Sunday, April 18, 2010

Highlights from April's SWS

Thanks to all who came out. Also, thank you to the staff of Tam O'Shanter's Inn, who made us feel so welcomed. Those that stayed late into the evening were treated to the busboy, who threw a table cloth over his head, and ran around the Bonnie Prince Charlie Room moaning like a ghost. And just like a real ghost, he managed to just miss getting his picture taken by all those with their cameras.

We were also treated to a few additional ghost stories...

It is believed that the ghosts of the Bonnie Prince Charlie Room are connected to the grocery store that was originally on that spot, which burned to the ground, making room for the Tam to expand the dinning area on to that property.

A busboy claims to have seen (on several occasions) a man in a mask walking in the upstairs hall outside of the restaurant's office. The prevailing theory is that he might have been a burglar, and perhaps is also connected to the fire that may have claimed the other lives.

A waiter told us confidentially that many elderly patrons have died in this restaurant, and one such elderly woman is believed to haunt the table that was the site of her last meal. Late at night, while closing, people still see her sitting there. If you too want to eat at this haunted table, it's table #13 in the room off of the main dinning room.

With regard to the restaurant's connection to Walt Disney, we were told that he used to sit at the bar and use cocktail napkins to jot down ideas he had for his future theme park. It is well known that Disney would show up at W.E.D. (now called Walt Diseny Imagineering or W.D.I.) in the morning with his ideas sketched on napkins. So, it seems those drawings were made the night before at the historic Tam. This also makes sense when considering how close this restaurant is to the park bench, where he daydreamed about his theme park. Apparently, on his way to the Tam, Disney would stop at the bench and work out his ideas in his head and then write them down as soon as he got to the Tam.

(the following pictures are table #13, and then Walt Disney's favorite table)

The portrait of "The Bonnie Prince Charlie," which the child ghost is said to resemble.

Monday, April 5, 2010

LOST: Haunted Theater #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).


337 S. Main Street (in the heart of Downtown). map

Los Angeles, like just about every other city in the United States, has a Main Street that runs through its core. However, unlike most towns, the Main Street of Los Angeles is nothing to boast about. It’s a derelict section where most of the city’s homeless congregate, and a sad and depressing place to visit. Though it may be hard to believe today, it was apparently worse fifty years ago.

It was back then that the Belasco Theater (aka "The Follies") presented strip shows and other bawdy entertainment for those brave enough (or crazy enough) to go to that part of town at night. The area was said to be so dangerous, that an artist who rented a room above the theater was able to paper the walls of his little room with all the sensational newspaper articles about the various former strippers who had been murdered, or had committed suicide. With all the tragic lives coming to an end in that area, the building naturally became haunted by one of those doomed girls who died too young.

Witnesses said the ghostly figure was that of an attractive redheaded woman, always scantily-clad, and always wandering around backstage before vanishing into thin air. Although the theater was demolished many years ago, the redhead still crosses the now vacant lot, every now and then, offering cheap thrills to anyone who happens to see her near-naked body in the moonlight.

The Belasco Theater was located at 337 S. Main Street in the heart of Downtown. A second Belasco Theater was built in downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to the Mayan Theater, in 1926 on Hill Street to host "legitimate theater" and cinema. After its construction, the original Belasco was renamed the Follies.

(note: the 2nd Belasco also has a ghost story)

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.

(to read about another local haunted theater...)
(to read about the 2nd Belasco's ghost...)

Thursday, April 1, 2010


GHOULA meets for cocktails in haunted places on the 13th of each month. “SPIRITS with SPIRITS” is a casual 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 G.H.O.U.L.A. button. If you already have one, please wear it so others can find you.

Note: At this month's "Spirits with Spirits," GHOULA will be celebrating the release of Ghoula Press' first book, Disneyland after Dark: An Unauthorized Guide to the Happiest (Haunted) Place on Earth. The book will be available for purchase, and the author will be present.
(for more info about this book...)

THE DATE: April 13th, 2010 (Tuesday)
THE PLACE: Tam O'Shanter Inn (in the bar)
(2980 Los Feliz Boulevard, Los Angeles) Map
THE TIME: 7pm to 9pm


When The Tam O' Shanter Inn first opened in 1922, Los Feliz Blvd was a dirt path, the exterior was French, and the interior was designed to resemble the Witch's house from the popular story "Hansel and Gretel" (about a witch who is murdered by two children, after she attempts to kill them). For a number of reasons the French/Fairy-tale theme didn't work, and after a couple of years this tavern was overhauled with a Scottish theme to reflect the less popular folk tale of Tam O Shanter (who similarly outsmarts a coven of witches). This Scottish/Fairy-tale formula was a huge success, and as a result affected popular culture in two important ways.

First, the idea of serving customers food in their cars was invented here (to accommodate the hungry crowds) and thus paved the way for the Drive-In/Drive-Thru establishments that would populate Southern California in the decades that followed.

Secondly, the themed exterior, the themed interior, and the themed costumes of the friendly staff clearly influenced Tam's O Shanter's #1 fan, Walt Disney, when he was creating his own "theme-park," Disneyland.

Although, this was his favorite restaurant and today one can sit at the "Walt Disney Table" in the main dining room, Walt actually very rarely ate at that table, preferring instead to sit in the bar with the owner (and restaurant pioneer) Lawrence Frank. Not only did Disney try to capture this fantasy atmosphere in his own "land," but he would also copy elements of Frank's other restaurant, Lawry's. Incidentally, the original interior of "Toad Hall" in "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" at Disneyland looked remarkably similar to Tam's main dining room. Coincidence?

Disneyland aside, Tam O' Shanter's has more folklore connected to it than just the famous Scottish tale. It is also home to a few ghost stories. All of which take place in the "Bonnie Prince Charlie" room at the far end of the restaurant, which oddly was added-on much later and is not part of the original structure. The most famous apparition in this room, a small child, has been nicknamed "Charlie" because of his strong resemblance to the portrait of "The Bonnie Prince Charlie" on the wall. Also, a phantom party of dinners has been witnessed enjoying themselves at the corner table on the far end of the room. It has also been said that a former manager, at the end of the night (before turning on the alarm), would shut the doors to this room, and lean chairs against it, as if to protect the rest of the restaurant from what ever was inside.

On a lesser note, a bartender told GHOULA that he has had a couple of inebriated clients claim to have seen the ghost of Robert Burns (dressed in a kilt). Although, it seems very unlikely that this Scottish ghost would travel so far from home, it is interesting that its happen more than once. The bartender personally believes these particular sightings have more to do with the alcohol than the super-natural.

It is also worth mentioning, one of Tam O'Shanter's specialties is the Welsh Rarebit (a cheesy sauce/spread). In earlier times, it was believed that this food would cause vivid dreams. Maybe if you combine Rarebit and Booze, you too will see the ghost of Robert Burns. Or, Maybe even visions of your own "Theme Park."

Incidentally, Lawry's Restaurants Inc (which owns The Tam O'Shanter Inn) also owns two other local restaurants that are said to be haunted, Lawry's (in Beverly Hills) and Five Crowns (in Corona del Mar).

(To read more about the ghost of The Tam O'Shanter Inn...)
(To learn more about Lawry's...)

(To see last month's location...)

NEW from GHOULA Press

Disneyland After Dark:
An Unauthorized Guide
to the Happiest (Haunted) Place on Earth
By Richard Carradine

A guide to all the super-natural folklore and ghost stories that have circulated about the Magic Kingdom for the last couple of decades. (130 pages)

Price: $13.00