Grave Spotlight

In a way, cemeteries are like libraries. They contain the final resting places of thousands of people, each with their own separate and unique story. Some of these people are famous, and their stories are well known. Most are not, but that doesn't make their life any less interesting or their stories any less worthy of being told and remembered.

Periodically, we'll spotlight a different Los Angeles-area grave. Every person has a story, and we will use this space to tell their story, through their final resting place.

After your tour of the virtual cemetery, don't forget to visit the official store (or the brand new downtown location) on your way out and pick up a souvenir or two. Thanks!

Walter Overell

(1884 - 1947)

Beulah Junquist Overell

(1889 - 1947)

Oct. 10, 2009 -- I've probably driven past these graves dozens of times, and never stopped to really look at them, or think about the people buried there. They're marked by a statue on the lawn behind the Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn Glendale. The statue is called "Apollo and Daphne" and is a copy of a statue by Giovanni Bernini. The original statue is on display at Galleria Borghese in Rome, and depicts the nymph Daphne being chased by the god Apollo.

Daphne, however, does not appreciate Apollo's attention and she tries to flee from him. As Apollo finally catches up with her, she escapes him by turning into a laurel tree.

The statue marks the graves of Walter and Beulah Overell, who were killed in March 1947 when their boat exploded in the harbor at Newport Beach. Their daughter and her boyfriend were arrested and charged with murder, and the resulting trial attracted nationwide attention, becoming what was described at the time as "the trial of the century." It certainly contained all the necessary elements -- sex, wealth, lust and greed.

Walter and Beulah Overell were wealthy socialites who lived in Flintridge, Calif. Walter Overell made his original fortune in the furniture business in the 1930s and early 1940s, and followed that with successful investments in real estate. Flintridge -- now known as La Canada Flintridge -- was named after developer and U.S. Sen. Frank P. Flint, who was rumored to be having an affair with Beulah Overell. In fact, he named one of the streets in the city after her -- Beulah Drive.

The Overells had one child, daughter Beulah Louise Overell. People who knew the family say that Beulah Louise -- like many children of wealthy parents -- was spoiled. Whatever she wanted, she got. When she was 17, Beulah Louise, a student at USC, decided that she wanted a boyfriend, and she picked a 20-year-old World War II veteran named George "Bud" Gollum.

But the Overells didn't share Beulah Louise's enthusiasm for her boyfriend. In fact, they told her that if she married him, they'd disown her. Nevertheless, Beulah Louise and Gollum planned to marry, and scheduled the ceremony for April 30, 1947.

On Saturday evening, March 15, 1947, the Overells, their daughter and Gollum were together on the Overells' yacht -- a 47-foot cabin cruiser called the Mary E. -- which was moored in the harbor at Newport Beach. Beulah Louise and Gollum decided that they wanted to get a midnight snack, so they took a skiff to go and get some hamburgers at a late-night restaurant.

At just about the time they were ordering their food, the Mary E. was rocked by a powerful explosion. By the time Beulah Louise and Gollum returned, the Coast Guard was at the scene.

The bodies of Walter and Beulah Overell were found in the wreckage of the boat, after it was towed to shallow water by the Coast Guard. Although the initial theory was that the explosion had been caused by a gasoline explosion, an investigation discovered that more than 30 sticks of dynamite had been placed in the boat's engine room, wired to an alarm clock detonator, and attached to the boat's battery. Another collection of dynamite was found in another area, but had not exploded. The first blast, investigators theorized, was supposed to have set off the second cache of dynamite, but a heavy wooden bulkhead confined the first blast to the engine room.

Nevertheless, both Walter, 63, and Beulah Overell, 57, were dead. Walter had been impaled on a plank, while Beulah died of multiple skull fractures.

The coroner, however, determined that the couple could have been dead for up to an hour before the explosion. And the wounds on Mrs. Overell's skull matched injuries which could have been caused by blows from a ball-peen hammer.

Four days later, Beulah Louise and Gollum were arrested and charged with murder.

A check of Gollum's car turned up pieces of wire and adhesive tape similar to that which had been used to prepare the bomb on the Mary E. Bloody clothes were also discovered in his car. A sales receipt showed that the couple had purchased 50 sticks of dynamite the day before in Chatsworth, with Gollum signing a different name on the receipt, which was also found in his car. Gollum told police that Walter Overell had asked him to buy the dynamite to remove tree stumps in his yard.

Police theorized that Walter and Beulah Overell were beaten to death, then the bomb was detonated, blowing up the Mary E. The motive was the Overells' dislike of Bud Gollum, and Beulah Louise's expected inheritance, estimated to be $600,000 to $1 million.

While they were in jail, Beulah Louise and Gollum wrote love letters to each other, which were leaked to the press, and added to the sensationalism and the nation-wide public interest in the trial. "Because I love and adore and worship and cherish you with all my heart, I'll kidnap you and carry you off somewhere where no one will ever be able to find us and I'll make passionate and violent love to you," Gollum wrote. "If you ever marry another person, I will kill him."

"Would you still marry me if I were broke?," Beulah Louise wrote to Gollum. "Oh Pops darling, please promise you will marry me. You're an uplifted human being. You're the most intelligent person I ever heard of. Einstein was a moron compared to you. ... Yes, sir, you're the object of my adoration and the creature of my determination."

When their trial started on May 26, 1947, Judge Kenneth Morrison of the Orange County Superior Court allowed radio microphones in the courtroom to broadcast the trial, but with one restruction -- the order permitted only "hometown" radio stations, and there was only one at the time -- KVOE in Santa Ana. The station contracted with the Mutual Broadcasting System to re-broadcast the trial all over the United States, and soon everyone in the country was listening to the testimony.

In addition to coverage by the Orange County and Los Angeles newspapers, Life and Time magazines, New York newspapers and wire services were there. The Los Angeles Examiner sent famed Hearst columnist Adela Rogers St. John to write her observations.

The trial lasted four and a half months -- then the longest murder trial in American history. Defense attorney Otto Jacobs cut apart the prosecution's case, arguing that it was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. After two days of deliberations, the jury agreed. On Oct. 5, 1947, Beulah Louise Overell and George "Bud" Gollum were found not guilty.

The jury decided that Walter Overell was depressed over his deteriorating financial situation, and the explosion on the Mary E. was the result of "the accident of suicidal tampering with dynamite by Walter Overell."

After the trial, reporters asked Gollum if he and Beulah Louise were going to get married. "We'll see," he replied. But Beulah's answer was more direct: "No."

Gollum, who was a pre-med student at the time of the trial, never went on to medical school. Instead, he worked for a carnival, did some traveling and wound up serving time in prison, after he was caught riding in a stolen car in Florida. Gollum later went back to school, eventually earning a doctorate degree in biophysics, teaching in Northern California, and disappearing into obscurity.

A year after the trial, Beulah Louise discovered that the huge fortune she expected to inherit was nothing close to the original estimates. She got some money, married twice, moved to Las Vegas and started to drink heavily. On Aug. 24, 1965, she was found dead in her bed, two empty vodka bottles near her head and a loaded, unfired .22-caliber rifle at her feet. The cause of death was determined to be acute alcoholism. She was 36 years old.

Previous Grave Spotlights

Back to main page