Wednesday, October 29, 2014

His Haunted Mansion The late Rudolph Valentino

Falcon's Lair Visit a Haunted House

Valentino's Falcon Lair
He built it for his wife, but she would never live there. A larger tragedy, he would die not long after its completion. 

The mansion on the hill may rival his grave site for having the most stories of Valentino ghost sightings. Tourist guides, real estate brokers, books and rumors tell of spooky happenings. Have you heard them, have you ever been on a ghost tour, a tour of haunted houses? The address is given as 1436 Bella Dr, Los Angeles, CA.

While some say that Valentino called it Falcon Lair and later owner Doris Duke dubbed it Falcon's Lair, you did occasionally see it called Falcon's Lair before the 1950s.

Stories have circulated around Hollywood of one caretaker who ran down the canyon in the middle of the night yelling that he had seen Valentino. Some even say he is still running.

Young Rudolph Valentino in
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
Screenplay by June Mathis,
a close friend who was said to have discovered Valentino

"I slept in Valentino's haunted house"
In 1928 a magazine reporter was assigned to spend the night in Valentino's bedroom. Would she or wouldn't she find a real haunted house? The actor had died only recently. She submitted a story with the title above. An excerpt:

"Now I am neither a scoffer nor a believer. What is beyond the grave is something no living soul has fathomed. Whether a departed soul can return to communicate with those not yet departed has never been  proved, so far as I know to a point of certainty."

Toward morning she was awakened, "feeling as though someone had entered the room above me. ... I looked up. Could I be dreaming? On the stairway was a shadow. I rose, approached. It disappeared. I sat down again. Once more, the shadow. ....

"I rose and approached this shadow. Was I insane or did it retreat up the stairs before me? I turned, picked up my cot, departed. ...

"The caretaker poked his head out of the second story garage window.

"'Did you see anything?' His nightgown billowed in the breeze as he called down to me.

"I shook my head slowly. 'N-n-no,' I answered."  She soon left the haunted mansion.

Harry Carey & Edwina Booth in Trader Horn
Original 8x10" Photo

The Cowboy & The Ghost, Enter Renter Harry Carey: 
I read that legendary Western star Harry Carey stayed there just one night before leaving because he'd seen Valentino's ghost. But newspaper and other accounts from the actor himself prove otherwise.

the ghostly legend continued. In August 1930, upon the fourth anniversary of the actor's death, a woman came to Falcon Lair. She was stopped by Harry Carey's chauffeur. She demanded admittance. 

"I have an appointment with Mr. Valentino. It is his anniversary and his spirits say I will meet him here."

"Not while I'm working here lady," the chauffeur reportedly said before closing the gates and sending her away.

Harry Carey, his wife and daughter 1930
in front of Falcon Lair
In 1930, Harry Carey, his wife and two young children rented Falcon Lair. The house had been empty for years before he moved in.  

Early in the family's stay, night-time sounds, windows banging and strange lights were off-putting and they considered leaving the home. But the actor famously said, "We've been living with lions and cannibals in Africa. No spook can scare us off." (Carey, the father of actor Harry Carey Jr., had been in the film Trader Horn, shot in Africa.) 

He was perhaps known as one of the great old Cowboy actors, and got an Oscar nomination for his role as the President of the Senate in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). John Wayne had paid tribute to him in the movie The Searchers. The film featured Olive Carey and Harry Carey Jr, Harry Carey's wife and son.

"One day by chance I discovered a hidden door that apparently led to a part of the basement. I opened the door and half-a-hundred bats rushed out. That
Harry and daughter
explore the basement
What was stashed in that box?
ended the tapping." 

"Exploring the basement through the hidden door, Carey said he found a large box containing a mass of electrical wires and switches. He traced those wires and found they led up a chimney to a built-in bookcase in the room above. 

"From the bookcase, hidden wires ran to other parts of the house. Investigating further, Carey said he learned that at Valentino's death a caretaker with spiritualistic leanings had been hired to watch the property.

"Carey said the caretaker and his followers held seances in the rooms where electric terminals were found. From various electric connections pale blue and green light mysteriously flashed on and off thru the house. 'We seem to have solved the mystery,' Carey said."

