Los Angeles is known as the "City of Angels." It's where movie magic is born and where dreams come true. But the city has a dark side, and in this case, a supernatural shadow hanging overhead. The shadow is cast by none other than one of Los Angeles' greatest landmarks, the Hollywood sign.
Aside from being a monument to the home of cinema, it also just might be home to one of Tinsel Town's most tragic spirits, the ghost of the actress Peg Entwistle, who seems to reappear in the area over and over again. In this blog, we'll be discussing the details and numerous sightings of the alleged spirit of Hollywood's most infamous specter, Peg Entwistle.
Hooray For Hollywoodland
Now, let's get into the history of Hollywood and how this Tinseltown terror began. Believe it or not, the iconic Hollywood sign originally spelled out a different word, Hollywoodland. It was built in 1923, not to advertise movie-making, but as publicity for a new subdivision in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. Back then, real estate was king.
The original sign was even fitted with light bulbs so it shone through the night. It wasn't intended to be a landmark or even last that long. That became evident in 1939 when the sign fell into grave disrepair after all routine maintenance on the sign was halted.
In 1949, the sign was given a modest repair and the letters that spelled out "land" were removed, leaving just the word "Hollywood." In 1978, the sign was completely renovated. 450-feet long and 50-foot high steel letters replaced the rusted originals on Mount Lee, where they stand to this day.
But, much like the Ship of Theseus paradox, it begs the question, does an object that has had all its parts replaced remain the same thing?
In this case, perhaps it does. Because although times and the pieces may have changed, one thing is still firmly a part of and connected to the sign-- Peg Entwistle.
A Starlet is Born
Millicent "Peg" Entwistle moved from England to New York City in 1913 at the age of five, along with her family. Her father, Robert Entwistle, was an actor who dreamed of a big break on the theater stages of Broadway.
But tragedy struck the Entwistle family in 1922 when Robert was killed in a hit-and-run on Park Avenue and 77nd Street. The rest of the family was taken in by an uncle, a Broadway manager. Peg would eventually go on to follow in her late father's footsteps, pursuing a career in acting herself. Starting off in theater and Broadway, she found decent work on the stage but yearned for more.
Peg Entwistle moved from Broadway to Hollywoodland in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression. She managed to get a role in the Romney Brent plays The Mad Hopes, starring Billy Burke. The play opened to favorable reviews.
Using that momentum, Peg was able to get a supporting role in her first and only movie, the RKO pre-Hays Code film, Thirteen Women. Now, this film was torn apart by the critics, which led to the studio tearing it apart further in the editing room, and that meant much of Peg Entwistle's screen time ended up on the cutting room floor. This all made Peg depressed and despondent, and she questioned if life was even worth living.
A Death In The Limelight
On September 16, 1932, Peg was staying with her uncle in the Beachwood Canyon area, when she told him she was going out for a walk. He was completely unaware that this would be the last time he would ever see her alive.
Two days later, on September 18, a woman hiking on the trails found a shoe and other belongings beneath the Hollywoodland sign. She was perplexed.
How could this have gotten here? Who would just leave their stuff like this?
She reported the incident to police, who investigated and found Peg Entwistle's body in a ravine below the sign. Her uncle confirmed and identified the body. Police theorized that she may have been inebriated and climbed up the workman's ladder on the "H" of the sign before jumping to her death. A suicide note was found in her purse that read,
I am afraid, I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. Signed, PE
In a particularly cruel twist of irony, she was sent a letter from the Hollywood Playhouse a few days later, offering her a major role in a play as a woman who commits suicide.
Hollywood's Most Famous Ghost
Years later, Beachwood Canyon Pass would become infamous for the many sightings of the ghostly visage of Peg Entwistle. In 1990, a couple was hiking the trail with their pet dog when it behaved oddly, whining, yelping, and laying down because of something only it was aware of. The pet's owners weren't sure what to make of it until they claimed a woman dressed in 1930-style clothing passed right by them.
She seemed disoriented to them, as though she was drunk or on drugs. That was strange enough, but they chalked it up to being in Hollywood. Perhaps the woman they saw was a performer or actress in costume. However, when they turned back to get a better look at her she had disappeared, vanished into thin air.
A similar incident occurred in the early 2000s that would go on to be covered by the Syfy Channel's Paranormal Witness series. A group of four friends-- Tina, Elaine, Brian, and Al-- decided to have some fun after attending a baseball game at Dodger Stadium.
The Hollywood sign area had long since been fenced off from the public, but they decided to jump it to touch the sign itself. They managed to make it and accomplish their mischief. But when they made their way back down, they had a strange encounter.
Brian tripped and fell down the hill. Disoriented but unharmed, he made his way back up to regroup with his friends. On the way, he says he noticed a stranger approaching him on the trail. He described to Paranormal Witness what he had seen. It was a woman, wearing a dress similar to the style of the 1930s. She wore heels and a veil over her face. She walked effortlessly up the hill. Her footsteps made no sound. It was only later that he learned of the tragic story of Peg Entwistle and the other sightings of the deceased actress in the area.
