Last March, a star-less, modestly-budgeted, mediocre-looking Lionsgate release called THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT made $23 million in its opening weekend - on its way to a $55 million haul in the U.S. alone. Not bad for a flick many (myself included) didn't expect to make an impact at all, let alone sit atop the box office for a week (in under 2,800 theaters, no less). But perhaps that's just a testament to how fascinated people are with ghost stories. And it would also appear that when you put "Based on a True Story" in front of your haunted house flick, you usually hear a "cha-ching!!" shortly thereafter. (In fact, the film was considered such a success that a sequel/follow-up, THE HAUNTING IN GEORGIA, was announced last month.)
None of this would be possible without Carmen Reed, whose "true story" inspired HAUNTING (Virginia Madsen portrayed her in the film). I use the quotes because, of course, there were - and still are - many who doubt the veracity of Ms. Reed's tale, including neighbors, the local police department, and even the biographer of the supposedly true events. To celebrate the film's DVD/Blu-Ray release, I was given the opportunity to speak with Ms. Reed about her reaction to the movie, as well as how she handles the (ongoing) supernatural occurrences in her life.
(NOTE: If you haven't seen the film, or know about the case, you can familiarize yourself with them at THIS Wiki Page.)
What was your first reaction when you found out that your story was being made into a major motion picture?
Reed: I was delighted. I was very pleased.
Did you ever worry that the film would exploit your story in a negative way, especially as far as your son is concerned?
Reed: I did, I was very concerned about it. Fortunately I knew [producer] Andy Trapani, and he assured me that he would take good care of my son.
Obviously you have a very negative background with your story being told, Ray Garton's book for example...
Reed: Oh yes. Yes I did.
What did you think of Virginia Madsen's portrayal of you?
Reed: Oh, she nailed me. She's definitely a class act; without even knowing me she was able to pull it off. I guess drawing on some other experiences, I believe. She was amazing.
Did you meet with her at all? Or did she just take it from the script?
Reed: I think she may have taken it from the documentary, and from what Andy and some others told her about me. We didn't get a chance to speak, but she definitely had me pegged.
Did you have much contact with the producers and screenwriters?
Reed: I had constant contact with the screenwriters, as well as Andy Trapani, the producer.
What was your reaction when the movie opened with $23 million at the box office?
Reed: Oh I was thrilled, I was so excited. I was hoping it would be well-received, but I was not expecting that.
How many liberties did the film take with what really happened to you?
Reed: It took liberties, I mean, a lot of the things that you saw did happen. They did take liberties; there were no bodies in the wall. I'd still be in the newspaper if there were. It was a movie, but it was based on my story and I thought they did a fairly good job with it. The shower scene actually happened with me, not my niece.
What about the appearances of the apparitions?
Reed: There were apparitions, but not exactly the ones that they showed. There were three distinctive men, and there was a woman, and a small black boy that was seen quite often in the house. It seemed to be the same people we were seeing over and over and over again... Except for the lizard man; he was completely different.
Carmen Reed in the 1980s, pointing out a haunted room
Do you have a problem with the movie changing details like that?
Reed: At first I might have, but it's Hollywood, and what they do is entertain. They did a little bit of informing as well, so I think they did a good job.
It's been so long since these events first happened - do you ever regret making your story public?
Reed: Oh yes. But there's two sides to the coin. If I hadn't gone public, a lot of the people I've helped wouldn't have gotten the help. But then again, my children might have liked life a little bit better.
During the making-of documentary on the DVD, it seemed like some strange things happened, like a cross falling off the wall, and the crew said the temperature was changing. Can you tell us what was going on there?
Reed: Whenever you give a lot of recognition to a spirit like that, it's got your energy signature; it can find me no matter where I'm at. And whenever I tell that story, no matter how often I tell that story, things just occur around me. It always has, and it always will. Even sometimes prior to me going to an event to tell the story, things will happen. For instance, one time I was going to Missouri, and my luggage went to Australia. My luggage didn't find me until after I spoke, and then it was there when I got done. So I had no clean underwear or anything until after I did the speaking engagement. (Laughs)
Does that kind of thing happen very often to you?
Reed: It does. A lot of people get very upset when things occur - especially a publicist, they have a tendency to think that it's their job to make sure everything goes perfect, and I never expect anything to go perfect, because it never does in my life. So I'm like, "It's okay. This kind of thing happens to me all the time."
Why do you think that is? Obviously the events in Connecticut must have been the first time; why do you think they continue?
Reed: Well, they don't happen to the degree they did in Connecticut, or I would never speak on it, I think it's because they don't want to be recognized. They don't want people to know that they're out there. It's like Einstein said: "The greatest accomplishment Satan ever had was convincing the world he didn't exist". And that's true of all these entities. Either some want attention, or some do not. Human spirits want the attention, and fallen angels do not want the attention.
