The Hollywood Sign
There have been many sightings by park rangers and hikers in Griffith Park of the ghost of a woman who is dressed in 1930-style clothing. The ghost is described as a blonde woman who appears to be sad.
Many suspect that it may be the ghost of actress Peg Entwistle who committed suicide there.
The Hollywood Sign from outer space
The sign was built in 1923, and originally read HOLLYWOODLAND, for a real estate development along Beachwood Canyon. It cost $21,000 to build, and the letters are 30 feet wide and 45 feet tall. It was originally lit by 4000 light bulbs. Maintenance was discontinued in 1939, and in 1949 the LAND portion of the sign was removed. It was so rundown, that in 1978 the chamber of commerce restored it, and for $28,000 each, the following people sponsored the letters:
H - Terrence Donnelly, Publisher Hollywood Independent Newspaper
O - Giovanni Mazza, Italian movie producer
L - Les Kelley - Originator of the Kelley Blue Book
L - Gene Autrey - With his pioneer television station KTLA
Y - Hugh Hefner - Creator of Playboy Enterprises
W - Andy Williams - Singer
O - Warner Brothers Records
O - Alice Cooper - In memory of Groucho Marx
D - Dennis Lidtke
Peg Entwistle was born Millicent Lilian Entwistle (many sources incorrectly have it as Lillian Millicent) on July 1, 1908 in London, England. From an early age, Peg's life was filled with tragedy. After the death of her mother when Peg was a child, she and her Father moved to New York where her Father would marry again and have two sons named Robert and Milton.
Tragedy would strike again however when Peg's Father was run over by a car on Park Avenue. Her brothers went to live with their Uncle Harold, but Peg stayed behind to pursue acting. After making her stage debut at the age of 17 with the Boston repertory company, she was soon working on Broadway in the prestigious Theater Guild productions.
In 1927, Peg would marry Robert Keith a man 10 years her senior, but would soon discover that he had been married before and had a six year old son whom he neglected to mention. That son was Brian Keith, most notably known for his roles in the TV series Family Affair and Hardcastle & McCormick. Ironically, he also committed suicide after being diagnosed with cancer in the 90`s. Revealing her true inner character, Peg, in the process of divorcing Robert, helped him stay out of jail by paying the back alimony he owed his ex-wife.
In 1931, Peg continued her work on the stage in the production Getting Married co-starring Dorothy Gish and in 1932 she co-starred with Laurette Taylor in Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire. However, depression began to set in as she had a hard time finding work on the stage. She would move to Hollywood in hopes of finding work in the movies. Upon arrival in Los Angeles in April of 1932, Peg would move into the Hollywood Studio Club, a rooming hotel for women. She would later move in with her Uncle Harold at 2428 Beachwood Canyon Drive in Hollywood to save money.
Peg`s uncle`s home where she stayed at 2428 Beachwood Canyon Drive.
(this is a private residence, DO NOT bother the occupants)
View of the Hollywood Sign from Peg`s home
Peg would eventually find some stage work with Billie Burke in The Mad Hopes, but the play closed after a brief run. In 1932, she was thrilled when RKO signed her for the role of Hazel in the murder mystery Thirteen Women starring Irene Dunne, but the film got such poor reviews from critics that the studio held back its general release so it could re-edit the film. Her studio options with RKO were eventually dropped, leaving her depressed once again.
On September 16, 1932, after a night of drinking and overwhelming depression, Peg told her Uncle Harold that she was going to walk up Beachwood to meet some friends at the local drug store. Instead, she would scratch and claw her way up the slope to the Hollywood sign where she would take off her coat and fold it neatly. She placed it, along with her purse, at the base of the maintenance ladder which led up the letter "H". She would then climb up the workman's ladder on the back of the 50 foot "H" and jump to her death. Peg was more than likely killed instantly. She was only 24 years old.
Shortly after her death, a letter from the Beverly Hills Playhouse would arrived at her Uncle Harold's home addressed to Peg. The Beverly Hills Playhouse wanted her to star in their next production which, ironically, was about a young girl who commits suicide.
Peg`s suicide note 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."P.E.".
The LA Times published the letter in hopes that she would be identified. She was dubbed "The Hollywood Sign Girl." Her Uncle Harold recognized the initials and identified Peg's body in the morgue.
In the years following Peg's suicide, hikers and park rangers in Griffith Park have reported some pretty strange happening in the vicinity of the Hollywood sign. Many have reported sightings of a woman dressed in 1930's era clothing who abruptly vanishes when approached. She has been described as a very attractive, blond woman, who seems very sad. Could this be Peg's ghost, still making her presence known? Could she also be linked to the pungent smell of gardenia perfume which has been known to overwhelm sight-seers in the park? Perhaps it is, as the gardenia scent was known to be Peg's trademark perfume.
In 1990, a North Hollywood man and his girlfriend were walking on a Beachwood Canyon trail near the Hollywood sign with their dog when the animal suddenly began to act very strange. Instead of running around on the trail and through the brush as he normally did, he began to whine and hang back near the couple. They had never seen him act that way before and could find no cause until they spotted a lady walking nearby. One thing they noticed about her was that she was wearing clothing from the 1930's. However, thinking that you could see anything in Hollywood, they didn't pay much attention.
The lady however, seemed to be walking in a daze. Thinking that perhaps she was drunk or on drugs, they started to steer clear of her when she suddenly just faded away before their eyes. At that time, they had no idea who Peg Entwistle was, nor that she had committed suicide nearby, or even that her ghost reportedly haunted the area. Imagine their surprise when they found out!
Another eyewitness to this haunting was a Griffith park ranger named John Arbogast. In an interview, he revealed his own encounters with the ghost of Peg Entwistle. He stated that she normally made her presence known very late at night, especially when it was foggy, and always in the vicinity of the Hollywood sign. He also claimed to have encountered the scent of gardenias in the area as well.
"I have smelled it several times," he said, "and always when any flowers around have been closed because of cold weather. I don't think I have ever smelled it in the summer time."
Arbogast's duties as a ranger often involved the Hollywood sign itself. He explained that in recent years, alarms systems have been installed near the sign to keep people away from it. There is always a danger of vandals... and of course, suicides who want to go out the same way that Peg did. The alarm systems incorporate the use of motion detectors and lights to keep intruders away.
Arbogast recalled a number of times when the alarm system stated that someone was close to the sign, even though a check by the ranger revealed no one was there. "There have been times when I have been at the sign," he said, "and the motion detectors say that someone is standing five feet away from me... only there's nobody there."