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The True Stories Behind 6 Haunted House Movies

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The latter part of the last century was rife with paranormal activity. Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, supposed supernatural incidents occurred in homes (and a hotel) across the globe and led to novels being written and filmmakers adapting those ghost stories into hit films. Though all of these stories have been debunked, there are those who still want to believe that these events really did happen. Regardless of which side you stand on, they make for some spooky tales. Here are the true stories behind six haunted house movies.

1. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)

The 1979 film, starring Margot Kidder and James Brolin, was based on a book that chronicled the real-life paranormal activities of a Long Island home. After moving into the house, the Lutz family discovered that, a year prior, previous occupant Ronald DeFeo Jr. had killed six members of his family (including his parents) in the home. Some disturbances they experienced were: swarms of flies in the winter, strange odors of perfume wafting throughout the house, and sounds of the front door slamming. The Lutzes moved a month later, though successive residents of 112 Ocean Avenue have not reported anything abnormal. Several more books were published about the happenings, along with sequels to the film and a 2005 remake. Want to find out for yourself? The home, which is now officially 108 Ocean Avenue (a previous owner worked to have the infamous address changed), is currently on the market for $850,000.

2. THE CONJURING (2013)

One of the highest-grossing supernatural films of all time, James Wan's The Conjuring depicted the true story of the Perron family, who lived in a demon-filled Rhode Island farmhouse. Akin to the Amityville house, real-life paranormalists Ed and Lorraine Warren (depicted by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in the film) visited the home and interviewed the family. Despite activity such as a séance causing the mom, Carolyn, to become possessed and speak a strange language, the family tolerated the home until 1980. Andrea, one of the daughters, published a book on the phenomenon, and told USA Today, “People are free to believe whatever they want to believe. But I know what we experienced."

3. THE CONJURING 2 (2016)

This 2016 sequel exchanges New England for Brimsdown, Enfield, England, where the Warrens investigate a case known as the Enfield Poltergeist. Peggy Hodgson’s daughters claimed they saw a chest of drawers slide and heard knocking, but experts think they made it up. Guy Lyon Playfair published a book on the matter in 1980 called This House is Haunted: The Amazing Inside Story of the Enfield Poltergeist.

4. WHEN THE LIGHTS WENT OUT (2012)

Director Pat Holden’s 2012 British film about the Maynard family is based on his family’s story. His aunt, Jean Pritchard, and her family—who lived at 30 East Drive, Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England in 1966—experienced a poltergeist in their home that looked like a monk, a.k.a The Black Monk of Pontefract; they named it “Fred.” The not-so-friendly ghost smashed eggs, made banging noises, and dragged Holden’s cousin up the stairs. He was too young to visit the house, which is one reason he wanted to make the film.

“I’ve always had this feeling of never quite being in the zeitgeist,” Holden told The Guardian. “And I think it was a little bit like that with the ghost. My sister was allowed to see it. My mum got to see it. My dad wasn’t that interested. I felt like I’d missed out.” Recently, a resident at the same house captured a photo of what’s believed to be the Black Monk

5. THE ENTITY (1982)

In The Entity (based on Frank De Felitta's novel of the same name), Barbara Hershey plays Carla Moran, a fictionalized version of Doris Bither, a woman who claimed the spirits of three Asian men repeatedly assaulted her. The real-life events supposedly happened in Culver City, California, in 1974. Paranormal investigators Dr. Barry Taff and Kerry Gaynor visited Bither’s house, which had been condemned twice. At the house, the doctors witnessed “a green mist that formed the body of a man” and orbs over Bither’s body when photographed. Bither moved out of the house and claimed the entity continued to follow her around.

6. THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT (2009)

In 2009, the film version of the Snedeker family’s harrowing haunting was released, but according to Lorraine Warren, “The movie is very, very loosely based on the actual investigation.” Both the film and the true story involve a family in the 1980s who had a son stricken with cancer, so they moved into a house near the University of Connecticut hospital—but didn’t know that the house was a former mortuary.

While the family resided there, kids levitated and rosary beads pulled apart on their own. The Warrens invited priests over and held mass, but that wasn’t enough. Finally, an exorcist stopped by, and that seemed to calm the place. In 1992, Ray Garton wrote a book about the haunting, In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. But the book and the events have come under fire as being hoaxes.

