A Haunting in Connecticut

In this unnerving docudrama, the Parker family is elated to move into their dream house — only to discover artifacts suggesting the home was once a funeral parlor. After finding coffin keys, toe tags and a big freezer in the cellar — and the children see an apparition — the desperate Parkers seek the expert help of the Warrens, a couple who investigated the famed Amityville case. The cast includes Vanessa Lock, Rod Pearson and Brett Fleisher.

NOTE: This text refers to the docudrama of A Haunting in Connecticut, not the Hollywood production that was released in 2009. When that movie becomes available I’m sure I’ll be posting more.

Just like the Amityville case, here we have a family who gets a deal on a house they can’t refuse. Their 14 year old son is being treated for cancer and the Parker’s need to be closer to the hospital. After searching they come across a house with rent that is too cheap to be believed. It has plenty of space and is convenient to the hospital. The Parker’s learn the house was a former funeral home and the basement still has much of the equipment left behind. They need the space and they need the location so they agree to not tell anyone about the house’s past. So they move in and try to cope with their son’s illness.

Paul and his brother move into the basement. It doesn’t take them long to figure out their room is the former morgue. What begins to happen is the children claim to see apparitions, hear noises and voices and feel the presence of someone in the house. As time goes by the kids can’t sleep, they leave all the lights on in the basement, and don’t want to be left in the house alone.

The parents see a change in Paul as he becomes aggressive, withdrawn and moody. Eventually his outbursts and unpredictable behavior force the parents to commit him to a hospital for his own sake and for everyone else in the house. He claims that now he is out of the house the spirit will start to go after them.

At this point, the floodgates open and all sorts of bizarre events happen. The rest of the family begins to feel the presence. The father claims his truck drove itself into the construction office he was working at. Mom claims an entity attacked her in the shower. A niece who is staying with them feels attacked in her bed. She claims her rosary is taken off as she sleeps. They feel cold spots, get pulled, hear voices and the feel the house is trying to hurt one of them.

After a priest doesn’t offer much help to calm their fears, Ed and Lorraine Warren are called out to see what they can do. They feel the house needs to be exorcised. The Warren’s bring out a team to help document the events taking place in the house. Ultimately a priest comes to exorcise the house, but the Parker’s decide they need to get away from it and promptly move out.

I don’t mean to be insensitive to anyone who is trying to cope with a child who has cancer but it’s hard to believe anything about this story. You basically have a family who is dealing with a boy who is facing his own death. Who knows what kind of mental state he is in and there is no doubt that knowing about the morgue would play tricks on the mind. Seriously, a 14 year old boy sleeping in a morgue? His bizarre behavior could be nothing more than the cancer and the medication taking it’s toll on him. Maybe the cancer is affecting his brain in other ways.

But moving past that, there is no evidence at all to support any claim the family is making. Even when the Warren’s and their crew come in, they capture nothing. There is one person who claims he saw such a sinister figure that he left the house and never came back. I find it a little odd that someone who wants to find the paranormal soils himself the first time he sees it and abandons a family who may be in need. Way to go!

While the Warren’s were interviewed for the documentary they say about 30 words and really don’t offer any insight into the events that supposedly took place at the house. Lorraine says she feels something but not much else.

As for the house itself, there is no discovery of a gruesome past, no tales of bad deeds that took place on the property, no crimes committed, no untimely deaths or other injuries to explain these restless spirits. And to my mind simply because a location was a funeral home where the dead passed through doesn’t make it haunted or give it any more cause to be so than anywhere else. The mind certainly associates it with death, but that doesn’t give rise to activity.

This is an interesting tale, but there is very little to support it as being real. The events and activities of Paul can be explained based on his condition, mental state, stress, medication and multiple other factors. As far as the truck crashing into the father’s work office? Where is the police report? Where is the police offer who investigated? Where is the CSI who determined the cause of the crash?

And speaking of where people are, where are Paul and his father during this story? Neither of them are represented in the interview. Mom, the younger brother and the niece tell their accounts, albeit shrouded in darkness so no one can see their faces, but the two people at the center of the events are strangely absent.

Just like the Amityville Horror, there is plenty story making to be had and lots of pieces you can create on your own, but as for being grounded in fact all I can say is, a distressed mind can conjure up all sorts of things.

An interesting story, but one I take with a large grain of salt.

