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Be It Ever So Haunted...

haunted-house-poltergeist-2015

As the new Poltergeist takes possession of your TV, here’s a monster-horror-chilling look at some real-life places that go bump in the movies

We met no apparitions, but if twin dark-eyed girls in party dresses had shown up, we were prepared to turn tail.

Several years ago, my wife and I took our two sons for a whale-watching trip to St. Andrews, N.B. We stayed at the Algonquin, a 250-room resort that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining. We repeatedly visited the “haunted” fourth floor, where lights are reported to flicker at night, and where King had stayed in the Kate Reed Suite. (The author lives across the border in Bangor, Maine).

We met no apparitions, but if twin dark-eyed girls in party dresses had shown up, we were prepared to turn tail.

It’s easy to see how the narrow hardwood halls would ignite King’s imagination. The fourth had been a staff floor, and indeed, two of the purported resident ghosts are a bellman and a night watchman. (Another is a jilted bride who some say committed suicide when the groom didn’t show up at the wedding). And the thought of its emptiness during the snowed-in months would have further fuelled his spooky muse.

Since then, it’s been impossible for me to watch Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining without thinking of the Algonquin. And with thoughts of that visit and the recently rebooted Poltergeist — THE haunted-house story of the modern era — here are some more home (not-so) sweet homes that inspired scary movies.

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR HOUSE:

The most famous address in horror is arguably 108 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, New York. George and Kathy Lutz bought the home in December 1975, a year after Ronald DeFeo Jr.  killed six family members there. The Lutzes moved out 28 days later, after a litany of events chronicled in the book and movie The Amityville Horror — including glowing, red-eyed apparitions, large cloven footprints in the snow, and plagues of flies, even in winter. The case was the subject of an early probe by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The house has had four owners since, all of whom seemed content to live in it for years.

THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT HOUSE:

208 Meriden Ave, Southington, Connecticut, was the inspiration for the 2009 movie and numerous episodes of a paranormal reality-TV series. A former mortuary, it was briefly the home of the Snedeker family, a couple with son battling Hodgkin's lymphoma, who described apparitions of well-dressed demons with black eyes. The aforementioned Ed and Lorraine Warren were called in and pronounced the house demon-infested. It’s said to have been “clean” since a 1988 exorcism.

THE CONJURING HOUSE:

Old Brook Farm, Harrisville, Rhode Island. Really, where would the haunted house genre be without Ed and Lorraine Warren? The 2013 movie was the amped-up tale of their investigation (at the behest of terrified residents Roger and Carolyn Perron) into the former home of a witch named Bathsheba Sherman, who left a curse that visited violent death upon future generations.

ANNABELLE:

The demon doll from Annabelle, the 2014 spinoff of The Conjuring, can be seen at The Warrens’ Occult Museum at 482 Monroe Turnpike, Monroe, Connecticut. The real-life family that was ostensibly terrorized by her has never been identified, nor has the location of the paranormal events.

THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE:

Klingenberg, Germany, is where you’ll find the grave of Anneliese Michel, a college student whose 1975 exorcism resulted in her death by malnourishment and dehydration (and a negligent homicide conviction for the priests involved). The case inspired the 2005 movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, starring Tom Wilkinson. Anneliese’s mother still lives in the house in Klingenberg where the exorcism rites took place.

THE VILLA DIODATI, LAKE GENEVA, SWITZERLAND:

Any demonic apparitions were probably absinthe-induced, but this may be the most important house in horror history. There, on a rainy weekend in June 1816, a group of madly creative writers that included Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and his wife, Mary, devised a writing challenge. Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein. John William Polidori wrote The Vampyre, which became the template for subsequent vampire lore, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The weekend inspired Ken Russell’s 1986 horror film Gothic.

THE DAKOTA:

Central Park West/72nd St., New York. It’s now most famous as the scene of the murder of John Lennon in front of the building that had been his home. But Lennon had claimed to have seen one of the many ghosts said to haunt the German Gothic/English Victorian building. Moviegoers know it best as the exterior of the Antichrist’s birthplace in Rosemary’s Baby.

OAKLEY COURT, BERKSHIRE, ENGLAND:

Hey, those castle estates don’t pay for themselves. The former home of the High Sheriff of Berkshire lent itself out most famously as Frank N. Furter’s castle in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was also the location for several Hammer horror films, including The Brides of Dracula and The Plague of the Zombies. It is now a luxury hotel.

AND SPEAKING OF POLTERGEIST

4267 Roxbury Street in Simi Valley, California, is the suburban home that supplied the exteriors for the original Poltergeist, produced by Steven Spielberg. Views of the “neighbourhood” were from nearby Agoura Hills – where in 1969, a Native American burial site was unearthed during the construction of a supermarket. A haunted burial ground was a key Poltergeist plot point.

Jim Slotek is a writer and columnist with the Toronto Sun.