7 Dead Academy Award Winners Who Now Play Ghostly Roles
The 2014 Academy Awards Ceremony is March 2, and this year’s batch of actors, directors, musicians and techs can’t wait to see who gets the gold this time around. The winners will become part of an industry legacy nearly a century old. Some winners will vanish into obscurity, doomed to be little more than a question on trivia night at a bar downtown, while the memories of others will live forever, and continue to make headlines long after they are dead.
We’re focusing on eternal star power in this piece. These seven Oscar winners just don’t know when to give it up, and go away once the production of their lives has wrapped.
It’s not a new story. This has been going on from the beginning of the awards ceremony, as even one of the founders of the Academy reportedly still haunts Los Angeles. Even the one-time home of the Oscar’s ceremony, the Pantages Theatre (1949-1959), is allegedly haunted by the ghost of Howard Hughes, who owned it and lured organizers into moving the ceremony there.
it should be noted, claims about celebrity ghosts should be viewed with skepticism because an audience as large as the one for the Oscars, reportedly close to 1 billion worldwide, makes an attractive target for people looking to make a quick buck. That’s why many of these ghostly celebrity homes are hot spots on “haunted tours” in Hollywood and other locations.
The stories might be true, but they might also just be attempts by market savvy vultures to exorcise money from the pockets of tourists.
With that being said, it should also be noted this started out as 9 Oscar Winning Ghosts, but I’ve ditched a few because detailed stories just aren’t there to support the claims. The reports of them in the sources I found are basically the same sentence or two, copied over and over again, in tourist-trap, promotional materials. Those names will be listed at the end, without much detail, just to complete the list of every Oscar winning ghost I could find.
Honorary Oscar (1976)
In recognition of her unique contributions to the film industry and the development of film as an artistic medium. Mary Pickford was not present at the awards ceremony. The presentation was made at her Pickfair estate and taped for inclusion in the broadcast.
Best Actress in a Leading Role (1930)
The Academy Awards began in 1929, the year Mary Pickford’s film Coquette, for which she would win an Oscar the following year, was made. Coincidentally, she was one of the 36 people who founded the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was also a founding member of United Artists along with D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charles Chaplain. She and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were the first two hands to be put in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Pickford was one of the first international movie stars, and as such, she has a list of “First to” achievements longer than just about any other actor in history.
She and her husband lived in a palatial estate, completed in 1919, on Summit Drive in Beverly Hills California.
The couple dubbed the home “Pickfair” and it was known for paranormal activity long before Pickford would pass away in 1979. Pickford reportedly saw the ghost of a servant woman at the home on several occasions, but it wasn’t until after Pickford herself died, that things really heated up at Pickfair. Her husband at the time of her death, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, reported seeing the ghost of a woman in a white, who looked like Mary, and visited him several times at the home.
He eventually sold the place to Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss in 1980, and he too reported similar sightings, as well as sightings of a male ghost not mentioned by Rogers. The home was eventually sold to PIa Zadora in 1988, and was then torn down in favor of a new one. The demolition and new construction is believed to have stopped the paranormal activity that once occurred on the property.
In another odd Mary Pickford coincidence, she was also the mother-in-law to another Oscar-winning ghost on the list, Joan Crawford.
Best Actress in a Leading Role (1946)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Joan Crawford was a weird one, as this IMDB snippet indicates:
Joan Crawford was not present at the awards ceremony and feigned ill that night. Meanwhile she listened to the show on the radio. When she won, she ushered the press into her bedroom, where she finally accepted her Oscar.
Stories about Crawford’s instability have permeated for decades, and her adopted daughter’s book, Mommie Dearest, published after Crawford’s death in 1977, claiming she was an abusive nutjob didn’t help matters much.
Christina Crawford, the author of Mommie Dearest, has reported experiencing weird phenomena in the home she grew up in with Crawford. She reported seeing the ghosts of children, and hearing their voices coming from the walls, but qualifies her claims with a disclaimer about the violent, and abusive environment she lived in, which might have contributed to what she thinks she saw and heard as a child.
I have vivid memories of some things, but when you are severely abused, you tend to block out other things. I’m positive that there were manifestations occurring when I was little. I saw them! There were places in the house that were always so cold that nobody ever wanted to go in them. – From The Konformist Blog
In the late 1980s a specialist was brought in to investigate weird occurrences in the home, like the owner’s report of the wall where Joan Crawford’s bed sat spontaneously catching fire on a regular basis. The specialist, Reverend Rosalyn Bruyere of the Healing Light Center, allegedly told Christina the home did have several spirits in it, some of whom had underworld connections, but she did not believe Crawford was among the spirits in the home.
