On August 28, Brian Clune brings his new book Hollywood Obscura to the store. This one focuses on some bloody Hollywood history and the odd, ectoplasmic aftermaths. You’ll remember Brian from his investigation of the Last Bookstore with his team Planet Paranormal. Here’s a short catch-up interview, so you know what grisly glories you’ll be missing if you don’t show up for the event.
Eric Larkin – From historic sites, up and down California to the Queen Mary, you’ve written about a lot of interesting spots. What attracted you to Hollywood for Hollywood Obscura?
Brian Clune – The True Crime genre was not really on my radar until my editor at Schiffer Books asked if I wanted to write a true crime book. It started out as a serial-killer-finds-Casper tome, but when I looked at things that had happened in Hollywood in the past, I was just drawn to the human story of stardom that ends in broken dreams and betrayal. Once I began researching I was captivated by the drama, the real-life tales that happen to people we look at not as human beings but as idols, or posters on our walls. I came to realize that these mega stars, these Saturday Matinee heart throbs, were regular people just like you and me, with the same problems, the same worries that we all fret about. They became almost friends as I delved into their lives, their hopes and dreams.
EL – Does any particular story stand out as the one that surprised you the most during your research?
BC – There is more than one! The true story of Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia), a small-town girl that history has demeaned and turned into someone she wasn’t, as a way to make an already gruesome story more palatable; Marilyn Monroe, another starlet who most people never realized was a very smart, very troubled woman who never really grew up; or the tale of Ramon Novarro, the man who not only replaced Valentino but became his lover and was killed by ignorant stupidity – I guess what I’m trying to say is that they were all surprising in one way or another.
EL – What, if any, is the connection between a murder – or some kind of grisly death – and a place becoming haunted? Any theories on why a place can become haunted?
BC – Murder is a violent, torturous way to die. There are many cases where the violence itself is the cause of the victim remaining behind in this world – to either make their story known or to seek revenge or because they were just not ready to leave. The act of murder alone can sometimes cause so much pain, so much regret that that an actual imprint of the deed gets stuck in time, destined to repeat the heinous act over and over again in what is called a residual haunting. This is the same type of haunting that seems to occur at the house where “Bugsy” Siegel was brutally gunned down.
EL – What’s your origin story as a writer and investigator?
BC – I blame my oldest son! When my son turned 18, we were looking for something we could do together so we didn’t drift apart. He suggested ghost hunting; I suggested a psychiatrist. I found Planet Paranormal, and the rest is history. As for writing, Bob Davis saw some writing I had done and coaxed me into writing more. Then he and I teamed up, and we wrote California’s Historic Haunts. I’m glad I listened to him!
EL – I decided recently that you, Bob and the Planet Paranormal team, are the unofficial/official Last Bookstore paranormal investigators. There’s no prize for that, but it kinda sounds cool. I know we are not the answer to this question – so I’m not fishing here – but where is the most interesting place you guys have investigated?
BC – There are two really, if you don’t count the Queen Mary. Wolfe Manor in Clovis, Ca., and Old Pittsburgh Hospital in Tennessee. Wolfe Manor had so much going on that we couldn’t keep our equipment batteries charged. This is the place where I saw my one and only apparition. Old Pittsburgh Hospital is almost on par with the Wolfe. We spent the entire night there, even sleeping in the hospital beds. No apparitions but enough talking, banging, and whispering to wake the dead. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Alcatraz. We spent the night on the island two years in a row, and all I can tell you is…yeah, it’s haunted!
EL – What’s your next project? (Besides coming back to investigate the store, of course.)
BC – Bob and I are combining our talents on a series of books where I will be doing the writing and he will be using his amazing skills at drawing/sketching to tell tales about the world’s creepiest destinations, the world’s creepiest critters and America’s “most haunted”. I am also working on a book about a certain haunted, Hollywood amusement park where movies are sometimes made. We have also completed a biography about Frank Sumption, the creator of the Frank’s Box and father of modern ITC. The book is the only official biography and was written in cooperation with Frank’s wife, Norma. We are looking for a suitable publisher as I write this.
Get the full Hollywood Obscura story August 28 – solidly researched Hollywood history, dripping with blood and maybe – JUST MAYBE – still floating in and around our bungaloed streets.