I don't believe in ghosts. I love horror movies, and I love tales of real-life hauntings, but I never actually believe any of the stories. I want to believe; I just haven't found anything to make me a believer. When Universal Pictures invited me along on a ghost hunt to celebrate the release of Insidious: The Last Key on Blu-ray and DVD, I couldn't accept fast enough.
Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth (and, so far, my favorite) in the Insidious franchise. Focusing on Elise Rainier, the parapsychologist who led us through the first three films, we visit her childhood home, discover the origins of her gifts, and learn of the horrors of her childhood - both real and supernatural.
We are ghost hunting at the Oman house in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. Featured on at least a half-dozen different ghost hunting TV shows, the Oman house is a three-story home built into the hillside. Having been built in 2002, it doesn't have much of a history, and no one has died there, but it has one major claim to fame: it is located at the end of Cielo Drive.
Los Angeles is a wondrous place. Between the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is the sleaze and death of... well, Hollywood. Living in Los Angeles my entire life, I have always been fascinated by the dark side of this city. One of its darkest chapters, the Manson Family murders, has been a story that has haunted me from childhood. Despite happening over a decade before I was born, I would scare myself with stories of uncaught cult members sneaking into my room at night to kill me.
Charles Manson, a schizophrenic cult leader, sent four members of his "family" into the Hollywood Hills where they brutally slaughtered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others, all in the name of starting a "race war" that Manson claimed was described to him through the lyrics of the Beatles' song "Helter Skelter." The murders took place in Tate's house... at the end of Cielo Drive.
A few things that are important to note: The original Tate house was demolished in 1994, and a massive new structure is being built on the lot, bearing no resemblance to the original home. The Oman house is not actually built on that same lot. It isn't even next door; it is two properties down. But David Oman, the owner of the house, insists that the ghosts from the Tate house took up residence in his house.
There are about a dozen of us on the tour, including Insidious writer and star Leigh Whannell. David warns us that the ghosts tend to be particularly active when there is a non-believer in the midst. This worries some of the more timid in the group, but it excites me. Maybe I will finally be made a believer! We are led inside, and explained that there are "elevated electromagnetic fields" in the house. No one feels anything. We are brought into a makeshift media room where David plays some videos of his previous ghost hunts. After a few minutes, the video cuts out, which David insists is spirit activity. No one else seems to believe him. David tries to fix the video, but it seems to be a lost cause, so we continue on with the tour.
On the second floor, we gather on a platform just off the laundry room. David tells us that people frequently "feel something" on the platform. I step up and wait, but feel nothing. The verdict seems pretty divided, but most of us didn't feel anything different. After a quick stop in David's room honoring boxer Jack Johnson (whose spirit he insists has visited a few times), we went down to the third level, which is where David promises "the magic" happens.
We wait in a large recreational room while David takes us in small groups to the Earthen Room, which is where he promises most of the strangeness happens. In the rec room is a table used for séances - that has a child's pink electronic piano on it. On another table is a weird Ronald McDonald toy sitting beside a puddle of candle wax. Off the rec room is a guest bedroom, another place David has said is rife with ghost activity. There is a bed in the middle of the room, directly beneath a large hole in the ceiling. To the side is a video camera, and on the bedspread are a collection of clothespins and a teddy bear. To me, it looks like the only activity going on in this room is of a pornographic nature.
Finally, it is my turn in the Earthen Room. It is tiny, more like a closet that was stopped halfway through a remodel. Dirt is piled up against one side. I step into the room and open my mind, trying to feel some kind of otherworldly presence. Nothing. David has me stand on a small platform in the room. Standing here, I definitely feel something. Almost a gentle rocking feeling, like I am on a boat. I feel nothing else, and it is not enough to convince me there is a ghost beside me. After all, I am standing on a makeshift plywood step. David insists that there are no tricks in his house, and I believe him - I just don't believe the swaying was anything supernatural.
The Earthen Room was the last stop on the tour. On the way out, I did stop by the huge gate that guards what would have been the Tate house, but felt no spirits there, either. My trip to the Oman house did not make me a believer in ghosts, but it was fun to say I went ghost hunting.
Insidious: The Last Key hits Blu-ray and DVD on April 3.