Inspired by true events that shocked the world and to this day still frighten and fascinate, The House at the End of the Drive was shot on location on Cielo Drive… just a knife’s throw away from the site of the Manson/Tate murders.
Produced by the homeowner David Oman, the movie blends fact with fiction as supernatural forces from the past transport he and his dinner guests through time — back to the night of the original murders.
The movie recently enjoyed a big red carpet gala premiere in Hollywood at Shockfest (where it took home “Best Writer” honors in the closing Awards). We were lucky enough to catch up with Oman for this exclusive interview.
Dread Central: I’ve been hearing about your haunted house for years, but I never did have the, er, pleasure of visiting. I recall, a few years back, you used to host film screenings and tours. What kinds of people, in your experience, are drawn to haunted houses?
David Oman: The kind of people that are interested in haunted houses from my personal experiences living here at my own haunted house are… everybody. Seriously, I have met people from all around the world — Australia, Germany, Japan, Qatar, England, Canada, South Africa, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil to name a few. All professions and walks of life and age groups, from doctors, lawyers, writers, producers, dancers, musicians, NFL Football players, coal miners, actors, sheiks, engineers, scientists, soldiers, truck drivers, police, firemen, waitresses, students, you name it. The average person these days is so interested in the paranormal due in large part to the cable TV shows like Ghost Hunters, My Ghost Story, Haunted History, Paranormal Witness, and Ghost Adventures, to name some that I have had the distinction of having my house shown on.
I mean, let’s face it: we all are going to die someday. Our end is inevitable. The interest in what happens after we die is something that we all have. It’s universal, and that there might be life after death is fascinating to everyone. Itis a common thread that I have noticed in all the people that I have met, ‘a curiosity in what is there on the other side…’ Some people of course want to see a ghost or experience a paranormal incident themselves. Lindsay Lohan, for example…
DC: That explains it! She’s possessed.
DO: She came to visit my house in February of 2011 and demanded to see some “Ghosts.” I explained that I can’t cue the ghosts like on set or at Disneyland. That unfortunately is how some people feel. They expect the spirits to manifest and appear or ‘do something.’ What I have noticed here is the individuals that are skeptical tend to have the most chance to be bothered by the ghosts. To say, “Excuse me but if we don’t exist, then what is happening to you?” I have seen more disbelievers tell me things like, “I got my hair pulled and there were fingers running through my hair while I was watch your movie alone in the theater room”, or “Someone just called my name but there was not one there”, or “I was dragged out of bed to the corner of the ceiling by an unknown force while a dark voice said, You’re coming with us.” These are amongst the many stories I have been told and recorded in the houses log book of incidents.
As far as the different groups that make up the die-hard ghost-curious, well, there are many factions or groups who want to investigate, some with equipment who bring out the infrared videocameras and the “Franks or Spirit Box” to see if they can get a response electronically from Q and A with the spirits and then there tend to be the “sensitives” who want to feel or see the ghosts with their intuition, guides or 3rd eye or their “gift”, as I like to call it.
There are also the young and interested students who are voracious in their quest for answers and read and watch as much as they can to try to solve the mystery behind the veil of death. I can tell you, there are the death-hags who love the macabre side of it and those who still venerate Sharon Tate and her memory. I think that holds true for fans of those who have died, as well they want to be close to the location where the people died.
Another group I want to mention are the celebrities that I have had the great pleasure of entertaining here at my house who gained interest in my home after hearing about my experiences with the activity here. Martin Cove, Lindsay Lohan, the nine Chilean coal miners, Lisa Williams, James Van Pragh, a few U.S. Soldiers, Pvts going off to Iraq, Barry Taff, Rick Mora, Jessica Szohr, James Deloy to name a few…now you ask why would these people want to visit…friends of mine mention to friends of theirs and they begin to talk and the discussion turns to, ‘Hey can we go over and check it out I saw him on Ghost Hunters, or the guy from Paranormal Witness can we go there and see it’…To tell you the truth it’s been an experience to say the least.
