On Sept. 18, 1932, a hiker discovered the body of Peg Entwistle, two days after the despondent actress jumped from the “H” in the Hollywood sign.
Unidentified Body Discovered Under Hollywood Sign
Early in the morning of Sunday, Sept. 18, 1932, a woman hiking in the Hollywood hills came across the dead body of a young woman. The hiker collected some belongings of the woman and left them on the steps of the local police station.
In an anonymous phone call to the police, she described, “I was hiking near the Hollywoodland sign today and near the bottom I found a woman’s shoe and jacket. A little further on I noticed a purse. In it was a suicide note. I looked down the mountain and saw a body.”
When police arrived at the scene of the death, they deduced that the young woman jumped from a 50-foot-tall “H,” the first letter in the “Hollywoodland” sign that dominated the landscape over the famous movie-making town. An electrician’s ladder had been left propped against the letter, leaving easy access for any passers-by.
Unable to identify the deceased, the Los Angeles police published her suicide note in the newspaper the next day. It read, “I’m afraid I’m a coward. I’m sorry for everything. If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E.”
Tabloids jumped on the story, and eventually people began referring to her as the “Hollywood Sign Girl,” a nickname still used today.
Biography: Peg Entwistle
The body was identified as Peg Entwistle, a 24-year-old actress who had left Broadway to make it big on the silver screen.
Entwistle was born in Port Talbot, Wales, but moved to New York at an early age. She had dreams of becoming a star and after training with New York City’s Theater Guild she starred in several Broadway shows, and also appeared in a Los Angeles production opposite Humphrey Bogart.
While she was in California, Entwistle was called in for a screen test. She performed well and was given a one-movie contract with RKO. Despite the fact it was a small role, Entwistle developed high hopes for her movie career. Unfortunately, early reviews of the film, “Thirteen Women,” were poor and her scenes were almost all cut out of the final product.
For the next few months, Entwistle went to audition after audition, but further parts never materialized. One night, she told her uncle, with whom she lived in a house near the “Hollywoodland” sign, that she was going out to meet with friends.
“She instead made the arduous hike up the canyon hill to the Hollywood Sign, her one-time beacon of hope but now a symbol of failure and rejection,” writes the Hollywood Sign Trust. “She climbed 50 feet up a workman’s ladder to the top of the ‘H’ and plunged to her death.”
Ironically, on the day after her death, a letter arrived from the Beverly Hills Playhouse, offering Entwistle a starring role: that of a woman driven to suicide at the end of the play.
Although she wasn’t well known when she was alive, in death Entwistle achieved the stardom she sought. Over the years, many myths have evolved surrounding the story of the “Hollywood Sign Girl,” and Entwistle’s ghost is rumored to linger at the site of her demise.
The Hollywood Sign
Sources in this Story
- Frances Farmers Revenge: Peg Entwistle
- American Hauntings: The Haunts of the Hollywood Sign
- The Hollywood Sign
- Cambridge Journals: Urban Icons: The Hollywood “Sign”
Entwistle’s death is just one of many stories involving the iconic Hollywood sign. It was built in 1923 to advertise a housing development built nearby. Originally, it was constructed with 13 letters: “Hollywoodland,” which was the name of the subdivision. Developers outfitted the sign with 4,000 20-watt bulbs and hired a caretaker to maintain it.
The sign was intended to be temporary and it was not well-liked initially. But eventually, it became an important symbol of the town with which it shared its name. Over the years the sign has taken many forms and has been rebuilt more than once.
In 1978, Hugh Hefner held a benefit at his Playboy mansion to purchase all new letters. Each letter was auctioned off and celebrities from Alice Cooper to Gene Autry each contributed $28,000 for the restoration.