In the annals of Haunted Hotels, the former Knickerbocker Hotel, located on Ivar Street in the center of Hollywood has both famous ghosts and stories of seances on its roof.
The Knickerbocker Hotel was originally constructed as an apartment complex in 1925 and became the tallest building in this new stretch of Los Angeles. The building owners soon changed the apartments to a hotel capitalizing on the wave of new and old celebrities that streamed and partied in town. Anyone who was anyone went to the bar including one of its now most infamous ghosts, Rudolf Valentino, who frequented the bar until his death in 1926.
The Knickerbocker Hotel bore witness to the incarceration of Frances Farmer, the 1930s actress, who was dragged half-naked out of her hotel room and through the lobby by LAPD for assault charges coupled with skipping out on bail for a DUI charge. She went in and out of sanitariums for the rest of her life.
The next unlucky guest at the hotel was Irene Gibbons, real name of Irene Lentz with the stage name of Irene, who was one of MGM’s top costume designers. Her marriage had fallen apart in 1962 and she’d moved into a room on the fourteenth floor under an assumed name. She attempted suicide first by cutting her wrists but survived. When that didn’t work, she threw herself out the bathroom window. Her body didn’t land on the street but instead was caught by the awning. She wasn’t found until later that night.
D.W. Griffith, the man who at one time was called “the Man who Invented Hollywood” and credited with perfecting camera techniques including the flashback, cross-cutting, the iris shot, masking, and known for two feature length masterpieces: The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance: Love’s Struggles Through the Ages (1916). In 1920, Griffith joined Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford in founding United Artists. Even though his career survived the advent of sound his style soon went out of favor and his last film was The Struggle (1931) On July 23,1948 while standing under the grand chandelier in the lobby of the Knickerbocer, Griffith suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died on the spot.
The most famous occult connection at the Knickerbocker was that of the seances that Bess Houdini, Harry Houdini’s widow, held on the roof for ten years. From 1927-1936, Bess held a seance on the roof on the anniversary of Houdini’s death, Halloween 1926, in an attempt to contact his spirit. Each year, he failed to show. In 1936, Bess called an end to the final seance, lightening sparked through the sky and a massive thunderstorm poured down on all of them. When they came down from the roof, no one else had seen any sort of rain storm in the surround Hollywood area.