Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rudolph Valentino and the Lady in Black

Many have heard of the Lady in Black who was seen at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, now known as Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

It was here where a mysterious woman wearing all black was seen placing a bouquet of red roses by Rudolph Valentino’s tomb each year on the anniversary of his death.

But what most do not know is when this woman died, it didn’t prevent her from returning to Valentino’s tomb.

Ditra Flame

Ditra Flame’s mother was a good friend of Rudolph Valentino, a silent screen star and America’s first sex symbol.

Rudolph Valentino
Ditra Flame * and Valentino became friends when she was a young child. She was sickly and spent many days confined to a hospital bed.

Her mother devastated by her daughter’s condition encouraged Valentino to visit Ditra in the hospital.

He did exactly this. Each time Valentino would visit Ditra, he would bring a single red rose. After giving her the rose, he would sit by her bedside, talk to her, and hold her hand.

Ditra loved how Valentino’s smelled of cologne and the tobacco he smoked. As Ditra grew up, she never forgot Valentino’s kindness or a promise she made to the actor.

During one visit Valentino had said to Flame, “If I die before you do, please come and stay with me. I don’t want to be alone either, promise you will come and talk to me.”

As it turned out, Valentino did die before Ditra. He passed when he was only 31 years old. I wrote about Valentino’s tragic death and where his ghost is seen in another post here.

*  Ditra’s last name Flame is pronounced with two syllables “Fla--may.”

Lady in Black

Ditra was heartbroken when Valentino died. She remembered her promise and was determined to keep her word.

Starting in 1926, Flame went to Hollywood Memorial, dressed all in black. She placed red roses at Valentino’s tomb.

Ditra Flame in Aug. of 1953
For years, Flame returned to the cemetery grief-stricken holding red roses and wearing all black on the anniversary of Valentino’s death. Her visits started to attract media attention.

By 1947 this attention annoyed Ditra so much she finally stepped forward and told her story. She hoped this would allow her some peace, but she was mistaken.

In 1954, with a media circus surrounding her visit, Flame decided she would not return the next year.

In 1977, minus her black garb but still holding red roses, she returned once more.

Ditra Flame died in 1984, her tombstone in San Jacinto, California, simply reads, “Lady in Black.”

Several women wearing black in recent years have continued to visit Valentino’s grave to place red roses, but Ditra Flame’s ghost has been seen kneeling at his tomb since her death.

Flame’s Ghost

Witnesses have reported after seeing her ghost, there are always fresh red roses in the wall vases that mark Valentino’s tomb.

Here is one 1st person account.

Joan drove to meet a friend for lunch in Los Angeles. Her friend canceled but not wanting to return to her home in the San Fernando Valley during the rush hour she decided to explore Hollywood.

On impulse, she drove to Hollywood Forever Cemetery, she had heard several stars were buried there.

Once in the cemetery, she made her way to the Cathedral Mausoleum. She wanted to see the final resting place of Rudolph Valentino.

When she entered, she found the marble filled hall was deserted. Despite being alone, she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her.

Rudolph Valentino Tomb
She walked down the hall and found Valentino’s name on a plaque. The two vases that hung on either side were empty. For some reason, this made her feel sad. She ran her hands across the raised letters and turned to leave.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a dark shadow, but as she glanced to the side, it disappeared. She stopped to see if she could hear footfalls but all was quiet.

Becoming afraid she proceeded toward the entrance but stopped when she saw the shadow once more. As it brushed passed her, she felt it push her arm.

Again, when she looked nothing was there.

Mausoleum Hallway,
arrow points to tomb
Curiosity overtook her fear, and she headed back toward Valentino’s tomb. The vases that had been empty now both held long-stemmed roses.

Not believing what she was seeing she reached out to touch one of them to confirm it was real.

When she returned home she did some research and discovered others had seen a phantom mourner at Valentino’s tomb--they felt this was the ghost of Ditra Flame.

It left her wondering, was the shadow she had seen and felt Ditra? Was she the one who left the roses? 

While Ditra was still alive, other women pretended to be the real Lady in Black. Here are some of the imposters.

Click to enlarge.

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