Haunting Of the Hollywood Sign

Written By: Terri Pressley

“The most fundamental law of tragedy is that the moments of greatest happiness are the hardest to attain.”
~Kedar Joshi

"I am afraid I am a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain." P.E.

Deep pain, pain so deep, so intense that it breaks you and soon everything you see, everything you touch cracks. Tragedy has won, despair the victor will forever gloat as the unhappy and unrequited spirit roams life’s last destination. So roams the spirit of Peg Entwistle forever known as the ghost of the Hollywood sign.

When the fog rolls in from the ocean, hugging the ground as it spreads its marine dampness, and the moon rising in the sky curls its pale fingers around fog tendrils that eerily illuminate the hillside of Beechwood Canyon Trail you may notice the soft fragrance of Gardenias wafting on the breeze. Take a moment; look around you may glimpse a lovely blond in vintage 30s clothing walking the trail as well.

September 18th 1932 would be the last night Peg Entwistle would struggle with her demons. As she climbed the steep hill to the ‘Hollywoodland’ sign with each step, she found herself closer to peace. She climbed a 50-foot ladder at the back of the ‘H’ once reaching the top she stood looking down on the shimmering jewels of light below, at a city filled with glamour, money and fame all of which had been denied her. Then she jumped.

Born Millicent Lilian Entwistle on July 1, 1908 in Port Talbot, Wales and nicknamed ‘Peg’ soon found a Keres1 attached to her life. Very early in her life her mother died very suddenly, following her death she and her father moved to New York where he would marry again and have two sons Robert and Milton. Just a few years later her father was struck and killed crossing Park Avenue. The brothers went to live with their Uncle Harold in Beechwood Canyon, CA while Peg stayed in New York.

In her teens, she dreamed of a career on the stage. With talent and hard work, she soon won roles with the Boston repertory company and appeared on Broadway in productions with the renowned Theater Guild. In 1927, she married Rolland Keith Richey who went by the stage name Robert Keith. He was ten years her senior and soon discovered his many deceits among them that he was divorced, had a son2 , and owed his former wife past due alimony. She decided to divorce him. During the proceedings, she kept him out of jail by paying back the money he owed his ex-wife.

In 1931, Peg continued her work on the stage appearing in ‘Getting Married’ co-starring Dorothy Gish and in 1932; she co-starred with Laurette Taylor in ‘Alice-Sit-By-The-Fire’. She began to struggle with depression making it difficult to find work. However, she had her sights on Hollywood and moved to Los Angles in 1932 with the hope of landing roles in motion pictures. At first, she found work again on the stage in ‘The Mad Hopes’ with Bille Burke but the play closed after a brief run. Then it seemed that destiny had finally found her when RKO signed her to a contract. Her first film would be the role of Hazel in the murder mystery ‘Thirteen Women’, starring Irene Dunne. Unfortunately, previews of the film received poor reviews causing the studio re-edited it and much of Peg's part ended up on the editing floor. Consequently, RKO dropped the option on her contract.

The black hood of depression descended on her suffocating her, draining her of all hope.

She need help, she needed answers. She went looking for answers and found them at the bottom of a bottle. After becoming quite intoxicated, she went home told her uncle she was going to meet some friends at a local drug store turned toward the steep canyon trail and began to climb.

Two days later a hiker found a coat, neatly folded with purse and shoes on top. Looking down the canyon, he spotted a body. In an effort to remain anonymous, he took the belongings to the police station leaving them outside on the steps, suicide note tucked in her purse. The LA Times published the note with the hope of her identification. They dubbed her "The Hollywood Sign Girl." Her Uncle recognized the initials and later identified Peg's body in the morgue. She was only 24 years old.

Shortly after her death, a letter from the Beverly Hills Playhouse arrived at her Uncle's home. They expressed their desire for her to star in their next production, which, ironically, was about a young girl who commits suicide.

Fencing and motion sensors have been put in place to prevent suicides. Park rangers have described the sensor alarms going off when no one is around and indicating the presence of another person who is five feet away when the ranger is alone.

“What may this mean.
That thou, dead corse, again, in complete steel,
Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon.
Making night hideous; and we, fools of nature,
So horridly to shake our disposition,
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this?”

~William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet, 1.4’

1 The Keres are the female spirits of violent or cruel death, including death in battle, by accident, murder or ravaging disease.
2 Robert Keith’s son would become the actor Brian Keith. He committed suicide in 1997 just ten weeks after his daughter Daisy committed suicide.

Want more haunted Hollywood? Check out: Sex. Beauty. Violence. Elizabeth Short, the “Black Dahlia”

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