The movie, “A Haunting in Connecticut,'' doesn't open until Friday, but curious fans are already making a beeline for the Southington home that inspired the movie.
“It's just been really, really stressful,'' said Susan Trotta-Smith, who bought the home 10 years ago with her husband. “It's been a total change from a very quiet house in a very quiet neighborhood to looking out the window and seeing cars stopping all the time. It's been very, very stressful, and sometimes worrisome.''
The family has never seen anything unusual inside their five-bedroom, two-family white wood-frame house and does not believe the property was haunted.
“It's got beautiful woodwork, and there is a nice warm feeling to the house,'' Trotta-Smith said. “Because it was a funeral home, the upstairs apartment is much more spacious. It's like two full houses, and it has a beautiful yard, too.''
The movie, starring Virginia Madsen and Kyle Gallner and released by Lionsgate, is loosely based on stories that revolved around the house in the 1980s.
The residents at the time, the Snedeker family, claimed their son would hear strange noises in his basement bedroom, which once held casket displays and was near the old embalming room. He also claimed to see shadows on the wall of people who were not there. A niece visiting the home said she felt hands on her body as she tried to sleep, and her covers levitated.
The family brought in Ed and Lorraine Warren, self-described paranormal researchers, who became famous for documenting the alleged “Amityville Horror'' haunting of a home on Long Island.
Lorraine Warren says she felt an evil presence in the Southington home and experienced the haunting herself when she spent a night there.
“In the master bedroom, there was a trap door where the coffins were brought up,'' she said. “And during the night, you would hear that chain hoist, as if a coffin were being brought up. But when Ed went to check, there was nobody down there.''
Warren, whose husband died in 2006, has nothing to do with the movie. She said the house was “cleared'' of the evil presence after a seance in 1988. A book and a television documentary followed.
The current owners, who rent out part of the home to another family, have removed the street number from the house and posted “no trespassing'' signs. Trotta-Smith says they are concerned about the four children who live there.
“Most people are respectful. They stay on the road. They might take a picture,'' Trotta-Smith said. “But we have had a few problems with people kind of rudely coming up to the door and scaring our kids, telling them the house is haunted.''
Police have added extra patrols to the neighborhood.
“There are creatures looming in the night but not inside the house,'' Southington police Sgt. Lowell DePalma said. “They happen to be people who are trespassing on the property, looking in windows and that kind of stuff. People are going to be disappointed. There are no ghosts.''
Alison Taylor, 37, drove from her home in East Hartford with her camera after seeing a show about the haunting on the Discovery Channel and hearing about the new movie.
“I'm very intrigued,'' she said. “I figured since it was close, I could come. A lot of people are so skeptical, but I'm not. I'm sure some things are made up to make the movie look better, but I think it's great.''
Katherine Altemus, who lives across the street, shoos curious onlookers away. She believes the ghost stories were a hoax.
“It's disgraceful,'' she said. “None of the haunting took place, and now it's ruining the lives of that wonderful young family that lives there.''
Calls to the Snedeker family were returned by the film production company, who said they would attempt to arrange an interview.
Film producer Andrew Trapani said he believed the mother, Carmen Snedeker, was very credible, and believes the film does a good job depicting what her family went through. The movie was filmed in Teulon, Manitoba.
He said the names of the family and town in the film were fictionalized, in part to try and keep unwanted attention away from the real home. The Snedekers and Southington are identified on the film's Web site.
“We certainly didn't set out to upset anyone or have anyone show up at their home,'' he said. “I think in this case, this particular supernatural haunting had a much larger following than even I had anticipated.''
Trotta-Smith said she's working with the police but has no plans to put up a fence. She said she just wants a normal life in the house, but she's not sure that will be possible if the movie becomes a big hit.
“I'm a little worried about this Halloween because I imagine that's when they will release the DVD and get everyone worked up again.''