Tag Archives: poltergeist

Your Favorite Supernatural Movie: THE SIXTH SENSE

International Screenwriters' AssociationBy Scott Markus

For my day job, working with the International Screenwriters’ Association, I asked our membership to tell me what they feel is the most well-written supernatural movie.  I defined this as ghost story movies, demon, exorcism, possession and witchcraft movies.  I posited the same question on our WhatsYourGhostStory Facebook page.  (Also, if you are a writer, I highly suggest clicking the logo above and joining our free online community for writers)  The plan was to then do a blog post on the leading vote-getter, YOUR favorite supernatural script:

Well, the many votes are in when it comes to your picks for the best written supernatural movie.  I have to say, my favorite thing about how the open voting went was what a wide range of films and eras were covered.  However, the stand out winner was “The Sixth Sense.”  I was a little surprised that “Exorcist” or one of my personal favorites, “Poltergeist,” didn’t get more love.  That said, it’s hard to argue against “The Sixth Sense.”  For one, it was a box office sensation, bringing in $672.8 million internationally in 1999.  Domestically, it did nearly double the business as “The Matrix” in the same year, so you know it reached a lot of people.

“The Sixth Sense” set the bar during a great a year for supernatural films in America.  Its $293.5M domestic take easily beat experimental indie phenom “The Blair Witch Project” ($140.5M), “Sleepy Hollow” ($101M), “The Haunting” $91.4, “Stigmata” ($50M), “House on Haunted Hill” ($40.8M) and the tragically unheralded “Stir of Echoes” ($21.1M).

Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes, Blair Witch Project, International Screenwriters Association, Stigmata, horror movies, best ghost story movies, house on haunted hill, the haunting, Sleepy Hollow

Honestly, this might be a hall of fame year for spooky cinema.  So, how did “The Sixth Sense” stand out in such a crowded pack?

DJ MacHale interview with the International Screenwriters' Association. Creator of Are you Afraid of the Dark, the Pendragon YA series & Flight 29 Down.

We’ll all jump to that “you gotta see it to believe it” twist, which M. Night credits to great storytelling in an episode of DJ MacHale’s “Are You Afraid of the Dark.”  Listen to DJ talk about “The Sixth Sense” with ISA’s Max Timm by clicking on the image to the left (the portion that discusses “The Sixth Sense” starts at 53:30).

However, that twist is meaningless if we haven’t gotten fully involved with our characters.  Even in the trailer, you can see a tremendous amount of character development and you get a feel, not just for the adventure that the characters are embarking on, but how they are handling the challenges that they’re tasked with.  Re-live that trailer here:

Even from the trailer, a you can see the characters dealing with the weight and difficulty of their challenges.  Of course, you can’t deny the quality of the acting performances as well.

While the premise, the world and the depth of the characters are important, there are a million times where this film could’ve fallen apart.  Writer/Director, M Night Shyamalan talks about how he early on had to establish the “rules” of the story to make sure continuity and believability tracked throughout the script.

This is a great way to think about approaching any script.  “The Sixth Sense” has an element of fantasy in it because we are dealing with the supernatural and concepts that are only theory.  So, it’s easy to see how the writer would benefit from creating a set of rules for their story and character to live by.  But why limit it to fantasy?  Our stories and characters all have plot hurdles and personality flaws that they need to address before the story can end and the character arcs can complete.  Why not think of our scripts in the terms of “rules that cannot be broken” unless some other need is addressed that allows for change to happen logically?

Whether it’s “The Sixth Sense,” “Ghost Story,” “The Changeling,” “The Innocents,” “The Eye,” “The Others,” or one of the other great supernatural films, the only real difference is the setting/world/arena and the specific second act adventure activities.  Otherwise, it’s all about solid script writing as usual.

Editor’s Note:  My personal top five favorite supernatural films include the original Thai version of the Pang Brothers film “The Eye,” “Poltergeist,” “Stir of Echoes,” “The Conjuring” and “Rosemary’s Baby.”

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Fall Event Schedule!

Sept 9-11: The Hollywood Show, Rosemont, Il (hollywoodshow.com)

Sept 10: Screening of “Cry Baby” and signing with star, Amy Locane, Woodridge, Il  (hollywoodblvdcinema.com)

Sept 16: Investigation

Sept 17: Lake/McHenry Ghost Adventure, Long Grove, Il (facebook.com/events/508522306014679) 7-hour tour through some of the most haunted places in Lake and McHenry County with Ursula Bielski and Chicago Hauntings.