Bruyers told the Konformist Blog she believed the home was poisoned before Crawford moved in, and that it could have contributed to some of her mental and emotional difficulties. Bruyers believed people had been tortured in the home, and that the ghosts remaining behind are the ones who keep trying to burn the place down.
“‘It was a place of conspicuous negativity. I called it an ‘Astral Central,’ a gathering of spirits that were attracted to the negative vibrations,’” the Konfromist quoted Bruyers as saying.
While Bruyers believed it wasn’t Crawford haunting the home, others still insist it could have been.
Was it Crawford? Maybe.
The activity in the home has reportedly subsided, at least that was the report in 2008.
Honorary Achievement Award (1960)
For his unique talents which brought immortal comedies to the screen.
Buster Keaton is arguably the greatest comedic actor of the silent film era. Known for his deadpan mugs to the camera and his wild stunts, he’s among the few silent film stars whose work is still watched with regularity.
He was also known for drinking too much, just as his father did before him. It was reportedly a drunken incident with Louis B. Mayer, that led to Keaton’s dismissal from a contract he had with MGM and started his downfall in the movie business.
Following his death in 1966, a stockpile of footage thought to be lost forever was found stashed away in his home. Not long after that, Keaton himself was allegedly found in his former home.
Owners have reported incidents like lilght switches flicking on and off , and other mildly annoying pranks.
His former home is one of the stops on the many haunted tours of Los Angeles.
The property was turned into the Forest of Mirrors, a Halloween featuring special effects and actors who thrilled visitors, in recent years as well.
More details about Keaton’s haunting can be found in the book Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Sixteen Driving Tours with Directions and the Full Story, from Tallulah Bankhead to River Phoenix by E.J. Fleming.
Best Actor in a Leading Role (1970)
True Grit (1969)
John Wayne reportedly loved his boat named the Wild Goose. The boat, a 136-foot, wood-hulled World War II-era minesweeper, was the scene of many celebrity poker games, drinking binges, and adventures in general, during the 17 years The Duke owned it. He sold the Wild Goose shortly before his death in 1977, but he allegedly just couldn’t let his beloved boat go that easily.
Both the new owner and caretakers reported hearing footsteps on board that clip clopped to the rhythm of Wayne’s unique gait when no one else was present to make such footstep sounds. The man who bought the boat from Wayne, reported seeing Wayne’s ghost on the Wild Goose at least three times while he owned it. Others have verified his claims.
Parapsychologist William G. Roll and Psychic Patricia Hayes are such people. The Wild Goose’s newest owner, a Santa Monica attorney named Lynn Hutchins also believes in the ghost of John Wayne. Weird occurrences began happening four months after he bought the boat so he invited Roll and Hayes aboard the Wild Goose to investigate. They discovered that Hutchins was not making it up. The investigators felt the presence of John Wayne and found that Hutchins was psychologically sound. – From Yahoo News
Hayes has even theorized why John Wayne continues to visit the boat.
“What I found,” she said, “was that one of the reasons he was there on the boat was because … it still is one of his favorite places to be. He knows he’s dead…. He just chooses to hang out there. In other words, that’s not the only thing he does; when he has some time available he goes to the boat.” – From the Los Angeles Times
One story about the boat involves it mysteriously coming loose in the middle of the night and making its way across Newport Bay to John Wayne’s former home where Wayne kept it docked. “Apparently, neither the pilot house nor engine room had been entered, and the ropes tying it to the dock were not broken or cut,” the LA Times reported.
John Wayne’s ghost doesn’t just allegedly haunt his old boat. He’s also been seen at various locations important to his film career as well, like a Saloon in Ridgeway, Colorado, where True Grit, his Oscar-winning role, was filmed.
The Wild Goose is currently used for dinner cruises in Newport Beach, California, by Hornblower Cruises.
Best Writing, Original Screenplay (1941)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Honorary Award (1971)
For superlative artistry and versatility in the creation of motion pictures. Orson Welles was not present at the awards ceremony. His acceptance speech was pre-recorded.
Orson Welles was a big man who got that way because he was a passionate consumer of the things that brought joy to him. Among the things that brought him joy were food, cigars, and liquor, and he overindulged in all of them.
