Note: Listen to Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings by Father John Misty while reading this blog to get you in the mood…for murder…
[cue evil laughing]
Memorial Day weekend I hopped a plane and flew to California to visit my cousin. Luckily, in her, I have a freakish spirit animal that enjoys the same type of macabre fascinations as I do.
While relaxing by the pool, chilling at the beach, or taking in an art museum is what some normal people do, I’d much rather have my vacation involve the weird. Take me to a new place and I’ll instantly ask to be pointed in the direction of the nearest graveyard. Or wine bar. And hell, if those two ever combine then I’ll be in heaven.
Our dark day in LA consisted of three things that I most heartily (and gruesomely) recommend…
American Horror Story House
First, a pit stop at the locale of the American Horror Story house – the Rosenheim mansion. It’s a weird scene; a beautiful mansion set in the middle of a random street of normal-ish houses. Sadly, the mansion seems to have fallen into a state of dilapidated disrepair. The backyard was covered in weeds, while in the front it was apparent the owners have had all they can take of gawkers, because numerous signs warning against stepping foot on property dotted the front yard as well as a flock of foreboding ravens. I kept expecting to see a face staring down at us from one of the upstairs windows before we bolted for the safety of the car.
Find the Alfred Rosenheim Mansion at 1120 Westchester Place, Los Angeles CA
Dearly Departed Tours – Tragical History Tour
Founded by Scott Michaels, this tour is THE tour for morbid curiosity seekers everywhere. Seriously. If you’re in LA and like this kind of weird, dark Hollywood history, book this tour STAT. While numerous tours are offered (Ahem, Manson, anyone?), we booked the Dearly Departed Tragical History Tour.
The Dearly Departed Tours office on Sunset Boulevard was a museum in its own right. Celebrity death memorabilia line the walls and the floors. Jayne Mansfield’s pink suitcase, a signed Sharon Tate autopsy report, a letter from John Wayne Gacy, door pulls from Room 105 of the Landmark Hotel where Janis Joplin died.
Our senses were overstimulated, and after craning and nearly climbing on top of a desk to get a better look at the John Wayne Gacy letter we were stopped by a man. Instead of getting a lecture about keeping my slovenly body off the furniture, the man instantly launched into the story behind the letter, keeping the cousin and I in rapt attention for about fifteen minutes.
After purchasing a souvenir Hotel key chain, we climbed aboard the tour bus and the cousin and I were instantly elated to learn that the man we had been speaking with about the Gacy letter was our tour guide.
He announced to the small group, “I would kill a small child for a Yuengling right now.”
And with this quote so began our tour on Dearly Departed Tours with Brian Donnelly.
Donnelly, an amazing, energetic tour guide, can navigate the city like a pro and show us about 150 sights in two and a half hours. He had a mic and an opinion and like he said on the tour, it’s the perfect combination for someone with ADD. He knew his Hollywood history, was proud to live in LA and didn’t skimp on the gory details.
Some sights/discussions included: Rebecca Schaeffer’s apartment, Storybook Homes, Scientology Celebrity Center, Lana Turner scandal, The Viper Room, Bela Lugosi, Black Dahlia rumored murder house, Knickerbocker, Beverly Hills homes, Whisky a Go Go, Bugsy Siegel’s murder house, Château Marmont, the Menendez Brother’s family mansion, the spots where Janis Joplin and Sharon Tate ate their last meals (Barney’s Beanery and El Coyote respectively)…and a shit ton more.
I’ll stop here since it can’t even sum up the awesomeness of this tour. All I can say and all I can do is pimp it out. If you’re ever in LA, take three hours and make this a priority.
Dearly Departed Tours haunts 6603 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood, CA
Museum of Death
When all you want to see is genuine serial killer letters from Richard Ramirez The Night Stalker and artwork by John Wayne Gacy look no further than the Museum of Death. The last stop on our frightful escapade.
Nestled in a nondescript location on Hollywood Boulevard, the Museum of Death lures in the curious, crazed and unassuming. Sadly, photographs were not allowed and I resisted the urge to snap secretive stills. This museum is not for the faint of heart. I asked the front desk clerk about the pass-out quota and he said that they probably give smelling salts to someone about once a week.
The cousin and I have cold hearts and iron-stomachs as we braved the close confines of the small museum, only once getting slightly woozy as we took the self-guided tour.
Divided up into sections, each room is dedicated to a morbid curiosity or real-life tragedy. We feasted eyes on the Serial Killer Room, the Manson Murder room, the Black Dahlia Murder room, Heaven’s Gate recreation, Execution room, Mortician and Autopsy Instrument room (this is where our knees almost buckled), Taxidermy Room, Cult Room, Suicide Room, and more…
One section titled “Heads and Tales” involves a murderous methhead couple that’s an I-CAN’T-EVEN experience probably no one should have, but the cousin and I gawked in horror at the ghastly photos lining the wall and braced ourselves for the night terrors to come.
Leaving, we lingered in the gift shop, where Charles Manson’s vinyl recordings were being sold, and as we walked outside into the bright sunlight, pondered just how chillingly intimate we had just gotten with the gruesome side of death.
The Museum of Death rests-in-peace at 6031 Hollywood Boulevard, CA