Inside Millenium Biltmore's haunted halls
Strange sounds, disembodied voices and faceless children are some of the apparitions reported to have manifested themselves at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Located in downtown Los Angeles, the Biltmore, which celebrated its 90th anniversary this month, remains an icon of old Hollywood and classic LA history.
Over the years, the Biltmore has been a true witness to history. From 1931 to 1942, the hotel was host to the Oscars, as well as notable names like Walt Disney and Louis B. Mayer. To this day, the hotel hosts about 70 to 100 weddings each year.
But there is an equally notable guest listed in the hotel’s long history. This was the place Elizabeth Short, also known as The Black Dahlia, was last seen before her widely publicized mutilated corpse was found in Leimert Park in January of 1947.
Stories persist of strange happenings inside the Biltmore and its long, low-lit hallways with distant mirrors. The ceilings feel low, and a spiral set of staircases seem endless.
The hotel is a lush mix of elegance and shadows decorated with Austrian chandeliers that seem to provide a secretive glow.
Alicia Cervantes, a housekeeper at the hotel, spoke about the rumored happenings while cleaning a room on the sixth floor late in the evening.
“People say a lot of things,” Cervantes said. “I haven’t seen anything, but coworkers tell me a lot. They say a fiancée died here, and her ghost appears in the hallways.”
The woman’s apparent lover is said to have thrown her down the long flight of stairs years ago. Cervantes said some guests claim they hear knocks at the door.
“I think it’s just nerves,” she said.
Down in the hotel’s vast lobby, Angel Allaf mans the gift shop where guests can purchase cigars, watches and other items. Allaf has not seen anything himself, but has heard accounts from fellow coworkers.
“There was a story about a guy who came to fix the air conditioners and he had to go on the rooftop,” Allaf said. “He ends up going and sees a boy with no face and ended up literally leaving the building screaming. So they had to find another maintenance company because he wouldn’t come back.”
Allaf also said that the other side of the Biltmore was once a cemetery.
“Some employees hear laughing inside the Crystal Ballroom when they’re alone cleaning,” he said. “Down in accounting, they say they see a ladylike shape walk by.”
Guests have also reported many strange happenings on the 10th and 11th floors, Allaf said.
“That’s where I believe the Black Dahlia was last seen,” he said.
For some guests, reported brushes with the unknown have proven to be quite unnerving, recalling a time when a woman checked out because she said things were moving in her room on their own, Allaf said.
The closest Allaf has come to an encounter was when a regular client, a CEO who guests at the Biltmore, had a bizarre experience with his cellphone.
“He went to use the restroom, and on his way back he showed me his phone, and there was an Academy Awards clip playing from when they did the ceremonies here,” Allaf said. “I said, ‘That’s cool you found something about the Biltmore on YouTube.’ And he said, ‘No, you don’t understand. This just started playing on my phone when I passed the back hallway.’”
Elizabeth Gamino said she receives guests at the Biltmore’s interior restaurant and has been an employee for three months. She, too, said she has not had any sort of paranormal encounter, but again has heard the tales lingering in the hallways.
“An older employee died not too long ago, and they say they’ve seen him walking around,” said Gamino.
The Biltmore features lavish interiors including frescos and marble fountains. The hotel’s ceiling murals were hand-painted by the artist Giovanni Smeraldi, one of the 20th century’s most renowned decorative artists whose work is also featured at the White House.
In the Rendezvous Court, which features some of Smeraldi’s work, security guard Joe Reyes scoffed at the ghost stories.
“I’ve never seen anything,” he said. “People believe what they want. I myself did see a ghost when I was a young boy. Back in Mexico, I had family members who practiced black magic. And I have never felt anything like that here.”
Security guard Cynthia Ramos said she has not seen anything supernatural either. However, a guest once showed her a photo of an empty room in the hotel with what appeared to be the ghostly figure of a woman appearing in a corner.
“It was just a photo on their phone, so who knows,” Ramos said.
“I think it’s all in your head,” said Adriana Pena, a receptionist at the front lobby. “Until I actually see one, I won’t believe it.”
Ghosts or no ghosts, at 90 years old, the Biltmore still receives guests from all over the world and remains a grand monument of downtown LA’s glamorous and mysterious history.