A Haunting in Connecticut

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Haunted Histories Volume 3


Volume 3 Disc 1
"Bloodlines: The Dracula Family Tree."

A somewhat interesting but for the most part uneventful look at some of the descendants of Dracula, or rather enemies of Dracula. A family traces their blood line back to Dracula’s half brother, who then became his enemy. They comb through old records, buildings and relics of the past to see what their connection is. Kind of interesting, but not really spellbinding. But seriously, how cool would it be to be related to Dracula? They travel the countryside looking into old churches, find the headstones of their ancestors and perhaps even the tomb of Dracula himself. They even make the trek to visit the actual castle, complete with full moon.

It’s certainly interesting that there is a bloodline dating back to that time period and from a character so well known, but not exactly the chilling tale for late night viewing.

Volume 3 Disc 2
"Exorcism: Driving Out the Devil."

Perhaps the most interesting documentary out of this volume, this disc delves into the practice of exorcism. The first exorcist? That’s right, it’s Jesus. Jesus is noted to have performed upwards of 2 dozen exorcisms, the most famous is on the man of Gerasenes. A poor soul has been cast out of the village to be chained and left for dead. Jesus comes across the man and begins to speak to the evil which lurks inside him. When asked who possesses him, the man replies "We are Legion". Jesus casts out the demons into a nearby herd of swine who then throw themselves off a cliff. And so begins the practice of casting out the demons.

In 1565 the idea of exorcism is used for political and spiritual gain as a 16 year old girl falls victim to an evil spirit who originally revealed himself as the girl’s grandfather. There is a split between the Catholics and the Protestants and they use this possession to prove which faith has more power. Ultimately the Catholics gain an upper hand and even have an exorcism in public so all can witness the power of their faith. Casting out demons becomes big business for the Church and they use it as a tool to gain new members.

In 1614 the Catholic Church begins to write down how to identity and perform an exorcism. The Rituale Romanum is created so there are rules and guidelines to follow. This against proves the power of prayer and that the Catholics know how to root out evil.

During this time period there is evidence to support that possession or being in league with the devil is used as a revenge for unkind acts. A nun who’s affections are shunned by a priest begins to cast accusations that he is in league with the devil and that his presence at her church has caused afflictions. It doesn’t take much to prove someone guilty of working for the devil and quickly the priest is convicted and burned at the stake.

The Salem Witch Trial further the idea of demonic possessions for personal gain. The townspeople feel that the devil is close at hand and that they must keep busy and vigilant lest they be taken over. As we all know, the finger pointing begins, blame is cast in every direction and the idea of exorcising the demon by killing the afflicted becomes common practice. Plenty of land changes hands and more people end in court than ever before. It basically turns into a bloodbath.

Modern times also see the belief in the devil and exorcism. In 1949 a boy is believed to be possessed by the devil after he and his Aunt play with a Ouija board to try and contact his recently deceased mother. Soon he hears noises, feels a presence and welts appear on his body. This case becomes the basis for the movie "The Exorcist". And once the book and the movie hit the mainstream the belief in the devil and possession are renewed.

Exorcism has been used as a cure-all through much of history. If something is wrong with you, exorcising the demons will make you better. You have to admit, it’s a step above blood letting. But is this just covering up mental illness? Are the symptoms of demonic possession and schizophrenia too close to be ignored? Are hearing noises and seeing spirits the results of a failing mind? Does demonic possession put people in the limelight and give them the attention they crave? Is exorcism still being used as quick therapy or do the dark forces really take hold of innocent victims?

A pretty interesting documentary with lots of information.

Volume 3 Disc 3
"Witch Hunt"

More information on the infamous Salem Witch Trials. We are presented with the main characters and many explanations as to why the hysteria was spreading, from evil sprits to ergot poisoning. People of the time were so fearful of the devil that when doctors couldn’t come up with any other diagnosis to explain an ailment they were said to be bewitched. Considering the rather primitive treatments and lack of medical understanding of the time, bewitchment was prescribed on a regular basis.

But what really got things going in Salem? What was the spark that ignited it all? Was it the power hungry judges? The lawmakers trying to make a name for themselves? Ill tempered residents who were looking to get revenge against their neighbors? Misbehaving kids looking to relieve some of the boredom and drudgery of their lives?