DC: Yeah, I’ll bet! It’s interesting that for a long time you have been saying it’s more you that’s haunted than your house – it kind of reminds me of the movie Insidious. That’s pretty scary! How have you learned to cope?
DO: I have learned to cope with the reality that my house is a paranormal hot spot or as Barry Taff paranormal investigator/scientist had called it, “The Mount Everest of Haunted Houses or the Disneyland for the Dead.” I had decided a several years back after an excessively high electric bill, which was preceded by 2 months of lights, televisions and other appliances turning on by themselves that enough was enough. I went down the hall on the 2nd floor and held up in my right hand the bill and yelled out, “I have in my hand a bill for my electricity and it is 3 times the usual amount…This has GOT TO STOP! If we cannot come to some mutual understanding then we are going to have problem.” I then went on to explain that we have to share the space which my father and I developed from a vacant hillside to 4200 square feet of room for them to roam, and that it was not very fair that they were being so obnoxious and that they owed it to me in a sense that before there was nothing and now this…. I then said that if we could not come to an understanding that I would seek out the world’s best exorcist or spiritual house cleaner and have them removed from the house. As well as some basic ground rules for conduct here in my house. That is not to say that I don’t have objects move from room to room or disappear that happens now and then but the electric bill has been normal with one exception, the month that the show Ghost Adventures was here there was a bit of a spike in the electrical bill come to think of it.
I still have the knock at the front door and no one is there, the noises in the middle of the night when there is no reason for it. I just get used to it and call them out like unseen roommates. I get a kick out of it when I have “living” guests use the facilities and say I was in the bathroom going to the john when the faucet behind me turns itself on and me I have to laugh cause by now I am amused when “they” do something to someone else and not to me anymore.
I kinda miss the interaction with the spirits, but it still happens to me — just not as much. I also want to say that it has a lot to do with perception and point of view. You have two choices, to approach the situation from a place of “curiosity” or “fear.” If you react from a place of curiosity then you stand a better chance at staying calm and collected and try to understand or deal with the situation your confronted with… You can try to figure it out without panicking and freaking out. The other side is approaching it from a place of fear… Where you panic, you lose your ability to reason and freak out and run without even seeing what there is going on because you’re terrified by something that you’re not familiar with or have ever experienced before.
I choose to approach it from a place of curiosity rather than fear: The most important thing is you have more to fear from the living than you do the dead.
DC: I love that you’ve embraced this unusual situation and made a film – tell me, how did you get the crew and cast together? David Worth, and even an appearance by Lance Henriksen?! That’s uber-cool… I liked him in the movie (and the dog! He’s a great actor too).
DO: The job of getting the cast and crew together has a lot to do with my friendship with Executive Producer Paul Mason, who has a long storied career in Hollywood, Paul was a dear friend to my parents and I had known him for my entire life. I approached him mainly due to his involvement in working on the Amityville Horror films, and so I showed him my script. He decided that he liked the story and idea with the use of my house and we started to make the movie.
That statement, “Make the movie” is so, so misleading in itself… We went into preproduction, which if you have not worked in the movie industry is the beginning of it all. We sat down and started to go through names of people, first were directors; we went through about 10 names and began the process of contacting them and talking the story. More times than not, we had conflicts with schedules and prior commitments. We then ended up with David Worth who had worked with Paul and had worked as Director of Photography as well, which was the next person on our list. We decided to go with David to cover both DP and director responsibilities, which was a relief because there usually is some tension between the DP and director, or a conflict of styles. We then found our second most important person, Lawreen Yakeel, our line producer, without whom the rest of the crew’s assembly would have taken much longer to do.