Do you encounter benign spirits?
Reed: Oh yes. I lost my brother and my sister after I moved out of that house, and they've all come to visit me.
Does it still frighten you, or are you so used to it by now that you don't get as scared as someone else would?
Reed: I don't get as scared as someone else would. But, if something's thrown at me, almost hits me, I'll jump just like anyone would, but then I know what it is, and I control myself.
Aside from the Connecticut incident, what is the most frightening occurrence to happen to you?
Reed: I guess it would be the day when the crucifix flew off the wall during the interview. At the same time, my husband was in a car accident. He was pulled off the road, and a car hit him as he was talking on the phone. So that series of events was pretty scary.
Virgina Madsen and Kyle Gallner as "Sarah and Matt Campbell"
I would assume so. It seems like, when I watch the behind-the-scenes footage, or read about the case, we never hear much from Matt. Why is that? (NOTE: Matt is Ms. Reed's son, and the basis for the "Matt Campbell" character played by Kyle Gallner in the film.)
Reed: He's very shy, and Matt, well, he's a truck driver. He's got four sons, so he's very busy, and he just does not desire to be in the public eye.
And does he ever fear repercussions, the way you've been dealing with them since the initial incidents?
Reed: He doesn't have any, and I've taught him to protect himself.
Okay. Now, I've gone to your website, where you're listed as a "spiritual advisor". Can you inform us what that entails? Is that your full time job?
Reed: It's something I do voluntarily. I advise these people - whoever comes to me and seeks me out, whatever their situation is. Most of the time it's on a haunting, and they're dealing with the same type of thing that I was going through, and I advise them what they need to do to defeat the energy around them, and to change their lives.
You must also encounter many cases where there's nothing actually happening.
Reed: Sure. I've advised people to go to the nearest emergency room.
Really? Because of a possible mental illness?
Reed: Yeah. I've found people who are obsessed by my story, and they've heard it over and over again, and then they start imagining things. And I advise them that they need to seek professional intervention.
You believe that it's possible to actually make yourself believe that something is happening to you.
There are many skeptical parties in regards to your story: your neighbors, your children's childhood friends, the sergeant of the police department. Why do you think they have such trouble believing your story?
Reed: Well, most of those people did not know me. Jill, I knew Jill when she was a child; I don't know why she didn't see anything when she was in my house, but I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful she wasn't touched. As far as my neighbor, she never spoke to me before, during, or after the situation. I don't think she ever called my name, I know she never said hello to me. I don't know how she figures she can know what happened in my house, behind my closed doors. I couldn't see what was going on in her house... I don't even know her name.
What about the sergeant of the police, who goes out of his way in the documentary to say they never received a call about a spirit or a haunting...
Reed: Well, I wasn't going to call and say there was a ghost. I said there was an intruder. He said he had gone on several intruder calls, but there was never an intruder there. And he didn't clarify that.
I'd like to talk about the ghost hunters (Ed and Lorraine Warren), and the background of Ray Garton writing the book based on the actual events. Can you tell us what happened - why Garton seems so at odds with your version of what transpired?
Reed: The Warrens were very nice to me. I was just another case to them, and they were nice to me. They gave me a vocabulary, so I really can't say anything negative against them. Except that they pushed me out into the pushed me out into the public eye. Ray Garton met me one time. He came to my house after we moved out. When he came in with the Warrens, he never sat down, he never made eye contact with me. And after looking at him for a while, I said "In ten years, you're gonna say this whole thing was made up". And he said, "No no I would never do that". But look what he did. He did. And I had never met the man before, I don't know what his motive is, or what his motivation could be - maybe it's just to create controversy. I have no idea. All I know is, he doesn't know me, he was never in that house, he never met my son. And to call him a drug addict at 13 - how many 13 year old drug addicts do you know?
He said he spoke to you on the phone many times. That's not true as well?
Reed: I spoke to him maybe a half dozen times. He got frustrated, because he couldn't get to me every time he needed me, and I understand that. And I apologized many times for not being as available as he wanted me to be, but I have four children. And I don't know why he got so angry at me, but it was obvious from the start that it was going to be hard for me to make changes to the sexual stuff in the book. I begged him to take that out, they would not. I had no control over the book either.
It's out of print now, so I guess you don't have much to worry about.
Reed: You'd be surprised how much it comes up.
Finally, I wonder if you've been back to the house since you left...
Reed: No, I haven't. It looks like it's very well kept, and I just hope those people never have any problems.
There was no temptation to go back?
Reed; No. I don't want to disrupt their life, and I certainly don't want to reopen any doors. The doors are closed, and I hope they stay that way forever.