Monday, July 28, 2014

Thelma Todd’s Ghost

Thelma Todd

Thelma Todd was a huge star in 1930s Hollywood. She was the “ice-cream blonde” with a talent for comedy.

Tragically, Todd who had earned the nickname “Hot Toddy” in Hollywood was found dead in her car on the morning of December 16, 1935. She was 30 years old.

Todd at the time of her death had starred in 40 films most of them comedies. She worked with all the great comedians of the time --the Marx brothers in--Horse Feathers and Monkey Business, Laurel and Hardy--The Devil’s Brother, Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in Speak Easily to name just a few. She starred in the 1932 film Gary Grant made his debut in --This is the Night.

Todd’s death set off a media frenzy that would easily rival the O.J. Simpson case sixty years later. The main reason for this is because the cause of her death, despite the official report, remains a mystery.

Climb to Success

Todd was a happy grade school teacher in Massachusetts. To make extra money she worked as a fashion model on the side. This led to her entering several beauty contests.

She won the title of Miss Massachusetts in 1925. During her reign she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and began attending Paramount Picture’s acting school in New York City.

She came to Hollywood just as the industry was transitioning from silent films to talkies. She eventually landed at Hal Roach studios where she worked up until her death.

Todd had a successful career but her personal life unfortunately did not follow the same path.

Bad Boys

Todd was attracted to exciting but dangerous men. She married a man by the name of Pat DiCicco who worked in Hollywood under the guise of being an “agent.” DiCicco abused Todd and she divorced him.

Todd with husband Pat DiCicco

In 1931, Todd starred under the name “Alison Lloyd” in a crime thriller entitled, Corsair directed by Roland West. Todd was branching out from the typical comedies she starred in.

Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe
in Pacific Palisades
West became Todd’s occasional lover. The two opened a successful restaurant--using Todd’s fame-- off the Pacific Coast Highway between Santa Monica and Malibu called Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café.

This café was located on the ground floor of a large 3-story 15,000 square foot building. West and Todd also ran a private nightclub on the second floor called Joya’s--this establishment quickly became the playground for Hollywood’s rich and famous.

The two frequently fought because Todd didn’t like being tied to this nightclub and Café--she liked to go out. But West insisted she was his “magnet.”

“You’re my money maker, and if you are not here, I’m not making money.”

Roland West, his ex-wife and Todd lived in ritzy ocean-view apartments on this building’s upper floor. There were sliding doors between West and Todd’s apartments so they could carry on a discrete affair.

During this time the gangland boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano approached Todd. He knew Todd through her connection with DiCicco. He wanted to place a gambling casino above the Café. Todd refused his request.

Lucky Luciano
Her Death

On the night of her death Todd had attended a party given in her honor by Ida Lupino’s father Stanley at the famous Sunset Strip Trocadero nightclub.

Her ex-husband DiCicco was at the party and the two became entangled in a bitter fight. After this, Todd spent the rest of the evening drinking heavily.

Thelma Todd's body
She was taken home in a chauffer driven car and arrived at the Cafe at 3:35 a.m. Her maid later found her dead in the Café’s two-car garage. She was slumped over on the passenger side of her brown 1934 Lincoln Phaeton convertible. The car was still running and the garage doors were closed.

It was determined that Thelma Todd died of monoxide poisoning and her death was officially ruled a suicide.

This might have been the end of it but the condition of Todd’s body when discovered has kept this elusive mystery in the forefront for 80 years.

When Todd’s body was discovered she had bruises on her lower lip and according to exaggerated news reports of the time she had a broken nose and ribs. Blood was also found on her face and in the car.

Possible Suspects

Several theories have been suggested as the real cause of Todd’s death. Here are just two.

One states that Todd’s ex-husband Pat DiCicco followed her home after their argument at the party. DiCicco was not a Hollywood agent but instead he was one of Lucky Luciano’s right hand-men.