I was instrumental in bringing some of the talent to the movie through my friendships and associations. I knew Angela Jones for a few years, she you might remember played a memorable role in Pulp Fiction as Esmeralda Via Lobos who drove Bruce Willis from the boxing match where he had just killed the other boxer. I had her read for the Felicia character and liked her immediately for the part. I then wanted to get a season veteran actor to reprise the role of one of my contract laborers who had a very wild experience while the house was being constructed back in 2001. I knew Lance from him being married to my family’s close friend. I had known Lance for many years and at a dinner party I mentioned that I had written a script based on my experiences living in a haunted house. He was intrigued and I mentioned that I had a role for him, a small role but a very important person whose experience was being re-told verbatim in the movie and he said, Tell me about it. After he heard it he said, “I’m in.” At the shoot he knocked it out of the park, just about as perfect as it gets for me. He was done in under 20 minutes what I found so amusing was that after he was finished, I found him hanging out with my on-set psychics, Michael and Krista Wamback for the next two hours just talking about spirituality.
Meantime, I am running downstairs where the makeup room is and there is Lance just hanging out with them chatting and I’m like, “Hey, Lance — is everything all right? I just want you to know you did a great job on your part…” He said, “Yeah everything is fine, I’m just talking to your friends Krista and Michael… Go on with your movie.” I was like, “OK get back to things…” Got to be one of my favorite days of the shoot was having Lance here. I can’t tell you what a smile it brings to my face to remember that day, it was special because that is what Lance brings to the set, a certain calm, steady professionalism that is uniquely Lance. I was so pleased with what he gave me performance-wise. I cannot thank him enough; it was perfect.
A later addition to the crew was A-list Hollywood composer Alan Howarth, who I met through a friend of mine, Anthony Ferrante (of Sharknado fame), and Alan liked the movie so much that he wanted to lend a hand to the score and sound design and was instrumental in helping in both areas.
Let me not forget to mention my personal favorite actor of all, the role played by my own dog Sebastian, the Rhodesian Ridgeback who at 10 made his film debut as… Sebastian! He’s David King’s loyal companion in the movie. He was such a ham that during the takes he whined on command and in the beginning, we have a shot of him darting a sorrowful look at David. He whined without prompting, and it stayed in the film without any audio dub. He did the same behavior in the film as in real life, specifically he used to go ballistic barking and howling at the front door as if someone were there and after I opened the door, only to find there would be no one there. Now, most dogs you might say bark all the time, but Ridgebacks are known not to bark unless there is a threat to the house and he was 100% typical of the breed. He was an asset in my cast and all crew who at first had their doubts about his ability being a regular house dog were soon pleased that he was such a professional, and not a diva either!
DC: That’s awesome. When my friends and I saw your movie at Shockfest, we all agreed the dog was a great addition to the cast – we had no idea he was your actual dog! So… What’s one of the more compelling stories you were able to translate from your real life into the reel life of the movie?
DO: The movie has several scenes that are directly taken from real life, the most interesting one is the scene that Lance Henriksen reprises of one of my contract laborers who had this wild experience during the construction of my house. It was told to me six months before the house was finished. I assembled the five laborers and asked them if they any of them had any weird experiences while they were working on the house. One of them raises his hand and said, “Six months ago, the walls are up and the A/C is in, but it’s not hooked up. it’s mid-July and about 6pm it’s about 85 degrees and I am working on the 3rd floor doing some work, and everybody else is gone. I hear the sound of voices and footsteps of people walking on the top floor so I go upstairs figuring it’s you and your father coming to check on the house. So I go upstairs to see and there’s no one there. I walk out onto the front of the house and look up and down the drive and there’s not even a car there…I go back downstairs and get back to finishing what I was doing and 5 minutes later I hear the voices and footsteps coming from upstairs again, so I grab a hammer and run upstairs and get to the top floor and check out the entire floor and again outside and now the 2nd floor and still there is nothing there. So I decide to go back downstairs and pack my things up cause I’ve had enough…I get downstairs and as I’m packing my things up and I hear the sound of footsteps coming down the staircase and they’re getting louder and louder so I tuck my ass behind door next to the landing. They got so loud it sounded like they were almost to the bottom of the spiral staircase. It got so loud it sounded like it got to the bottom and just stopped, I rushed out to the landing and there was nothing there…Not a thing, then it happened, I felt a freezing cold breeze just on the back of my neck two inches wide, made the hairs on my neck stand straight up now that was it, I just ran up the stairs and did not come back for three weeks.” I remembered that cause I had to install the tiles in the master bath because I was impatient and wanted to finish the master bath…to this day the tiles in the bath look a bit a skew and have my amateurish touch.
