Hollywood Haunting

Gladys Louise Smith lived with her mother in Toronto. After her father’s death, the family began to take in boarders to help make ends meet. As luck would have it, one of these boarders would change Gladys’ life forever. The boarder was a stage manager, and saw potential in the seventeen year old. Gladys played two parts in The Silver King at the Princess Theatre. It wouldn’t be long before she took her acting career to Hollywood, changed her name to “Mary Pickford“, and became somewhat ironically known as “America’s Sweetheart.”

Pickford went on to become one of the greatest stars of the silent film era. She married actor Owen Moore in 1911, but their relationship was rocky throughout. Late in their marriage, she began secretly seeing another actor, Douglas Fairbanks. She divorced Moore on March 2nd, 1920, and married Fairbanks on March 28th of the same year. In 1919, Fairbanks had purchased a hunting lodge in Beverly Hills, and when the two were married, they began renovations to turn it into a 4-storey, 25 room mansion. It took 5 years to complete, and became known as Pickfair. The glamourous home became the centre of celebrity life, with famous visitors like George Bernard Shaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Amelia Earhart and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford

Fairbanks and Pickford at Pickfair

Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford at Pickfair

Pickford and Fairbanks divorced in 1936, but Pickford remained in the home with her new husband, Buddy Rogers, until her death in 1979. The house sat vacant for a few years, but ultimately ended up being purchased by actress and singer Pia Zadora and her husband Meshulam Riklis in 1988. Only two years later, word got out that instead of renovating the historic house, the couple had instead torn it down to build a new home. Zadora faced enormous criticism, but defended her decision, saying that the house was in terrible shape and infested with termites.

Her story changed years later when she appeared on Celebrity Ghost Stories in 2012. This time, she said they’d decided to level the historic house because it was haunted. Zadora had done her own research, and believed the ghost was that of a woman who had died in the house while having an affair with Fairbanks. She said of the house, “It was perfect. It was a dream. But weird things started to happen, so my husband and I, after trying to figure out what to do, decided we were going to have the house razed,” adding, “you can deal with termites, and you can deal with plumbing issues, but you can’t deal with the supernatural.”

Zadora said the female ghost appeared in front of her children during the night, terrifying them. She also said that she saw the woman herself. The figure was dressed in 1920s attire, and every time she appeared, she was laughing. She would hear the sound of a party happening down an empty hallway.

Aerial View of Pickfair

Aerial View of Pickfair

Pia Zadora at Pickfair

Pia Zadora and Her Children at Pickfair

These weren’t the first ghost stories to come from Pickfair. Pickford and Fairbanks said they would often see what they believed was the spirit of a female servant during their years living in the house. After Pickford passed away, Buddy Rogers said the ghost of a woman all in white came to him, and he believed it was his wife. Other visitors said they saw this also spectre in the den.

Sadly, the secrets and spirits of Pickfair seem to have been lost with the house. All that remains are the tales of old Hollywood stardom, and the legends of the house that Hollywood’s first “it” couple built together.

Want to hear another great ghost story from Hollywood? Check out our “Haunted Talks” podcast episode on Rudolph Valentino’s ghost dog!

Pickfair Estate

The Pickfair Estate