Monday, September 10, 2012

September'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.

Note: On Thursday night, Yamashiro hosts a neighborhood farmer's market (5pm - 9pm), so there will be additional food and drink available from vendors and food trucks in Yamashiro's parking lot. For those that don't want a formal Japanese dining experience (or the expense), this is a great way to see this historic restaurant, the amazing view, and enjoy the pleasant weather. (for Farmer's Market info...)

THE DATE: September 13th, 2012 (Thursday)
THE PLACE: Yamashiro
1999 N. Sycamore Avenue, Hollywood (Map)
MEETING SPOT: We will be in the Farmer's Market (parking lot),
seated at the tables around parking space #130. Look for someone with a GHOULA button.
THE TIME: 7:00pm - 9:00pm

PARKING: There is of course valet parking at the restaurant, but Yamashiro also provides FREE off-site parking at with shuttle service up and down the hill. (for free parking/shuttle info...) For those that want to take the Metro, the restaurant is a short (but steep) walk from the Hollywood/Highland station.


Robert Arthur's book, "The Mystery of the Green Ghost" (1965), is about a haunted, ornate Asian-themed mansion on top of a hill in Southern California that is filled with ghosts, secrets, and treasures of the Orient. The story was inspired by the Bernheimer House and Gardens in Pacific Palisades. Although, that amazing structure is no longer with us, the original Bernheimer House and Gardens (before Bernheimer moved west to the Palisades) is still around, on a hill, 300 feet above Hollywood, and it too is filled with ghosts, secrets, and treasures from the Orient.

When this residential fortress was completed in 1914, the Bernheimer Brothers (Adolph and Eugene) filled it with Asian antiques and artifacts from their travels, dubbed it "Yamashiro" ("Castle on a Hill"), and mysteriously vowed (as reported in the LA Times) that no woman would be allowed to enter their house as an invited guest. Their new "Yamashiro' was said to be an exact replica of a palace in Japan, but in reality, the design is just a hodge-podge of Japanese and Chinese motifs placed on top of a European-style house. As a palatial home, Yamashiro lasted less than ten years. Eugene died in 1923 (his remains are said to be buried in the central courtyard), and Adolf moved to the Palisades.

The estate was then converted into a private club for Hollywood's elite (a response to the other societies that would not allow actors), known as the "400 Club." During its life, this anything-but-simple structure has also served as a military academy, apartments, the supposed headquarters for Japanese spies during WWII, a theme park, the possible inspiration for Grauman's Chinese Theater, and was abandoned for several years before eventually becoming (in 1960) one of Hollywood's most famous restaurants (famous for having the best view in Los Angeles).

That cryptic proclamation (or warning) about women being forbidden is ironic considering Yamashiro's most prominent ghost is that of a "weeping woman" in the "Bride's Room" on the second floor. Her cries are heard, but when someone investigates, and opens the door. The room is empty. Also her silhouette has been seen from outside crossing in front of the upstairs windows. Her identity and reason for such sadness is unknown. Like so many historic watering-holes in Los Angeles, Yamashiro's is also said to have been a speak-easy and perhaps a bordello. Is the "weeping woman" one of the disillusioned would-be starlets that was forced to sell her body to survive during the Great Depression?

Additionally, there is a male silhouette that passes those same second story windows. He is presumed to be a former bartender, because most of the sightings of this phantom figure are seen in the bar area (to the right of the main entrance). Although witnesses and staff seem positive about his identity, it is worth noting, that in 1955, film pioneer, Fayette Thomas Moore committed suicide by gunshot in his parked car on the street in front of this historic landmark. Also, Yamashiro sits at the end of Sycamore Avenue, which according to local lore was named for a row of Sycamores at the base of the hill used to hang outlaws. Could the male ghost be the suicide victim or one of the hanged bandits? Perhaps it is the ubiquitous spirit of Rudolph Valentino, who not only visited the house (in life) when it was the 400 Club, but whose ghost has been seen all over Hollywood. Or, what about Bernheimer, himself, whose remains may be just a few feet from the bar, where the ghostly man has been seen?

So, come out, and have a drink, and explore Los Angeles' oldest structure (600 years old), the pagoda (of the outdoor "Pagoda Bar"), as well as the other surprises waiting to be discovered inside and around Hollywood's "Castle on the Hill" (directly above Hollywood's Magic Castle)... if you dare!
(to read about last month's haunted location... )
(to see a map of previous SPIRITS with SPIRITS locations... )

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