On August 23rd 1926, Rudolph Valentino died unexpectedly at age 31 from Peritonitis, which caused mass hysteria amongst his many female fans. One of those fans was a mysterious faceless ‘Woman in Black’ who would frequent his grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on the anniversary of his death and place a single red rose on his grave. Every year she did this to show how much Valentino impacted her. Soon the media found out about her and tons of copycat ‘Women in Black’ began to repeat the ritual, even with the ritual continuing to this day. The alleged original Woman in Black was for the longest time thought to be either a ghost or a secret lover of Valentino, but the true identity of this Woman in Black was actually a lot less sinister and instead more heartfelt.
The original ‘Woman in Black’ was Ditra Flame, who visited Valentino for many years after he had passed away up until her old age, with her last visit to his grave being in 1981. Flame had claimed that he was a family friend but that she and Valentino got closer when she was in the hospital as a teenager for an operation and he brought her a rose as a “Get Well” present. He then allegedly said to her ‘You are going to live for many more years, but one thing for sure, if I die before you do, please come and stay by me because I don’t want to be alone.”
After His Death
After he had died, she wanted to keep that promise and decided to visit him daily until she had moved away, thus making her only visit him on the anniversary of his death. There was even an instance where she visited Valentino on the date of Elvis’ death in 1977, knowing that the media would want to write about it. She wanted to show that Valentino was like Elvis to her and many other women in her generation. She died of natural causes and found surrounded by Rudolph Valentino memorabilia.
We currently see many instances of celebrity worship and fandom, with Elvis, Michael Jackson, and so forth, but Rudolph Valentino was the earliest example of this kind of fandom. Who else has a ‘Woman in Black’ still visiting their grave almost 100 years after their death?
Rudolph Valentino’s ‘Women in Black’ is a legend that’s not particularly scary, but still morbid in a “Gothic Romance” sort of way. The whole scenario sounds like a love story out of a Rudolph Valentino movie, but sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.