Peg Entwistle’s Hollywood Afterlife: A Glimpse of the Departed Off of the Silver Screen
by Shelly Gatto
Hollywood is one of the most recognizable places in America. It is often associated with its living inhabitants: the high profile celebrities, directors, producers and musicians that help maintain its glamorous charm. What many Hollywood revelers do not realize is that the area is also a popular place for celebrities whose acting careers, and lives, ended long ago.
Peg Entwistle and Suicide by the Hollywood Sign
Born in 1908, Peg Entwistle was an English actress who traveled with her father and uncle to America in 1916. Originally named Millicent Lillian Entwistle, she decided to adopt the stage name “Peg.” Entwistle’s interest in Hollywood began at a young age. Her father Robert worked as a stage manager for producer Charles Frohman. Sadly, in 1922, Robert Entwistle was killed by a hit and run driver, leaving his daughter and two sons in the care of their actor uncle, Charles.
Entwistle went on to become a star in her own right. She inspired others, including famous actress Bette Davis. She married actor Robert Keith in 1927 in New York City. At that point she was a member of the New York Theatre Guild.
Despite a promising career, Entwistle endured set backs. She acted in The Uninvited Guest, which closed after only seven performances. Reviewers still gave Entwistle glowing reviews, despite the play’s poor reception. Her final Broadway performance was in J.M. Barrie’s Alice Sit-by-the-Fire. Due to star Laurette Taylor’s alcohol-induced absences, the producers were forced to refund ticketholders and end the run after only a few weeks. The actors, including Entwistle, were only paid one week’s salary and none of the box office percentage as was agreed to prior to the opening.
Later, Entwistle signed a one movie deal with RKO Studios for a role in Thirteen Women. The production received very bad feedback from test screenings and many scenes were cut, including much of Entwistle’s work. The problems proved to be too much for the promising, young Peg Entwistle.
Her Final Act
On September 16th, 1932, Entwistle told her uncle she was headed to a nearby drug store then off to spend time with friends. No one suspected her true intentions, which involved walking up the southern side of Mount Lee. She headed to the “H” in the Hollywood (then “Hollywoodland”) sign, removed her jacket, shoes and purse and left them at the base of the sign. Using a workman’s ladder, she climbed to the top of the “H” and jumped off. Her body lay undiscovered for two days until an anonymous tip from a local hiker lead authorities to the location.
In her purse, Entwistle left a suicide note which read:
“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.”
The note, which she signed “P.E.”, was published in the LA Times to try and locate anyone who could identify the body. Her uncle read it and contacted authorities. It would seem her time in Hollywood had come to an abrupt end.
After the Story Ends…
At least, that is what most believed. Since her suicide, many hikers and park rangers have claimed to encounter a ghostly woman dressed in 1930s era garments. When they try to approach the strange figure, she vanishes. They always describe a similar appearance: she has blonde hair and seems upset or sad.
In 1990, a couple reported a bizarre occurrence while walking their dog on a trail close to the Hollywood sign. The canine began to whine and back away, as if he wanted to leave. The couple had no idea why the dog was acting as he was until they noticed a woman. She was dressed in 1930s attire. Being in Hollywood, they dismissed her appearance.
What caused some alarm was her demeanor. The woman seemed dazed, which made the couple very uncomfortable. They feared she may be drunk or on some kind of drug. They tried to give her some space to avoid contact. As they moved, they watched her form fade into nothing.
Griffith Park Ranger, John Arbogast, has openly revealed information about his own strange encounters with the ghost of Peg Entwistle. According to Arbogast, Entwistle’s spirit sometimes brings with her the scent of gardenias, noticeable during the winter when no other flowers are in bloom. She usually appears late in the evening, especially in fog and always near the Hollywood sign.
The park has taken extra care to keep visitors away from the sign, installing an alarm system. Arbogast’s job involves working on and around the sign, so he spends a great deal of time there while on duty. The alarm system is also designed to deter potential jumpers with motion detectors and lights. Arbogast reported a number of times when the alarm system went off indicating someone had climbed on to the sign, yet a check of the area produced no living person nearby. He even commented that there have been times when he was on the sign, checking for intruders, when the motion detectors indicated someone was standing five feet away from him. A visual check produced no reason for the alarms to trigger.
Where is Peg Entwistle Now?
Peg Entwistle started a very bad trend in the Hollywood area. Other suicide jumpers have attempted to follow her, looking for a noticeable way to end it all. Perhaps life in Hollywood is too fast paced for some. Maybe others simply cannot handle the constant struggle and rejection. Peg Entwistle has become something of a symbol of failure in Hollywood. She tried, she struggle, and finally, she gave up.
Many believe she never did leave. So where is she now? Does she rest peacefully along side her father in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio? Or does she still wander Mount Lee, lingering near the Hollywood sign, a monument to her hopes, her despair and her end?
NOTES: She is buried with her father grave 10. Grave 10 was owned by an H. Milton Ross (Funny, since she jumped off the H) who is buried in grave 11. I’m not sure how Ross/Entwistle were related.
Take a look at the final resting place:
Thanks for blogging this! I’ve always been fascinated with Peg’s tragic tale, so much that I made her a character in my series, “They Live Among Us.” Episode 4 opens with Ted, a lonely Griffith Park ranger. He rescues an ethereal woman from the Hollywood sign, and he falls in love with her at first site… only to discover that she is the ghost of Peg Entwistle. If I may, I’d love for you to view it, and I’ve placed the link below. I hope you enjoy!
What a sad, sad story! What a beautiful lady that had more going for her than she thought. May she rest in peace, Lillian Millicent “Peg” Entwistle. God Bless!!
It is really tragic. It makes wonder if whatever baggage we carry in life sticks with us after the fact!