Chilling Stories Celebrities Have Of The Paranormal

Rarefied as the world of celebrity might seem, there's no denying that celebs are just fellow humans after all, though with a higher profile than most of us. That means they have to deal with everyday tasks, from figuring out where to send the kids to school, to purchasing a home, to traveling to and from work. It's not all bad — after all, that home is oftentimes a pretty nice mansion or penthouse — but things can still go wrong. Even tales of the paranormal can dip into the world of celebrities from time to time, not unlike your own family or local stories of ghostly visitors and other unexplained phenomena.

Some celebrity paranormal tales are fairly innocuous or even a little heartwarming (Octavia Spencer has told Ellen DeGeneres that she enjoys the protection of a ghost who scares off unsavory types, for instance). Yet others are downright menacing, with a few even threatening their health and safety. Here are some of the most chilling paranormal stories told by celebrities.

Miley Cyrus claimed her London apartment was maliciously haunted

As a busy touring artist, it's little surprise that Miley Cyrus once maintained an apartment in London. However, according to the singer's account, the flat was never the safe haven she hoped it would be. Indeed, as she admitted in an interview with Elle UK, the abode was haunted by a potentially dangerous spirit.

Some occurrences were unsettling, Cyrus claimed, saying that she had odd dreams and the occasional sighting of a young boy sitting on the bathroom sink while she was in the shower. At one point, her younger sister was also showering but had a far worse experience than making eye contact with a ghostly observer. "[A]ll of a sudden I hear her scream," Cyrus said. "I run in there and the water had somehow flipped to hot [....] the knob had turned but she hadn't turned it and it was burning her."

Other members of the Cyrus family also encountered eerie happenings in the apartment, including one occasion when an aunt returned to the space to find all of the windows and doors flung open. Ultimately, Cyrus called it quits and decamped for the upscale Soho Hotel. "I will never stay there ever again," she told Elle.

Salma Hayek says she had to call a ghostbuster

Some people who believe they live with ghosts learn to accept the presence of the spirits in their lives. Others, however, don't have quite the same luxury. According to actor Salma Hayek, her London home has been so beset by the paranormal that she once called out a real-life ghostbuster to take care of the problem.

As she related it all in a 2021 appearance on the Ellen talk show, the initial reports came from employees who claimed to witness paranormal activity, like a piano playing on its own. Hayek remained skeptical, but called in a medium just in case — and, she hoped, to tamp down any further employee anxiety about the home.

Alas, the medium kind of made it all worse, reportedly finding 20 or so spirits in the home. The phantom group included a benevolent nun who refused to leave with the other ghosts that had been ushered out by the medium. Hayek said she'd encountered some odd occurrences herself, including lights turning on and off with no apparent human input. During the Ellen segment, Hayek's teenage daughter, Valentina, even spoke up from the audience to say that she'd seen some of the most dramatic sights, including apparitions in the home.

Multiple inhabitants have said the Playboy Mansion is haunted

The Playboy Mansion has been witness to many dramatic goings-on, from hedonistic parties to claims of sexual assault. But, for some of those who lived there, it was also potentially home to the spirits of the dead. Both Holly Madison and Bridget Marquardt, who were once widely known as two of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner's multiple girlfriends in the early 2000s, have spoken of eerie encounters they had while living in the mansion. As Marquardt told Nylon, one of the most dramatic incidents was a sighting of a woman standing in her closet, who then proceeded to disappear in front of multiple witnesses. Later investigation suggested to Marquardt that this was the spirit of Joanie, a woman who stayed in the mansion to look after the other women there and care for the many pets on the premises. By the time of Marquardt's residence, however, Joanie had died of cancer.

For her part, Madison told the publication that she had seen a phantom woman cross in front of her in the mansion's gym. Both women noted odd occurrences with electronics throughout the home, too, including TV sets that seemed to operate on their own. Household staff also reportedly told them that electronics in other rooms turned on of their own accord, while some doors were known to move — sometimes rather violently — with no visible presence around.

Peter Jackson reported a very unsettling encounter

Though today he's arguably best known for his monumental "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, New Zealand director Peter Jackson began making a name for himself with a wide variety of films, including the ultra-gory 1992 horror comedy "Brain Dead," as well as 1996's ghost film "The Frighteners," starring Michael J. Fox. But it wasn't until 2009 that he admitted he believed he'd seen a real and very chilling ghost.