Some theories speculate it was personal for DiCicco--it was widely known he was bitter about the fact Todd divorced him.

Others speculate that he might have been working on Luciano’s behalf because Todd had rejected his request to use her establishment for a gambling casino. Todd had gone to the DA when Luciano became persistent.

Roland West
A second theory involves Roland West. He was obsessed with the success of the two businesses he and Todd started together. He also was often angry when he couldn’t control Todd.

Witnesses reported hearing Todd and West having a loud argument in the wee hours of the morning she was found dead. One account states West was angry Todd have returned so late from her party.

Some feel that he killed Todd in a moment of rage and then placed Todd’s body in the convertible with the engine running to make it look like an accident.

Todd’s Ghost

Regardless of whether it was a suicide or a murder Thelma Todd’s spirit appears not to rest easy.

The area where Todd died has been considered haunted since her death.

Witnesses have reported seeing Thelma Todd wearing a gown, mink and covered in jewels walking around.

She is often seen on a staircase in the building were she once lived. Witnesses who have seen her state she never speaks.

In the garage where she was found dead other witnesses have stated they hear a car running. Yet others state they smell carbon monoxide in this area.

The reason these two reports are considered unusual is the fact this double garage has not been used to store cars in years.

Friday, July 25, 2014

London: Ten Bells Pub

This pub first opened its doors in the 18th century. It is located in Spitalfield in the East End of London.

The Ten Bells is at the upper
top right of this 1905 photo.
Ten Bells is named after the 10 bells that peal out in Christ Churches’ belfry next door. At one time the pub was called Eight Bells but when the church upgraded to 10 chimes the pub’s name was upgraded as well.

This pub became renowned because of its connection to the Jack the Ripper crimes in the late 1800s. All the murdered prostitutes at one time or another had patronized this public house.

Mary Kelly, the Rippers last victim often stood in front of Ten Bells to solicit customers. Her body was found across the road from the pub.

Because of this the pub was renamed Jack the Ripper in 1979. By 1988 it was pointed out that this murderer shouldn’t be commemorated in this way so it was again named The Ten Bells.

Rumors about the Ten Bells being haunted have circulated for years.

Annie Chapman

One claim is that the pub has an active poltergeist. It is believed this ghost is Annie Chapman who was one of the Ripper’s victims.

Annie Chapman
It is stated that after Annie spent one night drinking at the pub the Ripper lured her away. Her body was found later mutilated nearby on Hanbury Street.

Annie is believed to be the ghost that makes objects move mysteriously in the pub. She is particularly fond of moving pints of beer.

Despite the fact she was murdered brutally her ghost is not considered malicious in nature.

Annie has never been seen just felt.

But there is a ghost at Ten Bells that does appear on a regular basis.

The Old Man
The Ten Bells 2012
In the 1990s several staff members who worked at this pub lived upstairs. These employees regularly reported seeing a ghostly old man wearing Victorian clothing.

Several reported waking in the middle of the night feeling uneasy. When they turned over they saw a male phantom form lying beside them in their beds.

As they cried out in shock or moved to leave their beds this figure then disappeared.

The descriptions given of this ghost always closely matched. No one had any idea who this man was. The staff that opted to stay learned to live with this activity.

In 2000, the new landlord was cleaning out the building’s cellar when he found an old metal box hidden in a corner.

It contained items that belonged to a man named George Roberts. A wallet that was found contained a clipping that mentioned Roberts was murdered with an axe while at the Swansea Cinema.

It was later discovered Roberts had been the landlord of the Ten Bells when the Ripper was active in the late 1800s.

People today state the old man that is seen is George Roberts.

One tenant in the building in 2001 stated that he often heard Robert’s footsteps and his laughter when he was the only one in the building.

Modern day interior.
He would always investigate but he never discovered anything.

