Culver Studios

Posted by junketseo in Los Angeles Ghost Tours
Culver Studios - Photo

Hollywood promises the celebrity lifestyle brimming with extravagances and evenings spent clinking glasses with California’s elite. For some, though, it’s a final stop on an express ticket to a bitter end.  


It’s not all lights, cameras, and action at Culver Studios, a prominent studio from Hollywood’s Golden Age. There’s a darkness that many who have worked on or visited the lot are familiar with. It’s ingrained in the studio’s history, with references to a ghostly presence stamped on the official historical timeline dating back to 1940. With a link to so many careers and broken dreams, it’s no surprise that some may have caught a glimpse of a ghostly presence on the catwalks or a familiar, long-dead face roaming the halls of the on-site mansion.


Culver Studios in Culver City, California, is a sprawling venue home to some of the most notable haunted buildings in Los Angeles. Some of its facilities, like the red-bricked Culver Hotel, attract ghostly enthusiasts from all over, hoping to glimpse a departed star or hear of the building’s eclectic history.


Why is the Culver Hotel so famous?


With connections to the Lollipop Guild, John Wayne, and a Presidential campaign, it’s sure to pique curiosity. Does it have your interest? Then, check out an LA Ghost Tour to hear more terrifying tales of LA.


The History of Hollywood’s Iconic Studio


Locations like Culver Studios have been at the heart of Hollywood’s greatest creations for generations. The West Washington Boulevard studio came about in 1918 when Thomas Ince, a silent film-era giant, purchased land from Harry Culver, the Nebraska native responsible for Culver City, and established Thomas H. Ince Studios


The Colonial Revival mansion was the first stage of construction, a pillared white facade housing the future offices of notable figures in the industry. Modeled after George Washington’s Mount Vernon home, the Mansion was the focal point of Ince Studios, even when additional facilities like the bungalows added sometime during the ‘20s or ‘30s and the Cecil B. DeMille Theater built in 1927 by the studios’ second owner started popping up. 


Under DeMille’s ownership, the studio struggled to meet the necessary financial goals despite achieving several box office successes. Ultimately, the famed director was forced to merge with the Pathé Exchange, Inc. production company to keep the studio afloat.


Over the next four decades, the former Ince Studio continued to change hands as mergers promised better futures. In 1927, DeMille was out of the picture, and Pathé merged with RKO Radio Pictures to establish the RKO-Pathé Studios. Notable names started to see their careers blossoming, and productions like King Kong had a home for many scenes. 


During the ‘30s and ‘40s, Selznick International Pictures rented the lot to other productions and rarely used it for its own filming. In the ‘50s, it sold Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and with Desilu Productions at the helm, the studio’s focus shifted from movies to television. By 1970, Desilu Studios had been purchased and resold before adopting Culver City’s name, officially establishing Culver Studios. 


Through all of this history, though, one question remained unanswered — What ever happened to Thomas Ince?


The Death Thomas Ince


From 1918 to 1924, Thomas Ince oversaw operations at Ince Studio. Then, one November day in 1924, just three days after his 42nd birthday, he mysteriously died. 


Ince was winding down his birthday festivities aboard The Oneida, the yacht of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, Sr., when he fell ill. His condition worsened, and he returned to land for proper care. After a night at the Del Mar hotel in Los Angeles, Ince returned home, and before the day’s end, he was dead.


In the wake of Ince’s tragic death, Hollywood did what it does best and sensationalized the ordeal. Was the producer murdered? One of Hearts’s papers allegedly led many to believe so. After Ince’s passing, The Los Angeles Times ran a headline stating, “Movie Producer Shot on Hearst Yacht.” Rumors started circulating, propagated by Charlie Chaplin’s valet driver, who claimed he saw blood and a bullet wound on Ince’s forehead. 


It took no time for the rumor to grow legs and for stories to be spun. Before long, Hearst was pegged as a suspected killer. According to the San Diego District Attorney Chester C. Kempley, the real cause was likely much simpler: heart failure as a result of indigestion. As it were, Ince dined on almonds and sipped champagne, which flared up his peptic ulcers, resulting in his passing. 


The mystery and suddenness of his death spurred conspiracy theories and left his spirit unsettled. The shadowy form of Ince is said to remain at Culver Studios, watching from the rafters, but he’s also believed to be only one of several ethereal figures causing frights across the studio.


Who Remains at Culver Studios?


Having been pulled from the realm of the living so abruptly, it’s no wonder Ince remains a haunt of his beloved studio. While Ince is the well-known specter still keeping watch over his studio, the hotel is its own hotbed for Hollywood’s dearly departed and a must-see stop on any Culver Studios LA ghost tour. 


Many believe that, after his death in 1946, the ghost of Harry Culver remained within the confines of the hotel. He had an office on the second story, and his spirit still seems tied to the workspace. It’s difficult to say what he’s up to during these supernatural visits, but some have claimed to have heard banging windows coming from his office.


Culver Studios and its associated facilities are riddled with mystery and intrigue, their stories lively and spirited, much like their grounds. Are there hidden tunnels connecting the hotel to the studio lot, once used to usher the Munchkins of Oz, known for their debauchery and riotous parties in the hotel, to the set during the 1939 filming of The Wizard of Oz? Do some of the Munchkins still cause mischief throughout the hotel, their presence trapped in the heyday of their career? Is the spirit of a Cecil B. DeMille favorite, actress Gloria Swanson, still seen in the Mansion’s halls?


Whether intrigued by historical Hollywood or the haunts of an iconic studio lot, Culver Studios beckons all with a thirst for information and a curious bone for the paranormal. 


Looking to dig into the history of Culver Studios and seek your own answers about Thomas Ince’s death? Then, visit our blog and check out on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. Don’t miss out on an unforgettable evening—book your LA ghost tour