I found versions of this story in a handful of old newspapers and an old
Pola Negri in Woman of the World
8x10 Silver Halide
Archival Quality Repro Photo Print
magazine from mid-1930. Apparently Mr. Carey was able to turn off the flashing lights but they don't say if he disconnected the wire-works or removed them. 

Don't mix up the actor Mr. Carey with Harry Caray who broadcast for the Chicago Cubs for 16 years. They just happen to have the same name.

Pola Negri:

In 1934 Pola Negri, the final lover of Valentino, purchased Falcon's Lair. She said she wanted to live there 'together with him.' It was where they had planned to live after they were married.

"'That first day when I arrived just as the sun was sinking over the last hill and I stepped through the gate he was there to greet me. He was here, Rudy, his vibrations were everywhere, I could feel him, gay and charming telling us not to be sad not to mourn not to grieve.' 

"From the big house came only silence and yet listening with Pola's ears I seemed to hear the vibrations of Rudy's gay laughter, song and revelry and living voices. ..... 

"'He is less a shadow even though he is gone, than men who live in the world as flesh and blood, because he was all things to all women. He had glamour for all women. But he had also the wistful appeal of the boy whom all women want to mother, to scold a little perhaps, to soothe and console and cherish in their hearts. 

"'He was a brother to girls who never had brothers or having them wished their brothers could be as Rudy was. He was the other son of all elderly women whose own sons had deserted them or disappointed them. He was the Sheik, the good comrade ... he was all those things to me and to all women.'

She talked about how Valentino rode a horse. 'You know how Rudy rode, like a god astride some celestial stallion. That was more than eight years ago... Rudy has been gone eight years on the twenty-third of last August... but it is yesterday to me.' ...

"Pola's white hand still clasping a red rose, covered her heart. ... 'We were both very interested in spiritualism. We used to use the Ouija board and we would get the amazing results together.' ... Yes there is something magnificent, something very much in the Grand Manner about this woman who will love Rudolph Valentino for as long as there is Time."
-- Motion Picture Magazine interview 1934

Not too long after she'd purchased the house Negri was off to France and Germany making movies.  Yes, there was a reference to Pola Negri on a recent episode of Downton Abbey.

The house would continue to change hands, some people owning, others renting. In 1945 actress Ann Harding purchased the home for, I believe $75,000. 

Thirty mediums conduct 1948 birthday seance

Seance scene from 1922 German Silent Film
Dr. Mabuse The Gambler
Directed by Fritz Lang
Seances would continue to be held at the mansion. May, for his birthday and August the month of his death are particular times where it's hoped his spirit may appear. 

For your Seance or Party
Set 6 Antiqued
Vintage Deco
Mercury Glass Candle Holders
On the actor's birthday, May 6, 1948, thirty mediums attempted to confer with Valentino in his hilltop home. Members of the press were in attendance. 

While they did not see or hear the star, some of the mediums claimed that they'd heard, seen or felt the spirit of Valentino. Someone reported message had been channeled: 

"This is Rudolph. You are in my house. I am your host. Please be my guests." 

There were other manifestations claimed such as a loud tap on the window and the flickering of a candle on his birthday cake.
-- Spokane Daily Chronicle, May 7, 1948

The Syndicate plans for 1949, Lair for Loveless Women:
In 1949 five wealthy women, referred to only as The Group or The Syndicate bought Falcon's Lair. There were extravagant and innovative plans for the house to become a sanctuary so loveless women from all over the world could come and live with his ghost should it truly live there.

"Plans were made for a meditation sanctum where lovelorn women can worship the actors memory, a wishing well for the loveless. Bursting rockets every night in clusters of red white and blue to represent purity, passion and devotion.

There would be "private showings after vespers of Valentino's most famous film, The Sheik. Their attorney said, 'For tens of thousands of lovelorn women, the only inspiration in life is the worship of Valentino's memory.'"
The Sydney Morning Herald, February 13, 1949

It doesn't look like these plans came to fruition.

Calling Millicent Rogers and Clark Gable to The Mansion...
I've also read that Millicent Rogers who bought the home in 1949, spent only one night there before being chased out by the ghost of Rudolph Valentino. An
Clark Gable
8x10 glossy Photo
August 1953 Sydney Morning Herald article briefly explained that Millicent Rogers, heiress to some of the Standard Oil millions, "leased Falcon Lair for three months and left next morning."

