Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Errol Flynn: Haunted Mulholland Farm


Errol Flynn was born in Tasmania and grew up in Australia. He did not like school and had a strained relationship with his mother. He left home at an early age and took odd jobs. Ironically, he had his best luck as a “slave trader” in New Guinea.

Flynn by the age of 25 was in Hollywood. Within months he was cast as the star of the first great pirate epic, “Captain Blood.” Flynn became a popular action star and romantic lead as he adroitly made his way through a series of classic swashbuckler films including: Sea Hawk, The Adventures of Don Juan, and the what is considered his best, The Adventures of Robin Hood.

In 1941 at the age of 33 Flynn built his dream home high above the glitzy Beverly Hills homes that were owned by the most famous stars of the time. He bought eleven and half acres on top of a ravine off what was at that time a dusty dirt road named Mulholland Drive. 

He built a two-story colonial style ranch house. The grounds also included a pool, tennis court, barn and even a casino. He called his home “Mulholland Farm”. His personal name for his home was "playhouse".

The publicity that surrounded Flynn was rarely about his films. He routinely made headlines for his carousing and mischief, which included fistfights, paternity suits and a legendary story about him and Raoul Walsh snatching the body of John Barrymore. *

Flynn was known about town as a “wicked” ladies-man. His girlfriends made up an imposing list of starlets and stars of the time. True to his bad boy image, Flynn had secret passageways installed with peepholes and two-way mirrors at the farm so he could spy on his lady friends as they ** changed into their bathing suits or used the shower in the bathroom. The parties he threw were the scandalous talk of Hollywood. They included “live dance bands, nude divers, fencing exhibitions, and plenty of girls.”

The phrase “in like Flynn” was a crude double entendre used to describe Flynn’s success in getting women into bed. *** One year after Flynn built Mulholland Farm in 1942 two young girls accused him of statutory rape. His rape trail lasted a month and made front page newspaper headlines all over the country. During this time the phrase “in like Flynn” which had once flattered now made him the brunt of many cruel jokes.

Flynn was acquitted of the rape charges but his credibility as an artist was lost. Finding the damage was irreversible Flynn at one point even considered suicide. Within a short ten years Flynn fled the U.S. owing half a million in back taxes and alimony to two ex-wives. To ease his pain he started to drink and use drugs. He continued to work as an actor in Europe but he never regained his early success. He died in Vancouver B.C. in 1959 of a massive heart attack at the relatively young age of 50.

After Flynn’s death Stuart Hamblen, who was one of America’s first singing cowboys on the radio purchased Mulholland Farm. Over the twenty years he owned the farm several unusual occurrences were reported. When singer-song writer Ricky Nelson, who was a big fan of Flynn, bought the farm in 1980 the activity became even more pronounced. Nelson’s daughter Tracy experienced several unexplained events.

Tracy often felt a presence in the house. One night when she arrived home late from work she spotted a male figure standing in the dining room. She thought it was her father until she realized that his car was not in the driveway. Another time she thought buglars had broken into the house. She heard people throwing things at the walls and breaking chairs and glass as she hid in her bedroom. 

Surprised the next morning she found everything untouched except for one room which had been locked from the inside. When she spoke to her father about what she felt and heard he replied, “Oh, that’s only Errol.” Tracy moved out of the house after this. 

Months later her father called her and described that he and his girlfriend had heard the same smashing of glass and furniture in the same room--they too had thought that someone had broken into the house. When they inspected the area only the door was locked from the inside, nothing else had been touched. After her father died in a plane crash Tracy stated that she felt all the unexplained activity at Mulholland was Flynn’s ghost trying to warn them of an impending disaster.

Tracy's brother Gunnar also had an experience with Flynn's ghost. He saw Flynn's reflection in one of the mirrors in the home. Character actor Harv Presnell (he sang the song "Mariah" in Paint Your Wagon) was married to one of Stuart Hamblen's daughters. He and several Hamblen family members encountered Flynn's ghost. The Hamblen children and their friends felt the Casino building was haunted and would not enter it. 

The Hamblens and Nelsons agreed that most of the activity in the house centered around the wing of the house where the den was. In this wing both the first and second floors were active. This area was where Errol spent most of his time when he lived at the farm.

David Niven and Olivia de Havilland both were close to Flynn when he was alive. Both stated that after his death they felt his presence near them. Niven even mentioned that he and Flynn conversed after Flynn's death. He stated that Flynn helped steer his career in the 1960s. Flynn's spirit was restless in life and it appears he remained active after death.

In 1988 Flynn’s notorious farm was torn down after a group of homeless squatters set a fire that burned part of the house down.  Another home stands in its place and is owned by Justin Timberlake today.

*  Some researchers do not believe that Flynn and Walsh could have actually snatched the body of Barrymore and taken it to Mulholland Farm where they supposedly propped it up in Flynn’s favorite chair, drink in hand. Others state the two were just crazy enough to do it.

** Flynn’s two-way mirrors were an “open secret”. As for his female visitors, most knew about his wicked ways and wanted his attention. But it still leaves one to wonder how many of these women were unknowing victims of this voyeurism.

One biography about Flynn speculates that his behavior was a result of the fact his mother instilled in him at an early age that sex was sinful, and that his genitals were nasty. She was known to beat him. At the same time she flirted with her various boyfriends openly, craving their attention. This sent a confusing mixed message to her young son.

*** Some debate the phrase “in like Flynn” would have been too risqué for the 1940s but it was actually the phrases double meaning that allowed it to become apart of the common vernacular of the time.

I place this video here because it has images of Mulholland Farm--it reflects Flynn's movie persona not his real life...

No comments: