Haunted Road Trip: Old Hollywood and the Ghosts of the Roosevelt Hotel

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Previously: Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.

Like most of Hollywood, the Roosevelt Hotel is rife with ghost stories from the golden age of the silver screen. First opened in 1927, it played host to all the greats, from Douglas Fairbanks to Greta Garbo. It underwent an extensive renovation in the 1980s, after which its ghostly activity seems to have ramped up quite a bit; no one really knows why, but it’s suspected that something that happened during the construction “awakened” the spirits.

I suspect that most stories of benevolent ghosts begin as a method of coping with the loss of people we cared about — whether we knew them in real life or not. Celebrity is a funny thing; it makes us feel closer to famous people, makes them more accessible to us, makes us feel as if we actually know them. Many of the ghosts allegedly haunting the Roosevelt Hotel were beloved by the public when they were alive — and many of them also died tragically young. It’s always sad when someone passes before what should, by all rights, be “their time”; when they show artistic promise, we feel their loss even more keenly, mourning the work they never had the chance to complete. As such, I’m never entirely sure how much stock I should put in stories of Hollywood ghosts; but the stories persist, so here we are.

These days, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is run by Thompson Hotels; it’s located at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. I’ve only ever walked by it — but if you’ve stayed there and have a story to tell, do leave your tale in the comments.

Roosevelt 1Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe, née Norma Jeane Mortenson, has a long history with the Roosevelt Hotel. She shot her first print ad on the diving board of the hotel’s pool, and throughout the ‘50s, she made a habit of staying in room 246. Marilyn requested the room be furnished with a wood framed, full-length mirror; she made use of it during her frequent stays, but after her death in 1962, it was moved to the general manager’s office. In 1985, however, a maid, Suzanne Leonard, reported that she spotted a blonde woman in the mirror’s reflection as she dusted the piece. The woman appeared to be standing directly behind her — but when Leonard turned around, the woman wasn’t there. Whether or not the woman was Marilyn — or whether the apparition truly existed at all — remains to be seen. I believe the mirror is in storage at the moment, but it has graced the lobby at various points in time.

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The Most Dangerous Games: The Hooded Man Ritual

black cabPreviously: The Dark Reflection Ritual

The Hooded Man Ritual appeared on the NoSleep subreddit in November of 2014. According to its submitter, nickybutler123, it has surfaced on other sites in the past; I’ve been unable to locate these other sites, however, so it’s possible that this claim is meant to deepen a newer story’s sense of history.

Certain similarities strike me between the worlds traveled to by the Hooded Man’s taxi cab and the one(s) that can be reached via the Elevator to Another World ritual. I’m not sure whether they’re the same ones, though, so do with that what you will.

This ritual should NOT be attempted in a state of agitation, nervousness, or fear. 

As always, play at your own risk.

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Abandoned: The Dead Malls of America (Photos)

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Previously: The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

Although it will be December by the time any of you read this post, it’s Black Friday as I write it. I’m not shopping; I dislike large crowds already, but the insanity of Black Friday flat-out terrifies me. I feel like it showcases the worst, pettiest side of humanity: People punching, kicking, trampling, and sometimes even killing other people, all for the sake of a 50 percent off deal or buy one, get one gimmick. I don’t care how good the “deal” is (and it’s often not even that good to begin with); no flat screen television or hot new toy is worth another person’s well-being.

So with that in mind, let’s talk about dead malls.

As of September of 2014, there are approximately 1,200 indoor malls in the United States — but only about 400 of them are actually thriving. The rest of them are dying, a result of both the economic climate and the changing habits of shoppers. It’s not a merciful death; often right up until the very end, there’s hope that sometime will turn around, that a new development is planned, that something will arrive to save the whole thing. It’s also crushingly, overwhelmingly symbolic.

