My daughter and I have begun something of a tradition. We like to go on “spooky” walking tours of North American cities. After our experiences, while my daughter sleeps soundly I might add, I see every shadow in my hotel room and some that aren’t even there! I know, I know, I have to stop this eventually lest I begin adding to the Valium trade, but in the meantime let me share our most recent experience and I think you’ll understand why I persevere!
DTLA Walking Tours offers a variety of walking tours of LA, and they’re not just haunted, they’re historic and hollywood-y too! We chose the Haunted Tales tour and it was not just informative, it was fun as well, and the enthusiasm and knowledge of our guide, Nikki, really shone through. She even shared some of her own thoughts about the stories she was telling which gave the tour a really interactive feel.
Here’s a link to their site DTLA Walking Tours which has more information about all the tours that they offer. Check them out if you are in LA!
Our tour covered many of the darker stories and events which have occurred in Los Angeles, but one of the ones which intrigued me the most was the story of the Alexandria Hotel.
The Alexandria Hotel opened in 1906 on the corner of 5th and Spring Streets in downtown Los Angeles, and at that time was the city’s most elegant hotel at all of 8 floors! The hotel became so popular though, that an addition was built behind it in 1911 which has 12 floors.
The exterior of the hotel is constructed of bricks with beautiful detail over many of the windows and many gargoyle-like statues in the shape of griffins.
The interior was stunningly elegant for its time, and was home to the Palm Court Ballroom which features beautifully detailed stained glass skylights on the ceiling. Click here for some interior pics of this beautiful building from The Alexandria Ballrooms.
In the early-1900s, the Alexandria Hotel hosted many celebrities and dignitaries including Theodore Roosevelt, King Edward the 8th, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Rudolph Valentino, to name just a few. In fact, Rudy lived in the Penthouse Suite on the 12th floor of the 1911 addition for about a year with his friend Norman Kerry, a prominent silent film actor. Legend has it that Valentino gave tango dancing lessons in the Palm Court Ballroom to earn money until he was able to afford his own place in Los Angeles.
The “Valentino Suite”, as well as the Alexandria Hotel itself, are said to be haunted by Rudolph Valentino’s spirit as well as many other spooks and ghosts both celebrity and non-celebrity. I particularly like this account, written by a one-time resident, of the experience of living at the Alexandria Hotel: Alexandria Hotel – Haunted Lost Angeles. The comments section isn’t bad either!
There are a few articles like this on the internet, and it is interesting that many of them tell the exact same tale of the elevator. Many people have said that the elevator in the building has a mind of it’s own, and that it will stop on floors where the buttons have not been pressed and the doors will open and stay open as if someone is getting out, and then they will close again and the elevator will continue to the floor of the button that has actually been pressed. Many people also corroborate that the floor that the elevator often phantomly stops at is the 9th floor which is where the most paranormal experiences have occurred. Hmmmm.
There is another aspect of the Alexandria Hotel that is particularly fascinating and disturbing. It is known as “the Phantom Wing”. When the Alexandria Hotel was built, the property adjacent to it on the 5th Street side was owned by a gentleman named William Chick. When the original hotel was built, he decided to jump on the bandwagon to make some money, and he struck a deal with the owner and builder of the Alexandria to build an annex to the original hotel which stands right next to it, but that Chick would still own.
The new annex was designed in the same manner as the old hotel from the exterior, so it appears that it is part of the original hotel, but here’s the difference: it turns out Mr. Chick was somewhat … shall we say … delightfully frugal. The new annex was built with 8 floors, the same as the original hotel, and each floor was linked to the original hotel by simply extending the corridors from the original hotel so that they continued into the annex. However, the annex was built without any elevators or stairs, so the only access to all of the floors except the ground floor, was through the original hotel.
But that’s not all! No, no there’s more! In 1938 the original hotel had been purchased by film producer Phil Gladstone, and the annex was then owned by Lee Roddie (Mr. Chick’s daughter). They had a dispute when people began moving from the original hotel to the annex because the rents were lower, and Mr. Gladstone decided to retaliate by sealing off each and every corridor leading to the annex with bricks and mortar. Permanently. Resulting in there being no access to the top 7 floors of the annex … anywhere.
So, since 1938, the annex has been completely unoccupied, and it is speculated that everything … furnishings, wallpaper, light fixtures, the works still stand exactly where they were at the time of the sealing. The windows are still open in the same positions they were in. Despite myself, I find this somewhat romantic … eerie, but romantic nonetheless. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool to step into another time?
The whole thing poses some questions though. Did the sealing happen quickly, or over time? Were all the rooms rented at the time of the sealing, and if so, were the renters warned to get out? Has anyone scaled the the walls from the outside to get to the other floors? And, of course, and I think this is the most obvious, why has the owner, past or current, never found a way to access these floors. Is it just a matter of cost? Or is there something else?
In 2012, a Los Angeles contractor funded by a group of “anonymous investors” purchased the annex property and forged a plan to open up all of the floors and build luxury apartments, but as I write this in 2017 he has not moved forward at all despite a great deal of media that surrounded his plan in 2012. And, in fact, when I peered up at the hotel two weeks ago, on a warm, but dark, southern California night, I witnessed for myself that these suites are still very much unoccupied. While the windows in the original hotel were lively and many of them lighted, the windows in the annex are very obviously dark and foreboding.
So, here’s another question, is there a Will or a contract in effect that prevents anyone from opening up the annex that the contractor from 2012 was unaware of when he purchased the property? The possible answers are endless, and although this is not Ghost Hunters material (that we know of!), there is still something very haunting about a building left empty for the better part of a century.
Following is a YouTube video that takes us back to the Valentino Suite, which I really enjoyed watching when researching the Alexandria Hotel.
Photograph of Palm Court ceiling courtesy of Google images, Exterior photographs of the Alexandria Hotel featuring the Valentino Suite and the Phantom Wing courtesy of DTLA Tours.