My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade at LA’s Haunted Paramour Estate
Pop quiz — what does My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach, an early 20th-century oil heiress, and a eclectic restauranteur have in common? A haunted mansion, of course. You are browsing Curious Archive, after all.
Once the home of the aforementioned oil heiress and her silver-screen husband, The Paramour (as it’s known today) has a history stretching back to the early 1920s that’s as rich and interesting as the people that originally lived there. Today The Paramour is used as a recording studio, film location, event space, and exclusive hotel fit for the wealthy and eccentric. The estate’s location in the Moreno Highlands neighbourhood of Silver Lake, Los Angeles provides idyllic view of the ocean, downtown LA, and the famous Hollywood sign. This year The Paramour turns 100 (happy birthday!) so to celebrate a century with this iconic property from the Golden Age of Hollywood, let’s dive into the history of the property and the spooky ghost stories from the mouths of rock bands My Chemical Romance and Papa Roach.
History of The Paramour (or Crestmount) Estate
Socialite Daisy Moreno (née Canfield / Danziger), heir to the Pan American Petroleum fortune, was born on 23 March 1884 to oil millionaire Charles Canfield and his wife Chloe in Ruby Hill, Nevada. In 1918 she commissioned an estate in Silver Lake by architect Robert D. Farquhar that would come to be known as the Crestmount. Spanning 18,000 square feet, the estate featured terraced fountains, rose gardens, orange groves, six bedroom suites, a swimming pool, five-car garage, green house, stables, and a wishing well. There was no debate that Daisy’s Mediterranean Revival mansion was the pinnacle of old Hollywood glamour and the media unsurprisingly dubbed Crestmount “The Most Beautiful Home in Hollywood”.
In 1923 Daisy’s home was complete and she moved in with her new husband Antonio Moreno, a popular silent film star (best known in horror circles today for his 1954 portrayal of Dr. Carl Maia in Creature from the Black Lagoon). Here the couple hosted star-dazzled Hollywood events, film screenings, and dinner parties during the roaring twenties with some of the most famous faces in the film industry in attendance.
But all good things must come to and end; Daisy and Antonio moved from their luxury estate around 1929. The heiress and her three sisters Florence, Eileen and Caroline deeded the estate to a private boarding school for girls in their deceased mother’s name. During the Great Depression The Chloe P Canfield School for Girls educated orphan girls and young women, and a scholarship was put in place through the Canfield family trust that allowed many of the girls at the boarding school to attend university.
Daisy’s life ended suddenly in February 1933 when her car went over a cliff on Mulholland Drive. Daisy was thrown out of the vehicle and landed at the bottom of the canyon, but the twenty-one-year-old driver Rene H Dussag (a friend of the Moreno’s) was able to climb back up to the road to get help. Harold Viault and his wife were driving home from another party when they saw the blood-covered Rene flagging their car down. Daisy and Rene had been driving home from a party that Daisy had thrown for her recently married daughter Beth and son-in-law Francis at the Beverly-Wilshire Hotel. According to her son-in-law neither Daisy nor Rene had drank at the party. Some sources attribute the accident to particularly bad fog that night.
Shortly before her accident, Daisy and Antonio had separated following a decade long marriage, but remained on positive enough terms to not seek divorce. Upon viewing the deceased body of Daisy, Antonio was said to be ‘prostrated’ with the grief of her untimely passing. He never remarried, but continued to act into his late 60s (receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), and died at 79 in his Beverly Hills home.
I’ve seen some brief speculation online that Daisy’s death was somehow suspicious. However, I haven’t found anything concrete to back this up. There is speculation online that Antonio was gay, implying a sham marriage, which might have led people to find Daisy’s death suspicious after the fact. In his book The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine (2009), E.J. Fleming claims that Daisy was also gay, that her marriage with Antonio was ‘studio-arranged’, and that her death “fuelled rumors that she had been killed to keep her quiet”. It’s unclear where Fleming acquired this information and I wasn’t able to find any additional sources to back it up, so we’ll take this with a grain of salt.
Daisy’s death wasn’t the first tragedy in her family. Her mother Chloe Canfield (née Wescott), then 46, was murdered via gunshot by former family coachman Morris Buck in 1906. Buck was convicted and executed the following year at San Quentin State Prison. Daisy was witness to her mother’s murder, which certainly would have had great emotional impact on her for the rest of the her short life.