A 2013 sequel to The Haunting in Connecticut, The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, is also based on a real event—a child named Heidi Wyrick attracted spirits in her home in Georgia, not Connecticut.

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Walt Disney Pictures
10 Facts About Hocus Pocus
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Walt Disney Pictures

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Bette Midler said she'd be interested in doing a Hocus Pocus sequel. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. "The ball's in their court." While you get those cards ready, here are some facts about the original, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago today.

1. THE STORY ORIGINATED AS A BEDTIME STORY.

The story for Hocus Pocus came about after writer David Kirschner invented a bedtime story for his kids. He later wrote the story up and submitted it to Muppet Magazine (why does this not still exist?), where it gained recognition.

2. THE WRITERS USED PROPS TO PITCH IT TO STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

Bette Midler in 'Hocus Pocus' (1993)
Walt Disney Pictures

To pitch the story to Disney, the writers had execs enter a dark room with broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling. They also scattered 15 pounds of candy corn throughout the room in an effort to invoke Halloween nostalgia. It obviously worked!

3. IT WAS NOT AN IMMEDIATE HIT.

Though it’s a cult classic now, Hocus Pocus didn’t do that well when it first came out in 1993, perhaps because it was released in July instead of September or October. Though it didn’t have a terrible opening—$8,125,471, putting it in fourth place at the box office that weekend—it fell to $2,017,688 a few weeks later, and bad reviews from the critics didn’t help matters.

Entertainment Weekly was particularly put off by the movie, calling it a “piece of corny slapstick trash” and saying that “It’s acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell.”

4. BETTE MIDLER LOVES IT.

Bette Midler, by the way, has said that Hocus Pocus is her favorite film out of all of the films she’s ever done. (At least as of 2008.) Thora Birch agreed, recently saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus.”

5. KATHY NAJIMY LOVES IT, TOO.

Midler isn't the only star of the film who isn't immune to its allure: Kathy Najimy has said she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.

6. IT COULD HAVE STARRED LEONARDO DICAPRIO.

The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

7. SARAH JESSICA PARKER IS RELATED TO A WOMAN FAMOUSLY ACCUSED OF BEING A WITCH.

Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When the actress went on the show Who Do You Think You Are to trace her family history, Parker discovered that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, one of the women accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. After a young girl said she saw Esther’s “spectre” strangling neighbor Mary Fitch, Elwell was arrested, but escaped going to trial.

8. THORA BIRCH REVISITED THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICAN BEAUTY.

While the kids are prematurely celebrating victory against the Sanderson sisters after locking them in the kiln, they’re shown talking in front of a house as they walk to a park. The house was later used as the house Thora Birch’s character lived in for American Beauty.

9. THE KIDS WEREN'T HUGE FANS OF THE CATS.

The kids all hated working with the cats. Many different cats were used to represent Binx, and each one served a different purpose—one was good at cuddling with the kids, one would jump on command, etc. Every time a new cat was used, the children would have to coerce the kitty to trust them by using treats and a clicker. They got sick of it.

10. MUCH OF THE ORIGINAL CAST REUNITED FOR A 20TH REUNION.

Most of the cast participated in a 20th anniversary event for D23 (the Disney fan club) members. Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler were not in attendance, but pretty much everyone else was, including Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson). You can watch some of that reunion above.

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iStock
Here's What to Do With Leftover Halloween Candy
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iStock

Americans indulged their sweet tooth in a major way this Halloween, spending an estimated $2.7 billion on candy intended for front porch distribution. Rather than confronting a weepy child with an empty bowl because they bought too little, shoppers tend to buy in bulk. Come November, that can mean pounds of sugar-packed temptation still sitting in the house.

The good news: You can remove the risk to your waistline and do some good at the same time. A number of charitable organizations take leftover candy and send it to troops stationed overseas. Operation Gratitude has set up a number of drop-off centers around the country—you can search by zip code—to accept your extra treats. Once collected, they’ll send them to both troops and first responders. Last year, the group collected nearly 534,000 pounds of goodies.

Often, drop-off locations will be located in dental offices as a way of reminding everyone of the perils of tooth decay from excess sugar consumption. Some dentists even offer buy-back programs, paying $1 for each pound returned.

If donating to a national program is proving difficult, you can always deliver the extra candy to local food pantries or homeless shelters.

[h/t weartv.com]  

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