Yes it was. It all comes to a head when Tituba, the slave of Rev. Parris is found working "magic" right in his own home. After being completely railroaded in court, Tituba says she was visited by a dark figure and says she is in league with several of the townspeople which are already under suspicion. And then the game is on. Blame is leveled at every turn. Accusations fly. Evidence is in short supply. And the body count is on the rise. Exorcising the devil means putting people to death. Satan has a strangle hold on their town and the only way to get rid of him is to kill his agents. Cure a cold by killing the patient.

Quite a bit of this information can be gathered from other sources, but it’s still a good documentary on the hysteria of the time and how the idea of Satan, witchcraft and exorcism go completely out of control and cost the lives of dozens of innocent people.

Volume 3 Disc 4
"Exorcising the Devil."

The word "Exorcism" conjures up the images from the movie, of a young Regan with pasty skin, dark lips and foul mouth as priests gather round to cast the demon out of her body. But is this sort of thing real? Can someone be possessed by evil spirits and if so what can be done to save that soul? There is in fact an exorcism ritual that is part of several different religions from Catholicism to Santeria. The exorcism ritual is still practiced on a regular basis and many people feel the devil or an evil influence has control over them. Some churches have exorcism rituals on a weekly basis, in front of the whole congregation.

What we get is a broad summary of exorcism and how it is used. Exorcism can be traced back to the time of Jesus and his work to free several souls which he feels are being tortured by the devil. There is also mention of the case in 1949 which became the focus of the movie "The Exorcist" as well as a young man who feels he is possessed by multiple evil spirits.

Many decades ago exorcisms were common place and even done in public. While the practice of the exorcism didn’t appear during the Salem Witch Trials, the idea of a devil, evil sprits and even possession were certainly at work. When odd behavior presented itself it was almost immediately considered the work of the devil.

Exorcism is still close at hand and is used to heal when other methods seem to fail. Just tune into an episode of Paranormal State and you’ll be witness to an exorcism of the demonic. And Hollywood capitalizes on the idea each year with movies that show the nature of evil or dark forces that drive people to do the devil’s work.

Participating in the discussion are several priests who have either performed or been part of the exorcism ritual, including one of the priests who was part of the 1949 case. We also get commentary from those in the medical field who believe that demonic possession can be explained through mental illness or other mental/emotional disease. Many feel that demonic episodes can be the result of emotional trauma or even sexual abuse.

While it may be easy to discount the original uses of exorcism and the quick prescription of the devil for when things go wrong or feeling melancholy, what about today? Is the devil a prevalent force that can take over a body and spirit and make it act out? There is little doubt that we have people who act in a bad way and cause harm to others, but is this the work of the devil and someone possessed or at least working under his influence? Or is this untreated mental illness coming to the surface? Does the exorcism actually rid someone of evil spirits or is it merely a "clean start" so to speak to get them to change their behaviors?

Volume 3 Disc 5
"Voodoo Secrets."

The notion of voodoo brings to mind curses, spells and blood sacrifice. And while some of that does play a part in voodoo, many popularly held beliefs about the religion have come from sensationalized books and accounts that really have no basis in the actual religion. Through this documentary we are shown what parts really make up voodoo and what the practices mean. When you peel away the layers many comparisons can be made between the beliefs and practices of this religion and any other religion out there. The sacrifice of the animal is similar to the ritual of Thanksgiving. The use of blood seems similar to communion. And while possession and other aspects seem foreign and unusual they can be compared to other facets where believers try to communicate directly with their God.

Even though voodoo may seem strange its roots go back hundreds if not thousands of years and have tens of millions of followers around the world. While many seek solace and forgiveness in God, the practitioner of voodoo seeks the same spirituality in a variety of gods and has a more tangible connection with the spirit world.

There are several stories about the power of voodoo and how it has been used to defeat armies, to ward off evil, bring prosperity to a village, heal the sick and even influence the legal system. And no, the voodoo doll has nothing to do with voodoo.

Overall this is a much better set than Volume 2 (which I thought was quite bad), with the discs on Exorcism being the most informative and interesting. Still, I think they’re reaching with the use of spine-tingling, but there is a fair bit of entertainment value in this set.