The estate continued on as the The Chloe P Canfield School for Girls until 1950 when it was gifted to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and used as a convent. The sisters had been emigrating from Mexico and were looking for a place to settle and care for displaced and orphaned children, and the former Crestmount estate fit the bill. The nuns had the grand living room converted into a chapel and in 1953 opened the estate as The Immaculate Conception Convent and Home for Girls. In 1987 the estate was damaged in the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake, a 5.9 magnitude blind thrust earthquake that injured 200 and killed three in Southern California, leading to financial struggles for the sisters when it came to repairs. However, to demonstrate their love and respect for the property’s history they applied for and were granted landmark status through the City of Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission in 1988 as ‘The Canfield-Moreno Estate’.
The period between 1988 and 1998 remains an obscure void in the history of the estate. It’s likely it remained empty since the damage from the earthquake was extensive enough for the nuns to let the beloved property go. However, the property was eventually purchased in 1998 by restauranteur Dana Hollister for $2.25 million and renamed to The Paramour Estate. Anthony Kiedis, lead vocalist of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and friend of Hollister, originally told Hollister about the estate in 1991 after record producer Rich Rubin declined to buy the property because it was “too The Shining“. He told Kiedis to tell Hollister about the home, thinking she would pass it on to her decorating client Tim Burton. While Burton declined, Danny Elfman showed interest along with an unnamed religious organisation and architecture group. But in the end Hollister was too enchanted by the then-earthquake damaged building to see it go to someone else and she was keen to help the nuns preserve their former convent. Under her new company Odalisque Restorations, Hollister worked to preserve the history and artistic wonder of the now Paramour Estate in order to bring the home back to it’s former glory. And I think it’s fair to say she succeeded.
[The above photos are screenshots from a stunning walkthrough of The Paramour Estate in 2021 on estate enthusiast Enes Yilmazer’s YouTube channel — check it out to see more of the house!]
In 2022, Hollister listed The Paramour for $40 million. However, it doesn’t appear to have sold (as of January 2023), so I assume she is still the current owner. I will update this post if that changes in the future.
Allegations of Paranormal Activity
A mansion with a vibrant history that saw old Hollywood celebrities, nuns, orphaned children, and countless others walk its halls over the past century is bound to have a ghost story. And one of the most famous tales of The Paramour’s haunted halls comes from rock band My Chemical Romance. In 2006, the band consisting of Gerard Way (lead vocalist), Ray Toro (lead guitarist), Frank Iero (rhythm guitarist), Mikey Way (bassist), and Bob Bryar (drummer during The Black Parade era) were working on their third studio album The Black Parade at The Paramour. The album follows a character named “The Patient” who is dying of cancer and explores his death (in the form of a parade), his perception of the afterlife, and reflections on his life. The band moved into the estate with producer Rob Cavallo who tracked the location down after being asked by the band to find a “weird house in LA to record”. Cavallo had heard the house was haunted and figured the band would get a kick out of the spooky atmosphere. The band’s first impression of the building, much like producer Rich Rubin 15 years prior, was a Shining vibe:
Right away it felt like this place was going to consume you and eventually it would. There were so many hallways that seemed to lead somewhere very dark, stairways that led to place that were very cold. The whole place was cold. The whole place seemed haunted. We figured this would work for us. We all drew numbers to see who got which room and it almost seemed like the house chose which one we got, because each room really seemed to fit each guy. Except Mikey. His room was terrifying to be in and I couldn’t exactly tell you why… it just had a vibe to it. The next day our gear arrived and we set up. You could tell no one had slept very well on account of the cold or the fact that you always felt like someone was watching you.Gerard Way, from The Black Parade Vinyl Booklet
Despite a hesitant first impression of the house, the development of the new album was progressing smoothly. The band enjoyed working Cavallo and engineer Doug McKean on their live demo, having set up shop in the home’s former chapel and Daisy and Antonio’s former grand living room. A short break was taken away from the estate to preform at SXSW in Texas and the band’s spirits were high when they returned The Paramour to continue working on the demo. But according to Gerard “things got dark, real dark”:
I’m not doing into too much detail about what happened and perhaps I never will. But there comes a time when you need to be much more than a friend, a band mate, or a brother. You have to learn to be there for each other in ways you never knew existed, face things you never had to face together. Mental illness has always been an issue this band has dealt with, but it’s something we’ve taken head-on. Something we’ve always beaten. But this time depression hit one of us in a very severe way, and there was no shaking it off.Gerard Way, from The Black Parade Vinyl Booklet
Mikey, it seemed, had the greatest difficult staying at The Paramour. Having struggled with his mental health since he was 17 and being allocated the most haunted room in the house (not to mention the overall negative energy surrounding the band’s impression of the estate), Mikey was hit with an all time low and forced to leave The Paramour. Reflecting later about their time at The Paramour, Mikey said:
Oh man, that crazy fucking house. We had to get out of that house by the end of it. That place was just a storm cloud in the shape of a house. The sun never penetrated the property.From ‘The True Lives of My Chemical Romance’ by Tom Bryant, pg. 154.
