Reviewed by Elaine Lamkin
Starring Rosemary Ellen Guiry, Keith Age, John Zaffis, Kathy Reno
Directed by The Booth Brothers
Distributed by Spooked Television Releasing
Back in the sweltering hot summer of 2004, two decidedly eccentric (but in a good way) Brits descended on Louisville, Kentucky to shoot a horror film in our local abandoned tuberculosis sanatorium, Waverly Hills. That film, Death Tunnel, while creepy because of its setting, was rather overlooked by most horror fans. But the Booth Brothers, Philip Adrian Booth and Christopher Saint Booth, seemed to find their calling. To investigate and document ghostly happenings all over the US.
After shooting Death Tunnel, the Booth Brothers went on to shoot one more feature film, Shadow Box (2005), which was the very last film of actor Matthew McGrory (The Devil’s Rejects, House of 1000 Corpses), before they took the plunge into documentary filmmaking. First up was a documentary ON the ghosts of Waverly Hills, Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills (2006), which had some seriously creepy moments (I have been to Waverly and can attest to the…eerie-ness…of the place). This was followed by Children of the Grave (2007), which dealt with child hauntings, abandoned orphanages and cemeteries, shadow children, poltergeist, etc. It was while working on this documentary that the Booth Brothers first heard about the Watseka, Illinois haunting. This became their current film, The Possessed (2008).
I will admit that this is one of the weirder hauntings I have ever heard about: a young girl named Mary Roff, from Watseka, after years of violent behavior, “fits”, self-mutilation, etc., was commited by her family to an insane asylum in Peoria, Illinois, where she died at the age of 19 on July 5, 1865. Twelve years later a young girl, also from Watseka, Lurancy Vennum, began exhibiting the same behavior as Mary did years before. But before her family could have her committed, on January 31, 1878, Asa Roff, Mary’s father, visited the Vellum family and convinced tham not to commit their daughter. He was convinced that Mary Roff had possessed young Lurancy Vennum. Interestingly, the Vennum family had no knowledge of Mary Roff and her trials as Mary had died 7 years before, when Lurancy was barely a year old, plus the Vennum family didn’t move to Watseka until Lurancy was 7 years old. But on July 11, 1877, the same violent, bizarre behavior Mary had exhibited years before started manifesting itself with Lurancy. And things got even weirder.
The Booth Brothers tell the entire story of Mary Roff and Lurancy Vellum in their documentary. They travel to Watseka, Illinois to film at the actual Roff and Vellum homes. They even interview a great-niece of Lurancy’s who remembered that no one was to talk about what happened to Aunt ‘Rancy all those years before. Various paranormal experts were brought in to assist: Rosemary Ellen Guiry, PhD in Paranormal Studies, Keith Age from the Louisville Ghost Hunters Association, John Zaffis, a demonologist who consulted on the Amityville Horror case, Kathy Reno of the fascinating Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri (I want to check THAT place out!), the current owners of both the Vellum house and the Roff home as well as mediums, historians, and one gentleman who has created odd but apparently much-used “ghost hunter” equipment that can “talk” for the spirits.
I was fascinated by the documentary – the Booth Brothers have a wonderful knack for filming things in as creepy a way as possible and for recreating the historic events with period-correct actors. My biggest beef with The Possessed, though, was the interjection of modern-day people, mostly teenagers, who claimed they had been possessed. Just too jarring when you’re wrapped up in this 19th Century tale of possession. Plus, in my opinion, these 21st Century “victims” just didn’t seem very believable. Should have just left them out – the documentary was fascinating without them. However, there WAS some footage of the real “Emily Rose” (Anneliese Michel) that was chilling.
Believe in ghosts or not, the Booth Brothers do a terrific job researching the hauntings and finding people who can explain (or not) what happened. And they are very serious about their “ghost-hunting”. I have suggested to Philip and Christopher that they should tackle the Villisca Axe Murder House next (Google THAT one and read about it – brrrrrr!!), but they have so many projects, both together and separately, that it may be a while before we see the next haunting tale from the Booth Brothers.
So if you’re in the mood for something a bit different from your “everyday” haunting, check out The Possessed, and let’s hope the Booth Brothers do some more creepy documentaries soon.
4 out of 5
4 out of 5
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