He reportedly ate too much, drank too much, and smoked too much, on a regular basis at a Los Angeles restaurant named Ma Maison’s. One account of his binges at the restaurant claims he ate two steaks, two baked potatoes, an entire pineapple, three servings of pistachio ice cream and an entire bottle of scotch in one sitting. (In his defense, it takes me a few hours to make my way through an entire bottle of scotch, which is plenty of time to get hungry and hit a few too many bowls of ice cream.)
Today, employees at the restaurant, which is now called Sweet Lady Jane’s, have reported seeing Welles’s ghost sitting at the table located in his favorite spot in the dining room. They have also reported smelling the faint scent of cigar smoke and booze in that same area from time to time.
Welles’s ghost is even more ambitious in his efforts than just this act of haunting.
His former home was featured on a episode of the SyFy channel’s Haunted Collector, where investigators checked out claims of unexplained footsteps and other weird occurrences reported by the current homeowner.
The investigator, John Zaffis, finished his visit convinced Welles was still in the home. He believed this because he and his team not only heard the reported footsteps, but were treated to a falling pool cue when he asked if Welles was in the room.
While investigating the home, they also found a box of sheet music believed to belong to Welles’s mother, and told the homeowner to store the sheet music by a photo of Welles that hung in the home. The activity has dissipated since this was done.
Best Actor in a Leading Role (1935)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Clark Gable was famous for not giving a damn when he was alive, but after his death, he’s become quite famous for haunting the Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona.
Gable and his wife Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon in the hotel, then called the Drulin Hotel, which sat in a small mining town at the time. The couple frequently returned to the hotel, and became friendly with many of the locals in the town.
Lombard died in a plane crash just three years after marrying Gable, in 1949, and Gable himself passed away in 1960. The couple is now believed to be one of several ghosts that haunt the place.
Staff has reported hearing the pair’s voices in empty rooms, and have said their ghosts have shown up in several photographs taken over the years.
Lombard, who is not an Oscar winner, has also been spotted in the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles.
Sightings of Lombard’s ghost are far more widely reported than sightings of Gable. For example, it’s Lombard’s ghost who is reportedly spotted from time to time at the Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, Nevada. The couple often visited the Pioneer, and it’s also where Clark Gable allegedly awaited news about his wife’s disappearance and pounded beers until he was barely conscious.
Best Music, Original Song Score (1971)
Let It Be (1970)
John Lennon, along with his bandmate Paul McCartney, are often called one of the greatest songwriting duo of all time. If nothing else, he was one part of a band whose popularity reached heights that might never be matched again.
He was gunned down in front of the Dakota apartment complex in New York City in 1980.
SInce his death, Lennon’s ghost has been spotted numerous times by family, friends, and fans alike.
Among the most vocal about encountering Lennon’s ghost has been McCartney. He’s reported several incidents he believes involved the ghost of his departed bandmate.
In 1995 the three remaining Beatles recorded a song written by Lennon called “Free As A Bird.” McCartney insists Lennon’s ghost was present during the recording.
“’There were a lot of strange goings-on in the studio – noises that shouldn’t have been there and equipment doing all manner of weird things. There was just an overall feeling that John was around,’Paul McCartney has said to various sources.” – Yahoo
McCartney also has suspicions that Lennon was present at the photoshoot that accompanied the recording of “Free As A Bird,” in the form of a white peacock that roamed from a nearby farm.
John Lennon’s son, Julian, has also reported unusual experiences regarding his father’s ghost. While participating in an aboriginal ceremony in Australia, he was handed a white feather. This might seem insignificant to an outside observer, but Julian claimed his father told him to watch for the gift of a white feather should he ever die because it would be a sign his father was there looking out for him.
Several years after his violent death, reports of his ghost being seen at the Dakota near the site of the shooting emerged. One witness said Lennon’s ghost was glowing, but looked so lifelike he could be approached for a casual conversation.
Liam Gallagher of the band Oasis also claimed to have been visited by John Lennon’s ghost at a home in Manchester, England.
In addition to those mentioned above, there are two more Oscar winners who have allegedly gone ghost after their deaths, but the information was a bit sketchy in the resources I could find. Those two are:
The Barrymore’s, along with John Barrymore, allegedly haunt the Barrymore Estate in Hollywood. Unlike Ethyl and Lionel, John never won an Oscar.
Do you know of a ghost story about an Academy Award winner we’ve missed? Tell us about it in the comments below, and include some links when they are available.