AND TRACY NELSON
Daughter and Shades of Errol Flynn
Nelson loved living in Errol Flynn’s home. The swashbuckling
superstar had some high times in the Hollywood Hills -- lots of wine,
women and song. Nelson was no slouch in that department either.
The teen idol turned pop legend felt a strong kinship with the spirit
of Flynn and perhaps Flynn felt it too. His spirit -- or someone’s
-- may have tried to warn Rick of his tragic fate.
the heroes in one magnificent, sexy, animal package,” that’s
what Jack Warner called him. A scoundrel with an irresistible
twinkle in his eye, Errol Flynn was what every woman wanted and what
every man wanted to be. To celebrate his good fortune in filmland,
Flynn designed his dream house -- “a playhouse” -- he called
it. He bought eleven and a half acres in the Hollywood Hills off
Mulholland Drive and, in 1941, built a sprawling farmhouse. An unbroken
line of windows provided a panoramic view of the city below. Flynn
also included an elaborate bar, several secret passageways and more
than a few peepholes. Outside, he built a black-bottomed pool
and circular stables copied from the Lippizaner stables in Vienna.
lived the good life for many years at the Mullholland home. In
1957, not yet divorced from third wife Patrice Wymore, the 48-year-old
Flynn took up with fifteen-year-old Beverly Aadland. Beverly’s
mother, Florence went along for the ride as often as possible and the
two women spent many nights in the home. But by then, Errol’s
“wicked, wicked ways” had taken an enormous toll.
Bloated, in ill health, he lost his beloved home in 1959 to his first
wife, Lili Damita whose alimony was long overdue. He died later
that same year.
1959, 19-year-old Ricky Nelson was driving teenage girls crazy on both
the big and small screen. He’d joined his parents and brother
David on radio’s The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet at
age four. The show moved to television in 1952 and ran fourteen
years. During that time, the world watched Ricky transform from
irksome teen to rock music idol. Eventually he married and had
his own family. In 1977, he found the perfect home for them.
He bought the Flynn estate from country & western artist Stuart
Hamblin, the only other owner. Rick and his wife, actress Chris
Nelson moved into the Mulholland home with their four children just
eighteen years after Flynn’s demise.
house was a two-story ranch house. It wasn’t over-sized
or grandiose in any way, but it was sprawling,” daughter Tracy
said. “The front door was in a place where it shouldn’t
have been so we never used it and because of that I never really felt
that the house had a heart, had a center. I would usually just
come in and go straight up to my room.
bedroom used to be Beverly Aadland’s and we used to always smell
this funky perfume, a really cheap perfume. All sorts of weird
things went on: my shower door would open and close in the middle of
the night; the toilet would flush; my shades would roll up for no reason.”
The ghost in her room felt distinctly feminine. Ms. Aadland
is still living. Could it have been her mother? Instinctively,
Tracy felt it was an older presence. “This is going to sound
so crazy, but it didn’t feel like a young, naive girl. It
felt like a cynical presence.” A cynical woman in Flynn’s
house? That could have been any number of women Flynn had loved
and “forfeited.” Whoever or whatever was there, her
friends felt it too. “When I was going to school, girls
would have slumber parties, but nobody would stay at my house.
To me it was like having a pet, like, ‘Oh well, it’ just
that weird energy in the house.’”
and Chris Nelson’s home life was nothing like the happy family
we saw on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The couple
was plagued by problems -- with their marriage, with their careers and
with drugs. In the early ‘80s, Chris moved out with the
twin boys. The youngest son went to live with Chris’ mother.
Tracy remained with her dad.
was doing Square Pegs at the time. One night, I arrived
home from work. It was dark. I looked up at the dining room
and the light was on and there was a man standing in the dining room.
I thought, ‘Oh, Pop’s home.’ I went upstairs
and called him -- no answer. His car’s not there and there’s
nobody’s there. Then the phone rang and it’s Pop calling
from the road to say he’d be home tomorrow.”
told him what she’d just seen and Rick replied, “Oh that’s
following day, Tracy came home from work while it was still light out.
She went straight to her room to read. After a few minutes, there
was a noise from downstairs. It sounded like someone had broken
father had a room below mine full of his gold records and awards, all
hanging on the walls. It sounded like whoever was down there was
smashing all the gold records and all Dad’s stuff and I remember
thinking, ‘Oh my God, take anything, but don’t take those.’
hid myself in the closet and I waited for the noise to stop. It
was really loud, the house was shaking. It sounded like people
were throwing things against the walls, breaking chairs and breaking
glass. The sun finally went down. It had been quiet for
awhile and I thought it was finally safe to go downstairs.”
expected to find the place in shambles, but there was no broken glass,
no smashed furniture. Instead, all the lights had been turned
on. Two pet cats were in Rick’s bedroom and the door had
been locked from the inside. Nothing else in the house had been
touched. Tracy decided then and there to move out.
short time later, after she’d moved into her own apartment, Rick
and his girlfriend called her one night. “The weirdest thing
happened,” they told her. “We were downstairs and
we heard all this noise coming from your room. We thought we were
being robbed. Things were crashing and breaking. We called
the police, ran outside down the driveway and waited for them to come.
When they got here,” the couple continued, “they went upstairs
to investigate. Your door was locked from the inside.”
When they opened it, they discovered that all the lights in the room
had been turned on, but not a thing had been touched.
Nelson lived in the Mulholland house for two more years, until his death
in a plane crash in 1985. Tracy recalls that the spirit in the
house changed dramatically after that. “It had been playful
before, but after my father died, it turned malevolent. My brothers
and I could literally feel when my father’s presence was gone
and when he left, it just turned ugly and scary in the house.
My (now) ex-husband always had a hard time believing any of this ghost
stuff. After Dad died, we were removing some furniture and he
went outside and refused to go back in. He told me, ‘Something’s
in that house and I don’t even want to be anywhere near it.’”
Dreyfuss, Tracy’s co-star in Down and Out in Beverly Hills,
talked to her about buying the house, but Tracy warned him away.
“It’s a bad house and it’s got something bad in it.”
Mulholland house stood vacant after Rick Nelson’s death.
During that time, darkness seemed to completely envelop the place.
A gang broke in and murdered a girl in the living room. Then
a mysterious fire burned half the house.
tried to figure it out. There was a lot of really wacky stuff
going on in terms of drug usage in the house when I was growing up.
I believe all that stuff creates energetic chaos -- I don’t know
what else to call it. So it was a wacky place to live anyway.
Then compound that with the history of the place.
the women on my mother’s side are very psychic: my grandmother,
my mom, myself. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been very
open to the possibility of ghosts because I always kind of felt them.
I never saw anything, but I felt them. All I can tell you is that
it was definitely haunted.”
has a theory about the two explosive, smashing episodes. Perhaps
Flynn or the cynical woman were trying to warn Rick of impending tragedy.
When the warnings failed and Rick was killed at age 45 -- before his
time, like Errol -- the spirit turned black. “My father’s
dying was such a cataclysmic thing for the family...maybe it (the smashing)
was a warning...maybe it was...who knows?”
house was torn down years ago and the acreage divided up into separate
lots, but Tracy still has nightmares about it all the time. “It’s
all so real in the dreams...but my brother gave me some great advice.
He told me, ‘Tracy, the only place that house exists now is in