The darker side of a city built on dreams and illusions is sometimes obscured, sometimes elevated to mythic proportions. In a place where the words Manson, Night Stalker, and Black Dahlia are well known, the supporting cast of a thousand other foul-play tales can be found in the shadows of the neon-pastel Los Angeles landscape. Here are a few crime-related facts you might have missed.


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Old West legend Wyatt Earp died in this L.A. cottage in 1929

10. WYATT EARP’S LAST HOME

One of the Old West’s most famous lawmen—a man who was half-human and half myth, half good and half bad—spent a few of his golden years in a modest bungalow in Los Angeles before he died at age 80 in 1929. In his later years, Wyatt Earp occasionally worked for the LAPD as a secret bounty hunter who’d sneak into Mexico to collar fugitives. He was also a technical adviser for Hollywood westerns, befriending the biggest cowboy stars of the day, such as Tom Mix and William S. Hart. His Los Angeles funeral wasn’t big because Earp was broke when he died. His pallbearers—including Hart and Mix—took up a collections from mourners to pay for the service. His ashes were buried in Colma CA, awaiting his common-law wife Joise Marcus, who died in 1944. Earp’s cottage at 4004 W. 17th St., was torn down decades ago. Today, the site is under the Johnnie Cochran Middle School, but a plaque marks the spot.

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Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer of the Little Rascals’ TV gang met an abrupt ending

9. ALFALFAMOWED DOWN

With his crazy cowlick and an off-key singing voice that grated like fingernails on a chalkboard, Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer was the most recognizable kid—if not the most loveable—of the insanely popular Our Gang shorts between 1935 and 1942. But after the child actor got too old to play a cute little rascal, he struggled to find work in Hollywood. To earn a little cash, Switzer offered to train a hunting dog for a friend named Bud Stiltz. But the dog escaped and Switzer offered a $35 reward. A few days later, a Samaritan returned the dog and claimed the reward, plus an extra $15 in free drinks from Switzer. So Switzer, out $50 on the lost dog, decided that Stiltz should reimburse him. Angry and drunk, on January 22, 1959, he went to Stiltz’s house at 10400 Columbus Ave. and demanded fifty bucks. Stiltz refused and a fight ensued. He shot Switzer in the groin, and Alfalfa died of massive internal bleeding before he could get to a hospital. A coroner’s inquest ruled the shooting was justifiable. Alfalfa was buried without much fanfare at the Hollywood Forever cemetery. His headstone bears the image of a hunting dog.

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The landmark Library Tower (now US Bank Tower) in downtown L.A. was a terror target

8. A TERROR PLOT FOILED

When Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured in 2003, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, revealed that his original plan called for hijacking 10 airliners on both coasts, and crashing them all into high-value targets, including the landmark Library Tower (now US Bank Tower) in downtown Los Angeles. But the difficulty of recruiting 10 terror crews caused Osama to scale back the ambitious 9/11 plot and to concentrate only on East Coast targets. After the Twin Towers crumbled in an unexpected bonus, Mohammed resurrected his West Coast scheme. He recruited and trained the four Asian terrorists to crash their hijacked commercial jet into the Los Angeles landmark, probably in 2002. It never happened.

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Low-rent Oklahoma bandit Elmer McCurdy saw more of the world dead than he did alive

7. RESURRECTION OF ELMER McCURDY

Elmer McCurdy was a two-bit outlaw. In 1911, he got drunk and robbed a train. His booty: $46 and two jugs of whiskey. But a posse caught up to him in Pawhuska OK and shot him dead. The undertaker who prepared Elmer’s bullet-riddled corpse for burial saw a chance to make a little extra cash by charging a nickel to anyone who wanted to see the outlaw’s embalmed body. As long as curious folks kept paying their nickels, he kept showing Elmer’s body, re-embalming it as necessary over the next few years. Then one day, a couple of Elmer’s outlaw cohorts claimed his body—and promptly sold it to the carnival and sideshow circuit. His preserved remains criss-crossed America from the 1920s into the 1960s as “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up.” He was photographed at an amusement park near Mount Rushmore, scared people in haunted houses, lay in an open casket in a Los Angeles wax museum, and even “performed” as a prop in a few low-budget movies. In time, Elmer ended up on permanent display on the midway at The Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach, California. But by the mid-1970s, the decaying park’s desperate owners did everything they could to stay alive. In 1976, they allowed a film crew to shoot an upcoming episode of the popular TV show Six Million Dollar Man in one of the park’s thrill rides, where goblins, skeletons, and demons leapt up to scare folks. While preparing the set, a crewman moved a mannequin that hung from the gallows in a corner. When he grabbed the mannequin’s arm, it broke off … revealing a bone inside. The park’s owners quickly identified him as the mummified outlaw Elmer McCurdy. In 1977, the late Elmer McCurdy (1880-1911) returned to Oklahoma. His casket was covered with two tons of concrete—so he’d never be moved again.

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Million-dollar comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle waited out his many trials at his L.A. home

6. FATTY’S SANCTUARY

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle not only gave Hollywood its first big star, he also gave Hollywood its first scandal.In September 1921, Fatty signed the first-ever million-dollar contract for an actor. He celebrated by renting a three-room suite at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel for a wild party with booze and party girls. At some point in that debauched weekend, Fatty disappeared into a private bedroom with a starlet named Virginia Rappe for sex. Afterward, Rappe became ill and died four days later from a ruptured bladder and acute peritonitis. Fatty was charged with raping Rappe so violently that it burst her innards and killed her. Fatty’s first trial ended in a hung jury, with only one juror voting to convict him. A second trial also ended in a hung jury, with only two jurors holding out for an acquittal. In his third trial, Fatty Arbuckle was acquitted of all charges—but his career was already in a shambles. Fatty had taken refuge in his house at 649 West Adams Boulevard throughout his trials and aftermath. Blacklisted and nearly friendless, even after his acquittal, he worked under assumed names. He sunk into a deep depression. But in 1933, Fatty got a break: Warner Brothers hired him to make a feature film … and then he died that night of a heart attack at age 46.

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Western star Tom Mix met an accidentally brutal end and is now in Forest Lawn

5. A TOUR OF FOREST LAWN

The most famous cemetery in Southern California is Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park. A sample its many crime-related guests: Hollywood western actor Tom Mix, killed in a 1940 Arizona car crash, likely a drunken driving accident, when his metal suitcase slammed into his head, killing him instantly; swashbuckler, boozer, and lover of young women Errol Flynn, who died of a heart attack and cirrhosis in 1959; King of Pop Michael Jackson … well, you know; Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi; Wild Bunch outlaw (and the real inspiration for Hollywood’s Sundance Kid) Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay; soul singer Sam Cooke, shot by a hooker in 1964; LAPD cop Ian Campbell, murdered in the 1963 “Onion Field” incident; Alice Stebbins Wells, the first sworn female police officer (1910) in the USA; and “Frankenstein” director James Whale, whose 1957 “suicide” was a suspected murder … and many more.