suites – and then he was gone. Capote out hunting for a star scoop perhaps?
8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
(323) 654 7100
Tom Bergin’s Tavern
Moving to mid-city and you can pop into popular Irish bar Tom Bergin’s Tavern. Opened in 1936 and one of L.A.’s oldest watering holes, it’s festooned with shamrocks honoring top drinkers and is said to be the inspiration for the TV series “Cheers.”
Either way, it’s still home for one of the regulars, an elderly lady who patronized the same stool passed away quietly one night, and mournful staff even put a small plaque there in her memory for a time.
As for Tom, he’s often here – scaring the night time crews so badly they quit – but it seems he means no harm. People still smell his cigarette smoke at his favorite booth, and he’s been seen by the fireplace and walking down the aisle in the back restaurant area. Co-Owner Derek Shreck even credits Tom for the way the neon sign outside flickers when they’re not busy. Surely you have to visit for a pint of Guinness or an Irish coffee?
840 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles
(323) 936 7151
If you want to visit somewhere that’s rather scary on the outside, then make your way to Los Feliz and check out the Scottish-themed castle/witch’s coven that’s the Tam O’Shanter.
As you can see from the donated pictures and cartoons on the wall, this place is famous for inspiring one of its regular diners – Walt Disney no less, as well as many of his fellow geniuses – to create some eye-popping fun at a certain theme park in Anaheim.
It’s still a hangout for Disney – he has been seen at his regular table (though he in fact preferred eating at the bar) – and a small child has been seen near the portrait of the young royal pretender “Bonnie” Prince Charlie from the 18th century.
There are other phantom diners here too – both eating alone and with friends – and you can certainly join them with prime rib, Yorkshire pudding and a fine pint of ale.
2980 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles
(323) 664 0228
Meet The Author
What’s the best story in the books? The one that raised the hairs on my neck concerned a ghost at the Spring Arts Tower, better known as the building that’s home to The Last Bookstore. Want to know more? I’m doing a talk and signing in the store – and leading an expedition to hunt down the ghost – this Friday, October 28 at 7pm. See you there!