Socialite, fashion icon, jewelry designer and art collector Millicent Rogers craftedjewelry in the home while she lived there. At the time, she was dating Clark Gable, with whom some sources say she was madly in love. 

This was after the death of Carole Lombard and before his 1949 marriage to Sylvia Ashley. Rogers designed special items for him, cuff links and such. The two dated for some time. Gable's dalliances with actress Virginia Grey upset Rogers a great deal. 

She broke it off with Gable with a letter. She sent a copy of the letter to columnist Hedda Hopper and Hopper reportedly printed the letter in her column. The Dear Clark letter has since been reprinted in books about Rogers and Gable such as Clark Gable: Biography, Filmography, Bibliography. Did Clark Gable ever visit Falcon's Lair? Quite possibly. Who out there knows?

After the difficult break up with Mr. Gable, Millicent Rogers left Los Angeles and so left Falcon's Lair. It wasn't Valentino who drove her out but a more contemporary Hollywood sex symbol, Clark Gable. If you get a chance, visit the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico.

Gloria Swanson in The Love of Sunya 1927
It is a film Swanson also produced
In the 1950s actress Gloria Swanson rented the home while she was in the area making a film. She had earlier visited the home to attend a seance. If there were any ghostly happenings while Ms. Swanson was there, I've not heard of them.

Overlooking Cary Grant 1954 ...
In early 1954 the home was rented by Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton for her son Lance Reventlow as a 21st birthday gift. 

Hutton was doing some remodeling for him. The house now overlooked Cary Grant's "half-glass California type home" on a hill below. Hutton had been married to Cary Grant in the mid-1940s.

After Hutton and Mr. Reventlow, the home reportedly sold to Doris Duke. One newspaper described Duke as being 'twice married and breathtakingly rich.' She owned the mansion for years.

Doris Duke was married
to HR Cromwell 1935-1943
I read that in the 1950s Edgar Bergen and family, of course including the young Candice Bergen, lived at Falcon's Lair. Haven't been able to substantiate it. Many people rented the home, sometimes for a short time.

In 1966 Virginia Hill Hauser was renting the home. She was found dead that same year. Ms. Hauser was said to be a companion of gangster Bugsy Siegel.

It's been over eighty years since Valentino's death. The mansion is said to be haunted. Have you visited Rudolph Valentino's former home? What stories have you heard?? 

Villa Valentino
Other sites are said to be regularly haunted by the ghost of Rudolph Valentino. There is the site of home he shared with Natacha Rambova, a home built in 1922, referred to as Villa Valentino; 6776 Wedgewood Place Whitley Heights. The house was razed in 1951 to make way for the Hollywood Freeway but you may be able to see some of the foundation.

Other Pages in this series:
Rudolph Valentino Speaks from Beyond: The actor speaks to his wife Natacha Rambova

When I Come Back: Valentino and Rambova prepare to leave on honeymoon, he says in essence, I'll Be Back

Strange experiences at Valentino's Grave
Valentino's Grave Site: Halt! Who goes there?? The caretaker at his grave kept a diary for years from the day the star was interred. He shared some entries in an article. Ghostly experiences? Did he see The Lady in Black?

Rudolph Valentino's Impact National Lover, Movie Idol, Sex Symbol: Would he be such big a star today?

Related articles and books of interest:

Haunted Places: The National Directory: Ghostly Abodes, Sacred Sites, UFO Landings and Other Supernatural Locations Go on a celebrity ghost hunt

Too Rich: The Family Secrets of Doris Duke

The narrowest house in New York City Edna St. Vincent Millay, Margaret Meade, Shrek ... John Barrymore is said to haunt a former apartment he had in New York City. Legend has it that Barrymore and Cary Grant lived in the Greenwich Village house in the 1920s.

Searching for Beauty: The Life of Millicent Rogers, the American Heiress Who Taught the World About Style

Sources not cited elsewhere
The Ogden Standard-Examiner,  Milwaukee Sentinel, Greeley Daily Tribune,  The Idaho Falls Post  March 31-April 3 1930
The Miami News, September 3, 1946  
Motion Picture 1930 
Picturegoer March 1923
Picture Play September 1926

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