Los Angeles is well known as the City of Angels, but its credentials as a spooky city proudly stand up to the scariest places in the world. Like everything else in our history, the dark side of Greater Los Angeles exists at an operatic scale. Follow this trail to discover 13 of L.A.'s most infamous murder houses, serial killer lairs, creepy cemeteries, a haunted forest, and even a party-hearty spirit and a friendly canine spook.
Built in the 1920s, Castillo del Lago was the 1930s home of gangster Bugsy Siegel, who used it as a secret casino (and possible secret execution spot); the mansion was later owned by Madonna in the 1990s. Now owned by fashion designer Leon Max, Madonna's cream-and-red striped color scheme is gone, but the “deep sense of foreboding” noticed by many visitors remains. Fashion photographers that have shot there report that all their photos turned out black - it’s for you to discover if it has the same effect on Instagram.
6342 Mulholland Hwy, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Located in Altadena, the palatial Cobb Estate (known locally as the Haunted Forest) was built in 1918 and torn down by the Marx Brothers in 1959, just a few years after they bought the 107-acre property. The dilapidated entrance gates remain, looking like a horror movie trope come to life. (Fans will recognize the gates as the entrance to Morningside Cemetery from the 1979 supernatural thriller, Phantasm.) Pass through its portals at night, and you’ll be at the mercy of following footsteps, strange lights, distant screams, and the fallout from gangland executions, Satanic rituals, and even possible UFOs.
5400 N Lake Ave (at E Loma Alta Dr), Altadena, CA 91001
A palace for Disney movies since its restoration in 1989, the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood now boasts an expansive sweet shop for the kids and an old-fashioned stage show before the picture. However, like Disneyland itself, the El Capitan has its ghostly dark side. In its previous life, the theater was the site of a suicide in the balcony seats and the death of a manager in its office. When Disney revived the El Capitan, legend has it they walled off the window above the entryway, where his ghost could still be seen from the street.
6838 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
The site of L.A.’s first major police brutality scandal, the 1951 “Bloody Christmas” beating of seven citizens, the Lincoln Heights Jail is an Art Deco fortress that's been the site for bad juju since 1931. Famed L.A. murder mystery author Raymond Chandler did time in its drunk tank in the 1940s, and the boiler room climax of A Nightmare on Elm Street was shot there. But the jail’s menace extends into the more recent past: in 1994, the founder of a gym that was intended to occupy the space was found dead in an elevator shaft.
401-449 N. Ave. 19, Los Angeles, CA 90031
Bogie's dog, Mae West's cat, Hopalong's horse, a Hollywood hen, and the MGM lion: death makes strange bedfellows at Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park, one of the oldest pet cemeteries on the West Coast. The presence of faithful friends can be felt throughout the park, but if you feel a ghostly lick on the hand, it's resident doggie ghost, Kabar. The pooch of silent film star Rudolph Valentino, the purebred Doberman was thought to be psychic even while alive - he let out a howl at precisely the time of the star's death, even though his owner was 3,000 miles away in New York.
5068 N. Old Scandia Lane, Calabasas, CA 91372
At 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, 1959, financially strapped cardiologist Harold Perelson bludgeoned his sleeping wife, Lillian, with a ball-peen hammer. As his wife lay dying, Dr. Perelson went after his eldest daughter, but she escaped. Telling his younger two, “Go back to bed. This is a nightmare,” he then offed himself with a combination of Nembutal and pills. The so-called Los Feliz Murder House stood abandoned for the next 50 years, with its Christmas tree and still-wrapped presents remaining inside. Recently purchased by the daughter of civil rights attorney Gloria Allred, what’s in store for the ghostly abode—or any brave future inhabitants—remains to be seen.
2475 Glendower Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Advertised on its completion as “the most beautiful storage building in the world,” this 1928 high rise once boasted a penthouse club called “The Thirteenth Heaven,” complete with angel-winged waiters. When Prohibition struck, Heaven became a speakeasy. And where there are bootleggers, there are mobsters - this may be the source of the mysterious screams still heard from the elevator shaft. Opened as the American Storage Building, today it's a Public Storage location filled from top to bottom with orange steel doors, including the storied 13th floor. The East Hollywood building may be most haunted by its own former glory.
3636 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in pop music history, music producer Phil Spector developed the famed “Wall of Sound” in the 1960s, epitomized by classics like "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, and Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High." Today, the former wunderkind is serving 19 years to life in California state prison for the murder of Lana Clarkson.
An alcoholic recluse since the 1992 death of his son from leukemia, Spector moved into the Pyrenees Castle in Alhambra in 1998. Inspired by a French chateau in the Pyrenees mountains, the fairytale estate was described in 1939 by the Los Angeles Times as the “Alhambra mystery castle.” After a decade of being mostly sober, Spector began going out again and ventured out on Feb. 2, 2003 for a night on the town. At the House of Blues, he met Lana Clarkson, a statuesque 40-year-old actress. They went to Pyrenees Castle for “just one drink.” Clarkson never left the house - her body was found slumped in a chair with a single gunshot wound to her mouth. Spector's driver, who made the emergency call from the castle, later testified that Spector said, "I think I've killed someone." Spector was sentenced in May 2009. Since that fateful night in 2003, the Pyrenees Castle has been off the market, guarding its secrets alone.
1700 Grand View Dr, Alhambra, CA 91803
Writer and mob daughter Susan Berman was found murdered execution-style at her Beverly Hills house on Dec. 23, 2000. The case remained unsolved until HBO aired the 2015 documentary, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. The six-part miniseries gained notoriety when Robert Durst was arrested on first-degree murder charges the day before its finale aired.
Durst was a notorious weirdo who had tried to escape justice by posing as a deaf-mute woman in Texas. According to her biographer, Berman had been killed because she knew too much about the disappearance of Durst’s wife. Durst may have killed and dismembered his elderly neighbor Morris Black just for fun. Durst is currently in a Los Angeles jail awaiting trial for the murder of Susan Berman.
1527 Benedict Canyon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Founded in 1882, the sleepy North L.A. town of Sierra Madre seems like it hasn’t seen much excitement since the Wild West days. But its Pioneer Cemetery, established the same year, tells a different tale. The 2.5-acre site is the final resting place of souls ranging from Civil War vets to tiny children tragically lost in the rough conditions of pioneer settlement. It's also been the site of some highly unnerving Hollywood moments: Laura Palmer’s funeral in Twin Peaks, and the moment in Halloween when Judith Meyer’s headstone is discovered to be missing.
601 E Sierra Madre Blvd Sierra Madre, CA 91024
This seemingly ordinary auto shop, originally built for car upholstery work, was in its previous incarnation the secret den of the Hillside Stranglers, Angelo Buono, Jr. and his accomplice, Kenneth Bianchi. As there were no other employees, the space offered the privacy and distance from interfering neighbors that the serial killers needed to strangle 10 women between 1977-1978. Their penchant for scattering the bodies among the hills of the Glendale-Eagle Rock-Highland Park area earned them their name.
703 E. Colorado St Glendale, CA 91205
Located a half-mile south of Castillo del Lago, Wolf's Lair was built in 1927 by art director and real estate magnate, L. Milton Wolf. This eccentric mansion came equipped with a secret passageway to a hidden apartment for Wolf’s mistresses, and a turret for his pet gibbon. Perhaps it was too much “monkeying around” that led Wolf to pitch forward dead into a bowl of minestrone in 1972. His spirit apparently still likes to party, perhaps inspiring the conversion of the Lair’s “tiki room” to a secret magic club by former owner Moby. Rumors say the current owner is the elusive—even ghostly?—graffiti artist Banksy.
2869 Durand Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068