The death of a mall usually begins with the loss of its anchor store: A clothing retailer like Nordstrom, a department store like Macy’s, or some other large chain shopping destination. When the anchor store departs, it literally leaves a gaping hole in the mall’s fabric; left vacant, the sizable storefront it once occupied sometimes earns the name “ghostbox.” Traffic starts to decline once the anchor store no longer functions as the mall’s primary draw, which means traffic also declines for smaller retailers. The smaller retailers in turn begin to close as business dries up, one by one, like a row of dominoes falling one after the other — and when the last one drops, the death is complete. The stores close up shop, and the building is left empty. Sometimes they’re repurposed for things like offices or medical centers; sometimes they’re taken over by squatters; sometimes they’re bulldozed over; and sometimes they’re simply reclaimed by nature.

I’m by no means anti-materialist; I like my creature comforts, and I live in relatively cushy surroundings. I don’t, however, have a tendency to accumulate huge collections of things I don’t really need. Part of the reason why is practical: I make what I need to pay my bills along with a little extra, but like most creative types in our current economy, I’ve long since squared with the fact that money will likely always be tight. It’s a simple equation; I don’t spend what I don’t have. But part of it is also philosophical, a view put into sharp relief by all these dead malls: Things are just that — things. If you put too much stock in them, they’ll leave you as hollow as the malls are after all their residents have packed up and left.

The zombie trope may be a little overdone at this point, but there’s a reason they consistently strike such a chord with us: They pretty much always serve as a metaphor for something troublesome in our own society. What they represent might change from time to time — and sometimes, it’s not even the zombie that are important, but rather how human beings respond to the threat of them — but one metaphor that continues to ring true, no matter how much time has passed, is the one presented by George Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. There’s a reason it (and derivatives of it, like the Dead Rising video game series) takes place primarily in a mall; in this setting, zombies become the ultimate consumers, blindly, mindlessly, and literally choking down everything in their path in an effort to get more, more, more...

…But in the end, it’s mostly empty calories.

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Encyclopaedia of the Impossible: The Noise Coming from Inside Children

booksPreviously: The Crying Boy

Type: Unclassifiable.

Period/location of origin: Unknown. It is possible that subject originated in the 1970s, 1980s, or early 1990s written as either a horror short story or novel by a man going by the name of “Ed Kann”; however, it is also possible that subject originated on the Internet, brought into being by an as yet unknown person.

Appearance: Unknown. Subject may have the appearance either of a book, or of a short story published in a newspaper or magazine; reports vary as to whether “The Noise Coming from Inside Children” is short or long-form fiction. However, as no tangible evidence of subject’s existence has yet been uncovered, subject may appear solely as an idea. Neither has subject’s alleged “creator” been located, although other people named Ed Kann may be easily found. No descriptions or photographs of this particular “Ed Kann” appear to exist.

Modus operandi: Unknown. The only extant review of subject called it “desperately difficult to finish” and implied that it was so horrifying that it redefined the horror genre entirely:

“I know now that ‘Horror’ certainly isn’t the name for it. ‘Creepy Fiction’ might be a better choice. If more people read ‘The Noise Coming from Inside Children’ then the genre of ‘Horror’ would be reserved solely for it alone. And no one would ever claim to be a fan of it.”

It should be noted that the original source of the review remains unknown.

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Creepypasta of the Week: “Where Bad Kids Go”

microphonePreviously: “The Zapata Letters.”

It’s been a while since we’ve looked at a weird childhood memories/strange children’s television show pasta, so let’s dive back down that rabbit hole and see where it leads, shall we? “Where Bad Kids Go” is, in many ways, the essence of a good creepypasta: It’s short, it uses details sparingly, and it understands that what you don’t see is often much more frightening than what you do see. 

Since it’s so brief, I’ve re-posted the story here in its entirety (thanks, Creative Commons licensing!), rather than excerpting it and directing you back to the source; you can see it in its original form here

I must have been six or seven when I lived in Lebanon. The country was ravaged by war at the time, and murders were common and frequent. I remember during a particularly vicious era, when the bombings rarely stopped, I would stay at home sitting in front of my television watching a very, very strange show.

