By John R. Beyer

A sign is seen at the entrance to Innsdale Trail near the Hollywood Sign, Saturday, March 28, 2020, in Los Angeles near the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s October, and what could that possibly mean? A month of 31 long days that lead closer and closer to the darkness of winter? Fewer shopping days before Christmas? Or that great yearly ghoulish holiday known as Halloween?

Yep, Halloween. The time for decorating with monstrous fun, going out to large costume parties, trick-or-treating for the little ones (or high school students who don’t know how old they are) in groups large and small.

Well, not this year.

With the haunting of COVID-19, things are a bit different in 2020. OK, a lot different. No large gatherings for costume parties, trick-or-treating with much smaller groups traipsing along sidewalks, and everyone wearing masks.

Ah, masks — the perfect day is Halloween, where wearing a mask is essential for any credible costume.

But this column isn’t about masks. It’s about haunted places to go during the month of October, leading up to the granddaddy scariest day of the year.

I’ve been asked more than once if I believe in ghosts. Well, what is the definition of a ghost?

Per Merriam-Webster, my go-to dictionary, “A disembodied soul especially: the soul of a dead person believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world or to appear to the living in bodily likeness.”

That wouldn’t be Casper, would it not?

So I’m not sure that I believe or disbelieve in ghosts. I’ve seen, or thought I saw, things that I can’t really explain. On a bet, when I was a teenager, I spent the night sleeping in a cemetery in the city of Corona. It was supposed to be haunted by a specter by the name of Mona. I never saw an apparition, and only learned one thing from that experience: Teenage boys are stupid.

But, being a researcher, I do have some gadgets that are quite prevalent on those ghost hunting shows, like “Ghost Hunters,” “Extreme Paranormal,” “Haunted Encounters” and “I’m Frightened Just To Be Here” (OK, I made that last one up).

And those gadgets the professionals use would be: A digital voice recorder (so there is proof of you screaming hysterically when encountering a “ghost”); an EMF sensor (no idea, but it sounds cool); Ghost Box (in case you catch a ghost, I guess); camera with night vision (duh); an infrared thermometer (have to check the ghost’s temperature now due to COVID-19); and a box of pampers (just in case you encounter a real ghost).

Now that I was prepared to do some serious ghost hunting — ghost locating, actually, since I’m not much into hunting — I had to find the first place.

Ah, with all the mention of TV, why not start in Hollywood? And what better place than the Hollywood Sign?

The Hollywood Sign, up close and personal.

The Hollywood Sign was not intended to be an advertisement for the film industry. Actually, it was an idea to advertise a housing development in the hills above the Hollywood district of Los Angeles — an area less expensive than the homes located closer to the studios.

As the brochure stated, “Hollywoodland, a superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.”

The sign went up in 1923 thanks to home builder Harry Chandler, who contracted with the Crescent Sign Company. The original sign read, “Hollywoodland,” and each letter was 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. They had to use mules to haul up the steel support beams.

Wow. Mules. How quaint.

Real Estate is still available in Hollywoodland.

Chandler believed the sign would be up for only about a year and a half, but after 97 years, it’s still there — just without the last four letters, which were removed in the 1940s.

Hollywood had become a household name by the late 1920s. And what better tool to use to remind all cinema fanatics of the flash and dash of movie town than a huge sign? It is by far, one of the most iconic visual advertisements of the film industry anywhere on earth, not just Los Angeles.

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