The Hollywood sign was built in 1923 to advertise a real estate development site in Beachwood Canyon. The sign cost $21,000 to build and each of the letters was 50 feet high and 30 feet wide plus illuminated with thousands of light bulbs. The wooden sign read “Hollywoodland” and was only meant to be temporary in order to promote business.
Maintenance of the sign discontinued in 1939 and over time, the sign fell into a state of disrepair. In 1944, the developers of Hollywoodland released 455 acres of land to the city of Los Angeles and this parcel included the Hollywood sign.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce rebuilt the sign but did not replace the light bulbs. They removed the last four letters because Hollywood was permanently established as the movie capital of the world.
The sign was untouched and went into disrepair until the 1970s when there was a fund-raising event where donors were asked to buy replacement letters. In 1978, the original sign was demolished and replaced with new steel letters.
Biography of Peg Entwistle
Successful Broadway actress Millicent Lilian Entwistle married Rolland Keith Richey, who was 10 years older and she didn’t know he had a son from his second marriage. In fact, her stepson was actor Brian Keith who was best known in his role on the TV show Family Affair. She divorced Rolland in 1929.
Peg enjoyed a great Broadway career and made tours around the country. In 1932, she was offered a role in the production of The Mad Hopes in Los Angeles. The play and Peg received rave reviews. In fact, Peg was given as much ink as Billie Burke and even more attention than Humphrey Bogart who also starred in the play!
In 1932, Peg permanently settled in Los Angeles and moved into her Uncle Harold’s bungalow in Beachwood Canyon.
The Demise of Peg Entwistle
Peg found work in the theater circuit but the productions were short-lived. She landed a contract at RKO Studios but the movie was panned by critics. When the movie was re-edited, Peg’s appearance was only brief. Her contract was not renewed by RKO. With the recent bad luck in switching to movies from plays, it was believed Peg considered herself a failure.
On Friday evening September 16th, 1932, Peg told her Uncle that was she was going to take a walk. She headed toward Mount Lee and that was the last time she was seen alive. Peg removed her coat and placed it with her purse at the base of the maintenance ladder which was leaning against the letter “H” on the Hollywood sign. She climbed up the ladder and jumped.
Two days later on Sunday, September 18th Peg’s purse and coat were found near the ladder and her body was spotted by a hiker in Beachwood Canyon. The hiker put the coat and purse on the doorstep of the local police station and the police recovered Peg’s body at the bottom of Mount Lee the same day.
On Monday, September 19th , an inquest was held. City newswires, newspapers and radio stations made an announcement that an unidentified body of a woman was found at the Hollywood sign. The media gave a description of the body and read the contents of a suicide note that Peg had written. Uncle Harold claimed Peg’s body on Monday and she was cremated the same day.
On Tuesday, September 20th, Peg Entwistle’s suicide made the national news.
The Ghost of Peg Entwistle at the Hollywood Sign
There have been many sightings by park rangers and hikers in Griffith Park of the ghost of a woman who is dressed in 1930-style clothing. The ghost is described as a blonde woman who appears to be sad. One evening a man and his girlfriend were walking their dog on a trail in the area. Their dog started to act strangely.
They soon saw a lady appear in front of them and she was dressed in 1930s clothing. The lady seemed to be despondent and quickly vanished. The description of the female ghost is always the same; a blonde dressed in clothing from the 1930s and she is sad or in a daze.
A park ranger at Griffith Park has seen the female ghost several times and always detects the smell of gardenias. He has stood at the sign and seen the motion detectors trigger when nobody else has been present
Peg was only 24 years old when she jumped to her death. Sadly, a letter arrived at her uncle’s house a few days later from the Beverly Hills Community Players to offer Peg a substantial role in a production at the Hollywood Playhouse.
The Hollywood tabloids nicknamed Peg Entwistle “the Hollywood sign girl”.