Lucille Ricksen, reincarnation, and my television debut

By Michael G. Ankerich

Destiny turns a dime, or so says the old Pam Tillis tune.

Three months ago, in early May, I thought my weeks ahead were inked into my calendar. I was busy working on my new book, Hairpins and Dead Ends , and packing the house for a move across town.

A phone call changed all that!  Welcome to Mi Vida Loca . . . and my television debut.

On the line was Sandra Alvarez, a producer for Ghost Inside My Child, a Lifetime Movie Network series. She talked about me coming to Los Angeles later in May to film a scene for an upcoming episode that would air in the fall.

I listened.

The company was developing a story around a 17-year-old teenager in Minnesota who, since the age of 12, believed that the spirit of silent film actress Lucille Ricksen lived within her. The crew had gone on location to Minnesota to film Amy and her mother and father in their home. The crew was then returning to Hollywood where Amy and Theresa, Amy’s mother, would visit some spots that might trigger memories.

Sandra was interested in filming a scene in Los Angeles where I meet Amy and Theresa and tell them about my research into the life and tragic death of Lucille Ricksen.

I devoted a chapter to Lucille in my book Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels. I have also written about her in Lucille Ricksen: Sacrificed to Hollywood, this blog. The story of the teenage actress who became a leading woman overnight has stayed with me since I dove into the details of her short life and tragic death.

Lucille’s mother, Ingeborg, brought Lucille and brother Marshall to Hollywood to seek fame and fortune on the silver sheets around 1920. Lucille was 10 years old.  Success came to the youngster. She played a happy-go-lucky juvenile in the serial The Adventures of Edgar Pomeroy for Goldwyn.

Lucille around 1920

Lucille around 1920

In three short years, Lucille became trapped and exploited in the industry’s publicity machine. Overnight, she went from being a 13-year-old spunky kid doing what she loved to a 16-year-old leading lady, portraying all the struggles of adulthood.  Those dramas spilled over into her private life.

In one year, Lucille completed 10 feature films. Exhausted from her work, the actress disappeared behind closed doors in her Hollywood home. Ingeborg kept vigil. One morning, the emotionally drained mother collapsed and died across Lucille’s sick bed. Less than a month later, the broken-hearted actress joined her mother in death.

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After all these years, the lingering question has not been answered.  How did the young actress really die?  Tuberculosis? Exhaustion? Botched abortion?

The invitation to meet Amy and to appear on the show had all the elements that intrigued me: a walk into the supernatural; a look back at early Hollywood; and contact with someone intensely interested in old Hollywood. But reincarnation?  I had given little thought to the subject over the years. I, too, feel pulled to Hollywood, especially the Hollywood of the 1920s. For some unexplainable reason, it feels like home to me when I am out there in the middle of all of it. Does a spirit who lived there in that time now reside in me?  If I were to even ask the question, my Baptist roots would wrap around me and yank me down the backslidden trail. Now, as an Episcopalian, I have room for exploration and wonder.

In the end, I decided to venture out to Hollywood and meet Amy and her mother. (Click here to read more about my most recent Hollywood adventure). I even filmed a scene for the show. Sandra, the producer, asked where I thought we could shoot our scene. I suggested the old Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Built in 1923, the grand hotel is steeped in Hollywood history. It provided the perfect setting for our meeting.

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The grandeur of the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles

 

Sandra insisted that I not meet the Pierces until we filmed our scene. That way, our conversation would be fresh and spontaneous. As the cameras rolled, Amy and Theresa walked in and we introduced ourselves. CUT!  The action then moved to a table where, for the next 30 minutes or so (it seemed like days), I told Amy about my research.  I asked her questions; she asked me questions. It was everything Lucille!

 

Michael, Theresa, and Amy

Michael, Theresa, and Amy

When our work was done at the Biltmore, the crew took us to a deli for lunch. In the afternoon, we drove into Hollywood, to the home where Lucille died in 1925. The crew filmed Amy and her mother walking down the street, across the yard, and onto the front porch.

Amy and her mother get their first look at the house where Lucille died in 1925

Amy and her mother get their first look at the house where Lucille died in 1925

Amy was overwhelmed. She said she had definitely been in the house. It was in the front left room where she insisted she died almost 90 years before.

