As the season of horror films comes to an end, we think back and wonder about the making of these films. While most horror films are shot in a sound stage, there are those that are filmed in old and mysterious houses in order to pull out as much energy and intrigue as they can out of a location. Some filmmakers deliberately choose supposedly haunted locations to draw out the most from their actors. In these cases, do the cast or crew experience unusual things while filming? This is a question that almost every interviewer asks when speaking to those involved after a horror film is completed. In almost all cases, the answer is no. Maybe the odd noise was heard or weird feeling was felt, but few ever experience anything they would consider unnatural. But, it does happen.
We all know stories from the sets of famous horror films. We’ll cover some of the big ones, but we’ve tried to branch out from the norm as well. Sure, crazy things happened in the years following the making of Rosemary’s Baby, but that didn’t happen on set. We want to deal with only the weird and spooky things that happened during filming. This might even enhance your viewing experience for the films involved next time you turn them on. Knowing that the cast was actually spooked in some cases makes the scenes more believable in a way. Here are 15 Eerie Behind-the-scenes Stories from Iconic Horror Films.
15. The Craft
The Craft may not be a scary horror film, but it deals with witchcraft and gods, and the stories from the set show that there may been someone watching what they were doing. To get things right, the filmmakers brought on a Wiccan spiritual advisor, Pat Devin. They made a god up, Manon, to ensure that no real gods were called and no viewers were given bad ideas. Even still, weird stuff happened while filming. When the characters invoked Manon’s spirit at the beach, a colony of bats showed up and stuck around. They also had candles set up on the beach, but the waves rolled up and put them all out. Shortly afterward, the power on set all went out, almost right as when Nancy asked the spirit to “fill her.” Then, during the last day of filming, Devin took one of the actresses to the beach to “dedicate her to the Path of the Goddess,” as she requested. At the end of the process, the actress was to choose a name. Devin remembers that the actress then chose a name that Devin “would have named my daughter, had I ever had one.” This was all just a coincidence.
Ouija might not have been the scariest movie ever made, but the cast and crew did experience some frightening things while filming it. Several of the actors felt uncomfortable in some of the locations, but actress Bianca Santos remembers a time in the main house when something unexplainable happened. She says, “We did hear some creepy sounds from an attic. We were rolling and they had to call cut ’cause we heard footsteps from up above and, you know, someone went upstairs to check. And, lo and behold, the attic was completely clear and there was nobody upstairs and there was no way for someone to be there. We don’t know if that was a prank but that was kind of weird.”
When they started filming the superior sequel, Ouija: Origin of Evil, nothing like this happened, but there was still some mystery. Henry Thomas, one of the stars, recalls, “The house that we shot in was strange, and then the neighborhood, there were a lot of strange things happening in the neighborhood while we were shooting. There were cats that went missing. There were cats around this house almost every day, and then one day the cats are gone. Nobody had an answer for where they went.” Hopefully, nothing bad happened to those little kittens.
13. The Lodgers
When Brian O’Malley, the director of the new horror film, The Lodgers, was asked about anything weird happening on set, he remembered a few tales he heard from the caretaker of the house they shot in, Loftus Hall. This man said that he feels the spirits of the house from time to time, but there was something else that happened right before the shoot that scared O’Malley more than any story.
“Just before we started shooting there, it was kind of there was press that filming was about to begin in Ireland’s most haunted house, and I got a message through Facebook from someone I don’t even know who. They were saying ‘I believe you’re filming in Loftus Hall. You need to get out of that house. No good will come from your presence inside that house. It’s evil.’ This is what I get through Facebook. And I have to be honest with you, I got shivers up my spine. That’s one of the strangest, creepiest things anyone has ever said to me. So, that kind of is in the back of your head. You’re walking in the back of the door going ‘what is it this person knows about this house that I don’t?'”