As Jackson told Channel 4 (via Stuff), the ghostly encounter happened some 20 years ago, in an apartment he shared with his partner, screenwriter and producer Fran Walsh. One morning, Jackson woke up to the terrifying panel of an older woman silently screaming at him from the foot of the bed. Though she quickly moved across the room and vanished through a wall, it was nevertheless difficult to forget.

But when Jackson spoke to Walsh, her reaction made things all the more chilling. Without much prompting, she asked if he'd seen a screaming woman. Apparently, Walsh had already encountered her. Rumor has it that the ghost was that of a woman from the historic theater directly across the street, who was said to have died by suicide after a disastrous performance and theater haunted the premises.

Diane Ladd says a ghost influenced her career

For Diane Ladd, her particular ghost story — with a cameo from the Watergate Hotel for good measure — appears to have shifted the course of her acting career.

As Ladd told Entertainment Weekly, she was a rising star when she joined a stage play at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center in 1976. While staying at the Watergate Hotel (post-Nixon scandal), she was awoken just before 5:00 a.m. by someone roughly shaking her arm. Only, when Ladd got up, she didn't see a fellow corporeal human, but the wispy silhouette of a woman in her bedroom which then disappeared.

When she went to the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater for her play, Ladd then heard a whisper while on stage. After the second occurrence, she thought it was the voices of bored ushers — only to find no ushers lingering backstage. Finally, again while in front of the audience, Ladd says that a disembodied woman's voice whispered in her ear, saying that she was named Martha and needed Ladd's help. Supposedly, talk show host Maury Povich rather dramatically told Ladd that it was the spirit of Watergate whistleblower Martha Mitchell, who had died in May 1976. Povich told Entertainment Weekly he didn't quite remember the exchange, though he knew both Ladd and Mitchell and both were on his show. Ladd went on to champion a Martha Mitchell biopic, though it hasn't currently come to fruition.

Courteney Cox sold her home because it was reportedly too haunted

Courteney Cox didn't exactly set out to own a haunted house, but she certainly found herself in that uncomfortable situation after buying her home in Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon neighborhood, a house that was once owned by burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee. Speaking to talk show host Jimmy Kimmel in 2022, Cox said that she first learned of potential ghostly issues from one of the Los Angeles home's former owners: singer Carole King. But when King told Cox of a supposed ghost that haunted the premises (perhaps somehow due to a nasty divorce, King intimated), Cox was initially dismissive.

Then, guests began having creepy encounters. Some spotted a phantom woman taking a seat on their bed. Cox remained pretty blasé about it all, even going so far as to hold a seance with King in the home. "I was just so in awe of her, I didn't listen to a word," she admitted.

But it was a UPS delivery person who finally seemed to convince Cox that something was going on. He asked Cox if the home was haunted. She said yes, then inquired as to why he would ask such a thing in the first place. "Because there's someone standing behind you," he reportedly said. "I couldn't sleep there alone ever again," Cox told Kimmel. She sold the home not long after.

Joan Rivers said she made peace with a singular ghost

Joan Rivers may be a legendary comedian, but she has paranormal cred to her name, too. It began in the late 1980s when Rivers purchased a large apartment in New York City. Renovations seemed to stir up an angry presence from the beyond. According to neighbors, a phantom had been spotted on the premises before, and Rivers' dog was none too pleased about entering the allegedly haunted apartment. As she told Celebrity Ghost Stories, it all got to be a bit too much, so she contacted New York University's Department of Psychology, who then allegedly referred her to a voodoo priestess.

The priestess performed a cleansing ritual in the apartment, as well as those of neighbors. She also informed Rivers that the ghost was that of Mrs. Spencer, an upper-class niece of J.P. Morgan who may have been displeased with the construction.

Though the ceremony briefly calmed her, it appeared that Mrs. Spencer returned in full force. But when Rivers found and installed a picture of Spencer in the home — complete with a nice floral display nearby — things seemed to calm down and the two began to get along. Rivers lived seemingly peacefully in that apartment until she died in 2014. Since then, the apartment has proven difficult to sell, perhaps because of the ghostly story associated with it (and also the sprawling layout and sky-high price — it was last purchased in 2015 for $24 million).

Patrick Stewart has had multiple paranormal experiences

As Patrick Stewart told USA Today in 2023, some of his very first paranormal experiences happened when he was only 12 years old. While staying at a drama teacher's home, he says that he witnessed 17th-century portraits exude an eerie glow. His teacher, Wynn Owen, later told him that spirits were a regular presence in the home, including the odd paintings. Stewart has also written of hearing his mother's voice — while viewing her remains in a casket. It didn't stop there, either. When performing on stage in a production of "Waiting for Godot" at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2009, he saw a mysterious man in the wings, whom some allege was the 19th-century manager of the theater, John Baldwin Buckstone.

