The Man Who Haunted Himself edition





October 2nd, 2014

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The last thing you'll see below jumping off Suicide Bridge. The Richard H. Chambers U.S. Court of Appeals, Pasadena. by @esotouric

Gentle Reader. . .

You might have heard it on the news this week, about the Bell Gardens mayor who got into a physical altercation with his teenaged son, was shot by his wife, and died. Perhaps you thought, "what a sad and terrible thing" and wondered about the cause of this family's unhappiness.

In our work as crime historians, we wonder these things every day.

But when we heard the news about Daniel Crespo's death, it was more than just another domestic tragedy among strangers. In his capacity as a Bell Gardens city councilman, he'd been interested when informed of our concerns that the state landmark Gage Mansion was not accessible to the public. This important 19th century adobe was built by the Lugo family and remodeled into a redwood bungalow by Governor Gage circa 1900. Today, it is completely enclosed by a trailer park whose residents have been discouraging public visits.

We only spoke with him briefly, about the challenges of historic preservation in communities without protective ordinances, what the city might be able to do, and the value of exposing children to local history. But there was something else he wanted to discuss with us. He understood that we knew a lot about historic crime scenes. Did we know anything about the supernatural?

It seemed he lived in a very new house not far from the Gage Mansion, and strange things had been happening there. He didn't go into details about the phenomenon. He just wanted to know if we were aware of anything bad that might have happened on the site where his home had stood, something that might be bleeding over into the present.

In Southern California, this is a tricky question. Whole neighborhoods are laid out for new developments on land that used to be open fields, ranches or scrubland. There are no street addresses to cross-check. The city of South Gate is called that because the south gate of the ranch was there. And everything around the Gage Mansion was once a part of the Lugo ranch holdings.

Had anything bad ever happened on the land where Daniel Crespo's home was built? We didn't know, but said we'd get in touch if we stumbled on an answer. But we never did.

And now he's dead, in a terrible convulsive moment that has forever destroyed a family and tainted the site. What a sad and terrible thing, we thought, and wondered about the cause of this family's unhappiness. But, too, we wondered: was the disturbance that Daniel Crespo felt in his home something bubbling up from the past, or could it have been his own tragic future somehow making itself felt in the present?

We don't know this answer, either. But we fervently hope for peace and healing for those who were left behind.

We're back on the bus this Saturday, with the debut of the brand new Echo Park Book of the Dead tour. And featured on the merch table, Kim's hot-off-the-presses Raymond Chandler map! The tour is nearly sold out, but if you're quick, you can join us, do!

Upcoming Tours and Happenings

New from the deranged minds of Esotouric, an historical crime bus tour meant to honor the lost souls who wander the hills and byways of the "streetcar suburbs" (Echo Park, Silver Lake, Elysian Park, Angeleno Heights) that hug Sunset Boulevard. Climb aboard to see seemingly ordinary houses, streets and commercial buildings revealed as the scenes of chilling crimes and mysteries, populated by some of the most fascinating people you'd never want to meet. Featured cases include Edward Hickman's kidnapping of little Marion Parker and the bizarre "Man in the Attic" love nest slaying, plus dozens of incredible, forgotten tales of Angelenoes in peril. Guests will also see some of the most beautiful historic architecture in Los Angeles, including a visit to Sister Aimee Semple McPherson's exquisite Parsonage, her one-time home, now a museum

Join us on this iconic, unsolved Los Angeles murder mystery tour. Our excursion begins in the historic Olive Street lobby of the Biltmore Hotel and ends in time for you to take tea and crumpets where Beth Short waited out the last hours of her freedom before walking south into hell. After multiple revisions, this is less a murder tour than a social history of 1940s Hollywood female culture, mass media and madness, and we welcome you to join us for the ride. This tour always sells out, so reserve your spot today.

Join us for a journey from the downtown of Chandler's pre-literary youth (but which always lingered at the fore of his imagination) to the Hollywood of his greatest success, with a stop along the way at Tai Kim's Scoops for unexpected gelato creations inspired by the author. We'll start the tour following in the young Chandler's footsteps, as he roamed the blocks near the downtown oil company office where he worked. See sites from Lady in the Lake and The Little Sister, discover the real Philip Marlowe (Esotouric's exclusive scoop, and the inspiration for Kim's novel The Kept Girl), and be steeped in noir LA.

Come explore Charles Bukowski's lost Los Angeles and the fascinating contradictions that make this great local writer such a hoot to explore. Haunts of a Dirty Old Man is a raucous day out celebrating liquor, ladies, pimps and poets. The tour includes a visit to Buk's DeLongpre bungalow, where you'll see the Cultural-Historic Monument sign that we helped to get approved, and a mid-tour provisions stop at Pink Elephant Liquor.

