The titular setting to Crimson Peak may be fictional, but plenty of horror locations can be visited in real life

By Drew Mackie
Updated October 19, 2015 06:20 PM
Credit: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

It’s may be cliché to say a given movie’s setting is a character in of itself, but nonetheless it’s often true when talking about the creepy locations of scary movies. This past week, the film Crimson Peak opened in theaters. The titular mansion – Allerdale Hall, colloquially known as Crimson Peak – seems designed to creep you out, even when there’s nothing explicitly scary happening.

Fortunately, Crimson Peak is not a location you can visit in real life. However, there are a few famous settings to scary (and scary-ish) movies that you can visit, should you chose to blatantly disregard the experiences of the fictional characters who have met bad ends inside them.

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a list of movies whose settings have some sort of real-life location you can check out in person – though whether you should is a more complicated matter entirely. (Lest we forget: The poor woman who owns the Goonies house in Astoria, Oregon, had to take measures to fight off fans of the film who came to have a look at the place in real life. Let’s be polite in our fandom, friends.)

1. The House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Why is it scary? A campy horror flick featuring Vincent Price as a kook who throws a party in a haunted house. Original screenings included a plastic skeleton rigged up on a pulley system that would fly out at audiences to scare them, if that gives you an idea what kind of movie this is.

Where is the house? The exterior you see in the trailer that looks like a Legend of Zelda dungeon actually exists to this day in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. In real life, it’s the Ennis House, which was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and built in 1924. In addition, the site has also appeared in Blade Runner, Day of the Locust, Twin Peaks and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, among other works.

Should you go? The Ennis House was purchased in 2011, but you can still get a good look at it just walking by the outside. A condition of the sale is that the home will be open for public viewing 12 days a year.

2. Psycho (1960)

Why is it scary? Physical structures have never before or since stood in as such great symbols of a young man’s unhealthy fixation on sex.

Where is the house? Easy peasy – it’s at Universal Studios, where it’s been part of the tour of the premises for decades even though the actual Bates home is (1) just a faˆade and (2) has been extensively rebuilt, remodeled and otherwise reworked over the years. It’s presumable that taxidermy enthusiast Norman Bates would approve.

Should you go? Yes, if you’re down to pay the price of a Universal backlot tour, though in true Hollywood fashion, the version of the home you see during your visit may be a remodeled, redone version of the one you remember from the last time you went.

3. The Haunting (1963)

Why is it scary? Based on the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House, the movie concerns four strangers spending a few sleepless nights in a grand mansion with a murderous history.

Where is the house? Ettington Hall, located in Warwickshire, England, served as the exterior of Hill House. It’s a gorgeous neo-Gothic home, and yes, the real-life building has its own history of ghost sightings.

Should you go? Sure, if you can spring for a ticket. It’s now the Ettington Park Hotel, and unlike many of the buildings on this list, the owners of this one would be happy to host you – for the right price.

4. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Why is it scary? No movie has so successfully translated the anxiety about first-time motherhood as well as the uncertainty of a woman’s place in society in quite the same way as Rosemary’s Baby. Also, it has the creepiest old people ever.

Where is the house? The “house,” in this case is the Bramford, an imposing but nonetheless fancy apartment building in Manhattan. In real life, the Bramford’s exteriors were supplied by the Dakota, a real-life fancy-but-imposing apartment building that happens to be the final home of John Lennon and the place where he was murdered.

Should you go? If you’re in the area, you should. Dating back to 1880, the building has a ton of history, but don’t expect any of the current residents – witches or otherwise – to invite you in.

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5. The Amityville Horror (1979)

Why is it scary? Both the 1979 original, with James Brolin and Margot Kidder, and the 2005 remake, with Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George, concern the Lutz family moving into the Long Island home where a previous resident killed his family. It doesn’t go well.

Where is it? The movies were based on real events but filmed around homes that had been remodeled to look like the one in which the murders actually happened. Both feature those “evil eye” windows. The real home, located in Amityville, New York, no longer boasts the creepy windows and seems far tamer than the movies would have you believe. It’s been bought and sold several times since the murders, but all owners report that it was a nice place to live.

Should you go? People do sometimes come to gawk, but we say nah – it’s someone’s home. Leave them be.

6. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Why is it scary? Not a scary movie, exactly, but certainly one that revels in the tropes of haunted house films. This rock musical just recently turned 40 years old, BTW.

Where is the house? Frankenstein Place, the home of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and his staff of weirdos, is quite lovely in person. It’s Oakley Court, a Victorian Gothic mansion that was built in 1895 in Berkshire, England.

