Halloween High Jinks: Ghost Tours of Tinseltown

Dearly Departed Tours and other creepy go-outs scary up the city.

Was Hollywood responsible for a new kind of ghost story?

We're not talking about the movie industry or television series, but the city itself. Consider that, prior to a century or so ago, the bulk of phantom-starring tales were gothic potboilers, centered around old, crumbling manses full of flickering lights and ghoulish gargoyles.

Hollywood's gargoyle is a clock-chomping dinosaur, and the flickering lights are neon, but the city has built a rep as one of America's most eerie, without a mansion or attic or gothic castle in sight. Tours and spooky sites dot the boulevard and its off-streets, making the town that makes ghost stories something of a larger ghost story itself.

Dearly Departed Tours, "a multimedia bus tour" takes on the stories of celebrities who've passed through the veil to the Great Beyond, with stops at actual locations around Tinseltown (and further afield). Ghosts & Legends, a Horror Film Location drive, and the occasional jaunt led by Allison Arngrim -- Nellie Oleson of "Little House on the Prairie" -- fill out the company's phantom-fearsome schedule.

The Hollywood Museum not only is housed in the ultra-atmospheric Max Factor Building, but it holds within its Hollywood-and-Highland-close walls a trove of costumes that evoke the most chilling works ever to appear on screen. Hyperbole? Then check out the Hannibal Lector cell in the basement, and take a walk through -- and into -- "The Silence of the Lambs."

As for real haunted locations? The Pantages Theatre, The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Boardner's, The Hollywood Wax Museum, and the area outside The Knickerbocker all boast spirited sightings. In fact, it's hard to go two phantom-free blocks along the boulevard, or Sunset for that matter, because everyone working in every business, or just about, has heard from a friend of a friend about this one ghost of this one starlet that only appears on moonlit nights.

Take that, gothic stories of yore. Tinseltown helped usher in a new form, the urban ghost tale, complete with neon and elevators and busy streets. It's there for the looking, brave ones.

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