Meeting Amy and her mother was the highlight of my 2014 adventure to Hollywood. Amy has the glamour and look of old Hollywood. Her mother was fun to be around, down to earth, and engaging.

Does the spirit of Lucille Ricksen, who died so tragically from mistreatment in a profession she loved, live on in a 17-year-old teenager living quietly in Minnesota.  That is a question, my friends, that I can’t answer.  Decide for yourself.

Mark your calendars for August 23, only weeks away. Tune in to see this haunting episode of Ghost Inside My Child on Lifetime Movie Network, hear Amy tell her story, see my television debut (that is, if I don’t end up a face on the cutting room floor). Visit the show’s website and read my revealing interview with Amy in an upcoming blog entry.

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10 thoughts on “Lucille Ricksen, reincarnation, and my television debut

  1. I, too, feel the spirit of the twenties inside me…was it something I read? Saw? Visited in LA? Guess I’ll never know but certain places seem SO familiar. Even you Michael seem familiar,,,oh It’s probably because I’ve read all your books~:)

  2. I just watched the show ‘the ghost inside my child’. I had never heard of Lucille Ricksen and I have an interest in early Hollywood and the silent period. This was a fascinating and (for me) very informative. Lucille’s early death is truly a tragedy. There is a photo of a very very young Lucille that is nothing short of child pornagraphy. Very disturbing and wrong that she basically was forced to ‘age’ from 12 to 25 or even older. And not allowed to grow up naturally.

  3. Very intriguing. I watched the “Ghost” episode and from there googled Lucille Ricksen. Thanks for your take on the subject. I’m curious as to whether Amy was able to describe the inside of the home in which she says she, as Lucille, died, or whether there were any other startling revelations made. At any rate, interesting stuff and I wish you both well.

  4. I say, no. Amy Pierce is NOT the reincarnation of Lucille Ricksen. Amy is just someone with an over imaginative mind.

    I’ve seen her segment in this episode (a farce in my opinion) and her story provides no proof, no evidence whatsoever of Amys past life being that of Lucille. Many kids in and out of this series who claim to be the reincarnation of someone else often have the uncanny ability to recall exact, specific details of people, places, and things in the past that they couldnt have possibly known today.

    Amy has none of that. Amy says that she has always had a fascination and studied the silent screen stars, yet with all of her knowledge of those silent screen days and people shes collected from the internet and books, her recollection of being Lucille Ricksen in a previous life is awfully vague and unsubstantive.

    In a part of the segment she asks you for a detail about Lucille, you do so, then she pipes up about how your description jibes with her memory. I had to roll my eyes.

    Let her come up with more specific details that no one else but the Ricksen family would know. Then check with the Ricksen family to see if it jibes with their family history. Details that done exist in your book. She stood outside the house where Lucille died and laughingly claimed how being there brought back memories of the months she spent inside, sick. Lets see her give an accurate description of what the interior of the house looked like when Lucille was still alive. How it was decorated. How it was furnished. How much the house and furnishings cost. What was Lucille’s movie salary. Etc, etc.

    I’m kind of on the fence about reincarnation, but I’m really tired of those who claim to recall being someone famous and/or taken part in a historical event past life. Many claim to have been abe lincoln, joan of arc, cleopatra, or was a soldier at Gettysburg or the Normandy beaches. Not many claim to have been, for example, some anonymous stable boy whose job it was to clean out the horse stalls of the manure in pennsylvania in the late 19th century.

    Considering the lack of evidence, Amy is no more the reincarnation of Lucille Ricksen than I am. I hope you took her claim with a grain of salt and not too seriously. I think Lucille’s memory deserves better than to have some wannabe latch on to it claiming she was Lucille in a previous life.

    1. Hi, Marc!
      I chose to believe Amy’s story, because her case looks so similar to the stories of all the children, who have experienced memories from a past life – the strange obsession at an early age, then the atypical behaviour, the grown-up demeanour even as a child, the flashbacks triggered by random things etc. Besides, I think that if she was just overimaginative, her parents would’ve tried to work on that at some point during her childhood and maybe would’ve tried to talk her out of having such thoughts. I think they shared in the episode that they were very concerned when she acted strangely for her age (especially her dad)…After all we all want our children to be accepted and “normal”. As I said I’ve chosen to believe her story and wish Amy a much happier life this reincarnation!

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