Should you go? Sure! Pack those bags! But also save up some money, too, because Oakley Court is today operated as a luxury hotel that embraces its long history as a film set – for Rocky Horror as well as other horror films.

7. Halloween (1978)

Why is it scary? The film that brought slasher movies into the mainstream, Halloween serves as a parable for senseless evil invading even the most innocent, suburban landscapes in the form of escaped mental patient Michael Myers.

Where is the house? Even though the film takes place in Haddonfield, Illinois, the number of palm trees glimpsed in the background might tip you off that Halloween was filmed in California. In real life, Michael Myers’ spooky home stands in South Pasadena, California, and the site has subsequently become a horror fan mecca.

Should you go? Yes, but only for a quick walk through some of the most California-looking environs to pass as the Midwest.

8. Poltergeist (1982)

Why is it scary? The Freeling family moves into a tract home to discover that they’re not the only occupants: some angry souls are also there, and they have an unhealthy interest in the family’s young daughter, Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke). Could it be a metaphor for the horrors of life in the suburbs?

Where is the house? Though the film takes place in Agoura Hills, the house used in Poltergeist actually stood in Simi Valley, California – and despite what the end of the film would have you believe, it didn’t get sucked into oblivion. It’s still there.

Should you go? Again, real people live there now, and they’re probably not too interested in hearing about your recollections about the movie. However, you can apparently drive through the neighborhood filming locations easily enough.

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Why is it scary? Oh, just this whole thing where an undead murderer was stalking kids in the one state in which they were most vulnerable: their sleep. No biggie.

Where is the house? Located just off Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood, the house occupied by heroine Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) proved to be far hipper than A Nightmare on Elm Street would have you believe. The home sold in 2013 for more than $2 million.

Should you go? You should walk by only to have a look at what $2 million will net you in the Los Angeles real estate market.

10. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Why is it scary? This thriller makes viewers consider a universe in which Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) isn’t just a crazy serial killer; he’s just the crazier of two serial killers. Eek.

Where is the house? Among the many locations used in Silence of the Lambs was an unusual but beautiful home that served as the lair of Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), the non-hannibal Lector serial killer in the film. The owners of the Fayette County, Pennsylvania, home built a life here long before location scouts approached them about serial killers, but they put the house on the market this past August.

Should you go? It’s a little out of the way. How badly do you want to re-create scenes between Bill and his “precious” captive?

11. Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

Why is it scary? The series of Japanese horror movies concerns a house cursed by the lingering bad mojo of a string of murders: Anyone who enters the house ends up becoming part of the curse. Bad times, all around. Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in an English-language remake of the film in 2004.

Where is the house? Though the Gellar remake of The Grudge rebuilt the house on a soundstage, the original Japanese films were shot on and around a real house in Tokorozawa, in Japan’s Saitama prefecture. The Saeki House is rather unassuming from the outside, but the success of the movies – all eight of them, not counting the three English language ones – has made the hard-to-find house a destination for fans.

Should you go? If you can actually find it, sure. The neighborhood is described as a maze of small alleys and similar-looking houses, but these two super fans seemed ridiculously stoked to finally locate the Saeki House.

12. American Horror Story (2011)

Why is it scary? True, AHS is not a movie, but we’d be remiss if we talked about famous works revolving around scary homes and didn’t mention the TV series’s first season. In it, the Harmon family movies into an L.A. home with a storied history to which they quickly become the latest chapter.

Where is the house? Located in the Arlington Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Murder House is in real life the Rosenheim Mansion, a 1902 Tudor-style stunner that sold in March 2015 for $3.2 million. A photo tour by HGTV reveals that the interiors seen in the pilot are just as beautiful as in real life – but minus all the ghosts.

Should you go? You could probably stroll by and catch an eyeful from the sidewalk, but we wouldn’t recommend doing much besides that. However, the website offers an extensive list of locations used during the show’s first season.

13. Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Why is it scary? The first film is scary enough, but the second film builds on the mythology behind the spooks haunting Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne’s characters. These people can’t catch a break.

Where is the house? You can visit both houses that the central family occupies in the first film, but it’s the setting of Insidious: Chapter 2 that bears mention. The Smith Estate (aka “El Mio”) is an 1887 Victorian home located in Highland Park, Los Angeles. This spot was previously the shooting location of the 1968 film Spider Baby, the opening credits for which should quickly tell you whether this is a film you would want to watch.

Should you go? It’s privately owned, but Victorian homes kept in such good condition are basically begging to be gawked at – from a respectable distance, of course.