Monday, March 18, 2013

The Ghost of William S. Hart

William Surrey Hart was an American matinee idol and silent screen star from 1914-1925. 

He often portrayed cowboy characters that were at first “bad cowboys” who then was transformed by the love of a good woman. 
William Hart stamp

Hart began his career on the stage in his 20s. He didn’t start acting in films until the age of 49. He moved to Hollywood and worked for Thomas Ince’s New York Motion Picture Company. 

On the Broadway stage, Hart was known as a consummate Shakespearean actor—in his later films; this experience was reflected in his fluid movements and fantastic facial expressions. 

The last Western Hart starred in was in 1925. This film entitled, “Tumbleweeds” is considered one of his best.

Hart did all his own stunts, which resulted in many injuries. By the mid-1920s, Hart’s brand-- the gritty, rough clothed, rugged western star went out of vogue. 

Hart disgusted by “pretty boy” pictures refused to change with the times. A new and much more flashy cowboy western star, Tom Mix was now all the rage. 

Hart retired to Newhall, California where he had the architect, Arthur R. Kelly design and build a 22-room mansion, in the Spanish Colonial Revival style for him. Hart called his new home, “La Loma de los Vientos” meaning Hill of the Winds. 

He and one of his sisters who used a wheelchair moved into this home in 1928. Hart’s 265-acre Horseshoe Ranch was connected to this property.

Sketch of Hart 1929
Hart lived on this ranch for almost twenty years. In 1946, at the age of 81, he died—his sister passed away before him. 

Hart left his mansion and ranch to Los Angeles County. His estate is a museum today. 

Hart collected an impressive amount of Western art. This collection, which includes pieces by Charles M. Russell, Frederic Remington and Joe de Yong, are displayed in the mansion today. 

Hart’s home also has an impressive collection of Native America art, as well as all its original furnishings, etc. The ranch has an assortment of animals, including a herd of bison, which were donated to the museum by Disney Studios in 1962.

Since his death, there have been numerous sightings of Hart's ghost, and his sister’s spirit on the property. 

Hart often appears to people he is familiar with. Docents at the museum see him the most. 

The ghosts of Hart’s two Great Danes, which are buried on the property, have also been seen. One young visitor, when asked who he was playing with, replied, “the big doggies.”  

In the mansion’s kitchen, which is never used, there often is the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Docent’s find this very strange because no food or beverages are allowed inside the museum—not even in their office. 

Since the mansion displays a considerable art collection, there is a very sophisticated alarm system in place. But on countless occasions, motion sensors have been tripped during the night when the estate is locked up and secure. When people arrive to check it out—no one is inside the mansion. 

Since there is so much unusual activity on the property the docents keep a “logbook.” of all these experiences.

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