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Ghost of Former Tenant Helped Me Upgrade in Hollywood

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Curbed Horror Stories are firsthand reader reports about terrible housing experiences past and present. Got a Curbed Horror Story of your own? Send it to la@curbed.com.

I’d moved into this decaying Hollywood building back in 2000 – when the apartment buildings across the street were still vacant, that slick nightclub was still a strip joint, and there were bums living on the roof.

[...] Shortly after moving in, my next door neighbor stopped me in the hallway to let me know my apartment was “haunted”. He made his living as an Elvis impersonator in front of Grauman’s, so I entered into the conversation with a fair amount of skepticism. Elvis told me the last tenant had been murdered. “Ask Manny”, he said. I did, and to which Manny replied, “we don’t have to legally disclose that before renting to you”. I wasn’t too bothered by it, to be honest. As I told Manny, “I’m much more afraid of the living, than the dead”.

[...] My apartment had five layers of carpeting in the main room of the studio. Management just kept putting a new layer over the old, instead of replacing it (trust me when I tell you this was the least of the apartment’s issues). One day, I decided to surreptitiously rip it all out to the hardwood. After layer one was removed, a stain appeared. And that stain ran through the remaining four layers all the way to the hardwood. It was the spot where the former tenant had been bludgeoned to death with a phone receiver.

No problem. I sanded it down as best I could and used a dark mahogany shade of woodstain to hide the issue. Then, a throw rug. But, that stain always peeked out from the day I moved in.

[...] In 2008, a company bought the building with plans to go high rent. After scamming most of the tenants out of their stabilization rights and paying them a pittance to leave, the building was back to near desolation. Only those of us who’d read up on RSO laws remained. Two months later, a notice of renovation and relocation was issued. The move out date was August 15th, but the company’s cadre of undocumented construction workers began taking sledgehammers to the building on July 2nd.

I was adamant not to leave my home until the legal date. The relocation would have me in an inferior, sticky, sauna of an apartment for three months.

The destruction of the building moved forward with incredible speed. There were no locks on the front door, a massive hole in the hallway in front of the mailboxes covered with a walking plank, and the hot water was shut off. Then electricity became sporadic. My phone line and internet went down...The post office deemed my building “condemned” and would no longer deliver my mail, for the “safety of the carrier”. I tried to get help from LAHD, but they basically ignored all my complaints.

Closing in on August first, I was the only tenant left in the five story building. I boiled water to shave and carried a flashlight for the hallways. Manny was selling the bathrooms’ antique porcelain fixtures to some shady character, out the back entrance. One night I heard vagrants in the apartment next door, stealing whatever was left in the massive building. I’d lost my hunting knife, so I began to carry scissors as protection, whenever I entered or left the building. I was becoming strange under all the duress. With no neighbors to complain, I began watching “Super Nanny” at a deranged high volume, drinking cheap wine, and hurling some of the belongings I would not move into the industrial construction dumpsters three floors below. And, one of the stray cats whom used to sleep in my [convertible] was now sleeping in the tree branch outside my kitchen window, looking in on me with a menacing glare. I couldn’t remember if I lived in LA, or in an Edgar Allen Poe short story.

Eventually, a giant rust?orange stain appeared on my kitchen wall. It got worse day by day. The wall began to bow and Manny and I ran from floor to floor above, looking for the source of the leak. We couldn’t find it. “That’s no leak”, concluded Manny “that’s blood running through the walls”.

At this point, I decided it might be time to throw in the towel. I phoned the company liason and told him I was now willing to leave – a relief to their personal injury worries. BUT, I would do so under a few conditions. I requested a different temp apartment than I was assigned, and a free air conditioner for the hotbox I was being plunked into. “Done”, was the reply. “And”, I said, “I want apartment #502 when we move back in”.

This was two floors above mine, top floor corner with a full skyline view of Capitol Records and Downtown LA, certainly the best unit in the building.

“I don’t think I can do that”, he hedged, and I told him he had until five o’clock to make a decision or I would dig in my heels and maybe fall into that four foot hole straddling the downstairs hall.

The liason’s chief concern was that by granting me a change a unit, other returning tenants would demand the same. I argued this was easily resolved. Simply sign a statement outlining there was a problem with my unit that could not be resolved. “And what would that be?”, he asked me.

“That it’s haunted”.

“What?”

“Everyone knows, including Manny and he will co?sign”.

[...]

Well, rehab took a year, not three months. But, I moved back twelve months later to hardwood floors, air conditioning, a dishwasher, built in shelves, on?site gym, “zen garden” and exposed brick. Oh, and that dazzling view of the skyline. Plus, my cat stopped chasing shadows. And that menacing stray cat out in the tree? He’s still there, probably to remind me of my luxury building’s sketchy past.

I named him “Johnnie”.
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