© Brian Allan 2010
…Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster,
And if you gaze into the abyss the Abyss gazes also into you
Fredrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 1844-1900
The above astonishingly astute quotation from an observation made by the German philosopher, Wilhelm Nietzsche, on the risks of becoming involved with extremist causes and beings whose enmity knows no bounds, reflects with disturbing accuracy what occurred during the filming of a new supernatural mystery/drama, ‘The Stone’. What occurred on the set of ‘The Stone’ in many ways resonates with inexplicable incidents that occurred during the making of other films that dared to portray and confront some traditions and icons associated with the darker side of religious belief and spirituality. The most notorious films in this category, and which most certainly did gaze deeply into the abyss, were, arguably, ‘The Omen’ and another film that has been awarded the dubious accolade of one of the most terrifying ever made, ‘The Exorcist’. This last film was so accurate in its portrayal of both demonic possession and exorcism that it received the unreserved approval of Fr Gabriel Amorth, at one time the chief exorcist of the Vatican.
Before considering the unsettling events surrounding The Stone, we should briefly touch upon what occurred during the process of making one of the above-mentioned films. While ‘The Exorcist’ was in production, the grandfather of Max von Sydow (Fr Merrin) died of a heart attack. Individually this may have been nothing out of the ordinary, but when one factors in details like a total of nine people dying during filming in bizarre on set accidents, one of Linda Blair’s relatives died of a heart attack, as did the mother of Jason Millar (Fr Damien Karras), then a little more attention is justified. As if this was not enough, immediately following its cinema release, Jack McGovern (another actor featured in the production) died of a heart attack; were these just the result of bad luck or was something much more sinister afoot?
The reaction of paying audiences affected by the content of the film is also curious and alarming; there were authenticated cases of vomiting, fainting, people soiling themselves, heart attacks, spontaneous comas, some people were committed to psychiatric hospitals and there were even reports of sudden deaths. Perhaps the most telling and worrying statistic is the fact that at the last count in 2005, approximately 1500 people had died while watching this film. As a matter of interest, although still a legitimate and incredibly influential work; in Finland it is still utterly proscribed. I have to declare an interest here, when I first saw the film many years ago it affected me at a visceral level and in the years since I have been present at several exorcisms, from my own experiences, while this film is about as accurate as it gets, not all exorcisms are quite so demanding.
A worrying account indeed, but what of the events surrounding the production of ‘The Stone’, another film that dares to gaze into the unknown and perilous void of the abyss? Briefly, the plot of the film concerns a team of paranormal researchers who venture into an old building (which, incidentally, is not only a real location, but is also reputedly haunted) and the horrific events that unfold around them. Some of the events associated with the location (Annesley Hall) have been used as part of the story. Before proceeding further I have to gratefully acknowledge the fact that I was given exclusive access to the accounts and experiences of the director plus several members of the cast and crew and I have no doubt whatsoever of two things. One is that each of them was 100% sincere and the second is that they were genuinely alarmed by what they experienced. The concept behind the film came from fertile mind of the award winning documentary filmmaker, author and talk show host, Philip Gardiner. Given Philip’s keen interest in the esoteric and various strands of gnostic belief his choice of source material should come as no surprise, but even Philip could not have predicted what would occur as the film progressed.
The origins of the Hall date back to the 12th century, although its present form is attributable to a series of enlargements and modifications conducted in the 17th and 18th centuries rendering it more suitable to the needs of a large, prosperous, and thriving family and their, at the time indispensable, servants and retainers. Although the hall was named for its original builders, the Annseley family, it latterly became the property of the Chaworth-Musters and remained so until they sold it in 1973 and moved to nearby Felly Priory. The old building suffered damage in a fire in 1997 and is no longer inhabited and English heritage have it listed it in its ‘Buildings at Risk Register’ as of ‘high vulnerability and deteriorating’ and the current owners evidently have no plans to carry out any refurbishments. This, however, had no impact on the invisible residents who never left and who seem to have been disturbed by the arrival of the cast and crew while making the film.
The spirits who allegedly haunt the building, which was home to a lover (Mary Chaworth) of the notorious hell raising poet Lord Byron, include a female servant (Elizabeth) who supposedly became pregnant by one of the owners and hung herself after being spurned by her haughty suitor. Curiously enough, but perhaps predictably, there is an 18th century account telling of a duel fought in front of the house between the then Lord Chaworth and the uncle of Lord Byron, which resulted in the death of Lord Chaworth. The shade of the unfortunate loser in the duel is also allegedly seen in the same location. Another frequently observed ghost is that of an old man who is seen as a black figure wandering aimlessly as if searching for something. There are also a number of other spectral figures that have been observed from time to time in the building. One particular area of note is the former wine cellar, which was at one time used as a mortuary holding the bodies of the newly deceased prior to funeral services being held in the nearby chapel, we shall hear more of the wine cellar a little later.