His bedroom at The Paramour, along with being the most haunted room, had a strange blue lightbulb that hung from the ceiling that Mikey said provided no light other than an “eerie glow”. He also recalled dogs marking at thin air, Frankie and Gerard witnessing doors slamming by themselves, and bathtubs filling with water when there was no one was home.
Along with Mikey, his brother Gerard had his own demons to fight at The Paramour. Having abused prescription drugs and alcohol in his past, Gerard was trying to stay sober. This along with the stress and emotions of creating a bigger and better record than their last in a residence that was putting them all on edge was the perfect storm for his own breakdown. On his time at The Paramour, Gerard reflected:
It really did feel like a black parade in the haunted house we recorded in. It felt like something was coming after us. Every time we turned a corner, it was staring at us – we couldn’t escape it, we couldn’t go to the movies, we couldn’t listen to any music or read books or watch TV. It wasn’t the happiest times in our lives. We were questioning our mortality.From ‘The True Lives of My Chemical Romance’ by Tom Bryant, pg. 156.
Night terrors began to plague his sleep, which Gerard used for inspiration for the song Sleep on The Black Parade. Sleep begins with a recording of Gerard made of himself after waking up in The Paramour from a particularly disturbing nightmare:
They’re… They’re these terrors‘Sleep’ from My Chemical Romance’s ‘The Black Parade’ (Reprise Records, 2006)
And it feels as if somebody was gripping my
They’re these terrors. And it’s like
It feels like as if somebody was gripping my throat
Like last night
They’re not like tremors, they’re worse than tremors
They’re… They’re these terrors
Like last night, they are not like tremors
They are worse than tremors
They are these terrors
And it’s like, it feels like as if somebody
Was gripping my throat and squeezing and…as if like somebody was gripping my throat
At this point you might notice a key missing aspect of the traditional haunted house story — a ghost sighting. My Chemical Romance’s experience with the paranormal at The Paramour manifests instead through a general negative energy they feel coming from the house. We could point to a paranormal explanation, or we could consider the mental state of the band while they were recording at The Paramour.
But if the estate is haunted, who’s ghost is to blame?
It’s said, though I’m unable to confirm, that Daisy’s grave is located on The Paramour property. This is possible since the only information I could find regarding Daisy’s remains was that she was cremated and her ashes were given to her family. Since the family still had direct ties to The Paramour when it became a school for girls, it isn’t out of the question that they requested Daisy’s ashes be scattered or buried on her former property. Because of this, some believe that it’s Daisy’s ghost that haunted The Paramour.
Prior to My Chemical Romance’s stay, rock band Papa Roach lived at The Paramour from October 2005 until May 2006 while working on their album The Paramour Sessions (2006). During their stay the band experienced paranormal activity similar to My Chemical Romance, but found their time at The Paramour to be a little more positive. According to lead singer Jacoby Shaddix, the lyrics for their song Crash were mostly written sitting next to Daisy’s grave. Again, I can’t confirm if she actually is buried there, but regardless… Daisy’s alleged presence from beyond the veil acted as a source of comfort for Shaddix, while the house itself was the true instigator of negativity.
Though the lyrics of Crash don’t appear to have any connection to the accident that killed the oil heiress, Shaddix claimed that when recording the song the computer and PA would crash every time he sang the lyrics “I’m going to crash”. When speaking to MTV about The Paramour Sessions, Shaddix attributed the occurrence with the deep connection the band had developed with the house and it’s history. Drummer Dave Buckner said the band occasionally heard footsteps throughout the house and that doors would open and close by themselves. He also recalled hearing voices that didn’t belong to his bandmates singing from empty rooms. Similar to My Chemical Romance, Papa Roach were going through their own personal struggles with relationship issues and Shaddix’s own battle with sobriety. But even still, the band felt working in the house and paranormal presence assisted their creativity and gave them a different perspective when working on the record.