DC: What’s the enduring fascination with the Manson-Tate Murders? There are lots of heinous crimes, and crimes involving the murders and mysterious deaths of Hollywood darlings, so why, in your opinion, is it this one that continues to compel the curious?
DO: I think that some of the fascination around the murders that unlike so many other famous sensational murders has a lot to do with many things. Sharon Tate was a famous actress, 8 and half months pregnant, 26 years old, beautiful as can be, she had a sweet innocence and vulnerability and sexiness as well. She was just beginning to attain some success in both her personal life and career. She was married to a successful movie director, they were young and so in love. People around the world loved Sharon, she had that certain special quality; she was real. It was set in a most epic period in modern history the late 1960s, a time of peace love and harmony with a ragging war in Vietnam and she was living in the hills around Hollywood, where the deer and wildlife still walked in the neighborhoods nicely tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The last place you would expect such diabolical heinous murders to happen.
I think that way in which they were all butchered and murdered with such utter disregard for human life that it captivated the attention of the public and as I believe as others have said, it was the death-knell of the innocence of the flower power of late 1960s and the Age of Aquarius. The fact that Charles Manson was spending time with Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys as well others in both the music and the entertainment business is also of some intrigue. That the Beatles in some way were of great influence to Manson as well, baffles a lot of people too. The first book to chronicle the murders and trial, Helter Skelter, has a lot to do with the initial interest and impression of the murders and that it burned into the collective memory of the world about the tragedy of the six lives lost that night at the hands of Manson and his followers.
There’s also the celebrity angle about the murders and the “Hollywood Hit List” of those who were targeted or marked for death by Manson. As well as the many statements of famous people who claim that they were supposed to be there at Sharon’s home the night of the murders for a “party” and by some strange coincidence they were not there and that ended up saving their lives. The rumors that the neighbors said that they heard nothing of the screams of the victims as they were slaughtered, giving rise to the idea that supernatural forces were at play that night. Some people are interested in trying to understand how Manson could have such influence over these kids, to the point that four people would go and commit these murders. That he was able to control, manipulate or plain ask these people to do it without any question or second thought with such blind faith, it still boggles the mind.
I think that those are some of the reasons that I concur with why it is still such a topic of discussion almost 45 years later. I keep coming back to these people all had viable lives ahead of them and that even seldom mentioned Steven Parent who was 18 years old, just out of high school with his whole life ahead of him, just the wrong place at the wrong time, he is one who is an example of the tragedy of the whole murder… They had the rest of their lives ahead of them and were cut short in midstream. I think that sums it up.
DC: When can we expect to see the movie, and who would you say is your best audience? I mean, like is for horror freaks, true crime hounds, drama fans…?
DO: Regarding when the public can expect to see, House at the End of the Drive, in theaters, I would like to say sometime later this year. I am presently working on getting a small domestic theatrical release and let the audience take it from there. The audience that I think will enjoy this movie is made up of some horror, who-dunnit, paranormal/ghost types and a large group who like original stories. It has some scary scenes that you don’t see coming and the so my thinking is horror fans who like the Twilight Zone will really find lots to wrap their minds around. The twisted horror fans will enjoy the blood and splatters as well. The who-dunnit crowd will like the fact that you have to watch from beginning to end as things that take place in the beginning come back in the middle and are answered in the end. I think that it will have a wide appeal to many audiences.
For more information visit the House at the End of the Drive website.
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