Mary Pickford has always believed that Pickfair was haunted. Even when she and Douglas were Hollywood’s perfect couple—when she was happy in the love about which she would later reminisce—there was talk of the ghost of Pickfair.
Newspapers up until the 1960s would recount Mary’s stories of the ghost in her attic. The stories they share came from an interview Mary had with Gladys Hall (writer for the Motion Picture Magazine). Gladys’s manuscripts are at the Margaret Herrick Library which includes this haunting interview with Mary Pickford. The interview took place at Pickfair on December 24, 1931, and would be published in the April, 1932 edition of Motion Picture.
Gladys recounts sitting with Mary for lunch at Pickfair. Gladys Hall didn’t live far from Pickfair. She shared a home with her photographer husband Russell Ball (who also took photographs of Pickford) at 1807 Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills. While sitting for lunch, Mary said to Gladys that the house is haunted and that there are ghosts in the attic. Certainly, Pickfair did not have a scary attic as a normal home might. It was a small third floor that was considered the “Oriental” room which was decorated with the souvenirs and gifts of the countries that Mary and Doug had traveled. Though, Mary being a conservative person, believed at the time that the ghosts have been with her and Doug for at least the 12 years that they have lived there.
“Years ago, this house was an old hunting lodge. I have heard that the women who owned the house died here. She died, I believe, a lingering and perhaps a tragic and reluctant death. It is said that she used to sit at a certain window, night after night, to watch the sun go down over the place on earth she loved beyond all others.” Mary explained to Gladys.
When Doug and Mary first began hearing the noises from the attic, they came up with explanations on what would be the cause, certainly not a ghost. Even after they had the roof altered to remove the possibility of wind creeping beneath the eaves, the noises continued. It was the sounds of pacing feet—up and down—up and down—and the sounds of trunks being moved from place to place and back again. The noises were so insistently loud that they couldn’t sleep at night.
Just the night prior to Mary’s interview with Gladys, Mary was awoken at about 2am from a fearful dream, that she ‘supposed’ was a dream. She woke to hear the sounds of those pacing feet and the heavy moving of heavy objects. Mary was not afraid (as she is never afraid) but angry at the ghost. She pleaded with the ghost that if they must share the home, the ghost is not to make that much noise in the late and early hours. Even when she told the ghost that it can make itself at home and do whatever it wants during other hours, it was of no avail.
Mary recalled a time when she was in England lunching with a certain lady. When Mary mentioned to the lady that she lived in Beverly Hills, California, the lady asked if she lived near the “Haunted House.” Of course, Mary wanted to know what this haunted house was that the lady was referring to. “Why, that old Hunting Lodge in the hills.”
Mary has even gone as far to blame her maid. One night when Mary was sitting up in bed brushing her hair, over her head in the attic, she heard trunks being moved again. She immediately yelled to her maid to stop. Mary was certainly embarrassed when the maid came from the room next to her and asked “Did you call, Madame?” and clear-headedly said “I was not in the attic, Madame.”
Doug had finally began to believe in the possibilities of ghost after a night the two of them were sleeping in the front bedroom. She was wakened by his voice calling ‘Mary’ to look over at the curtain and asking her what she saw. Mary told him that she saw a pair of eyes that were certainly not earthly eyes. He then asked her to give him complete detail of the appearance of the eyes and they matched what he was thinking exactly, in every detail.
Mary had hoped to someday have a psychic investigation done on Pickfair in hopes to get some kind of scientific answers to what they hear. “I know. I know that there are ghosts in Pickfair. And I am saying this to you, I repeat it again, both personally and for publications.
A newspaper once mentioned that even Charlie Chaplin once fled his bedroom at Pickfair and other guests have supported their claims.
An added attraction to Pickfair at that time, is that almost every night, coyotes come out of the hills, camp near the house and howl at the moon. And yet, despite this perfect scene for a haunted house, Mary was never afraid and had no problem staying at Pickfair by herself. Would you?
If you want to read Gladys Hall’s article in its entirety, you can find it at https://lantern.mediahist.org and search for the Motion Picture April 1932. The additional collection of Gladys Hall is available at the Academy of Motion Pictures, Margaret Herrick Library.