Articles / California

Hollywood’s Haunted Roosevelt Hotel

When Hollywood started to become the undisputed boom town for film making four people, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Louis B. Mayer and Sid Grauman, decided it was time to build a hotel fit for Hollywood’s brightest “stars.” Their gambit worked, and soon the Roosevelt Hotel was the place to be. The rich and famous came to stay from far and wide when stopping in Hollywood for a brief stay. Local big wigs and Hollywood stars chose to make it their home. Its prime location to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and other iconic hot spots near Hollywood Blvd & Orange made it the perfect location for Opening Night celebrations, wedding receptions, fancy dinner parties, and award ceremonies. It was also the birthplace of the Academy Awards. The Roosevelt truly was THE ‘happening place’ during its heyday.

Many members of Hollywood royalty passed through its doors, as did employees, tourists and the average local citizen. Apparently, some of them have never left, even after Death has claimed their physical bodies. Over the years visitors, residents and employees have reported ghostly encounters in the rooms, hallways and common rooms.

Marilyn Monroe lived at the Roosevelt for a number of years, and regular encounters with her spirit have been reported in her former suite in #1200 (some claim she is in room #229) and other areas. Her favorite method for making her presence known is by appearing in mirrors that are located throughout the hotel. If you don’t catch a glimpse of her, just be patient. She also haunts her old Brentwood home, the West Hollywood home of former friends, as well as her own grave site and a few other hotels. Apparently death has not slowed her down.

Another regular visitor from the ghostly realm is actor Montgomery Clift, who likes to spend his time in his former room of #928 playing his trumpet, or in the hallway just outside of it, where he spent many hours in life pacing as he read out and memorized script lines. So, if you feel someone rubbing against you, or hear the sounds of brass being played, don’t worry, it’s only Monty.

Clark Gable and Carole Lombard make the occasional visit, since this was their favorite trysting place while they carried on a torrid affair. Eventually Gable divorced his wife and married Lombard.

Other ghost sightings include that of a little girl who has been named “Caroline,” a typewriter using ghost in the administration office of the hotel (wonder if she/he has upgraded to computers?), a faceless ghost in the accounting office, a group of noisy ghost children by the pool, a boiler room haunted by Native Americans and two male ghosts in The Blossom Ballroom, one in a tuxedo and the other dressed in a white suit who likes to play the piano. Various other spirits are reported who play the usual tricks of stomping around loudly and locking people out of their rooms.

Considering that it is the longest running hotel in Los Angeles, the Roosevelt has witnessed surprisingly few deaths, and out of those most were from natural causes or accidents, as opposed to the history of violent deaths and suicides at the Hotel Cecil, although the Roosevelt did have a few unsavory deaths lurking in its closets. The newspapers offer a few other possibilities of the identities of now deceased former residents and employees who might still be residing there in the shadows, which we will explore later.

Contrary to the May date most claim, the Roosevelt Hotel had its official opening on October 28th, 1927. Before they even broke ground to start erecting the hotel there was regular fanfare and reportage leading up to its opening.

Hotel Site Christened – The Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, May 25th, 1926.
Hollywood Hotel – The Los Angeles Times, Friday, July 8th, 1927
Roosevelt Official Opening – The Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, October 5th, 1927

Roosevelt Hotel – Hollywood Daily Citizen, Friday, October 7th, 1927
Directors – Hollywood Daily Citizen, Thursday, October 27th, 1927
Opening of the Roosevelt – The Los Angeles Times, Sunday, November 6th, 1927

As stated in the clipping above, many gathered here for a celebratory meal after the opening of “The Gaucho,” starring Douglas Fairbanks and Lupe Vélez.

With the brief history of the Roosevelt Hotel out of the way, let’s explore some of the deaths that have taken place there, as well as some of those who called the Roosevelt home or were employed there.

On November 16th, 1927, Sid Grauman took up residence in the Roosevelt Hotel. He would become most known for founding Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, but also was involved in building the Princess, Egyptian and Million Dollar theatres and the Hollywood Roller Bowl.

He was one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

Grauman died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on March 5, 1950 of a coronary occlusion.

Richard Dix was born Ernst Carlton Brimmer on July 18, 1893, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Upon arriving in Hollywood he changed his name to Richard Dix, and began a long career that started in silent films in 1917, and ended with his last film in 1947. He was one of the few silent film actors able to make a successful transition to talkies.

On November 16th, 1927, he took up residence at the Roosevelt Hotel, signing a lease for an initial 6 months.

On September 12th, 1949, while on a train from New York to Los Angeles, Dix suffered a heart attack, dying at the age of 56 on September 20, 1949.

Tom Moore was born Thomas J. Moore Fordstown Crossroads, County Meath, Northern Ireland in 1883. In 1896 Moore, along with his brothers Matt, Owen, Joe and their sister Mary, emigrated to the United States on the S.S. Anchoria, arriving at Ellis Island in New York.

