Drink Spirits with Spirits at Haunted Los Angeles Bars

Toast with the ghosts at LA's haunted bars

Black Rabbit Rose | Photo by Jakob Layman, courtesy of Houston Hospitality

Los Angeles is world-famous for its nightlife. But how many know about its night-death? If you've always wanted to have drinks with a ghost, LA is your town. Haunted party people float through beastly boîtes in every corner of our mysterious city. We've gathered some of the most spirited places in LA to consume spirits.

If you'd like to learn more, Richard Carradine, founder of GHOULA (Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles), has written the definitive tome on the topic, Spirits with Spirits.

Property of Discover Los Angeles
HMS Bounty | Photo courtesy of Santa Dog, Flickr

H.M.S. Bounty

Located in the bottom floor of the Gaylord Apartments - dating back to a time when “gay” still meant “happy” - the H.M.S. Bounty (3357 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles 90010) is a beautifully-preserved 1920s-era nautical bar built by Gaylord Wilshire, for whom Wilshire Boulevard is named. In a primal act of gentrification, he created the Miracle Mile by building it atop the City Dump—which had been a popular place to dump murdered bodies as well. Visitors to the Bounty’s ladies’ room be warned—you may feel the pinch of a leering phantom real estate developer with a huge sense of entitlement.

The bar at Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood
The bar at Musso & Frank Grill  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Musso & Frank Grill

The oldest restaurant in Hollywood, Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) celebrated its centennial in 2019. After being open for more than 100 years, a place accumulates a lot of ghosts. It would seem that in the celebrity afterlife, Musso's is still the place to go, as the shades of Errol Flynn, Orson Welles, and Jean Harlow have been spotted there apparently on break from haunting their respective homes. One ghost who remains loyal to this historic eatery (famous for its Martinis and flannel cakes) is Charlie Chaplin. Regulars maintain he can still be found cozily ensconced in the booth where he dined every day for years and was always kept ready for him — No. 1 in the Old Room, right by the window.

Asia Ray at Black Rabbit Rose
Asia Ray | Photo courtesy of Black Rabbit Rose

Black Rabbit Rose & Madame Siam

Part of the Houston Hospitality nightlife collective, Black Rabbit Rose (1719 N. Hudson Ave, Hollywood 90028) is an intimate theatre located at the 1917 Hillview Apartments building on Hollywood Boulevard. Now known as the Hudson Apartments, the historic four-story building is believed to be haunted by its former residents—ghostly stars of the silent film era. Once celebrated for its decadence as the former speakeasy of Golden Age Hollywood heartthrob, Rudolph Valentino, the building is rumored to have an obscure occult lineage as well, with traces of a Secret Society whose mysteries have never been fully disclosed, and whose ritual traditions have actually never ceased. The Black Rabbit Lounge offers cocktails and Thai-Chinese favorites (courtesy of the Crying Tiger takeout window), while the Rose Theatre hosts magic shows and burlesque performances Thursday-Saturday.

Located in the basement, Madame Siam features an eclectic carnival-inspired decor, including carousel horses, birdcages, and a midway with caricatures of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un as targets. There's no cocktail menu, but the skilled bartenders can make drinks to order like a classic Old Fashioned or a spicy mezcal Margarita.

Interior of the Snow White Cafe in Hollywood
Snow White Cafe | Instagram: @vhs_spectacular
"We hope we have pleased you" mural at the Snow White Cafe
Snow White Cafe | Instagram: @vhs_spectacular

Snow White Cafe

It might not be the most haunted place to stop for a beer in Hollywood, but it is perhaps the most perplexing. Built in 1946, the Snow White Cafe (6769 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028) features an above-the-door mural painted by the original Snow White animators, with the odd legend, “We hope we have pleased you.” Some surmise that it was a gift from grateful Disney staffers - including Walt himself - who used to meet there for brainstorming sessions. If the ghosts of an idea aren’t scary enough, there’s plenty of paranormal activity next door at the Hollywood Wax Museum.

The main bar of the Formosa Cafe at night
Main bar of the Formosa Cafe | Photo by Maxim Shapovalov

Formosa Cafe

Originally a decommissioned L.A. Red Car trolley, the landmark Formosa Cafe opened in 1925. Thanks to the studio across the street (now known as The Lot), the Formosa has forever been a favorite of celebs, from Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley to Nicolas Cage and Britney Spears (although not at the same time). While the vintage interior (as seen in LA Confidential and other films) now has a modern upgrade, the ghosts remain the same—according to one bartender, someone mysteriously plays Sinatra's "New York, New York" on repeat late at night when she's there alone...

Interior of Residuals Tavern in Studio City
Photo: Residuals Tavern, Facebook

Residuals Tavern

Many of L.A.’s most frightening tales have to do with Hollywood (of course). Located in Studio City, Residuals Tavern (11042 Ventura Blvd, Studio City 91604) opened in 1986 as “Re$iduals” - named for the ever-diminishing checks an actor gets for repeat airings of a TV program. It catered to small-time actors, haunted by not much more than the specters of their failed careers. However, there are whispers of a thespian ghost in the attic crawlspace, which the staff and owners refuse to talk about when pressed.

Del Monte Speakeasy
Del Monte Speakeasy | Photo: Townhouse Venice

Townhouse & The Del Monte

Located on Windward Avenue just steps from Venice Beach, the historic Townhouse and its basement venue, the Del Monte (52 Windward Avenue, Venice 90291) opened as Menotti’s in 1915. The oldest bar in Venice, the Townhouse became a “grocery store” during the Prohibition era, while the Del Monte was a true speakeasy and a hub for rum runners. After the repeal of Prohibition, the above-ground bar re-opened its doors and boasted regular patrons such as Venice resident Jim Morrison of The Doors. Today the bar continues to be a Venice community hub, featuring craft cocktails and nightly entertainment. The spirit of Frank Bennett, who owned the bar from 1972 until he passed away in 2003, has been felt at his favorite booth, in the corner where he can keep an eye on the bar.

Duke's Mai Tai at Duke's Malibu
Duke's Mai Tai | Photo: Duke's Malibu

Barefoot Bar - Duke’s Malibu

Opened in 1996, Duke's Malibu (21150 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu 90265) is one of six Hawaiian-inspired restaurants named for Duke Kahanamoku - native Hawaiian, Olympic Gold Medalist, and the father of modern day surfing. The Barefoot Bar offers ocean views and themed drinks like Duke's Mai Tai, Hawaiian Mule, and Lava FLow. This coastal spot originally opened as the Las Flores Inn in 1915 and was purchased in 1944 by “Captain” Chris Polos, a Greek immigrant who renamed it the Malibu Sea Lion, complete with a tank of actual pinnipeds. Polos lived in an apartment above the restaurant and worked there every day of his life until passing away in 1986 at 99. His spirit has been keeping an eye on things ever since.

Basement Tavern interior
Photo: Basement Tavern

Basement Tavern

Originally located on Ocean Boulevard and home to one of Santa Monica’s first families, the 1892 manse that is now The Victorian was moved to Heritage Square on Main Street in 1973. (Not to be confused with the Heritage Square Museum in Montecito Heights.) Its last caretaker was an elderly lady named Delia - no one is quite sure who she was or where she disappeared to when the house was moved. Some say she never left - including the staff of the Basement Tavern, located downstairs at The Victorian (2640 Main St., Santa Monica 90405).