According to my information the unnatural events began from the first scene on day one of the shoot, a process that lasted for seven consecutive days, and they affected everyone present to some degree. What follows are the accounts of some of the actors and a stunt man present during the shoot. Wes Dolan (an actor) recounts that he was present when the director, Philip Gardiner’s mobile phone rang during a scene, the phone call came from an actress who was in the scene Phil was directing. She did not have her phone with her at the time and when checked later it was switched off. Wes also says that his phone went flat within half an hour of arriving on set despite being fully charged that morning, (the standby time for most mobile phones is approx 80 hours). As we shall see, electromagnetic anomalies were often noticed as the filming progressed. Finally, Wes also reported that he ‘felt something’ brush past him as he waited for a scene to begin.
There was another incident relating to a mobile phone, this time belonging to a musician, Corjan, who wrote to score for the film. It is interesting to note that almost all of the mobile phones belonging to actors on the shoot were, to say the least, unreliable and problematic. However, while Corjan was back at the hotel used by the cast and crew, he was in his room taking a shower when his phone suddenly burst into life and started playing a tune at about a tenth the normal speed so that the words came out at a very low pitch. He likened it to the typical ‘voice’ used in many horror films when portraying the voice of demons or those possessed and not surprisingly he was alarmed. There was nothing wrong with the phone and it was fully charged, although unlike a tape, CD or record, the state of charge should have no effect on how an MP3 file plays, it either plays or it does not.
Simon Dulay (another actor) reports that he took a picture of an upstairs window and in the image there is what he believes to be a figure standing looking out through the glass. He also reports that he felt the hairs on is neck stand up for no obvious reason when he and an actress, Suzy, went into the cellar and former mortuary. He also felt something touching him and there was also the strong impression that the ambient temperature dropped rapidly when this occurred, although Suzy did not experience this. However, both of them had the distinct impression of being continually watched while in the cellar. Simon also observed that the electric kettle in the office belonging to the gardener kept boiling spontaneously even when switched off, it was eventually unplugged. Significantly, there was no obvious problem with the kettle (or the thermostat) after this event.
Suzy D (an actress) reports that in addition to her encounters in the cellar with Simon Dulay, she was standing near to the laundry room where the unfortunate Elizabeth hung herself (Suzy actually recreates the grisly hanging scene in the film) when a series of unsettling events occurred. She was chatting to two crew members, Rob and Dick, describing a photograph of the area in which she was sure she could discern an image of the dead girl and reading from an article about the dead Elizabeth, when, with no warning, the main door slammed violently shut. There was no wind and the door was solid and very heavy, when this occurred her phone froze on the image she was describing. She is adamant that all the photos of the Hall currently on her camera ‘play up’ as she puts it, and even now some of them will not download or the phone simply ‘freezes’.
There is also the account of one of the stuntmen employed on the film. One of them, Nick Spencer, comments that during a hazardous ‘stair fall’ he was injured by a metal bracket lying on one of the stairs. This could be attributed to carelessness except for one thing; the stair had been meticulously checked, tread-by-tread, before the fall and had even been swept from top to bottom the stuntman involved; these guys leave nothing to chance. The fall had been done twice, but it was on the third and final fall that the bracket appeared and injured Nick’s leg. No one else had been on the stair other than Nick and he did not carry the bracket with him or place it so that he could fall on it. Some kind of poltergeist influence perhaps?
Another incident involving Nick occurred while shooting a ‘lake fall’ when he prepared a ‘fall’ into a lake, which is on the estate. According to Nick, the section of lake selected is about eight feet deep with approximately three feet of silt and sludge on the bottom. Every time he fell into the water it seemed as if he was being physically dragged down into it and prevented to climbing out. The following day the gardener swam from exactly the same spot with no untoward feelings or unearthly hindrance. Some research indicates that at least four people including a child have drowned in the lake. Could Nick’s uneasy encounters have been the result of some spirits aggrieved at the presence of an interfering film crew, or was this something else?
Story continues here: http://www.ufomoviesonline.com/article/hex-bizarre-and-alarming-genesis-stone