Rudolph Valentino is an icon of early Hollywood. The “Latin Lover” was a sex symbol during film’s silent era; was rumored to have been a homosexual; died at age 31, which left fans in hysterics; and is now said to haunt various Los Angeles locations. Oh, and he had a cursed ring that has caused problems long after his own demise.
Valentino was born in Italy in 1895, but left for New York shortly after he turned 18. He worked as a dancer and befriended a Chilean heiress named Blanca de Saulles. It is unknown if Valentino and Blanca had a romantic relationship, but when she finally divorced her husband, Valentino defended her in her child custody suit. Blanca’s ex-husband, John, used political connections to get Valentino arrested on flimsy, unspecified vice charges. The scandal meant that Valentino had a difficult time finding work. When Blanca shot her ex-husband to death, Valentino fled to Los Angeles, fearing being brought in on another sensational trial.
In Los Angeles, Valentino continued with his dancing, teaching dance to a wealthy, older clientele. He began to pursue acting jobs, but was mostly cast in small, villainous roles due to his “exotic” looks. Eventually, screenwriter June Mathis decided he would be perfect as the lead in her film, THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE. Released in 1921, THE FOUR HORSEMEN was a huge success, one of the first films to ever make $1 million. Unfortunately, the studio refused to accept Valentino as a star. They refused to give him a raise or more leading men roles. Valentino quit and went to a different studio, Famous Players-Lasky. There he got the respect he was looking for, and was cast in the starring role in THE SHEIK, the role that defined his career.
It was around this time that Valentino made a trip to San Francisco. He bought a ring at a jewelry store, despite warnings from the owner that the ring was cursed. He wore the ring while shooting his next film, THE YOUNG RAJAH, which turned out to be the only flop of his career. The film was lost until 2005, and even then, only fragments remain. It was two years before he would make another movie.
Valentino put the ring away and didn’t wear it again until he went to New York following the filming of SON OF THE SHEIK.
A few weeks after the premiere of SON OF THE SHEIK, allegedly while wearing the ring, Valentino collapsed at the Hotel Ambassador in New York. Initially diagnosed with appendicitis, it was discovered that he had perforated ulcers mimicking appendicitis (a condition now called “Valentino’s Syndrome”).
Doctors were initially confident in his recovery, but he soon developed peritonitis, an infection of abdominal tissues. His condition worsened, and he died August 23, 1926 at the age of 31.
His death caused mass hysteria among fans. An estimated 100,000 people crowded the streets outside the funeral home where he lay in state. A riot erupted when frenzied fans tried to break in to grab a last glimpse at the screen icon. Two women attempted suicide in front of the hospital, and a woman in London, as well as a man in Paris were successful in killing themselves while clutching photos of the late actor. After a funeral mass in New York, Valentino was transported back to Hollywood, where he was laid to rest in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
A “woman in black” mourns at Valentino’s crypt every year, usually on the anniversary of his death, and leaves a single red rose. This began right after his death, and it was later revealed to be a publicity stunt. However, the “stunt” stuck, and over the years, dozens of “women in black” have arrived to deliver a rose to Valentino’s crypt. Currently, film historian Karie Bible carries the mantle.
Let’s go back to that cursed ring. After Valentino’s death, his lover, Pola Negri was given her choice of mementos from Valentino’s collection. She chose the ring, and almost immediately fell gravely ill. She survived, and a few years later met singer and actor Russ Colombo, who was describe as a “double” for Valentino. Negri gave Colombo the ring, “from one Valentino to another.” A few days later, Colombo was killed in a mysterious shooting incident at the hands of a friend.
The ring next went to Colombo’s best friend, Joe Casino, who locked the ring in a glass case and refused to remove it, even to donate to a Valentino museum. Eventually he decided the curse was bunk and removed the ring from the case. Within a week of putting on the ring, he was hit by a truck and killed.
Casino’s brother, Del, took possession of the ring. He wore it with no issue, and loaned it to a Valentino collector, who also had no problems with the ring. It seems that maybe the “curse” was just a series of grim coincidences.
But then Del’s home was robbed, and among the stolen goods was Valentino’s ring. The thief, James Willis, was shot and killed by a police officer who swears the shot was meant as a warning. The ring next appeared on the finger of figure skater Jack Dunn, who also wore Valentino’s clothing when he went for a 1938 screen test for a biopic about Valentino. Dunn died ten days later from tularemia, a rare blood disease he contracted from handling a dead rabbit on a hunting trip. Dunn was only 21 years old.
After Del Casino died, the executors of his will kept the Valentino ring locked in a Los Angeles bank vault. Over the years years that the ring remained in that vault, the bank faced two robberies, a fire, and a cashier’s strike. The whereabouts of the ring are currently unknown.
Valentino’s ghost is said to haunt a number of locations throughout California. Some psychics say he is looking for his cursed ring; his ex-wife Natacha Rambova claims that he didn’t know he was dead. Valentino’s spirit was said to reside in his Beverly Hills home, Falcon Lair, until it was bulldozed in 2006. Doors opened and closed shortly after his death, noises which his dogs didn’t react to, as if it was perfectly normal. Valentino’s ghost had been seen in the hallways, and could sometimes be seen in the second-story window, staring out at the city.
Actress Millicent Rogers spent only one night there before being “chased away” by the spirit; actor Harry Carey claimed to have encountered the ghost multiple times during his ownership of the property. Not far away, in the Falcon Lair stables, a stable worker quit after he saw Valentino’s ghost petting one of his horses. Phantom horses have also been seen there on their own. Even more creepy is the fact that the stables were located just down the street from the home in which Sharon Tate and her friends were killed by the Manson Family in 1969.
Apparitions of Valentino have been said to appear in all his former homes; in various places on the current Paramount Studios lot (Valentino never worked at that site, but it is just on the other side of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery); at a handful of Southern California hotels; and in the women’s restroom at the Musso and Frank Grill in Hollywood. Two separate, mysterious deaths occurred near Valentino statues at DeLongpre Park, both within a few years of Valentino’s death: a 14 year old girl was murdered, and a 31 year old woman committed suicide. Valentino never visited this park.
And if all that isn’t enough, Valentino’s dog, Kabar, haunts the LA Pet Cemetery in Calabasas, California.