Haunted houses are a fright lover’s dream. People go out of their way to attend “haunted” house events every Halloween and there are some that even operate year-round. The concept of commercialized haunted houses dates back to almost 1915, according to Wikipedia. However, these attractions did not invent the concept themselves, as it is based off the real fear of a house or space being inhabited by spirits of the deceased who may have been former residents or were familiar with the property. This fear is highly played upon in the world of cinema as it lends for interesting stories and intense spooks on the big screen. Listed below are a few films that have utilized this concept successfully and revolve around, or are inspired by, supposedly true hauntings.
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
Film History: This movie is based off a book of the same name that was published in 1977. Though the book has been criticized for its truthfulness, it indeed is written about the true story of a family’s experience in Amityville. This 1979 film sparked multiple sequels, as well as a reboot of the series in 2005, and is considered to be a very successful franchise.
The True Story: In 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murdered six members of his family in their house located in the Amityville neighborhood of Long Island, New York. A month after DeFeo was convicted of second-degree murder in 1975, the Lutz family moved into the home. But after only 28 days of living in the house, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children left the house claiming that it was haunted and they were being terrorized by paranormal activity.
WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT (2012)
Film History: The film is directed by Pat Holden, a relative of the Pritchard family that lived through this haunting. Though the film is based off of true events, Holden is quoted to say that he indeed “embellished the story to make it fit into a horror movie template.”
The True Story: The haunting is known as “The Black Monk of Pontefract”, and occurred in West Yorkshire in England. Regarded by some as “Europe’s most violent haunting,” the Pritchard family endured this nightmare in their home. According to relatives, the Pritchards were dragged around the house, objects were thrown, and puddles and noises were a common occurrence.
THE CONJURING (2013)
Film History: The film, directed by James Wan and written by the Hayes brothers, is the first installment in a series. It became one of the highest grossing horror films of all time. It took over 14 years for the film to be made.
The True Story: In 1951, Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of paranormal investigators, founded the New England Society for Psychic Research. In 1971, they went to Harrisville, Rhode Island to the home of the Perron family. Supposedly a witch who lived there in the early 19th century was haunting the place. According to the Warren’s findings, the witch, named Bathsheba Sherman, placed a curse on the land, damning anyone who chose to live there. However, the current owners of the house claim to have lived in peace in the house since they bought it in 1987, up until 2012 when the promotion for the film began and acts of vandalism befell both the house and its inhabitants.
THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009)
Film History: This film is very loosely based from the book, “In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting” by Ray Garton, co-authored by Ed and Lorraine Warren, along with Al and Carmen Snedeker. The film itself had only mediocre success in theaters, yet spurned two more entries in the franchise.
True Story: Ed and Lorraine Warren claimed that the Snedeker house in Southington, Connecticut was a former funeral home where the morticians were deviant people who performed acts of necrophilia with the corpses. Supernatural forces were haunting the family but disappeared after an exorcism was performed. This being said, Garton has gone on record to state that the stories might not be 100% accurate due to the fact that the Snedeker family had been dealing with various drug and alcohol addictions while living in the home, therefore giving mixed confessions of the events.
THE AXE MURDERS OF VILLISCA (2016)
Film History: Set in the house of the Villisca murders, the story revolves around three teenagers who break into the house in search of answers, but they discover something that exceeds their worst fears.
True Story: In June 1912, six members of the Moore family and two house guests were found massacred via an axe in Villisca, Iowa. The crime remained unsolved, even to today, despite two separate trials.
Fortunately for those who are attending Other Worlds Austin this year, you get to experience the Texas Premiere of THE AXE MURDERS OF VILLISCA! This supernatural horror flick will get your heart racing and provide some excellent scares. We are proud to be able to show this film at our festival.
THE AXE MURDERS OF VILLISCA screens at 9:40pm on Friday, December 2. Click here for the full schedule.