I’ve been going through a spate of watching “The Haunting” movies. Just to be clear, I don’t mean The Haunting, by Robert Wise (1963), which is excellent. Instead I mean movies spun off of the Discovery Channel’s series A Haunting. Several years ago, between jobs and too near an FYE store, I picked up a cheap two-fer. This set contained the television movies A Haunting in Connecticut and A Haunting in Georgia. I watched them once and then traded them in to get something else. The first one really bothered me. The Connecticut story deals with a childhood cancer victim, and that alone is scary enough. It had the limitations of a television movie and left me thinking it wasn’t too satisfying. The Georgia haunting was more of a documentary, but it was also open-ended.
Then someone got the idea to make a movie out of the two. The Haunting in Connecticut blows the plot over the top. I kept thinking as I watched it, isn’t it in bad taste to make a horror movie based on the true life horror of tragic disease? The protagonist of the story, Philip Snedecker, died about three years after the movie came out. Although the plot generally followed the first movie an entire subplot was added to pad it out. A nineteenth-century funeral director has enslaved a young man to be his medium. The undertaker steals and marks dead bodies to enhance the boy’s powers. These completely fictional characters intermingle with the real life tragic Snedeckers. As you might expect, chaos ensues.
The oddly named The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia also had to add an entire fabricated story to the troubles of the Wyrick family. In real life the Wyricks moved into a house where their daughter started seeing things, including a kindly ghost named Mr. Gordy. She also saw some sinister spirits. So much so that her family invited a parapsychologist to investigate. The theatrical version adds in a stationmaster on the underground railroad who was also a taxidermist. Instead of helping all the slaves to freedom, he saved some for stuffing later. No real motivation is given, beyond his enjoyment of sawdust and thread and death.
While these two movies really didn’t help much, I generally find watching horror during a pandemic therapeutic. Horror films sometimes help viewers envision worst-case scenarios and figure out how they might deal with them, learning from the victims’ mistakes. I suspect that’s why, a few years back, the CDC posted instructions on what to do in case of a zombie apocalypse. It was all about disaster preparedness. Of course, in those days we had no idea what was really coming to Connecticut, and Georgia, and to every state of the union.