We're delighted to have been invited to speak at the Mark Taper Auditorium of the Los Angeles Public Library in support of the Rare Books department. At this free multi-media presentation, Kim will discuss and sign copies of her 1920s mystery, The Kept Girl. Kim's illustrated talk will draw on her years of research into the lost lore of Los Angeles, with a focus on the bizarre Great Eleven cult, which began just above the library on Bunker Hill and ensnared dozens of credulous Angelenos in their mystical rites before one disgruntled ex-believer brought the whole enterprise tumbling down. You'll hear about Raymond Chandler's pre-literary life as a downtown oil company executive, the idealistic L.A. policeman who is a likely model for Philip Marlowe, the real woman who inspired the character of Chandler's secretary Muriel, and the terrible secrets revealed by the fraud investigation in the Great Eleven's activities. Richard will share insights into how he used cutting edge computing tools to evoke the look and feel of a mid-century book, and Kim will talk abut the deluxe Art Deco wraps created for the Subscribers, whose pre-publication support covered a big chunk of the print cost. Copies of the paperback and deluxe Art Deco Subscribers' edition will be available for purchase after the talk. It's a big room–please bring a friend!

On this guided tour through the Beverly Hills of the early 20th Century, Crime Bus passengers thrill as Jazz Age bootleggers run amok, marvel at the Krazy Kafitz family's litany of murder-suicides, attempted husband slayings, Byzantine estate battles and mad bombings, visit the shortest street in Los Angeles (15' long Powers Place, with its magnificent views of the mansions of Alvarado Terrace), discover which fabulous mansion was once transformed into a functioning whiskey factory using every room in the house, and stroll the haunted paths of Rosedale Cemetery, site of notable burials (May K. Rindge, the mother of Malibu) and odd graveside crimes. Featured players include the most famous dwarf in Hollywood, mass suicide ringleader Reverend Jim Jones, wacky millionaires who can't control their automobiles, human mole bank robbers, comically inept fumigators, kids trapped in tar pits, and dozens of other unusual and fascinating denizens of early Los Angeles.

This is a special day-long edition of our Raymond Chandler bus tour of historic locations in Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood, coinciding with the 2014 Bouchercon World Mystery Convention and departing from the Hyatt Regency in Long Beach. In addition to visits to The Oviatt Building (The Gillerlain Company in The Lady in The Lake), The Bank of Italy (where Chandler was employed by The Dabney Oil Company), The Barclay Hotel (site of an icepick murder in The Little Sister), The Mayfair Hotel (where a suicidal Chandler kept his mistress), Paramount Studios, Raymond Chandler Square and other iconic locations from the life and work of the master of Los Angeles noir. The excursion includes a no-host lunch stop and a shopping visit to Hollywood's Larry Edmunds Bookshop, the famous cinema collectors store which directly descends from The Stanley Rose Book Shop, whose proprietor was the model for Geiger in The Big Sleep.

From the founding of the city through the 1940s, downtown was the true center of Los Angeles, a lively, densely populated, exciting and sometimes dangerous place. After many quiet decades, downtown is making an incredible return. But while many of the historic buildings remain, their human context has been lost. This downtown double feature tour is meant to bring alive the old ghosts and memories that cling to the streets and structures of the historic core, and is especially recommended for downtown residents curious about their neighborhood's neglected history.

For Richard's once-a-year birthday bus adventure, we invite you to climb aboard for a 7-hour excursion exploring some of the greatest buildings in the Southland that you've never seen–unless you go to a lot of funerals. The tour is hosted by Nathan Marsak, America's wittiest historian of mortuary architecture. Come discover the beauty, secrets and unexpected modernism of Sunnyside Long Beach (1922), Community Mausoleum Anaheim (1914), Fairhaven Santa Ana (1916) and Calvary East Los Angeles (1936). Lunch is included and much merriment will be had. Visit the tour page for more information on this one-time-only event and reserve your spot today.



  • The little man with the red pencil.
  • Did she or didn't she?
  • Raymond Chandler slept here, briefly (he and Cissy found the West Side too windy).
  • More historic Grand Central Market vendors being replaced by upscale substitutes. We'll miss Lupita's ceviche!
  • The east side doesn't drink the Ciclavia Kool-Aid.
  • Charlie Chaplin goes home. So does Hannah.
  • Family secrets are always interesting, if not always truthful.
  • Paul Rogers never could keep a secret. Here's everything you could ask about our new Raymond Chandler map from Herb Lester.
  • Anonymous Skid Row "experts" aren't.
  • Save the eyebrow!
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    Kim and Richard


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