Monday, May 31, 2010

LOST: Haunted Hotel #1

As part of GHOULA's mission to preserve the haunted history of greater Los Angeles, periodically GHOULA will spotlight a haunted building from our great city that is no longer with us, in an effort to prevent these stories from being forgotten (even if their ghosts are also no longer with us).

(3400 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles) Map


Opened in 1921 (demolished in 2005), the Ambassador Hotel (built on swamp land) was one of the first serious threats to Hollywood as a "playground for the stars" as celebrities searched for new areas where they could avoid the growing numbers of tourists. The hotel's own tropical-themed "Coconut Grove" night club (on the ground floor) became the new oasis for movie folk that wanted to be left alone. That said, unfortunately despite the glamour, elegance, and notable guests of this former landmark (and The Coconut Grove), the hotel was most famous for being the site of Robert Kennedy's assassination, which also marked the beginning of the end for this pink palace.

After those tragic events, the Ambassador slid down to the fate of all historic buildings in Los Angeles (before they are demolished), becoming a "film location" with its luxurious ballroom becoming a sound stage. Occasionally however, it did regain its former glory when a production would shoot a "period piece" there, filling the halls with actors in vintages costumes. But, these moments were fleeting. Ironically, the movie "Bobby" about the assassination of Robert Kennedy took so long to get funding, the production was forced to "rebuild" the Ambassador (since the hotel was demolished shortly before production began).

There are two strange stories that have been often repeated about the building. First, The Coconut Grove used to have caged canaries throughout the dinning room. Because of the heat, noise, and gas lighting, many birds would die in the course of a night. So, cages filled with additional (spare) canaries were kept in storage to replace the dead ones as their little bodies were discovered. It is unknown how many hundreds (probably thousands) of birds died in that one room over the years.

Secondly, aside from the usual "cold spots" and electric anomalies, there were tales of a ghostly "woman dressed in white" figure that would appear in a fourth story window (seen from outside), who would lean out that window, and then disappear. Was she a suicide victim? Was she going to climb out the window? Was see trying to get some one's attention outside? Was she calling for help? To this day no one knows who she was, or why she haunted the hotel (and that specific room)... And sadly, since the hotel is gone, no one will probably ever find out the truth? Then again, maybe she'll take up residence in the new building on this site. Only time will tell.

If you know of another ghost story (or another version of a story mentioned), or if you have personally experienced something strange at this theater, please leave a comment.


Craig said...

I was in the Ambassador a few times. Thought I heard music coming from inside the Cocoanut one night while I was exploring alone and away from the film set I was working on. This would have been around 1999-2000. I really, truly hate that this building is gone. Another story worth sharing is that the property owners (prior to the LAUSD) allegedly refused to let their securiy guards discuss any hauntings under threat of termination, because paranormal activity devalued the property. Also, it was well known that cold spots and lights turning on on the 4th floor was a fairly regular phenomena. But there was also a problem with vagrants trying to make the site their home.

Modawg said...

I worked a movie in 2000 at the hotel. 3 very odd things happened. A group of crew members encountered independently encountered a strange looking mother and child in the woman,s restroom.The beings seemed strange and did not respond in any way but simply stared into the mirror and were gone once they left the stall. All descriptions were the same but experienced at different times ruling out homeless people.
Secondly several sneaky crew members explored the 4th floor where they claim to have seen a women in white open a guest room door and peer out at them only to close it abruptly.
Thirdly a security guard who will remain nameless arrived for work for the A.M. shift, locked his car doors and walked toward the hotel doors only to realize he had forgotten something. He walked back to his car finding the trunk wide open. The man closed the trunk and continued toward the hotel only to here the sound of his car doors opening. As he made his way to the car he saw that all four doors as well as the trunk were open and several stray cats came out of the bushes hissing and growling at his car so he jumped in shut the doors and quit.Another security guard from the P.M. shift quit because he was touched on the head in the hallway just steps from the woman's room where the strange woman and child were seen.
Because of my job on set I was allowed access to many areas of the hotel that are forbidden to the general public including the very spot where the fatal shot that killed Bobby Kennedy was fired.Strangely that was one of the only places in my adventures that was peaceful the bungalows were very active. It is a shame that the property was demolished as I have never been in a place as spiritually charged as the Ambassador Hotel and I must agree with Craig that the ballroom is extremely alive.
I think it would be great to gather these people for a tribute to the amazing place it once was and the spirits who have chosen to remain

Anonymous said...

In 2003 I worked on a movie called Domino which shot some scenes in the hotel. I saw on the first floor a women dressed in a white flowing lace dress following behind me. I saw her in the reflection of the glass looking into the lounge. The entire crew would experience cold spots and voices. During a location scout several members of our crew went into the kitchen where Kennedy was shot and took photos. When the photos were developed there was a face in the upper right hand corner of the photo, just above the spot where he was shot. I loved this place and am so sad it is gone! I will always cherish the memories I had there and truly miss seeing it from the road as I drove downtown. :(