But perhaps the most notorious of Stewart's ghost stories centers on an alleged haunting in Los Angeles. While starring as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Stewart bought a home that produced icy chills, phantom smells, books that flew off shelves in sight of his son, Daniel, and disembodied voices and footsteps. When he rented the home out, tenants told him that they'd seen a male spirit and heard voices — which seemed to clear out when told sternly to leave the family alone.

Stewart claims that his experiences are genuine. "It happens to me and I'm not inventing it," he told USA Today. "Why would I invent it? Because I always feel slightly foolish when I talk about this."

Chloë Sevigny was inspired by a haunting

Of all the celebrities with scary paranormal stories, few have created something out of the experience. Not so for Chloë Sevigny, whose stay in a notoriously haunted home inspired a film project.

That home was none other than the Lizzie Borden house, located in Fall River, Massachusetts. On August 4, 1892, both Borden's father Andrew and her stepmother Abby were brutally murdered in their home, which they shared with Lizzie and her older sister, Emma. Lizzie was suspected of committing the murders with an axe, but she was acquitted and lived out the rest of her life in Fall River — she's even buried there. Even though she died in 1927, Lizzie Borden remains a controversial figure who may still contribute to the hauntings in her former home.

Today, the house in which Andrew and Abby perished is a bed and breakfast. Sevigny stayed there years ago and reported hearing odd groaning sounds despite an otherwise empty home. Her boyfriend reported an alarming pressure on his chest, too. While working on the early stages of a Lizzie Borden film, Sevigny and screenwriter Bryce Kass returned to the home. Kass claims to have been scratched by an unseen force after sleeping in the room where Abby was murdered. It could be that holding a seance, as the two did, was a key event. Sevigny told VICE that this is how they made contact with Andrew Borden and experienced a strange, icy change in the atmosphere.

Daniel Stern and his wife visited an eerie town

Speaking on Celebrity Ghost Stories, actor Daniel Stern claimed that after marrying his wife Laure Mattos, the two traveled on a honeymoon through England. After visiting London, they drove through the moors of southeastern England on their way to Tavistock. While on the trip, they stopped in the small town of Widecombe.

At first, all seemed exceedingly charming, but after a short while, Mattos and Stern began to encounter odd details. Stern claimed to feel "a really icky and kind of cold feeling" in Widecombe. "There was about 30 to 40 people milling about. They're all walking at a particular pace. The most noticeable thing was no talking [...] and their lack of eye contact," Stern said, noting that everyone wore black clothes. When the two asked a woman for directions, she turned to reveal milky-white eyes and to speak in what Stern described as an indecipherable language.

When the couple made it to Tavistock, their host told them that perhaps they saw the ghosts of people who had been killed when a church had been struck by lightning and caught on fire. However, A. E. Beard, secretary of a Widecombe historic association, has written that, while records indicate four people died after a church collapse in 1638, the characterization of Widecombe as a ghost town isn't fair. Perhaps, Beard argued, Stern and his wife had interrupted a funeral, explaining the somber atmosphere. Still, Stern's retelling of the story remains chilling.

Elvira sold Brad Pitt a haunted mansion

Cassandra Peterson is more often recognized as her comedic, spooky alter ego, Elvira. But while the woman who became Mistress of the Dark has been a goth stalwart for decades, Peterson told Celebrity Ghost Stories she didn't have a real-life scary story ... until a fateful home purchase. While walking in the Hollywood Hills, she came across an early 20th-century craftsman home. Peterson and her then-husband were captivated by its unique look and atmosphere and bought it.

While moving in, Peterson heard phantom footsteps on the third floor. Later, she and her husband both saw an odd shadow in the home's pool. Peterson said that eventually, some unseen force attempted to drown her there. She even spotted an apparition of a man sitting in front of the fireplace, who turned to stare at her before vanishing. Peterson speculated that he may have been a man who mysteriously died on the property in the 1920s. She also spotted other occasional phantoms walking throughout the home.

Daunted by the eerie goings-on, Peterson put her home up for sale. It was purchased in 1994 by Brad Pitt. To her credit, Peterson says that she warned Pitt of the hauntings, but instead of being scared off, he was enthusiastic about both the ghosts and the historic details of the home. Though Pitt hasn't said anything about his own experiences there, it must not have been too bad, given that he took until 2023 to sell the place.