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The Cursed and Haunted Mansion of Jean Harlow

Sitting out in the star-studded area of Beverly Hills, California is a stately Bavarian-style mansion fitted out with all of the opulent amenities one would expect from the area, including a huge swimming pool, a sweeping and ornate stairway. It seems like a dream house, but it is pervaded with an undercurrent of the sinister, orbited with a dark history, and talk of curses and a haunting.

The house is most famous for being owned by the Hollywood starlet and sex symbol Jean Harlow, born Harlean Harlow Carpenter, who owned it in early 1930s. Harlow, considered the epitome of the “Blonde Bombshell,” was originally discovered by the eccentric business magnate and billionaire Howard Hughes during his stint as a film director, and she first appeared in his film Hell’s Angels, after which her star soared. Harlow very quickly took Hollywood by storm, appearing in all manner of classic Hollywood films and becoming an icon and household name in her time. In 1932, Harlow moved into the mansion with her husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship peppered with rumors and scandal.

Jean Harlow

At the time, the couple was the talk of the town, and it was very much the stuff of tabloids in modern times. After all, Harlow was considered the ultimate sex symbol, beautiful and larger than life, while Bern was a short, unattractive little man old enough to be her father, and so there was all manner of talk on the town about them. It didn’t help that Bern was rumored to be a very abusive husband who mistreated his wife constantly, and he was also known to be an unrepentant womanizer on top of all of that. Still it was a whirlwind affair that ended with them buying the mansion right after their marriage, and it was at this time the house would get its first taste of blood.

Tragedy would strike just 4 months after Harlow and Bern were married, when on September 5, 1932, the mansion butler was shocked to find Bern dead in his bedroom, sprawled out in front of a large mirror completely naked and with a bullet hole to the head. An examination of the scene found that Bern’s body was absolutely saturated with his wife’s favorite perfume, yet there was a bathing suit found by the pool that did not belong to her, as well as two wine glasses and more ominously a spot of blood. This all started a whirlwind of rumors that Bern had been cheating on Harlow and that something had gone wrong, spiraling into foul play, but a suicide note was found and police treated it as such. Yet, mystery surrounded the odd death, as it was claimed that the note was not in Bern’s handwriting and that it was a forgery made to cover up a crime, possibly carried out by an ex-girlfriend or even the jealous Harlow herself. Making it all even odder was that the butler had opted to contact the MGM headquarters first before notifying the proper authorities, and indeed studio execs Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg were the first ones to arrive at the scene, sparking even more suspicion and debate. It was all very sinister, and in the meantime, a woman rumored to have been one of Bern’s girlfriends and secret wife, Dorothy Millette, committed suicide by jumping from a boat, and Harlow herself was even rumored to have tried committing suicide not long after her husband’s death. It is this incident that has been said to have been the first of the dark tales surrounding what is mostly known as the “Harlow House.”

The Harlow House

Harlow would move out of the mansion and remarry, but she would tragically die of kidney failure a few years later at the young age of 26, her successful career and stratospheric rise cut short. The house’s strange odyssey would continue when it was purchased in 1963 by the popular Hollywood hairdresser Jay Sebring, most famous for marrying the rising starlet Sharon Tate. It was during their time living there that Tate would report a variety of paranormal experiences on the premises, including seeing the ghost of Paul Bern roaming about, as well as an unidentified apparition with a slit throat and even reportedly a vision of Sebring himself covered in blood. As all of this was going on the story goes that at least two people died in the house’s swimming pool as they were living there. Tate and Sebring would break up in 1966, when she left him to be with the film director Roman Polanski, but they remained friends and were in fact together at her new home not far away on the night of August 9, 1969, when the followers of Charles Manson broke in and murdered the pregnant Tate, Sebring, and three others. It has since been speculated that the manifestation of Bern’s ghost and the one with the slit throat were perhaps premonitions or ghostly warnings of this tragedy.

Other owners of the house since have reported numerous paranormal happenings there, the most commonly being sighting apparitions of both Bern and Harlow. It is all a truly strange account from this normally affluent and upscale area, and one wonders just what to make of it all. Is there anything to this house, and does it have some special sinister quality to it? Is this house haunted or cursed? Is it all tall tales and urban legend, twisting real life history to be something more paranormal? Whatever the case may be, the Harlow House still stands there, drawing in stories and keeping its secrets close.