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Imprint – Masters of Horror – Rating 2 out of 5

Imprint – Masters of Horror – Rating 2 out of 5

Not much of a plot but plenty of wife beating, disfigured prostitutes, torture and aborted fetuses. Imprint is a pretty vulgar and guttural movie that has a very dark side, but it has a senseless plot and an even more nonsensical ending that just makes you wonder what the point is.

I admit the “Banned from Cable” tagline had me interested. “What could be so bad they wouldn’t show it on cable?” So I sat down to Imprint and let the shock factor begin. For those who like torture movies this is for you. The basic premise of the movie is this:

An American goes to the Orient to find his lost love. He ends up talking to a disfigured prostitute who happens to know of his love. She tells him the story of how she stole the jade ring from the Madame of the whorehouse and how she was punished to death.

The remainder of the movie is recounting how she was tortured by having her body burned with bundles of incense, needles stuck under her fingernails and into her gums, and how she was strung up with a block and tackle to complete the job. When the girl doesn’t confess to taking the ring, they just add more torture to the mix to get her to talk. Its way overkill for the crime and to me seems completely out of context for the movie.

The American says she is lying and not telling him the whole truth, so she retells the story again adding a few pieces back in such as the parts of her mother having the job of helping parents get rid of their unwanted babies. There are plenty of scenes of little bodies floating down the river mixed in with the scenes of the tortured prostitute.

But in the end what makes this movie fail is the incredibly poor acting. There is no emotion, the dialog is stiff and monotone and the story is so thin it’s hardly worth watching. Couple this with an incredibly stupid ending and absolutely piss poor special effects and the movie isn’t worth sitting through. It’s graphic and violent but completely pointless and meaningless.

I’m not sure if it was banned because of the violence or because of it’s stupidity.

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Ghost Hunters – Live From The Stanley Hotel

Ghost Hunters – Live From The Stanley Hotel

On Halloween the Ghost Hunters went to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado which of course is the hotel Stephen King based his book The Shining on. So this was their first live investigation which went on for six hours. Season 3 has the TV episode which shows their tour, a few highlights from their investigation then their “reveal” at the end. This disc is a three hour episode that has a lot more footage and shows each one of the teams investigating multiple rooms, plus they were taking advice and information from the audience who was watching it live.

They investigate the room Stephen King stayed in while he wrote The Shining as well as investigate several rooms which have unusual activity. There are plenty of bumps, sounds, shadows, cold spots and even some voices that seem to want to communicate.

Jason and Grant are their usual excited but reserved selves waiting for something to come out at them. Brian and Steve are joined by Tango, Dustin, Lisa and Donna who scour the hotel looking for signs of the paranormal. For this episode they are also joined by wrestler CM Punk. He seems like a normal guy who behaves himself pretty well and keeps himself from getting tangled up in the wires and hurting himself. I was a little confused why they would have him on the show, but he actually blended in with the group just fine.

So out goes the Scooby Gang in search of the restless spirits. There is supposed to be a maid who makes the bed even with guests still in it, puts away the clothes and bags without being asked, a little girl who used to play at the hotel and Mrs. Stanley who doesn’t like her piano to be touched. They go from room to room asking if anyone if “anyone is in here with us” and waiving their EMF meter all over the place. A few suspicious moments come to light, but for the most part the show is made up of Steve and Brian seeing their own reflections and educating “Punk” on the finer details of ghost hunting.

Grant and Jason spend a lot of time in the basement or “Employee Passageway” talking to something which might be the spirit of a little girl. Grant gets to the point of almost losing it he’s so tense and worked up over seeing a spirit. He wants the entity to show itself so badly he’s almost cussing at it.

Brian seems a little off his game in this episode since he’s yawning a lot and seems a little disinterested in what’s going on. He’s still in the game but he doesn’t have the same enthusiasm I’ve come to expect from him. He gets a little more animated when they show them analyzing the evidence when he exclaims, “That’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard in my life dude!” Now he’s all animated and ready to deal with the spirits.

Not quite as humorous or eventful as other episodes but it’s still fun to watch. Considering there is some element of truth to the stories behind The Shining the fact that they’re out there investigating is pretty interesting. The DVD is $10 for 3 hours of entertaining so it’s a pretty good value. It lacks some of the chemistry of other episodes and doesn’t have Brian yelling “Dude, what the hell is that” every few minutes but it’s still fun to watch.

This is good pumpkin carving material to keep things light and entertaining.

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