12. The Omen
The story that gets the most press from The Omen is John Richardson’s car crash and the “Ommen 666” sign. While this story is interesting (if not a bit far-fetched), it happened after The Omen was shot. Other weird things did happen at the time of filming, though. There was a major issue with planes. Star Gregory Peck’s plane was hit with lightning while flying over the Atlantic to get to set. Later, the film’s producer, Mace Neufeld, had his plane struck by lightning as well. Then, a plane that was rented to get aerial shots was given to another group instead. That plane then crashed and killed the passengers. There was a major problem with the Rottweiler stunt—a hotel was bombed by the IRA and a car crash involving members of the crew. These accidents and more gave rise to the rumor that The Omen was cursed.
11. The Conjuring
While filming The Conjuring, the cast and crew had numerous stories to tell of their own haunting experience. Chad Hayes, one of the writers, said, “My son worked on the movie… We recreated the artefacts room. He was the low man on the totem pole of the camera crew. He was in there winding up this cable, and suddenly, he heard this spinning noise. He turned around and there was a little brass cymbal on the shelf that he saw spinning, and it dropped to the floor and went faster and faster. It completely freaked him out. He came running out and he told (his boss), ‘I’m never going in there again!’”
One of the stars of the film, Patrick Wilson, recalls visiting the local doctor’s office with his sick son while shooting. He saw that Joey King, one of the film’s young actresses, was there with her mom. Wilson says of King, “We’d just been shooting for a couple of weeks and she has bruises all over her body. First of all, kids don’t do stunts. She hasn’t done any stunts. She didn’t get hit by anything.” He said that they were spooked because of that.
While filming the sequel, The Conjuring 2, director James Wan had a priest come by to bless the set, but that didn’t stop more weird things from happening. Wilson tells of a curtain that inexplicably moved. “It was a huge curtain that went from the floor to the ceiling, which was just sort of waving violently and there was no door open or no fan on; no nothing,” he said. “One of the painters goes behind it and couldn’t figure out where the movement was coming from. It went on for like, a minute.”
10. The Exorcist
Long film shoots often have weird things happen during the process, but when the film deals with demons and such, like The Exorcist, people are going to associate the weird with the topic of the film. That’s how it went down with The Exorcist. When portions of the set caught fire and burnt down, some blamed it on demons, whereas others said it was a pigeon. Some days, those two things are one and the same. There were several deaths connected to the film, including actors, family members, and crew. One of the actor’s sons was nearly killed by a motorcycle near the set. The director of the film, William Friedkin, had a priest come in and bless the set to help put people’s nerves at ease because of all this.
9. The Amityville Horror
There was talk about some weird things that happened on set while making the original The Amityville Horror, but none of that compares to what happened during the remake. When Ryan Reynolds, the star of the 2005 film, was asked about strange happenings on set, his answer was intense. “I think a lot of people make that stuff up to sell their movie,” he said. “But there was some weird stuff that happened. A lot of the crew were waking up at 3:15 in the morning which was when all these atrocities in the house took place each time. I think it was a subconscious thing. You read the script and suddenly pop awake at 3:15 in the morning. The real Kathy Lutz died while we were making the movie. There were a few weird things.” Yep. Those things are weird, Ryan.
8. The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
The Exorcism of Emily Rose is a pretty spooky movie in spite of its faults. When filming this movie, the star, Jennifer Carpenter, had a few creepy experiences. When asked what eerie things had happened, Carpenter had an answer ready. She mentioned that her radio kept inexplicably turning on at night. “I thought about that [question] when it happened, and two or three times when I was going to sleep my radio came on by itself. The only time it scared me was once because it was really loud and it was Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive.’ Laura’s [Linney] TV came on a couple of times.”
7. The Innkeepers
When director Ti West was filming The House of the Devil, he stayed in a little hotel that was said to be haunted. He experienced some weird things and heard of even weirder things. The staff and the townsfolk all swore that the place was truly haunted. So, as soon as he wrapped The House of the Devil, he got started on The Innkeepers, a film about that haunted hotel. He even filmed in that hotel. When asked if anything happened while filming, West said, “The thing is, one being a skeptic, I tend to not believe it as much… But, absolutely. The dreams came back the first day I walked in. The vibe was there. Sara Paxton would wake up in the middle of the night thinking someone was in the room with her. Everyone has stories, but I was too busy saying, “Let’s shoot this! We have 17 days!”
