Carmen Reed: Surviving the Haunting in Connecticut

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In "The Haunting in Connecticut," Virginia Madsen plays the mother of a young man with cancer who stands as the nexus of supernatural activity when the family rents a former funeral home.

Carmen Reed (then Carmen Snedeker) is the real-life mother Madsen portrays, the woman who lived through the events of story that took place in a renovated funeral home in Southington, Connecticut. This is her story.

Almost everyone knows that when a movie uses the phrase "based on actual events," the actual similarities between life and art can be miles apart. How far is the film from what you experienced?

It's hard to give a percentage. A lot of things you saw -- for example, the shower curtain scene -- definitely happened to me (it didn't happen to my niece), and there were apparitions in the house. My son did have cancer.

As far as bodies in the wall, all of that is fictionalized.

How much input did you have with the directors and producers? Were you on set or on call?

I was on call. I actually spent a great deal of time -- it was several months, at least -- with the screenwriters, and Andy Trepani who I developed a great friendship with. I gave them absolutely every detail, even the drawings of the apparitions and the entities that were in the house. I sketched the house and gave them photographs so they could see what the house looked like.

Was the history of the actual house such as it was presented in the film, with the seances and such?

No, the Aickerman's were all fictional characters. I spoke to the [owner]'s son -- he was a schoolteacher, never had any children of his own, in upstate New York -- and he said that he spent every day of his life afraid in that house but that he'd never seen any ghosts.

We didn't have any access to find out the actual history. The house was built to be a funeral home, and the director lived above it with his wife and son... until he retired. We were the first people to rent it after it was turned into apartments. It was turned into a two-family home, and the man that bought it wanted it for doctors' offices. When he'd come to visit, he'd always ask me, "Has anything interesting happened in the house?" And I would tell him the stories the kids were telling me.

So it sounds like he'd had some inkling that things could be off-kilter about the house, as if he might have had an experience there.

It was his workmen. I'd actually heard the story that one of his workmen had taken a ladder in the house and was getting ready to do something in the entranceway, and he had forgotten a tool. He went back to his truck to get the tool, and when he came back the ladder was gone -- it was back on the truck.

In the film, the character Virginia Madsen portrays is a devout Catholic -- she has the rosary beads prominently displayed, she prays regularly for her son, etc. She doesn't show any signs of being a spiritualist, however, which you state on your Website that you have been.

No, I'm a Catholic. I've been spiritual.

Your Website mentions a spirit guide named Jaco.

Yes, I had forgotten about that as a child. In your childhood, you have these things that happen to you, and you kind of put them away in your twenties, and you forget about them, and that's exactly what happened to me. It came back after this experience in the house. But I was a practicing Catholic and still am.

When you say "it came back," do you mean Jaco or the memories?

The memories.

So you don't have anything like that happening now.

Oh, I do have a spirit guide, and it is Jaco. But he's just been back since I've tried to contact him.

The character in the film also attempts to deny the existence of any paranormality when the subject is first broached. Was this reflective at all on your experience and reactions?

Absolutely. I believed in God and I believed in the devil, but I did not realize the extent. Now remember, I did not remember my childhood thing, and I had to have that confirmed by other people. When I did remember it, I didn't believe it offhand, I had to go back and investigate and make sure my memories were accurate. But I had forgotten all of that completely, and I was living under a Catholic life, and I did not believe that ghosts existed.

So you had gone through a long period where unusual things hadn't happened to you.


Was any of the activity in the house ever recorded on tape or film, or anything that could be concretely presented to anyone as evidence of what you were going through?

Lorraine Warren kind of answers that in the special features on the DVD. She says that all the tapes were destroyed in a flood in her husband's office, and even I was unaware of that. They did have a lot of video -- I don't know what was on the video.

I do know that I did a couple of radio shows while I was still in the house, and things did happen. We got feedback of another voice on the radio show that scared the radio announcer.


Yeah. We didn't know what to call them back then.

People must wonder, when these things began happening, why did you stay? Eddie Murphy used to have a bit where he talks about looking into moving into a haunted house, where it's all, "Oh, what a lovely house." "Geeet ouuuuut!" "Too bad we can't stay!"

(Laughs) Well, I actually did run out of the house more than once, and things always happened when I left the house, so it gave me the indication that... For example, my sister was talking to me on the phone one time, and she started having the banging in her house. That scared me from ever leaving and going to someone else's house, because I thought I would just take it with me.

I had some co-workers, and I was telling things to them, and things started happening to them. It really just made me feel like I had no choice.

You felt it was going to follow you until the situation was resolved.

Right. So it was either fight it here, or fight it someplace else, and I chose to stand and fight. I know that's kind of crazy, and I wish there was an alternative at the time, but there really wasn't.

Do you think that people who are spiritually sensitive like yourself are drawn to places like this, or evoke it out of places when they come around them?

I do believe that that had a big role. Even though I did not remember being sensitive -- I mean, I had other things like "Turn here," "Turn there," and I paid attention to those things; I called it my intuition -- I do believe that being a sensitive and moving into that house, and causing activity by moving into it is a big deal.

Are you currently planning another lecture tour with the release of the DVD?

I am, but I've lost my webmaster. But on my MySpace page, I keep everything updated on that.

Is there anything that you want to impress upon the readers that I haven't touched on?

It's a very good movie -- go see it.