Sunday, May 13, 2012

May's SPIRITS with SPIRITS


GHOULA meets for cocktails in haunted places on the 13th of each month. “SPIRITS with SPIRITS” is a casual social gathering of regional ghost hunters and those that just like ghost stories. Open to all, from the curious skeptic to the passionate phantom pursuer. Make friends, and toast a ghost! Let's put the “Boo!” back into “booze.”

All those who attend will receive a free (square) G.H.O.U.L.A. button. If you already have one, please wear it so others can find you, without asking the staff about our group.

THE DATE: May 13th, 2012 (Sunday)
THE PLACE: INK (Sweet Lady Jane)
8360 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood (Map)
THE TIME: 8:00pm to the witching hour

THE GHOST(S):

Even though it is a given that there doesn't seem to be any set rules for ghosts and haunting, there are a handful of persistent ghost stories in Los Angeles that seem to defy all reason and logic. The quintessential example of this is the "Houdini Mansion" in Laurel Canyon. Despite there being no proof that Harry Houdini ever even visited this stately manner (or the guest house across the street), people for decades have claimed to see the great magician's ghost wandering around the property. Another such example is the ghost of film director, Orson Wells, sitting at his favorite table at the Sweet Lady Jane Bakery on Melrose...

For a good period of time in the late 1970s/early 1980s, there was no trendier restaurant in Los Angeles than Ma Maison on L.A.'s equally trendy Melrose Ave. The restaurant consisted of a small bungalow house (presumably a hold over from when this commercial area was residential) that contained a kitchen, restrooms, a hostess station, and one table. The patrons were forced to dine in the patio (presumably the original house's front yard), which was covered with a tacky layer of bright green astro-turf to conceal the hard asphalt underneath.  Despite the delicious food created by chef Wolfgang Puck (and the high prices) the outdoor setting had all the charm of a parking lot. However, one of the great quirks of Ma Maison was that when you stepped up to the front door to the hostess station to be seated, on just about any given day, if you looked to your right, you would see (usually seated alone) at the one indoor table, the legendary Orson Welles. Although he is widely considered one of the great film directors to ever come out of Hollywood, at this point in his career he was morbidly obese and better known for the TV commercials he appeared in for Paul Masson Wine ("We will sell no wine before its time").

As the years went by, Welles passed away, Ma Maison moved to another, similar location further east on Melrose, and opened a cooking school, before moving out of the area completely. The original structure where Welles enjoyed countless lunches and dinners was torn down, when the block was redeveloped (and address numbers changed). The Sweet Lady Jane Bakery opened, and over the years employees and patrons claim to see the ghost of Orson Wells at a table in the back, where "his table" was originally located. Or, they smell his cigars (which he used to buy at the long gone Witners Cigars a few blocks away) in that area.

That is the tale that is repeated in just about every ghost guide book of Hollywood or Los Angeles, as well as many paranormal TV Shows, and its a good story. The only problem is that Sweet Lady Jane is not exactly in the same spot that Ma Maison called home (like they all claim).  Ma Maison was actually pushed back from the street, and covered more ground to the east, so Wells' famous table was not located inside the dinning area of this bakery.

Is it possible, that the ghost of Orson Welles has re-situated himself around another table (and a spot that held no attachment to him in life)? Sure. After years of lunches and dinners, is his ghost seeking out dessert? Maybe. Or, has a ghost at Sweet Lady Jane been mistaken for the ghost of Orson Wells because of the proximity to the site of his favorite eatery? That's also possible.

Unfortunately, Sweet Lady Jane is too tiny (and generally too crowded) a space for our meet up, so we will will be meeting at the bar a couple of doors down, close to where Orson Welles sat for so many years alone. It should be noted that the current management claims that INK is not haunted by his ghost, but it's worth pointing out that this location has had a high turnover of restaurants since the wildly successful Ma Maison left. Is there a certain overweight spirit that sabotages any business that tries to replace his second home just as a psychic that visited a previous incarnation of this location (a sushi place) suggested?

Come out and find out for yourself, peek in on Sweet Lady Jane's Bakery, socialize, have a drink (or a glass of wine that is not sold before its time), and ponder the unpredictable nature of the ghost of one of Hollywood's most unpredictable mavericks.

(to read about last month's haunted location... )
(to see a map of previous SPIRITS with SPIRITS locations... )

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