6. Poltergeist II
Much has been made of the Poltergeist curse. Some say that the use of real skeletons on the first film put a hex on the cast and crew. When some of the actors involved in that film died untimely deaths, it was put on the curse. Regardless of whether you believe it or not, many of the cast and crew involved in the sequel did believe in the curse. They asked one of the actors, Will Sampson, a Native American shaman, to bless the set of the second film. So, they left the house unlocked and Samson came in at night, blessing the house. Jobeth Williams recalls that there was a “feeling of relief” after that.
5. The Enfield Haunting
Although The Enfield Haunting is a mini-series and not a movie, we wanted to include the behind-the-scenes stories because they’re really spooky. Executive producer of the three-part series, Jamie Campbell, said of the set, “Every time our photographer came on set, his camera broke. It annoyed him, but terrified the rest of us.” Cast members, such as Timothy Spall, even recall feeling uneasy inside the famous house as well. This is based on the same house from The Conjuring, so maybe there’s something to it.
4. The Possession
The Possession tells the true story of a so-called “Dybbuk Box,” a box that contains evil spirits. While filming this horror film, the cast and crew experienced several things that couldn’t easily be explained. One of the stars, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, tells of his experiences by saying, “I’m a skeptic, look I’m not going to lie. That being said, there was some weird goings on on set. Lots of light bulbs exploding. Just overall kind of creepiness. ‘Don’t mock the box’ was sort of the mantra that we lived by while we were filming this.” There was also said to be a fire that burned down a prop shed. The original Dybbuk Box prop was one of the props that lost its life in the blaze.
3. The Ghost Of Goodnight Lane
The Ghost of Goodnight Lane is a ghost story that was inspired by actual happenings at a movie studio. Alin Bijan, the writer and director, owns the Texas production company, Media World Studios. “We’ve known for a long time we had a ghost here, in the studio,” Bijan said. “Over the years, we kept a running log, kind of a diary, to document incidents as they occurred.” These elements were added into the film, but while they filmed, more strange happenings took place. Several of the lights constantly flickered, even after being changed. Fixtures fell from the ceiling without cause, and cast and crew members heard their voices being called from places where no person stood.
2. Annabelle Franchise
John Leonetti, the director of Annabelle, remembers two different strange events happening while shooting the first film. “The first [incident] was when we were prepping. We went into the apartment where we were shooting and in the transient window above the living room window. It was a full moon, and there were three fingers drawn through the dust along the window, and our demon has three fingers and three talons. [The markings] were being backlit by the moon. I have a picture! It was sick.” The second event came on “the first day that the demon was shooting in full makeup, we brought the demon up in the elevator. He walks out and walks around to the green room to where we’re holding the talent, and just as he walks under–a giant glass light fixture is being followed by the actor playing the handyman of the building–and all of a sudden, the entire glass light fixture falls down on his head, the janitor‘s head. And in the script, the demon kills the janitor in that hallway. It was totally freaky.”
Others on set recall that the “doll freaked a lot of people out.” To put people at ease, Leah Butler, the film’s costume designer, says, “We ended up having a priest come bless the doll on set, believe it or not. There was an actress who has a very Catholic belief system, and she sort of insisted that a priest come bless the doll so that nothing would happen during [shooting].”
During an interview with Jennifer Spence, the production designer from several large horror movies including Insidious, an eerie story came out about the James Wan film. Spence recalls shooting at the Linda Vista Hospital, a 150-room hospital in Los Angeles that was for employees of the Santa Fe Railroad. Of the location, Spence says, “I’m sure there was something in there, especially in the basement. I never liked filming in there. It always gave me the creeps. On the second or third floor, the buzzer to one of the rooms would go off all the time when nobody was up there. There were no patients, but the buzzer at the end of this hallway would go off all the time and freak us all out. We’d go in groups, like nobody’s going down there by ourselves. And when we were set dressing in the basement [of Linda Vista] for Insidious, there was this room full of crazy old [patient] records from the ’40s and ’50s. We were moving them around to do our set dressing, and everybody in the room started feeling sick and weird and heavy. We had to take a break because everyone felt overwhelmingly unwell.”
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