Posts filed under ‘400 Block Clay Street’

The Game is Afoot

game afoot headline

On the afternoon of August 21, 1924, residents of 328 Clay Street were terror stricken by weird noises emanating from a room on the second floor of the building. There were scuffling sounds and urgent whisperings – all of which sounded ominous enough to draw the attention of several residents in adjacent rooms. A few of the braver souls crept along the corridor until they were near enough to the room to hear voices.

328 Clay Street

A woman cried out “O, Henry! You wouldn’t do that! Oh, no! No! No! Henry, For God’s sake!” The woman then emitted a blood-curdling shriek which ended in a choking moan. The eavesdroppers shuddered.

 

The deep guttural voice of a man snarled “You lied, you she-devil. You lied and lied, but if I swing into hell for it, you’ll never leave here to lie again.”

 

As if mortally wounded, the woman wailed one last time. The hallway Sherlocks heard the sharp ring of metal a heartbeat later, as though a long steel knife had been flung to the floor.

 

The spooked tenants waited for a few seconds, then rushed to their telephones. Moments later in the captain’s office at Central Police Station, three phones rang in unison. After deciphering the frantic messages, police concluded that each caller was reporting a murder at 328 Clay Street.

 

Officer Voy K. Apt was dispatched immediately. With sirens blaring, the cop raced to the scene.  A group of frightened people waited on the building’s second floor landing, hoping that police would unravel the mystery of the crime committed through a closed door.

 

Revolver in hand, Apt was directed to a room at the rear of the building. He drew a deep breath and then burst through the door. The spectators waited for an all clear signal, but what they heard instead was “Well, I’ll be…!”   Awaiting the armed officer in the death chamber were members of a dramatic club rehearsing a murder scene – using a bread knife.

 

July 30, 2008 at 10:41 am Leave a comment

Suicide Writ Large at Clay Central

blammo

Before the Community Redevelopment Association swung its scythe across Bunker Hill, one building tried to do itself in. This structure was by all evidence a living, cursed thing, and like the House of Usher disappearing into the tarn, it acted to remove itself from this world. Shades of the Overlook Hotel—someone or something used the old exploding boiler trick to force this assembly of apartments from its supramortal coil.

I speak of the Hotel Central, aka the Clayton Apartments, aka the Lorraine Hotel. Change the names all you want, there’s something wrong at 310 Clay Street. Kim’s numerous posts about the place attest to that.

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The spot was a trouble magnet even before the hotel’s erection. Back when 310 was a double dwelling, it attracted kerchief-weilding lady-gagging burglars.

By 1910 the Hotel Lorraine stands on the site and Jerome Hite elects to shoot his wife in the neck.

Come 1914, proprietor-of-the-place Claude Mathewson—gets, what, tired of watching the walls bleed? listening to the screaming faces jutting from the washbasin mirror?—elects to pop two new holes into his lovely wife and one into his own head.

Shortly after, in that room where try as one might the blood just never quite washes out, a real estate titan is taken down for sordidness.

goodstart
A year later, the establishment, now named the Clayton, has become a veritable den of iniquity. The new proprietor is a Mrs. Florence Cheney. According to her, the property is owned by Leon Levy, “about whom no one concerned could give any information.”

goodstart

wellpassoverthat
Mrs. Cheney shows up again as a witness in the 1916 Percy Tugwell trial; Percy robbed and murdered Senator’s-daughter Maud Kennedy, and while Mrs. Cheney asserted that Maud may have committed suicide because she was being threatened by boxer Louis “Cyclone Thompson” Astosky, her character and thus credibility were attacked mercilessly.

Leon Levy decides to get out of the 310 Clay business after changing its name again to the Hotel Central.

Things stay quiet at 310 Clay for the next couple decades or so…acts of ill fortune befall its residents elsewhere.
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In 1922, for example, Frank Macey, son of a wealthy Phoenix shoe dealer, dropped from sight for a week after staying in the Central. He ended up as a nameless bloody pulp in County Hospital, hovering in and out of consciousness, until at last identified as the prodigal Frank.

In 1923, Sander Serrano, 22 year-old graduate of USC, was playing pool at 155 East First when he was accused of jostling another player. For this he nearly lost his arm to his penknife-wielding opponent, who severed a slew of arteries and stabbed him in the throat.

