With this weekend’s Tamale Festival at MacArthur Park but a couple miles from our house, my wife Susan and I decided to leave the driving to our feet and walk on over this afternoon. Along the way we passed the renowned Park Plaza Hotel. Built in 1925 as an Elks Lodge the place has been vacant and inaccessible these last few years, used mostly as a location for films, TV shows, commercials and music videos.
So looking through the locked front entrance at the spectacular and expansive lobby and grand staircase, the last thing we expected was to get a chance to check out the interior. But just as I was sticking my camera up against the smoked glass to get as best a shot as I could through it, one of the doors opened suddenly and I jumped as a big serious security dude stuck his head out and wanted to know what I was doing. Expecting to be told to put my camera away and get on out of there I said I was just trying to get a picture of the interior. But instead of being told to shove off, the next thing I know is this dude’s opening the door wider and inviting us to come inside. Once in the middle of this jaw-droppingly ornate and preserved space, our jaws drop even more when he casually tells us he can give us a tour if we want.
Oh yes, we want!
During the stroll through of the first floor Bronze and Silver ballrooms he lets fly that the hotel’s just recently been purchased for $29 million by a 35-year-old woman who “owns a bunch of buildings on Sixth Street through Koreatown.” Then he shows us hidden doors in the wood paneling opening to small anterooms where the Elks would stash their liquor and prostitutes during prohibition-era raids. Nice!
As we head back out to the lobby I’m thrilled enough at what we’ve seen and figuring the tour is done, but dang if the guy doesn’t head up the big stairs to the mezzanine with us in tow where he first shows us the beautiful Grand Ballroom replete with its own stage and mentions that Adam Sandler was most recently here filming what’s probably his next movie. When we got to talking about how creepy it must be being in this big old hotel alone, he revealed that he personally knows it to be haunted, and he has three experiences to prove it — not even counting the echoing sounds of children regularly heard playing and and laughing in the stairwells.
One incident took place in the Grand Ballroom, wherein during his rounds he checked on the huge space and found it completely dark, yet when he returned the next time every light was blazing. Then there is the much more hands-on ghost up on the fourth floor. During one of his first graveyard shifts he was walking those corridors when he got this strange sensation of fingers scratching him on the back. Yet when he’d turn around nothing was there. He said it’s happened a couple times since. Lastly is the black shadow in the lobby that he and other guards have witnessed lurking around the table there before it speeds directly toward the elevators and disappears.
Lastly he leads up to the Terrace Ballroom, which isn’t so much ballroom as the interior of a church. With ceilings that are at least 30 feet in height and a floor plan that would support a large congregation on any given Sunday he pointed out that the Elks held a lot of secret meetings in here — perhaps even a fair share of funerals.
Had the elevators not been broken we would have had the chance to explore much more of the Park Plaza, including maybe the fourth floor or the hotel’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, but at that point our surprise inspection was brought to a close and back down to the lobby where we thanked our guide and hoped he’d avoid any future visits with that spooky backscratcher.