*Only the slightest of SPOILERS, but you know, caution.
Buying a house is a stressful affair. House hunting, down payments, inspections, renovations, escrow and then the big move and later discovering what’s broken and just how much fine print was in that bill of sale. However, when the dust settles and the boxes are all unpacked, the usual response is one of relief and of nesting.
But as Hollywood has shown us, sometimes a house does NOT become a home. Because someone — or something — just won’t let a family settle. Be it ghostly previous occupant, poltergeist, or some other mystery afoot here’s a look at a few times horror films made us rethink investing. And in honor of James Wan’s releasing in theaters today, may I point out many of these are based on true stories.
HOUSE: Council House in Enfield, North London, England
UNLISTED PRICE: Upended furniture, sleepless nights, possessed children MOVIE: The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist (2016)
James Wan his hugely popular first film of a haunted family, The Conjuring, by giving us yet another tale out of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren’s book of true (ish) stories. In this new film, poor single mom Peggy Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) starts to wonder if something is amiss in their home when her daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) starts behaving strangely and reporting seeing eery things. As it turns out, the house’s former tenant (who inconveniently died in his rocking chair in the living room), Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian), may still be hanging around. And it’s not just Bill, a white-faced nun shows up from time to time as well. Hard enough being relegated to low income housing in a run-down neighborhood, but having to move in with the former tenants still hanging out is just a bummer.
HOUSE: Rundown Farmhouse, Harrisville, Rhode Island
UNLISTED PRICE: Broken pictures, inexplicable bruises, extra spooky games of Clap & Hide MOVIE: (2013)
Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) think they are getting the deal of a lifetime: a huge and hugely cheap country home for their large family. With five daughters, living anywhere urban would be pretty difficult, and hey, this house comes with a basement full of antiques to boot! But turns out the house is priced cheap for a reason (isn’t that always the case?). Carolyn starts getting bruises all over her body she can’t explain and her daughters are attacked by spirits. Apparently a former (dead) occupant (and witch), Bathsheba, not only doesn’t like people living on her property, she doesn’t like kids, having killed her own before killing herself. Some people/spirits are so judge-y.
HOUSE: Cuesta Verde, planned community, Orange County, CA
Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams) think they’ve moved to development paradise, the pinnacle of suburban success. But quickly prove their new house may not be the haven they had hoped for. First, their youngest daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke) starts chatting with the TV, then earthquakes, furniture moving, glasses of milk exploding, and later the discovery of a portal in a closet (always check every nook and cranny before signing papers, people). Looks like this house was built on an old tribal cemetery and the dead weren’t too happy about the treatment of their final resting place. The things developers do to cut costs!
HOUSE: 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, NY
UNLISTED PRICE: Flies, stomach sickness, bubbling toilets, general bad luck MOVIE: The Amityville Horror (1979)
George and Kathy Lutz (James Brolin and Margot Kidder) are a strong willed sort of couple, knowing before purchasing their that it was once the site of some grisly murders. They figure they’ll just the house blessed and all will be good. Except their priest can’t even get through the entire blessing without being forced out by the spirit of Satanic worshipper John Ketchum. The couple and their children endure some sleepless nights and strange happenings before packing it in altogether after less than a month and giving up on the whole estate.
HOUSE: Belasco House, “The Mount Everest of Haunted Houses”
UNLISTED PRICE: Cat scratches, sex with ghosts, literal skeletons in closets MOVIE: The Legend of Hell House (1973)
So no one is technically buying this huge mansion, originally owned by millionaire Emeric “Roaring Giant” Belasco, but a physicist, some mediums, and a spiritiualist are determined to find out if the house would even allow for new owners or if perhaps it’s a place where death is not the end. After a few days of encountering the spirits of Belasco’s poor victims (turns out he was a sadistic murderer) they discover the house has indeed been rigged to trap spirits. Nothing a little feng shui can’t fix, right?
HOUSE: Ghost Hunter Cyrus Kriticos’ Glass Mansion
UNLISTED PRICE: Energy efficient powered by the dead, filled with angry ghosts MOVIE: Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
Nothing better than inheriting a kick-ass house, right? Especially when you’re Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub), a man with two kids and a flailing bank account. However, when Arthur and family show up to their new home, they are bummed to discover as interesting as all the glass walls of the house are, decorated with gold text, it turns out they act as a defense against the trapped spirits in the house. This would only be ok if it weren’t so easy to let those angry spirits loose, which a bumbling lawyer (its always the lawyer) accidentally does. Potentially one could try and ignore the ghosts by not wearing the magic glasses that let you see them, but once they’re free, it’s just a huge mess.
HOUSE: Crimson Peak, North England
UNLISTED PRICE: Drafty as hell, dust galore, ghostly visitors, blood red basement MOVIE: (2015)
Hard enough losing a family member right before her wedding, but Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) arrives at her new home with husband Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and almost immediately starts to feel unwelcome. First their’s his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) who isn’t exactly of the cheery variety and a bit protective of her lifelong home. Then there are the bloody apparitions appearing to Edith and her increasingly sickly disposition. Edith uncovers the reason for the distressed spirits in the house, just in time to try and save herself from becoming one of them. But, honestly, she should have put her foot down when she walked in and there was a huge hole in the roof with snow falling through it.
HOUSE: Just a suburban home…with a history
UNLISTED PRICE: Cursed 8mm films in the attic, angry dead children hanging ’round MOVIE: Sinister (2012)
Once again the tale of a man who buys a house knowing it was the scene of a crime, but does it anyway. This time it’s because Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) wants to uncover just what happened at the house and use it in a book. But turns out he and his family aren’t impervious to a pagan deity, Bughuul (Nick King), determined to get blood. In this case, it’s actually a little less the house that’s haunted, and yet moving there was definitely a bad idea. Will we never learn that house histories matter?
HOUSE: Posh Central Park Adjacent Apartments, NYC
UNLISTED PRICE: In this case it’s all about the neighbors MOVIE: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and husband Guy (John Cassavetes) are ready to own a home and start a family and in New York the historic Bramford apartments seems the perfect place. They understand the previous tenant went a bit senile, but she was old, its understandable. The neighbors are, unfortunately, a bit strange. Once Rosemary gets pregnant her neighbor Minnie (Ruth Gordon) takes a bit too much of an interest and pushes food and drinks on her that start to take a toll. Things spiral as Rosemary approaches her due date, and let’s just say this is a definite around background checks and references.
How do you feel about buying a house now? Any other horror films that have given you pause over choosing a home?
“Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.” – Ferris Bueller