GHOULA meets for cocktails in haunted places on the 13th of each month. “SPIRITS with SPIRITS” is a casual gathering of regional ghost hunters and those that just like ghost stories. Open to all, from the curious skeptic to the passionate phantom pursuer. Make friends, and toast a ghost! Let’s put the “Boo!” back into “booze.”
All those who attend will receive a free (square) G.H.O.U.L.A. button. If you already have one, please wear it so others can find you, without asking the staff.
In the beginning, yuletide activities revolved around ghosts, demons and other weird creatures that dished out punishments to the naughty as a way of co-opting the pagan winter solstices ceremonies in place before “Christmas.” For this reason, some early American pilgrims felt this celebration was sacrilegious and/or satanic. However, as this “christian” holiday gained popularity, these more sinister traditions were pushed back to autumn and became the basis for today’s Halloween.
So let’s turn back the clock to a simpler time when darkness (and death) ruled the winter, and celebrate a local watering hole with a ghostly connection to Christmas…
Although, Boardner’s opened in 1942, this address had served as a bar for at least a decade before, making it one of the last great bars of Hollywood’s golden era, and as such, it is often used as a film location to evoke that era. It was used in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” (pictured above), since Ed Wood, arguably the worst film director in film history, frequented this tavern. The movie also depicts a fictional meeting between Wood and Orson Welles, arguably Hollywood’s greatest director, at the historic (haunted) Musso & Frank’s Bar and Grill across the street. Although, there is no proof that this event ever happened there, it is likely it may have happened at Boardner’s given that many of Hollywood’s elite (including Welles) could be found slumming it at Boardner’s, including a down-n-out, D.W Griffith, arguably the most important film director ever, who not only transformed movies from novelties into an art form, but he also turned Hollywood, from a farming community, into the center of the motion picture industry.
However, despite all the notable people who have past through its neon-lit entrance, today, most people know of Boardner’s because of its association with the infamous “Black Dahlia” murder case, where the naked body of an actress/singer/possible prostitute was found cut in half with a bloody smile carved into her face, lying “posed” in a vacant lot on Norton Avenue. While the “Black Dahlia,” aka Elizabeth Short, was living in Hollywood (one block away from Boardners), she frequented this establishment. Her drink of preference was supposedly beer. Incidentally, the moniker, “The Black Dahlia” is a reference to a popular movie of that time, “The Blue Dahlia,” which was written by another supposed Boardner’s regular, Raymond Chandler.
The grizzly Dahlia case kicked off a media frenzy, and despite all the scrutiny and investigations, the killer was never caught. Thus, its considered one of the great unsolved mysteries of Los Angeles with many solutions, theories, and suspects that are still discussed among Angelenos (including rumors that she was killed by Orson Welles). There is even a bus tour of all the Dahlia sites by Esotouric Bus Adventures. Recently, the Black Dahlia story has even been worked into the LA-centric TV series, American Horror Story, or rather the ghost of Elizabeth Short is now part of the show and part of their fictional haunted house’s mythology.
In real life, the actual ghost of Elizabeth Short is said to haunt the elevators of the Biltmore Hotel (officially the last place see was seen alive). However, there are claims that she may haunt other locations…
It is said that she visited all her old Hollywood hangouts during the “missing days” before this unknown actress became posthumously famous.
Was she at Boardner’s the night she was murdered? Did she meet her killer there for a drink, or a beer? Was it perhaps the film director that she wrote home about?
Could the dark presence witnesses feel in the tiny ladies room at the far end of the building be the tragic spirit of Elizabeth Short? Does she haunt her old haunt as some believe?
Although the bar is most known for its haunted bathroom (Boardner’s website even boasts about it), as well as odd electrical disturbances, there is an additional ghost that resides on the premises…
There is a room that runs parallel to the the bar on the other side of the north wall (accessed through the courtyard) known as B52 Club (a reference to the bar that occupied this address before Boardners), and home to Bar Sinister (LA’s best Goth Club). Inside the large loft-like space, generally only open during special events, there is a long stairway that goes to an upstairs office. Employees, late at night, have claimed to see a ghostly man at the top of those stairs, or have heard phantom footsteps walking up those steps.
The identity of this male spirit is unknown, but just as with the Dahlia, there are some likely suspects. Obviously, Steve Boardner, the Bar’s namesake, is one suspect, since he spent many hours in that room, using it both as an office and a place for him and his friends to play poker into the wee hours of the morning.
Secondly, it is said that for a period, there was a bed in that room, and the then owner allowed a homeless man to sleep there during the hours that the business was closed. According to this story, one morning, it was discovered that he had died in his sleep sometime during the night before. Interestingly, the historic (haunted) Miceli’s Restaurant, a block away, has an identical story of a homeless man dying in his sleep. Incidentally, Boardner and Carmen Miceli were close friends with signs in each of their establishments pointing patrons to the other establishment. Boardner gave Miceli the money to open his restauarant, back when Miceli was a busboy at the famous (haunted) night club, Ciro’s.
The leading contender for the ghost’s identity, however, is that of Kurt Richter, who purchased Boardner’s from Steve Boardner in 1980 (along with partner, Dave Hadley), and was co-owner of this landmark until he had a heart-attack, and died inside Bioardner’s while sitting at the bar in 1997…
…on Christmas Eve!
Merry Christmas everyone, and hope to see you there!