Deep in the city of Los Angeles lays an idyllic Cemetery that’s final resting place to some of the legends of the entertainment industry. In the shadow of Paramount Studios is Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Founded in 1899, the original location occupied 100 acres, but 40 acres were sold off to Paramount and RKO Studios in 1920.
The cemetery (which started off as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery) had a rough history. By the end of the 20tth century, the owners had run into financial difficulties and the cemetery became run down. This caused California to stop new internments in the cemetery. In 1989, Tyler Cassity of Forever Enterprises brought the property, renamed it Hollywood Forever, and started restoration. The cemetery is in current use and offers a wide array of services, including a live webcast and LifeStory tributes.
You’ll see the graves of many famous folks at Hollywood Forever Cemetery including John Huston, Peter Lorre, Jayne Mansfield, Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, and “Alfalfa” from the Little Rascals. There are also tombs, monuments, headstones and two large indoor mausoleums (one of which you might recognize from the TV show “Charmed”).
Some of the BtL crew got to visit Hollywood Forever recently, and see for ourselves where our episode takes place! Due to its history, Hollywood Forever Cemetery has many ghost stories attached to it, including the story of the Lady in Black, which we “borrowed” for Episode 3.
Heidi poses as the Lady in Black, her character for Episode 003 – The Truth is Out There
In 1926, film star Rudolph Valentino was at the height of his fame. On August 23, 1926 he died from a perforated ulcer (which caused blood poisoning). He was so popular that it’s estimated that a crowd of 100,000 people showed up for his funeral services in New York City. After the service his body was transported to Los Angeles by train and fans lined the tracks to get a glimpse of the train. Once in Los Angeles, some 80,000 people came to the cemetery as his casket was carried into the Cathedral Mausoleum on the grounds of Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Valentino was supposed to get a more elaborate memorial, but complications arose and the Mausoleum became his final resting place.
Liane U. (Fred) poses as poor sick Fred!
The legend of the Lady in Black is said to have begun on the first anniversary of Valentino’s death when a mysterious woman, dressed all in black, visited Valentino’s crypt with red roses and left them there. All without saying a word. She apparently appears every year since then. Not long after the media got word of the story and began writing about “The Lady in Black”.
While the true Lady in Black may not have been ghostly, the legend has sparked many tales of a ghostly lady in black kneeling in front of Valentino’s tomb. Others have reported being alone in the mausoleum and finding roses that suddenly appeared in the previously empty vases that hang from Valentino’s crypt. Others have heard footsteps or feel like they’re being watched.
The Lady in Black captured Nashville songwriters Danny Dill and Marijohn Wikin and, in 1959, they wrote and produced a song called “The Long Black Veil”. First recorded by Lefty Frizzell the song has also been performed by Johnny Cash, The Band, The Dave Matthews band, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and others.
If you’re in Los Angeles, make sure you take the historic walking tour which is lead by historian Karie Bible, who has taken over the Lady in Black’s official duties of leaving a rose on Valentino’s crypt every year.
(photos by Tabz)