Tuesday, November 12

Tour makes for eerie eve


Haunted ghost walk offers glimpse of Hollywood's most supernatural spots

Driven to the ground. That is how Frank Manis, tour guide on the
Haunted Hollywood Ghost Walk Tour, described the demise of the
Haunted Hearse tour that preceded his current business. Manis is
having a little fun with puns, of course, but it’s hard to
tell. His deadpan delivery, all-white attire and beady eyes create
a ghostly air, making him the best man for the job.

“I became interested in the paranormal when I was little
and saw the ghost of my great grandmother,” said Manis, whose
résumé includes a stint as president of the Greater
Hollywood Paranormal Society, as well as graphic design work.

Two years ago, disappointed at the absence of a ghost walk tour
on Hollywood Boulevard, Manis decided to fill that void. As the
creator and tour guide, Manis takes believers and nonbelievers on a
two-hour, nighttime stroll down Hollywood’s star-studded
sidewalks, pointing out “cold spots” (areas with
paranormal activity) like the Roosevelt Hotel and the Warner
Pacific Theater.

The walk is brimming with low-budget charm. From Manis’
self-designed guidebook to the tour’s loosey-goosey
organization, the whole affair might seem to be more spoof than
spook.

“Are these ghosts like Casper or are they
malevolent?” asked tourist Baird Blanton.

“They’re no worse than mischievous,” said
Manis in an assuring tone.

The excursion can be especially exhilarating when the group
consists of die-hard specter seekers who make the Ghostbusters look
like amateurs.

“I want a shirt that says “˜I have a haunted
joint,’” said Blanton. “I bought a house that was
built in 1928, but nothing’s happened. I want to be scared
““ run and scream and all that.”

An editing assistant by day, Blanton retreats to his collection
of oddities (taxidermy bats, human skeletons, and 1920s
“girly pictures”) at night. He and his wife Susannah,
who paints sideshow banners for fairs and the circus, once
dispelled a famous glowing tombstone mystery in their native
Texas.

“Apparently the glowing green was a reflection of a
faraway light,” said Baird.

The couple has always been fascinated with the macabre, monsters
and anything haunted. Susannah professes to a childhood
Beetlejuice-like imaginary friend ““ a tall man in a black
suit with no head, ironically named Mr. Nobody.

Fortunately, real-life friends accompanied the Blantons on the
ghost walk tour. The eerie experience was actually a long-belated
Christmas gift from fellow horror enthusiast Rhett Wickman. Midway
through the tour, Wickman was taken aback by a supernatural message
from beyond.

“Ironic how Arnold (Schwarzenegger’s) star is in
front of Ripley’s Believe it or Not (Museum),” said
Wickman.

Also along for the trek was horror artist Gris Grimly, who
wondered why spirits would choose to play full-court basketball in
the haunted Hollywood YMCA gym.

“It’s kind of like “˜Field of Dreams,’
but basketball,” said Susannah.

The tour sparked heated debates about whether elevators are
haunted, whether a spirit from 1940 could communicate with a spirit
from 1952, and whether a tiny, split-second image of a hanging man
really exists in a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”
However, the tour is not limited to hardcore devotees of the
dead.

“Last week, I had a group of Girl Scouts on the
tour,” said Manis. “They absolutely loved
it.”

The Haunted Hollywood Ghost Walk Tour starts at 8 p.m. at
the front entrance of the Roosevelt Hotel every night except
Wednesdays and Sundays. Call (323) 460-4787 or visit
www.hauntedhollywood.info for reservations.

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