Monday, February 24, 2014

The true ghost story of the movie The Changeling

Writer and playwright Russell Hunter said in a 1980 interview that he based many elements from The Changeling on experiences from his first months in Denver in 1968, while living in a large house at 1739 East 13th Avenue—the north edge of Cheesman Park. The house was razed in the 1970s and a condominium building now stands on the site.

This house was the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion. Hunter rented it for the "unbelievable price of $200 per month, because no one else wanted to live there," Hunter relates. A little more than a week after moving in, strange things began to happen, he said. Banging and crashing were heard regularly, coming from the direction of a bedroom fireplace. One morning, Hunter yelled "Stop it!" and never heard the noise again, he said later. Next, doors mysteriously began to open and close unaided, while walls vibrated and threw paintings to the floor.

A woman he met at a bridge game told Hunter that undoubtedly a poltergeist was in the house. At another social gathering, he said, he met a man whom no one later could identify. The man told him the house had a third floor which could be accessed through a secret stairway concealed at the back of a second-floor closet. With help, he broke open the back closet wall revealing a narrow stairway, covered with a thick layer of dust. In the attic, Hunter discovered a child's trunk that contained the diary of a 9-year-old boy whose family had hidden him in the attic because they were ashamed that he had been born a cripple. The journal mentioned that the boy's favorite toy was a red rubber ball.

At the suggestion of friends, Hunter reportedly called a well-known medium to conduct a seance in the
house. The medium told him the crippled child would have inherited a large fortune from his grandfather, but the child died before he could inherit it. He was buried secretly, and the family adopted a similar-looking boy from an orphanage and played him off as their own in order to collect the inheritance. The second boy graduated from a leading university and became a successful industrialist, said the medium.

The spirit of the crippled boy would not rest, according to Hunter. The medium said his body had been buried in south Denver, at a spot that was now under a closet sill of a bedroom in a designated house. The medium said they would know it was him, because they would find a gold medal inscribed with his birthday. The medium also said the spirit threatened harm to the children of the house where he was buried if the owners of the house would not give permission for the search. After a couple of warning incidents affecting their children, the owners of the house gave permission for the excavation under the bedroom floor, and the gold medal was found.

Disturbances at the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion continued, however. Some glass doors blew up as Hunter approached them and shards of glass cut an artery, he said. Some bedroom walls shook. Not long afterward in the 1970s, the house was demolished on order and, during the work, walls of a bedroom exploded and crushed a man operating the bulldozer, said Hunter.

Hunter moved into a house on Kearney Street, but the poltergeist moved with him, he said, and the disturbances continued. At the urging of friends, Hunter called in a priest from Denver's Epiphany Episcopal Church to perform the rites of exorcism at the house. The priest, who asked not to be named, said of Hunter: "He did seem to have a problem. We performed the rites of exorcism in his second house, on Kearney Street." The priest said it apparently worked — at least, he heard no more from Hunter.

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