It was sometime in 2004, and System of a Down were recording two albums — Mezmerize and Hypnotize — at The Mansion, Rick Rubin’s house/studio in Laurel Canyon.
The place was already known to be haunted. Back in the ’90s, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were recording Blood Sugar Sex Magik there, they took a photo that ended up in the album packaging. In it, they’re standing on a little bridge at the front of the house. Next to the band floats another, more mysterious wisp of an entity. The photographer only noticed it once he developed the photo.
Harry Houdini had owned a house right nearby in the canyon. Beneath them all are massive tunnels that connect one house to the other. The one in the Mansion’s basement was maybe 15 or 20 feet high and went straight out into the mountains, into the pitch black dark. Rick Rubin’s publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald saw it once. “It was freaky,” she said. In the 1920s, she says, there was a liquor store in Laurel Canyon that used to deliver alcohol through them. As rich people and celebrities moved in, the tunnels have since been closed
So System of a Down are recording there, and Heidi is there, too, organizing interviews and photoshoots at the house. One day, she arrived early, before anyone else had gotten there, to set things up. She sat down in the dining room facing the grand winding staircase with her back to the entryway.
And then she felt something behind her, by her back. The feeling grew stronger, “It wasn’t bad or anything, but it was obvious and it grew to where it was so intense that I felt like something was standing right behind me,” she says.
Nothing was there. Instead, an apparition appeared in front of her. The ghost of a woman dressed in all white, walking down the stairs. “There was no breeze in the house, but whatever she was wearing was floating in the wind.” And then she stopped. Heidi isn’t sure if the woman saw her or not, but she turned around and walked right back upstairs.