A 1936 beer parlor fight at 121 South Main resulted in the stabbing of Hotel Central resident Walter Paine.

And so it goes, until the hotel could take no more, or had claimed enough souls, or something otherwise unknowable to mere man.

alamogordo
Mid-day, November 27, 1953. O. B. Reeder, a 73 year-old retired printer, was bent over a table preparing Christmas gifts for mailing. Houses of Hell hating the Christmas season and all, the boiler exploded in rage, sending Reeder’s door across the room and into his back. Directly across the hall, from where resident Gus Poulas’ guardian angel had guided him elsewhere, the room was completely wrecked, all tumbled furniture and great cakes of plaster torn from the walls.

The boiler room itself was obliterated into a mass of twisted metal and piles of timber and concrete wall blocks. Plaster from walls and ceilings was concussed to floors throughout the hotel. The windows and doors in the first three floors were cracked or blown out by the explosion, which attracted a large lunchtime crowd of spectators to the Hill Street section of the Grand Central Market. (The back of the hotel towered over a Hill St. parking lot:)
hillstblues
Making the incident all the eerier is owner/manager William Ogawa’s statement that while the boilers were under repair, he was certain that gas to the boiler room had been turned off when the boilers went out of order several days previous.

In any event, everything was rebuilt, doors rehung, windows reglazed. Less than a decade later the scythe swung and all that was 310 Clay was at the bottom of a landfill, the CRA accomplishing what the Lorraine/Clayton/Central couldn’t do itself.

But remember what I said about the spot being a trouble magnet even before the hotel’s erection? Is there some sort of Poltergeist-style burial-ground whatnot at work here? Flash forward a hundred years from our tale of the simple double residence.

310 Clay at lucky number 13:

13ghosts

The site of 310 on the Ghost Street that is Clay:
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On that very spot. February 1, 2001. What spanner of the underworld was tossed into the heavenly works of a newly-located Angels Flight?

This is the ground zero of Clay Street. Clay Street, the street that had to be destroyed. The street whose very name—clay—symbolizes (via Nebuchadnezzar’s dream) the division of an empire, and the end of a kingdom.

Hotel Cental photographs courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

Newpaper images from the Los Angeles Times 

May 3, 2008 at 10:20 am Leave a comment

In the Death Room

Location: 310 Clay Street
Date: May 3, 1914

Shenanigans in Hotel Lorraine Death Room

April 11, 2008 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

"I Am Going to Bakersfield!"

jerome hite and wife whom he shot at hotel lorraine

Location: 310 Clay Street
Date: June 19, 1910

Jerome Hite, former bookkeeper at the Woolwine Motor Car Company, is a jealous man. He drinks to excess, and likes to chase his wife with a revolver. In an attempt to prove she had been faithless, he pretended to leave on a business trip to Bakersfield, but returned to their room at the Hotel Lorraine a few hours later, saying he had forgotten a pair of shoes. But his wife was alone. He took the shoes and again "left for Bakersfield," but returned later that evening; again, nothing was amiss. Damned stubborn woman!

His behavior frightened his wife, so she went to the room of proprietress Florence Cheney to hide. Hite pounded on the door and demanded she see him, whereupon Mrs. Hite announced that she would, but only if he surrendered his weapon. He went away for a while and came back, and when he knocked Mrs. Hite opened the door and said, "Now give me your gun and we will talk." Instead he shot at her, the bullet passing through her raised arm and into her neck, where it lodged. Hite fled, and his wife, while initially thought mortally wounded, rallied at Clara Barton Hospital.

On July 7, Hite was discovered on Catalina Island, where he had obtained employment at the Metropole Hotel under the name Hal Reynolds, but was promptly dismissed for drinking on the job. He was arrested and brought to Los Angeles to stand trial, although as his wife was recovering well, it was hoped they might reconcile. But it was not to be—July 28, 1911 saw her asking for a divorce on grounds that he had been convicted of a felony (presumably her shooting) and general cruelty, and we cannot imagine there is a judge cruel enough to deny her her freedom.
 

April 11, 2008 at 9:37 am Leave a comment


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