Peg Entwhistle - the Ghost of the Hollywood sign
For over one hundred years, actors and filmmakers have headed to the bright lights of Hollywood with the dream of making it big in pictures. Yet for every tale of overnight stardom, there are countless more of disappointment and failure, for behind the glitz and glamour there is a darker side to Hollywood.
Certainly the location appears to have gained a sinister reputation. Paranormal Investigator Nick Nocerino, former director of the Institute of Psychic and Hypnotic Studies once declared there were more homes afflicted by evil entities in the Hollywood area than anywhere else in California. Aleister Crowley is rumoured to have formed a black magic coven there in the 1920s and the Founder of Church of Satan Anton Le Vey held court with movie stars most notably Jayne Mansfield later died in a horrific car accident.
Hollywood was also the backdrop to the Charles Manson’s hippie cult murders which led to the deaths of seven people including Sharon Tate, the actress wife of director Roman Polanski.
Perhaps it is these influences that have contributed to the many stories of ghosts and supernatural phenomena that have grown up around the industry, stories of hauntings, curses and film sets plagued by poltergeists.
Of all these hauntings the tale of the Hollywood sign girl is a particularly melancholy story. This is the first of several stories I will share as the nights begin to draw in on the approach to Halloween.
The Hollywood sign girl
The most recognisable symbol of Hollywood, of course, is the sign itself. However the sign we know today now looks this now looks very different from the one erected in 1923. The original letters spelt out ‘Hollywoodland’ and was designed to advertise real estate before its adoption by the industry. The sign stood 50 foot high and was illuminated by 4,000 lightbulbs. Because the light bulbs were always blowing out a man named Albert Kothe was employed to constantly climb up the sign and replace them.
When I first learnt about the legends connected was the sign, I had believed that the Land part of the sign was removed because of so many starlets climbed to the top of the 13th letter to jump to their death. The truth is actually much more mundane. By the end of the 1940s, the sign had fallen into disrepair and all 4000 lightbulbs had been stolen. To save money the Land portion and the lightbulbs were dropped and the sign was completely replaced again in the 1970s.
As for the suicides, there has only been one recorded suicide at the Hollywood Sign. Her name was Peg Entwhistle and it is her ghost that is said to haunt the sign today.
Peg was a young actress who had received rave theatre reviews in New York. But when she arrived in Los Angeles the great depression forced many theatres to close so she switched to the movies. She landed a contract with RKO studies and had a small role in the psychological thriller Thirteen Women. But before the film's release, her role was all but edited out and the movie was a failure. Peg was dropped by the studio and Peg considered herself a failure.
On 16 September 1932 24-year-old Peg left her home at Beachwood drive and made her way to Griffith Park. At the foot of the sign, she found a ladder left by a maintenance man propped up against the letter H. She took off her coat, neatly folded it and placed it over her purse, then climbed the 50-foot sign where she jumped to her death.
The only clue to the identity of the broken corpse discovered lying at the foot of the sign, were the initials written on a suicide note." I am afraid, I am a coward, I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago I would have saved a lot of pain. P.E."
Yet the story of Peg Entwistle did not end with her death. In an attempt to discover who the girl was the police turned to the press who labelled her ‘the Hollywood sign girl.’ In an ironic twist, the day after her death an offer came in the post from the Beverley Hills Playhouse asking Peg to play the lead in a play which involved a woman who commits suicide
Hikers and Park Rangers still see the spirit of a blonde woman walking up Beachwood Road to the Hollywood sign. People have also reported other strange phenomena within the vicinity. Motion detectors are set off when nobody appears to be the area; dog walkers report their animals begin to act strangely and the smell of Peg’s favourite gardenia perfume lingers in the air.
It seems poor Peg cannot rest in peace - the fame that alluded her in life, tragically realised in death.