Unlike some allegedly haunted buildings, The Paramour does not promote this side of their most recent history on their website. And I haven’t found any interviews where current owner Dana Hollister acknowledges the claims put forth by My Chemical Romance and Papa Roach. Outside of these two stories there doesn’t seem to be much documented history of hauntings at all. The unclear location of Daisy’s burial and the assumption that she is the disembodied spirit haunting The Paramour is also curious. Even if Daisy was buried here, what reason would her ghost have for bringing a troubling energy to the property? When she tragically passed away, the former Crestmount hadn’t been Daisy’s home for at least three years. So what brought her spirit back?
It was said that the original deal between the Canfield sisters and the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception was that the house was to remain a school. When the house was no longer used for educational purposes it was to be returned to a descendant of the Canfields. Could Daisy’s spirit have returned to protest the current use of her former home as an event space and hotel? Does Daisy just really hate rock music (I imagine it would be quite the change from the jazz and swing from her lifetime)? Or is this ghost not Daisy at all. Is it a nun? Or one of the children who attended the school? If The Paramour really is haunted, the ghost hasn’t made any concrete effort to communicate who they are. If there’s a ghost there at all.
So perhaps the statement of the house being too “The Shining” wasn’t entirely gratuitous. In Stephen King’s novel, The Overlook Hotel itself is a character and arguably the true antagonist of the story. The Shining is a story about a haunted hotel, but it’s also a story about isolation and addiction. Much like Gerard and Shaddix, substance abuse and sobriety played a role in Jack Torrance’s experience while being willingly locked away to focus on his writing. The house played with Jack, and in the end won. But The Paramour, while especially inflicting mental anguish on My Chemical Romance, saw them persevere in the end and fight back against their demons that the house had amplified. Can a building be evil? I don’t think so. But despair, fear, and anger can certainly affect the way we perceive our surroundings — especially if we are somewhere unfamiliar.
If you enjoy stories about rock bands and haunted houses I highly recommend reading Elizabeth Hand’s incredibly eerie novel Wylding Hall (2015) about a British acid-folk band that stay in a haunted manor house in the countryside while recording their album. It’s very creepy and reminded me a lot of My Chemical Romance’s experience while I was researching this post.
A Sample of Filming and Recording at The Paramour
Does The Paramour look familiar? Here’s some music videos and television shows that have been filmed there!
- R.E.M.’s music video for At My Most Beautiful (1998)
- Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (dir. Steve Miner, 1998)
- Scream 3 (dir. Wes Craven, 1999)
- Alias season 2 episode 18 “Truth Takes Time” (2003)
- Monk season 3 episode 2 “Mr Monk and the Panic Room” (2004)
- Britney Spears’ music video My Prerogative (2004)
- Reality shows Rock Star: INXS (2005) and Rock Star: Supernova (2006)
- Brothers & Sisters season 4 episode 4 “From France with Love” (2009)
- Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds music video for If I Had a Gun (2011)
Sources and Additional Reading
Alternative Press – ‘The Black Parade’ by My Chemical Romance was cursed — here’s proof (2019)
Dana Hollister – About
Home and Gardens – Tour the Paramour Estate – ‘the most beautiful house in Hollywood’ is on sale for $39.995 million (2021)
I Am Not a Stalker – The Canfield-Moreno Estate from “Scream 3” (2012)
MTV – Papa Roach Clip A Freak Show; LP Inspired By Oil Heiress’ Ghost (2006)
Los Angeles Magazine – Dana Hollister’s Grand Plans Irked Silver Lake. Then She Learned to Act Locally (2001)
Los Angeles Times – Her convent fight with Katy Perry is legendary. Now restaurateur Dana Hollister lists for $40 million in Silver Lake (2021) / Tale of Wealth, Murder and a Family’s Decline (2000)
Song Facts – Music History Calendar, Heiress Dies, Haunts Recording Space
The Paramour – Hotel History (pdf)
TribLive – Album finds new spirit in Papa Roach’s sound (2006)
Wikipedia – Canfield-Moreno Estate / The Black Parade
YouTube – Touring a $39,995,000 Iconic Los Angeles Mansion With Insane City Views | The Paramour Estate (Enes Yilmazer, 2021)