One evening as he headed down the stairs to investigate the bar area he felt firm invisible hands shove him. This happened to him more than once--each time he ended up falling down the stairs.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sise Inn’s Playful Ghosts

Portsmouth, NH

This Bed and Breakfast is located in the quaint seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

John Sise, a wealthy businessman built this Queen Anne style home on land formally owned by his wife’s family in 1881. He and his wife Lucy, and their daughter Mabel lived happily on the property for years. When Mabel married she and her husband inherited the home.

In the 1930s the property was sold and then used as business and doctor’s offices. It later was a beauty salon and then was converted into apartments. By the 1950s the home was being used as a halfway house for the mentally ill.

It was at this time the haunting was first noticed by several patients. 

Sise Inn today.
In 1986 the home was renovated and became the Sise Inn. This inn has a charming Victorian Era atmosphere. Every room has antiques and the butter wood paneling adds to the overall warmth of this 3-story building.

At the time the inn opened a modern light-filled atrium was added to the building.

With guests coming and going the ghostly activity became more pronounced.

Two Ghosts

Some feel there are two ghosts at the inn one being male and the other female. Both are very mischievous--especially the male ghost who appears to be the more active of the two.

Ghosts tend to be fascinated by doors and these two are no different. They like to open and shut doors but they take this a step further and lock and unlock doors.

Haunted Suite 204
One couple staying at the inn returned late one night to find their room key would not open their suite’s door. The desk clerk and the manager tried with their passkeys but they couldn’t unlock the door. At 4:00 a.m. a locksmith was called and this man tried the couple’s key and the door unlocked easily.

Maids at the inn have also reported having trouble unlocking doors--they report cold spots each time this happens.

These two ghosts seem to be obsessed by the inn’s elevator--it often goes up and down and the door opens and closes without human assistance.

They are also fascinated by the inn’s second floor ice machine. One evening the desk clerk heard a commotion upstairs when no guests were staying on the second floor. This staff member found ice strewn around the hall and stacks of cubes melting on the floor in various guest rooms.

Another time a maid saw ice cubes being thrown across a room.

These two also enjoy moving objects. One noted incident involved a large potted plant that was seen levitating off a coffee table by a guest staying in a suite. This man demanded a new room.

A rocking chair that is near the front desk is seen rocking on its own.

In this same area one evening the desk clerk stepped away from the counter briefly and returned to find a pair of scissors on top of the counter--moments before these scissors where in a box where they are normally stored beneath this shelf.

A Ladies’ Man

The male ghost has gained a reputation as being amorous. Female guests often report having their bottoms grabbed. One female visitor reported seeing this ghost lie down on the bed with her.

Maids have also reported his cheeky behavior. One stated this ghost approached her from behind and placed his hands on her hips.

Why is this Inn Haunted?

What is unusual is the two ghosts in this building have no apparent connection to the home’s history. Most haunted houses have former owners, servants or someone that stayed on the property while alive return after death.

One popular backstory or legend that is circulated about the home states a butler of Sise’s fell in love with a housemaid but when their relationship went sour the butler killed the maid and then hung himself. But there is no evidence this actually happened.

Most feel since these two ghosts are playful that it is doubtful they experienced violent or tragic deaths.

Who these two might be remains a mystery.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Washington State: Lady of the Lake

Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent located within Olympic National Park has the reputation for “rarely giving up its dead.”

The following ghost story is an exception to this rule. Olympic Peninsula citizens often share this gruesome, tragic tale about a murder and a body that turned to soap.

The Discovery

One summer morning in 1940 two fishermen boating on Lake Crescent spotted a large object floating on the surface. When they drew near they realized it was a human body wrapped in blankets and hogtied with rope.

The coroner who then took charge of the body discovered a corpse in an unusual condition.

The body had not decomposed or decayed and it had no apparent odor. The flesh was hard and waxy. It was found the body had gone through a process known as saponification--this is where fatty acids convert to soap.

The cold deep waters of the lake had preserved the body and the salt and calcium had slowly converted the tissue into a material similar to Ivory soap called adipocere.

