The 1986 horror classic House, directed by Steve Miner and produced by Sean S. Cunningham, is coming to Blu-ray for the first time ever, along with it’s quirky sequel House II: The Second Story. Both films feature some very familiar faces from the 80s, including William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Bill Maher, and John Ratzenberger. The creature effects are creative and iconic. The story was based on a 15-page Twilight Zone script written by Fred Dekker, the writer and/or director behind some all-time favorites like Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad, and a handful of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt episodes, as well as The Predator coming in 2018.
But the real stars of these films, as you can glean from their titles, are the huge and massively creepy haunted houses in which these epic battles against supernatural evil take place. Though interiors were built on sound stages, the houses used for exterior shots for both films are real and have fascinating histories.
Let’s take a look:
HOUSE: Mills View Mansion, Monrovia, CA
This Eastlake style mansion was built in 1887 as a wedding gift for Milton Monroe, whose father the town of Monrovia was named after, and his wife Mary. The couple later divorced and, in 1899, Milton was killed tragically in a railroad accident at the age of 33.
When Col. John H. Mills retired from public service in 1983, he and his wife Elizabeth bought the mansion. On a clear day they could see Catalina Island from the third floor windows, which is how the house got it’s name. But just three months after moving in, the colonel died of heart failure. Elizabeth continued to live there until her death in 1905. The house had a handful of owners after that, and was up for sale as recently as 2015.
Including House, Mills View has apparently been used in 20 productions since 1980. It can also be seen in a 1992 episode of Picket Fences, in which I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as ominous. While it may not have any real ghosts, I would still be cautious of the closets at midnight. And maybe try to avoid the upstairs bathroom medicine cabinet.
HOUSE II: Stimson House, Los Angeles, CA
The imposing stone mansion from House II, which looks more like a medieval fortress than a swanky Los Angeles abode, was built in 1891 for lumber and banking millionaire Thomas Douglas Stimson. When the “Red Castle” was completed, the Los Angeles Times wrote that it was “the costliest and most beautiful private residence in Los Angeles.” But, of course, that kind of notoriety often comes with a price. A private detective attempting to blackmail Stimson bombed the residence in 1896. The explosion tore a hole in the wall, but even dynamite couldn’t bring the house down.
Stimson died of heart disease in 1898. His widow lived in the house until her death in 1904. Beer baron Edward R. Maier bought the house, moved his family in, and used the labyrinthine, catacomb-like basement to store wine and other spirits. In the 1940s it served as a fraternity house for USC’s rowdy Pi Kappa Alpha. After years of loud parties and other annoyances, neighbor Carrie Estelle Doheny bought the house from the fraternity and donated it to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet for use as a convent. From 1969 to 1993 the sisters allowed Mount St. Mary’s College to use it as school housing. The nuns moved back in the fall of 1993, just before the Northridge earthquake of 1994 shook California and caused considerable damage to the house.
In a 1976 episode of The Bionic Woman called “Black Magic,” the Stimson House became the location of a remote island home for Vincent Price‘s wealthy inventor character. Price later returned to the house to utilize it’s acoustics for some of his own productions.
The house also appeared in the 1989 horror anthology After Midnight, as a mortuary in the series Pushing Daisies, and most recently in an episode of Mad Men.
I’m guessing the original blueprints did not include alternate dimensions like the prehistoric jungle bedroom or the Mayan temple, but I like to think they’re in there somewhere.