Gardenias In the Air
It's also not just visitors who've seen Peg Entwistle around the Hollywood sign. Griffith Park Ranger, John Arbogast, has claimed to see her spirit on several separate occasions. He claims that she mostly appears in the area late at night and when it gets foggy, and that her appearance also brings with it the smell of gardenias, her favorite fragrance in life.
Arbogast has also said that she's triggered the motion alarms around the sign-- the detectors put in place to stop vandals and possibly suicidal trespassers. He'd go to check the alarm when it was set off but find nothing, even when it would indicate that there was someone only several feet away from him.
Similarly, there's the case of Megan Santos, a jogger who regularly ran the trails around Griffith Park for exercise. One night in 2013, something bizarre happened. Megan was overcome by a massive sneezing fit. She was overcome by the smell of gardenias in the air and an uncanny feeling. According to Santos,
And then, there was this woman with blond hair and she seemed to be, like, walking on air. I immediately ran the other way.
Devin Morgan, a resident of Beachwood Canyon, had a similar experience with the spirit of Peg Entwistle. She was hiking up the trail near the sign one afternoon when she noticed she was not alone. She saw a strange woman on a nearby trail who moved in abnormal ways. Devin claimed,
She looked very strange to me. She had a very etheric quality. Instead of walking, she seemed to almost glide. She wasn't floating. She didn't look like she was a ghost, but there was something very, very strange about her, and very soft looking.
Devin attempted to approach the strange figure, but by the time she ran up to her the stranger had vanished, leaving nothing behind but the overwhelming aroma of gardenias.
The Anniversary In The Hollywood Hills
In 2013, L.A. Hauntings, a local ghost tour group, decided to hunt for Peg Entwistle's ghost near the Hollywood sign on the anniversary of her untimely death. The team used a variety of tests, including electronic voice phenomena and dowsing rods, to try and reach her spirit. This was mostly inconclusive, with one small exception. The entire team claimed a sharp spike in the temperature as they made their way through the trail.
The Recurring Role
Another recurring and tragic event is witnesses claiming to see Peg Entwistle reenact her terrible suicide at the Hollywood sign. Sometimes, passers-by reported seeing a young woman struggling in the brush and steep terrain surrounding the hills of the sign, trying to make her way up toward the sign itself. On several different occasions, witnesses have claimed to see a woman at the top of the "H" on the sign-- the very same that Peg Entwistle jumped from to her death. Others even claimed to watch her actually jump from it and disappear on the way down.
The sightings are said to be so vivid that people have called the police to report attempted suicides. But by the time police arrived, they'd find nothing. No sign that anyone was even on the sign, and no evidence anyone had actually managed to kill themselves like Peg Entwistle had. There have even been sightings of her ghost on Beachwood Drive, mirroring her original walk from her uncle's home in the area to the sign where she would ultimately commit suicide.
Paranormal experts theorize that Peg might be stuck in a sort of supernatural loop, repeating her death endlessly. In fact, she may not even be a ghost at all. Larry Montz, a parapsychologist and head of the International Society for Paranormal Research, believes that people's sightings of Peg might, in fact, be residual. According to Montz, at the Hollywood sign, people report seeing a residual of the actress jumping, if they see anything at all. The energy of that event is so intense that an image remains and it plays a sort of like a videotape. People who visit Gettysburg often report seeing soldiers fighting in battle on the field, but ghosts do not reenact their own murders or deaths, he said. So instead of a spirit, Peg's emotional turmoil may have been so strong that it left a kind of feedback that occasionally replays itself, embedded in the area and doomed to rerun, like a never-ending film.
A Cast Of Characters
And though Pet Entwistle might be the star spirit of the Hollywood sign, there's an entire ensemble of ghosts and urban legends that allegedly haunt the area. The paranormal activity and entities are attributed to one incident. In 1863, Dona Petronilla cursed the land around Griffith Park when she was left out of the will of her wealthy uncle, Don Antonio Feliz.
She would have no stake in the land, and in a fury, she hexed the land and all who would own it. Ever since, the area has been host to fires, droughts, and storms. It has also become a prime spot for spirits. Her uncle's restless ghost has been spotted, along with the spirit of Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who also owned the land for a time and for whom present-day Griffith Park is named.
Other notorious ghosts include a pair of lovers who were crushed by a falling tree and a devilish monster with red hair and green skin that stalks people on the trails and in the park.
Peg Entwistle may have killed herself out of despair that her fame ended before it even began, but in death, she is one of Hollywood's most well-known spirits. She also holds the dubious distinction of being the only person to ever commit suicide by jumping off the iconic Hollywood sign. So if you ever find yourself on the trails near Beachwood Drive, you too may have a chance encounter with a celebrity spirit from beyond.
So what do you think? Could this untimely death have been prevented? Are these sightings Peg Entwistle's ghost, or an endless rerun of a tragic transfer of energy playing out on a constant loop? Let us know what you think in the comments below.