The coroner noted this 36-year old female victim had been murdered for she had discoloration and bruises on her neck and evidence of an extensive hemorrhage on her chest. She had been beaten and strangled.

Her Identity

Despite the well-preserved state of the corpse the authorities had a hard time determing whom this woman was. The body was missing a face, fingertips and toes.

The preserved corpse.
The locals quickly dubbed the mystery corpse--Lady of the Lake.

Her dental records were sent to over 5,000 dentists. Finally a dentist in South Dakota came forward in 1941 stating the upper dental plate belonged to a former patient of his--Hallie Latham.

Hallie Latham Illingworth

Hallie Lathan Illingworth
Hallie was born to a hard-working farm couple in Greenville, Kentucky in 1901. As a young adult she had moved slowly across the west in search of a better life.

By the time she reached Port Angeles in Washington in 1936 she had ended her second marriage and was working at the Lake Crescent Tavern --today known as the Lake Crescent Lodge--as a barmaid.

She met and married her third husband Montgomery “Monty” J. Illingworth, a beer-truck driver and known ladies man in Port Angeles on January 16, 1936.

The marriage was a turbulent one. Hallie often would show up to work with bruises on her arms and face. At one point the police were called in to break up a pre-dawn fierce fight between the two only 5 months into their marriage.

The Disappearance

After almost one year of marriage Hallie suddenly went missing shortly before Christmas in December of 1937. Monty told her family and friends that she had run off with a fisherman from Alaska.

Hallie’s close-knit family though became alarmed when she did not contact them over the holidays.

In the meantime, Monty seemingly unconcerned about his missing wife moved to Long Beach, California with a woman he had been romantically connected to in Port Angeles before Hallie’s disappearance.

By 1938 Monty was granted a divorce from Hallie.

Three years after her disappearance on July 6, 1940 Hallie reappeared as the Lady of the Lake sending the citizens of the Peninsula Coast into shock.

Apprehending a Killer

In October of 1941 Monty Illingworth was arrested in Long Beach. He was brought back to Port Angeles and was put on trail for Hallie’s murder in Clallam County Superior Court in February of 1941.

Monty Illingworth during trail.
This 9-day trail’s sensationalized headlines competed with news about the Second World War around the U.S.

Throughout the trail Monty maintained his innocence. Stating that the body that was found was not his ex-wife. He even stated that she was still “gallivanting around with her lover.”

But the evidence against him was overwhelming. The Dentist from South Dakota was a very credible witness--he insisted the dental plate belonged to Hallie.

Hallie’s friends who testified identified the clothing found with the corpse as belonging to her.

The key evidence turned out to be the heavy rope that the corpse was hogtied with. Monty had borrowed 50 feet of rope from the storekeeper at the lake. The store still had remnants from this rope--the fibers matched exactly.

After 4 hours of deliberation the jurors found Monty guilty of second-degree murder * he was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla.

Illingworth served 9 years of this sentence and then was paroled in 1951. He died in 1974 in Los Alamitos, California.

* The murder was not considered premeditated --it  was believed instead to be just one more of the couple’s violent fights but this time it had escalated out of control.

The Haunting

Since this murder a legend has grown about Hallie's spirit still haunting the area where she worked and died.

Lake Crescent Tavern
Mid 1930s
Tourists that stay at the lodge have seen her ghost. She is spotted sitting at a table smoking a cigarette. Some unsuspecting visitors have reported she spoke to them.

Staff at the lodge report hearing her clatter up and down the stairs in the early hours of the morning.

Other reports include lights flickering, doors slamming and music playing loudly in the lounge. Some state this makes sense since Hallie liked to drink while alive.

She is also seen walking along the lake’s shore. She is described as a dark, pale translucent figure. More legendary reports mention she is sometimes seen gliding across the water.

One first person account mentions seeing Monty in a rowboat and him carelessly dropping Hallie’s weighted body into the deceptive waters of Lake Crescent.