It was a kids’ show that lasted about 30 minutes and contained strange and sinister images. To this day I believe it was a thinly veiled attempt on the part of the media to use scare tactics to keep kids in place, because the moral of every episode revolved around very uptight ideologies: stuff like, “bad kids stay up late,” “bad kids have their hands under the covers when they sleep,” and “bad kids steal food from the fridge at night.”

It was very weird, and in Arabic to top it off. I didn’t understand much of it, but for the most part the images were very graphic and comprehensive. The thing that stuck with me the most, however, was the closing scene. It remained much the same in every episode. The camera would zoom in on an old, rusted, closed door. As it got closer to the door, strange and sometimes even agonizing screams would become more audible. It was extremely frightening, especially for children’s programming. Then a text would appear on the screen in Arabic reading: “That’s where bad kids go.” Eventually both the image and the sound would fade out, and that would be the end of the episode.

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Unresolved: The Town That Killed Ken McElroy

Bullet windowPreviously: The Hinterkaifeck Murders.

Ken Rex McElroy was not a nice man.

Born in 1934 — the fifteenth of sixteen children — McElroy dropped out of school by the time he hit fifth grade and spent the next several decades terrorizing the town of Skidmore, Missouri. He stole, he assaulted, he raped, and more. 21 times charges were brought against him, and 21 times he avoided conviction; his tried-and-true intimidation tactics usually resulted in witnesses refusing to testify against him out of fear. But on July 10, 1981, his reign of terror came to end: Ken McElroy was shot dead in broad daylight on Skidmore’s main street. Between 30 and 46 townspeople witnessed the shooting…

…But no one was ever brought to trial for it. It’s likely that at least one of those witnesses saw who did it — but for more than thirty years, the town of Skidmore has kept its silence. As they see it, they owe the man who brought so much pain and fear to them for so many years nothing. They owe him less than nothing. And they aren’t planning on speaking anytime soon — or ever.

McElroy’s list of crimes is too long to list. The kind of town bully you think only exists in fiction, he took what he wanted, when he wanted it for years. Grain, gasoline, alcohol, and antiques were his favorite items to steal and fence; he also rustled livestock. Despite never holding a steady job, he always had money in his pockets — ill-gotten gains — and according to the Kansas City Star, his lawyer, Richard McFadin, represented him in three or four felonies a year. A notorious womanizer, he also fathered more than ten children with different women — and his tastes skewed towards the criminally young. His last wife, Trena, was only 12 years when he met her. He had impregnated her by the time she was 14, and when she tried to flee back to her parents after the birth of her child, he shot their dog and burned down their home. He gained their permission to marry her by threatening to burn down their new home, giving her no way out of a lifetime of abuse.

Perhaps the final straw, however, was this: In 1980, one of McElroy’s children — a daughter he had with Trena — attempted to steal a piece of candy from the local grocery store owned by an elderly couple by the name of Bowenkamp. Trena said that Lois Bowenkamp had accused her daughter of shoplifting; Lois, according to the Kansas City Star, “called it a misunderstanding and tried to make peace.” Ken McElroy, however, wasn’t one to let a slight, real or perceived, slide; he began inflicting one of his favorite intimidation tactics on the Bowenkamps, sitting in his pickup truck outside their house night after night after night, occasionally firing his shotgun into the air.

In July of that year, McElroy approached Ernest Bowenkamp, aged 70 and known affectionately around town as Bo, as he stood on his store’s loading dock, awaiting the arrival of an air conditioning repairman. McElroy gave two boys standing nearby money for sodas in effort to get them to leave; then he pulled out his shotgun and fired it directly at Bowenkamp, hitting him in the neck. Thankfully, Bowenkamp survived; McElroy, meanwhile, was arrested, charged with attempted murder, and convicted of assault. But although he was sentenced to two years in prison, he was spotted at a local tavern, the D&G, mere hours after the conviction, carrying a rifle and boasting of what he was planning to do to Bowenkamp next. He had been released on bail during a 21-day appeal reprieve. The rifle violated the terms of his bail, but as always when it came to Ken McElroy, it didn’t seem to matter.

Something needed to be done. But what? And how? How could anyone guarantee that Ken McElroy would never harm another person again?

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