Moore started out in silent films in 1908, tried his hand at directing motion pictures, and then went back to acting for a while.

On December 7th, 1927, Moore moved into his suite at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Moore died on February 12th, 1955 in Santa Monica, California.

Margaret Talmadge had high hopes for all three of her daughters, Constance, Norma and Natalie, to reach stardom in Hollywood. For the most part she succeeded, as Constance and Norma would go on to be two of America’s “favorite sweethearts.” Sister Natalie completely retired from acting in 1923.

In 1917 mother Margaret also had an acting credit to her name when she appeared in A Girl of the Timber Claims with daughter Constance.

On December 7th, 1927, Margaret Talmadge took up residence in the bungalow on top of the Roosevelt Hotel.

Margaret died in Hollywood on September 29th, 1933.

Deaths Connected with the Roosevelt Hotel

The first death we find connected with the Roosevelt Hotel occurs in 1929, and is a suicide. On June 19th, 1929 Frank Wyman Libby shot himself through the head in his room. He died the next day at the Sylvan Lodge Hospital and was survived by his wife. Further research has not provided a reason for his suicide. Starting out as a sales manager for Michellin Tire Company, Libby became a fairly successful man in the automobile industry as director of the Willys-Overland Agency. He and his wife travelled the world representing his company, even living in London, England for a period of time.

Frank Wyman Libby – Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Sunday, January 31st, 1915.

Just two months before committing suicide in his room at the Roosevelt, Libby had returned from a trip abroad, without his wife accompanying him. The question remains… why was he staying at the hotel when he and his wife had a home at 443 N. Stanley Avenue in Hollywood, less than three miles away from the hotel?

The next death we find to occur at the Roosevelt happened on December 8th, 1932, when character actor Henry Lee jumped to his death from the fire escape of the hotel, his body landing on the third floor wing of the building. The claim that he was despondent due to an inability to find work just doesn’t make sense, and his wife’s reaction to his suicide plunge was downright creepy! It’s obvious that Lee was suffering from some form of mental illness, as is evident from an earlier attempt at suicide the year before his death. One has to wonder if his seemingly cold-hearted wife was a contributing factor, or if she became immune and emotionless due to too many years of suffering.

Los Angeles Record, Thursday, December 8th,1932
The Sacramento Bee, Thursday, December 8th,1932
Los Angeles Times, Friday, December 9th,1932
San Francisco Examiner, Saturday, December 10th,1932

The next tragic death was that of Frank Louis Dougan, a prominent horse and stock breeder from Kansas. On the night of January 11th, 1939, Dougan became intoxicated and was escorted to his hotel room on the eighth floor, where it was reported that staff locked him in for his own safety. Upon waking up he believed he was being held hostage and tried to escape his room by making a rope out of bedsheets. He ended up dangling from the rope at the seventh floor, and unable to hold on any longer, he plunged to the third floor annex roof, where he died instantly.

The Los Angeles Times, Thursday, January 12th, 1939
Grand Island Daily Independent, Thursday, January 12th, 1939
The Daily News, Friday, July 14th, 1939
The Daily News, Thursday, May 2nd, 1940

The death of Mrs. Mary A. Farrar didn’t occur inside the Roosevelt Hotel, but she was a resident there at the time. On March 15th, 1944, Farrar and her daughter, Mrs. C.V. Torrance, were struck by a car while crossing the street in a pedestrian crossing. Farrar, age 87, was killed at the scene, and her 58 year old daughter Edna was seriously injured. It turns out that they were struck by actor Barry Fitzgerald, who had played the part of a Catholic priest in the movie “Going My Way.” Edna Torrance’s son was Jon Torrance, a Hollywood song writer and night club entertainer.

Santa Rosa Republican, Tuesday, March 28th, 1944
Long Beach Independent, Wednesday, January 10th, 1945
The Pomona Progress Bulletin, Tuesday, January 9th, 1945
The Bakersfield Californian, Thursday, January 11th, 1945

On 28 March 1949 the newspapers were sharing the news of the shocking death of Robert Beecher Titus, originally from Washington. Titus, Captain of Waiters at the Roosevelt Hotel, had been stabbed to death after midnight by his wife, who claimed it was accidental.

Metropolitan Pasadena Star News, Monday March 28th, 1949
The Mirror, Monday March 28th, 1949
Metropolitan Pasadena Star News, Monday Tuesday 29th, 1949

On April 21st, 1951, we finally come to a more gentle and peaceful death when it was reported that Ida Frances Hull, aka “Mother Hull,” had passed away in her suite at the Roosevelt Hotel. She had lived there for 17 years.

On April 11th, 1955 it was reported that 60 year old Lawrence Karns, Bell Captain of the Roosevelt Hotel, died when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver.

Our last entry is Max Baer, Sr., who died suddenly of a heart attack in his room at the Roosevelt Hotel. His son, Max Baer, Jr., would become known for his part as Jethro in the Beverly Hillbillies television show.

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