When actress Pia Zadora tore down the legendary home of silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in 1988, she was heavily criticized for destroying an irreplaceable piece of Hollywood history. At the time, the actress said the house needed to be razed because it was riddled with termites, but on this week's episode of "Celebrity Ghost Stories," Zadora revealed the real reason: She claims the house was haunted.
In the Biography series, Zadora says that almost immediately after she and her family moved in, a female ghost began appearing to her children at night and terrifying them. Soon, she saw the ghost too, a laughing woman dressed in a 1920s gown. She did some research into the house and determined that the ghost must be Fairbanks' mistress, who died on the property.
Zadora had the house exorcised but the haunting continued. She decided the only thing to do was to level the house. "It was a difficult decision, but we had to live in it and we couldn't live in it with what was going on," she says in the episode. "This is the first time I'm coming out publicly saying that termites weren't the real reason we had to raze Pickfair. If I had a choice, I never would have torn down this old home. I loved this home. It had a history, it had a very important sense about it. You can deal with termites. You can deal with plumbing issues. But you can't deal with the supernatural."
The Beverly Hills mansion was a celebrated gathering place for Hollywood's elite: It had four stories, 25 rooms, stables and tennis courts. Pickford and Fairbanks were memorably photographed paddling a canoe in their famous pool, which was said to be the first in-ground pool in a private home in the Los Angeles area. According to Wikipedia, the original pool and pool house weren't touched in the demolition, nor was a two-bedroom guest wing.
After learning that his parents' home had been torn down, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.told the LA Times, "I regret [selling] it very much. I wonder, if they were going to demolish it, why they bought it in the first place."
Portions of the West Hollywood movie studio started by Pickford and Fairbanks was also torn down earlier this year to make way for upgrades, despite the protests of preservationists and filmmakers like Joe Dante and Allison Anders.