The Unexplained: The Mystery that Haunts Greystone Mansion

Greystone Mansion has been seen in a lot of movies, yet its past is steeped in tragedy and mystery. Photo: City of Beverly Hills

Ned died in a guest bedroom under mysterious circumstances.  He was shot dead.  To this very day, no one has solved the mystery.

If you had a chance to gaze upon this beautiful California mansion, you might recognize it from the many exterior and interior shots that have been used in movie productions.  It is one of the most famous sets in filmdom: Greystone Mansion.

Built in 1928, Greystone Mansion is a Beverly Hills landmark.  Gordon Kaufman was the architect for the Tudor Revival structure.  Kaufman also had a big part in the planning stages for Hoover Dam and the LA Times Building.

The original owner—the man who had it built—was oil tycoon, Edward L. Doheny.  He was involved in the infamous Teapot Dome Scandal and somehow avoided serving any time.  The main reason he had it built was to give to his son, Ned Doheny (Ed Jr.).

This all seems elegant and posh–what a wonderful gift from father to son.  Ned and his wife, Lucy, and their five children moved in to begin life in their luxurious new home with beautifully landscaped grounds.

Sara Marie Hogg

Not long after the family moved in and things were getting blissful and cozy, a horrible tragedy happened.  Ned died in a guest bedroom under mysterious circumstances.  He was shot dead.  To this very day, no one has solved the mystery.

Who shot him?  More importantly, what gun was used for the kill?  What firearm did the deadly missile come from?

It seems that Ned’s personal secretary had come to call.  The secretary, Mr. Hugh Plunkett was also Ned’s boyhood pal and lifelong friend.  It seems Ned had put Hugh on the payroll.  Hugh arrived at the mansion on the evening of February 16, 1929, to discuss a business matter.  On this evening, both men wound up dead.  The incident was written up as a murder-suicide.  Which man was which is a gray area.  Which man was the murderer and which man was the suicide?  What was the motive?

Rumor was that Plunkett had gone over to confront Ned about a beef he had.  He had not received a requested raise—this was a possible reason for the complaint.  Others reported that Plunkett had a nervous disorder and was at times unstable—that he pulled a gun and shot Ned in a fit of anger.  Others hinted that Plunkett might be romantically jealous.  Had he feelings for Ned?  Ned’s wife” Jealousy does not seem very true and seems like a few people guessing.

Did Ned feel threatened and in danger by Hugh’s presence in his home that evening—so much so that he killed Plunkett when he had the chance?  Then was he so overcome with what he had done, in disbelief and depression, that he took his own life?  The murder weapon was Ned’s gun, that fact is certain.  Was there a scuffle for the gun, somehow both men getting shot?  Did Hugh walk in on Ned’s own suicide and follow suit?  For some reason, Plunkett was shot in the back of the head while he was smoking a cigarette, making the mystery even more mysterious.

No one knows what happened and probably never will.  Instead of calling the police immediately, the wife called her doctor to the scene of the crime.  By the time the police were summoned, the people in the house had moved things all around and tampered with the bodies.  Did they do some staging, in addition?

For some reason, Ned could not be buried in his Catholic plot.  This suggests that some of the people in the house that night knew he had committed suicide.  Both men are buried at Forest Lawn—in a strange twist of irony—just a few paces from each other.

After some time went by, in 1976  the senior Doheny donated the Mansion and its lovely grounds to the public.  You can see some of its elegance in The Big LebowskiEraserhead, Dead Ringer,and quite a long list of others.

Are there any ghosts at Greystone?  Yes, but they are not ghosts of the two men.   You often smell the lilac perfume wafting about. The ghost is Lucy’s ghost—and there she sits in a wing-backed chair, all dressed up, complete with handbag…waiting…. waiting… waiting for something.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Quite Curious, a collection of true stories about the bizarre and unexplained. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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