The haunted history of the iconic Hollywood sign

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
The Hollywood sign is said to be haunted by actress Peg Entwistle, who died there in the 1930s.
The Hollywood sign is said to be haunted by actress Peg Entwistle, who died there in the 1930s.

Hollywood has always loved a good story, whether it’s happy or tragic, and the one about Peg Entwistle is definitely the latter.

Entwistle was a Broadway actress in the 1920s, who moved West to make it big in talking pictures. Sadly, a century later, she’s best known for having jumped from the Hollywood sign that sits above Los Angeles.

In the years since her death in 1932, the iconic sign —which has been commemorated on July 13, though the Hollywood Sign Trust says the exact date it went up in 1923 is unclear — is said to remain haunted by her.

Learn more about the story behind the Hollywood sign haunting with augmented reality. Using your cell phone, place the image in front of you to explore further.


According to the official account from the trust, the sign was meant to be an advertisement for the nearby Hollywoodland real estate development. The towering letters cost developer Harry Chandler $21,000. While the sign was supposed to be temporary, it’s become an essential part of L.A., standing for all but three months in 1978, when it needed to be rebuilt. It was officially deemed an Historic-Cultural Monument in 1973, according to Los Angeles magazine.

But back in Entwistle’s day, the original was still intact. As the story goes, the 24-year-old actress lived in nearby Beachwood Canyon. Upset over the way her career was going — her part in the 1932 drama 13 Women had been extensively cut by the censors — she dove off the “H.”

Actress Peg Entwistle died in 1932, but some say she's alive at the Hollywood sign. (Photo: Everett Collection)
Actress Peg Entwistle died in 1932, but some say she's alive at the Hollywood sign. (Photo: Everett Collection)

The truth is more complicated. As Karina Longworth recounted in a January 2017 episode of her Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This, Entwistle’s struggles also included a troubled marriage and wrecked relationships in the theater community because of her departure for the movies.

“Peg wasn’t a failed Hollywood aspirant,” Longworth said. “She wasn’t a Hollywood aspirant. She was a moderately successful stage actress whose last theatrical effort had been a triumph.”

Nevertheless, the body of 24-year-old Entwistle was discovered by a hiker the next day.

The ghost stories popped up as early as the ‘40s, when the letter Entwistle had jumped from “mysteriously toppled over,” according to Vanity Fair. A couple in the ‘90s, who had never heard of Entwistle, said that while hiking in nearby Griffith Park, a “disoriented blond woman dressed in 1930s clothing vanished before their eyes.” Park rangers, too, have reported seeing a ghost near the landmark while smelling gardenias, reportedly the scent of Entwistle’s favorite perfume. What’s creepy is that no gardenias grow in the area.

Today, the sign is fenced off to keep people from touching it, but you can get close enough for a some impressive photos on a hike.

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