Is Rose Red Based On a True Story?

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Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore Scary Movies and Series

Painting of the Winchester Mansion used in the Rose Red Horror Film

Is the Movie Rose Red a Real Story?

How Real is the Rose Red Movie?

The very interesting road to filming the haunted house horror movie Rose Red is a special one.  The idea started out as a way to combine Stephen King and Steven Spielberg to make “the scariest haunted house movie ever made,” however, the two simply could not see eye-to-eye, and parted ways with King purchasing the full rights to the movie from Spielberg. It is a good thing he did (no offense to Spielberg), as King is better suited for the cerebral type of horror…which is exactly what Rose Red turned out to be: a psychological horror masterpiece.  So how real is Rose Red? Is it truly based upon a real story, as its $200,000 promotional marketing campaign implied? And if so, where is the “real Rose Red”? Let’s break it down a little, as the mansion is pretty big after all!

Is Rose Red based upon a real story?

The short answer is: YES, Rose Red is based upon a true story, however, there are plenty of embellishments and Stephen King combined multiple inspirations to achieve the end product that is the Rose Red movie we all know and love.

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Where is the Real Rose Red?

Rose Red was filmed in a house known as the Thornewood Castle in Tacoma, Washington. However, the film was inspired by the story of the Winchester Mansion in San Jose, California.

The Winchester Mystery House [aka Winchester Mansion]

While there are many horror movies about haunted houses, and many movies about ghosts, Rose Red still strikes a uniquely creepy vibe. This is probably because Stephen King’s primary inspiration for the film came from the Winchester Mystery House story.  King first heard the story in a Ripley’s Believe It or Not  comic book as a kid. The story goes a little something like this…

Sarah Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, one of the most important originals of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Winchester company was responsible for developing the weapon that revolutionized weaponry. The Winchester rifles would kill so many people, that lore would ultimately spawn the tale behind the mansion itself. Sarah Wichester was a huge believer of the paranormal and life beyond living, thus naturally succumbing to a number of psychics and paranormal investigators in her area.  The most notable of all spiritualists who would be hired by Sarah was Adam Coons…who supposedly explained to her that her family was cursed by the spirits of those killed by the family’s prominent invention.  Furthermore, Coons suggested she should move west and construct a home for the spirits and herself to reside.

Located in San Jose California, the Winchester Mystery House started out a smaller mansion in 1884, being built up with the massive inheritance Sarah Winchester was left after her husbands death.  In fact, it was only an eight room farm house at the time she purchased it. After she purchased the property, construction began nearly immediately, first starting with renovations and then the additions of rooms.  It has been said that construction continued in the property from the time she purchased it, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year…for more than 38 years! By the time of her death, the Winchester House had grown to a massive 160 rooms making up 24,000 square feet. Much of her staff required a map in order to navigate the home, despite working there every single day.  The sheer size of the mansion created a natural uneasiness which fostered the development of the best ghost stories!

Fun Fact: There are 47 fireplaces, 40 stairways, 6 kitchens and 3 elevators in the Winchester Mystery House.  It is obvious as to why the Winchester Mansion was the perfect inspiration for Rose Red!

Is the Winchester Mansion Really Haunted Like Rose Red?

In real life, the Winchester Mansion does not expand indefinitely like the haunted mansion portrayed in Rose Red.  The idea of an ever expanding house that was bigger on the inside than the outside did come from the Winchester Mansion story.  And the house itself was believed to be haunted by Sarah Winchester, and many others (even still to this day). Additionally, the sound of hammers and construction being heard from within Rose Red does come from tales reported from within the Winchester Mansion…as many guests have reported such audible anomalies.  The house currently serves as a historic tourist attraction at 525 South Winchester Blvd (and yes, it’s still located in San Jose, California!).  Unfortunately there have been some exploits of the Winchester house, such as modifications to the home to include the number “13” more prominently to back up a suspected-false rumor that Sarah was obsessed with the number 13. There are scattered reports of several construction workers and laborers (carpenters, electricians, engineers, etc), who claim to have been paid to modify the property after her death (chandeliers, bathrooms, windows, etc) to increase the frequency of the number 13 throughout the house.

Stephen King and his crew did explore the Winchester Mystery House prior to selecting a filming location with the intention of possibly using the Winchester Mansion itself.  Ultimately, however, the rooms proved to be too small for filming high quality footage, and Thornewood Castle was selected.

Additional Inspirations

Winchester Mystery House Painting

The rest of the inspirations for Rose Red either came from Stephen King’s impressively twisted mind, or from the 1959 book “The Haunting.”  The Haunting would be turned into a movie in itself in 1963 and showcased a professor with an interest in the supernatural recruiting a group of psychics specifically to investigate a haunted house for proof of paranormal activity.  Stephen King wanted a hands-on type of professor, and portrayed Joyce Reardon as a more aggressive character, rather than simply an inquisitive one.  Stephen King also turns to a variety of other horror tactics to put the character of the house, Rose Red itself, into physical terms.  King gives Rose Red the ability to grow more powerful and manifest real, “in the flesh” types of anomalies…even summoning back its victims as zombies to haunt the rest of the living!

It turns out, additionally, that Thornewood Castle (the place Rose Red was filmed within, not based upon), also has its own sets of scares and ghost tales! While none of the crew or cast have reported any strange occurrences while filming, many guests and tourists most certainly have. Many staff members have reported seeing apparitions and other spiritual inhabitants…and guests report seeing the figure of a woman in a mirror throughout the castle. Thornewood Castle is an English Tudor in a gothic style built for Chester Thorne in 1911.  Although no where near the size of the Winchester Mansion, it possesses a respectable 54 rooms, including 22 bedrooms and 22 bathrooms.  And the castle itself was a most obvious choice for the film Rose Red, given the intense level of detail paid within the architecture.  Even the famous red brick facing seen in the movie was imported straight from Wales! 

Final Words About Rose Red

Rose Red is one of the most creative horror movies of all time, despite being about a cliché haunted house.  There are psychological thrills to be found in nearly every scene, riddled among just the right amount of paranormal action and phenomena. Probably one of the most critical parts of the suspense buildup is the heavy peppering of the house’s creepy history.  Unfortunately, most of the history of the actual house itself was made up, though we have to give Stephen King props where deserved…as its one hell of a story!

Huge Rose Red Fan? Check out some Rose Red Trivia, Behind the Scenes and Fun Facts!

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