What, with it being Halloween and all, I figured it was time for a little visit to the dark side. I mean the scary, ghostlike dark side, not the whole excessive body hair thing I usually dive into.
Like the time my sister and I came home from school and heard our dog, Sugar, whining. So we searched the house for her, thinking she got locked in a closet or something only to find out our parents had put Sugar to sleep earlier in the day. True story.
Or like the time I was making out in a parked car with my boyfriend and we heard a scratching on the car roof. We thought it was a tree limb but it turned out to be the disembodied arm of a murder victim whose fingernails were scratching the car. Not a true story.
But this one is actually one of the true ones.
I’ve mentioned before the unfortunate decision I made years ago in going to the desert to film a movie with a lunatic.
There is a special horror in being on the crew of a really bad movie. Some of you may have experienced this torture before and can attest to the exceptional pain and suffering involved.
We were filming in Death Valley Junction, CA which is an outcropping of mostly abandoned buildings in the middle of the desert with approximately 20 “living” inhabitants. The only real attraction here, other than being the hottest place on earth, is the Amargosa Hotel and Opera House.
By the way, Amargosa comes from the Spanish word “bitter” (amargo). Don’t you love it when things line up so perfectly!
It was built in 1923 and was home to borate miners who worked for the Borax company for many years. It was abandoned eventually and almost disappeared into the graveyard of that desert but was saved by an eccentric dancer, Marta Becket, in the late ‘60s.
The hotel is famous not only for it’s Gloria Swanson-esque owner but because it is believed to be extremely haunted.
Some of the stories are of miners who lived in a section of the hotel, now abandoned, who haunt the halls of the area called “spooky hollow”.
Others are of a known hanging that occurred in one room that is now haunted by the unfortunate ghost of the man who died there.
And yet another story is that there is often the sound of a child crying when no children are in the hotel.
It’s owner is both a ballerina and an artist and covered every room and hallway in her unique 3-D style of art that only adds to the overall freakiness.
You can imagine my joy to find out we were staying in this haunted hotel during the shoot from hell. But really, I should not have expected anything else.
After a long, hot and dirty day of shooting we all checked into our rooms, showered, and hunkered down. I would guess I was asleep for an hour or two when I heard knocking on the door to my room.
I got up, opened it and there was no one there.
Assuming the dickhead sound guy who was staying in the room next to me was high and fucking with me, I cursed and went back to bed. I was just falling back to sleep when the knocking started again. Now I was pissed off and went to the door ready to tear his head off.
But again, no one was there. I looked down the hall in both directions and there was no one to be seen. At about the same time the sound guy next door clumsily unlocked and opened his door and stuck his sleepy head out.
“What the fuck. What do you want?” He said to me groggily. He had heard it as well but it was obvious he hadn’t done it.
Needless to say I did not get much sleep that night. It seemed every time I started to fall asleep I’d hear footsteps in the hallway, whispers or the knocking.
The next day most of the crew reported a similar night. One person said she decided to leave the light on in her bathroom but when she woke up in the middle of the night the light had been turned off.
All of this, of course, is totally explainable in some form or another. But, given the number of times guests tend to check out in the middle of the night, it does give you pause.
I was more than happy to be done with that shoot for many reasons. I was happy to hightail it back to civilization and away from the undead. And the ghosts were scary too.
And, I was ready to take a break from making crappy films. Maybe one day that break will be over….