Wild history of Johnny Depp’s castle, which keeps luring nosy tourists

Wild history of Johnny Depp’s castle, which keeps luring nosy tourists

Among the many shocking displays of evidence in the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard is a video that the actress clandestinely recorded at the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star’s West Hollywood home.

In it, Depp, now 58, is seen kicking, banging and slamming kitchen cabinets, and yelling “motherf–ker” in the gothic kitchen of the house — a replica of a Bavarian castle in West Hollywood that looks more like the set of a horror movie, replete with turrets, towers and battlements.

For Hollywood movie fans hoping to gawk at the quirky castle on Sweetzer Avenue, near the storied Sunset Strip, it’s virtually invisible to view — hidden on a cul-de-sac, behind lush foliage and trees planted for privacy. All that can be seen from street level is the front gate. 

Still, that doesn’t stop tour buses from hauling loads of fans up to gawk.

“We were getting these vans with open tops and the people are talking, and cheering and yelling, and it’s been annoying,” said John Ryan, 63, who’s lived there on the street for 28 years, told The Post.

Johnny Depp's West Hollywood castleOnce famous for elite parties, this West Hollywood “castle” had fallen into disrepair until Depp purchased the property in 1996. He’s hardly there but neighbors are annoyed by all the attention it gets.NY Post photo composite; Getty Images A replica of a Bavarian castle, the home sits on four acres.A replica of a Bavarian castle, the home sits on four acres.Getty Images

As strange as it is seeing a gothic castle in the midst of LaLa Land palm trees, the history of the property is even odder.

Depp purchased the castle in 1995 for $2.3 million from flamboyant lawyer-to-the stars — including pioneering the claim to “palimony”  in a landmark case against actor Lee Marvin by his live-in girlfriend — Marvin Mitchelson. The late attorney, who had a well-publicized jet-set lifestyle, had turned the castle’s interior into an elaborate showplace.

Mitchelson, who also represented Tony Curtis and Sonny Bono, lost the seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom estate, situated on four acres, in bankruptcy after a tax fraud conviction that led to him serving two years in federal prison. He died in 2004 at 76. 

“After Mitchelson lost the castle,” recalled neighbor Ryan, “it fell into disrepair. When Johnny Depp bought it he spent quite a time renovating it, trucking in huge trees to completely hide it. Over the years he bought the five or six houses on the circle and one of them he uses for a recording studio. At that time he was throwing money away like crazy.”

Neighbor John Ryan is tired of the traffic and constant gawking by tourists.Neighbor John Ryan is tired of the traffic and constant gawking by tourists.John Chapple/www.JohnChapple.com

The castle was designed in 1931 and built over six years by Hersee Moody Carson, an eccentric former school teacher from Louisiana who became wealthy thanks to her third and fourth husbands.

Number three, Beverly Hills businessman Peter Gross, committed suicide after being blackmailed by his housekeeper over an affair they were having.

Carson then wed George Campbell Carson, a coal miner with a second-grade education, who earned his millionaire status after spending almost two decades in court battling mining companies over a patent infringement. He won $20 million from them in 1925.

Hersee went on a spending spree, buying art and antiques — including Louis XVI furniture and Hepplewhite cabinetry — for the castle she dubbed “Mount Kalmia” in honor of a mountain laurel flower.

Over the years, the home has been occupied by the likes of lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, Motown founder Berry Gordy and Orlando Bloom.Over the years, the home has been occupied by the likes of lawyer Marvin Mitchelson, Motown founder Berry Gordy and Orlando Bloom.Corbis via Getty Images

According to Los Angeles realtor and researcher James Colin Campbell, who has investigated the castle’s history, Hersee “hired 100 workers to build the three-story, 7,500-square-foot castle which she designed herself as she went along. No expense was spared.” 

The amenities included 125 stained glass windows, hand-painted wallpaper and an underground conveyor belt running from the street to the kitchen for deliveries. Once the castle was completed in 1933, Hersee divorced Carson who died the following year after cutting her out of his will. She sued his Carson family heirs and won a settlement.

But it was too late: During the early years of World War II, the city of Los Angeles bought the place for $9,000 after Hersee fell delinquent on her taxes. (She died in 1972 at 93.) It was then leased to a burlesque dancer who turned it into a boarding house with 38 renters, among them a comedy writer for Bob Hope.

Depp purchased the castle in 1995 for $2.3 million.Depp purchased the castle in 1995 for $2.3 million.POOL/AFP via Getty Images

For years, the castle has long been rumored to have been the eerie domicile of Hollywood legend Bela Lugosi, famous for his portrayal of Count Dracula, but that was a fiction made up by tour guide operators to generate business and interest.

In the 1950s, the place was occupied by the right-hand man of billionaire Howard Hughes, Noah Dietrich, who oversaw the germaphobe’s movie-making empire. Dietrich ran RKO Pictures and TWA Airlines and Hughes reportedly tasked him with “making me the richest man in the world.” It’s not known how much he paid or how long he had lived there — all apparently part of the secrecy surrounding him and his boss. 

During the ’70s, the castle was the setting for posh parties — with up to 400 revelers — hosted by then-owner Berry Gordy, the Motown legend who helped make the likes of Diana Ross famous (he also secretly fathered her daughter Rhonda).

Heard preferred to live at Depp's collection of penthouses rather than the castle.Heard preferred to live at Depp’s collection of penthouses rather than the castle.POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Despite the castle’s popularity over generations, it apparently wasn’t Heard’s cup of tea as ascertained from a document entered into evidence at the trial. The letter from a former attorney for Heard threatened to serve Depp with a restraining order if he did not continue to let the actress, now 36, live rent-free at three of his penthouses in a hip downtown Los Angeles building.

The actor purchased a collection of five penthouses, in the Art Deco Eastern Columbia Building, between 2007 and 2008 for more than $7 million. During their turbulent two-year union, Heard moved around with Depp to his various residences. but it was rare for the couple to stay at the castle, or any one place, for very long.

At one point, Depp’s “Pirates” costar Orlando Bloom moved into the castle for a time.

The amenities included 125 stained glass windows, hand-painted wallpaper and an underground conveyor belt running from the street to the kitchen for deliveries.The amenities included 125 stained glass windows, hand-painted wallpaper and an underground conveyor belt running from the street to the kitchen for deliveries.

Depp also owns a French village replete — with its own skate park and bistro — now for sale for $55 million. He has a 41-acre ranch in his home state of Kentucky, a 150-year-old mansion in England, and his own island in the Bahamas.

Meanwhile, the West Hollywood castle continues to attract tourists — even as Ryan the neighbor has tried to dissuade them.

“As a neighbor of Mr. Depp, I implore you to please not go there!” he once posted on TripAdvisor.com. “All you’re doing is bothering everyone in the area with no pay-off! I have lived across the street since Mr. Depp moved in many years ago, and I have seen him ONE TIME! Trust me, you won’t see him, his house, his kids, his wife, his dogs.”

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