That Carmen Reed failed to heed her son's advice would one day haunt her. Literally, she says. And two decades later, the time she and her family spent in that creepy old house on Meriden Ave. in Southington, Conn., is the inspiration of the surprise hit movie The Haunting in Connecticut.
"It has been very emotional for me seeing that time in my life play out on the big screen," says Reed, now 54, of the two years in the 80s her family spent in a former funeral home while her son underwent treatment for cancer at a nearby clinic.
The Man With Long Black HairAccording to Reed, while she, her then husband, her three kids and two nieces lived in the house, they regularly experienced a malevolent force that took different forms and would on occasion slap, grope, threaten or otherwise freak the heck out of them.
It began the night they moved in. "My son started seeing this young man with long black hair down all the way to his hips," recalls Reid. "He would talk to my son every day. Sometimes he would threaten him, other times he would stand there and just say his name, which was enough to scare him."
During the course of his treatment, Phillip's cancer went into complete remission. Now 35, he is a father of four who makes his living as a trucker. But when he started claiming that someone, or something, was trying to communicate with him, doctors diagnosed him with another problem: schizophrenia.
Reed remembers watching as her son started to play cruel jokes on family members, like locking his little brother in a chest – and then forgetting that it ever happened. She eventually sent him to live with relatives, and he immediately stopped hearing voices, she says.
A Spirit on the StairwayWith Phillip out of the house, Reed claims the dark forces turned their attention to her 18-year-old niece. "One night, my niece said to me, 'Aunt Carmen, it's coming, can you feel it?'" Reed says her niece clung to her in fear. "I peeled her back," she says, "and I saw the impression of a hand going up underneath her nightshirt."
Says Reed: "That is when I knew for sure that what I was dealing with was supernatural."
Reed contacted her parish priest, then the local archdiocese, then a host of experts in the paranormal. "Compared to that house, the other cases I had been involved with were like dealing with Casper the Friendly Ghost," says researcher John Zaffis, who has spent the last 36 years investigating paranormal phenomenon. One particularly memorable summer night, Zaffis claims to have seen a spirit descend the main stair well and say to him, "Do you know what they did to us?"
"All I wanted to do was get my car keys and get the hell out of that house," Zaffis tells PEOPLE.
An Exorcism?According to Reed and Zaffis two priests visited the home but became frightened and left. A third, whom they do not name, was finally able to rid the house of its evil once and for all after a three-hour exorcism, says Reed. (According to a 1992 article in the Hartford Courant, however, the local Roman Catholic archdiocese said no authorized excorcism was conducted at the house.)
The house still stands in Southington, and the current owner has not reported any disturbing visions – save for the rubbernecking tourists who drive by hoping to catch a glimpse of some ghouls.
As for Reed's family, they all report being sensitive to supernatural forces since their time in the creepy house in Connecticut. Sometimes it serves them well, says Reed. "I sold real estate for a while," she says. "If I wouldn’t sell you a house, you can bet it was because I knew it was haunted."