Sept 24: Private Event

Sept 28: Archeologist Dan Melone speaking on the topic of his work on Robinson Woods Indian Burial Grounds (one of my favorite sites).  This will be held at the Norwood Park Historical Society. (norwoodparkhistoricalsociety.org/events/events16.html)

TBA: Appearance on “Pretty Late,” WGN AM-720

Oct. 1: Investigation

Oct. 6: Investigation

Oct 7-9: Chicago Ghost Conference / Dark Shores 2016, Willow Springs, Il (chicagoghosts.com/conference.html) A full weekend of great presenters and parties.  I will be on hand to talk about some of the research I’ve been doing in Los Angeles including talking about Linda Vista Hospital, the haunted house near the site of the Tate/Manson murders, the Formosa Cafe hauntings along Hollywood Blvd and possibly Pasadena’s “famed” suicide bridge. Amazingly, this event will be held at one of Resurrection Mary’s favorite locations, the Willowbrook Ballroom.

Oct 10: Private Event

Oct 13: Special hosted screening of “Poltergeist”  Details are TBD at this point.

Oct 15-16: Milwaukee ParaCon, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus (milwaukeeparacon.com).  I will be on hand with Jay Bachochin, one of my partners in crime in creating the documentary “The Hidden Truth?” which chronicled the mysterious series of drownings in LaCrosse, WI, the possible paranormal connections and the investigation that followed.  We will be meeting and greeting while sharing stories of ghosts and Jay’s ongoing search for Bigfoot.

Oct 20: Third Thursday, Los Angeles, Ca (link TBA) Free panel discussion with filmmakers followed by a mixer/cocktail party.  Admission is free, but RSVP required.  Sponsored by the International Screenwriters’ Association (networkisa.org)

Oct 21: Haunted Chronicles, online (paramaniaradio.com/SHOW.php?showid=66) Live radio show, I’ll be talking about haunted sites with Jennifer Runyon Corman & Jimmy Haunted.

Do you need a speaker for your event?  I’ll be in the Midwest until Oct 17, then I’ll be in California starting Oct 21.  Drop me a line and I’ll come tell stories at your Halloween party/company party, etc.!


Surviving (and ENJOYING) Jury Duty in Downtown LA!

I recently had the experience of having to do jury duty and…. had a great time!  I am one of those “lucky” people who have actually gotten called for jury duty three times in the last three years.  Yes, I have gotten out of it in the past with legitimate reasons I was unable to serve.  This time, however, I gave it a go.  Okay, I did try to get out of it a few times until it got to the point that trying to get out of jury duty was more of a nuisance than actually serving jury duty.
So, to show off the bright spots of jury duty and to provide you with a jury duty survival guide, I wanted to create this post.  If you’re on this site, I imagine you are interested in ghost stories, local history, crime history, Los Angeles and visiting museums.  If you keep an eye on these themes, then serving jury duty is downright exciting!  I know that sounds like BS, but stay with me here.

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The first part of jury duty and truly the only part that most people experience is being in the “jury pool.”  It’s just a big waiting room full of people hanging out.  Honestly, is that so bad?  Most people keep themselves busy with their iPads, phones, laptops, etc.  There is Wi-Fi, so it’s not a bad way to get some work done.  I, on the other hand, did a lot of reading.  I got deep into a fascinating book on the Prohibition era that deserve its own blog entry.  However, if you are serving jury duty in downtown LA, I would strongly suggest reading “A Bright and Guilty Place: Murder, Corruption & LA’s Scandalous Coming of Age.”  This amazing book covers the frequently lawless and corrupt age of life in Los Angeles, a town that was growing faster than its infrastructure was ready for. The book covers topics like the Castaic Damn disaster and Clara Bow’s blackmail case.
Back to jury duty.  Each day you get a 90-minute lunch.  That’s crazy!  What’s more crazy is that most people stay local or even eat in the building.  In 90 minutes, you can walk to a lot of great places, taking a nice tour in the process.

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 photo 20150507_121159_zpsu7jdkx7v.jpgAfter giving quite a few tours and frequently losing tour members to Mr. Churro, I decided that this was finally my time to check the place out.  Leaving 210 W. Temple (pictured, top with the white Pico House building visible on the far right) and walking North up Spring Street, you get a lot of great views of the Pueblo de Los Angeles area (pictured directly above).  This is our destination and also where the city of Los Angeles was born.  On your left, you walk past the largest cement military memorial in all of America, a tribute to the Mormon Battalion and the site of Fort Moore (pictured right).
 photo 20150507_120952_zpsazqueuok.jpgCrossing the next overpass gives you a great perspective on exactly how much of the original Moore Hill (specifically the land that was Moore Hill Cemetery) was dug out to make room for the 101 freeway.  Yes, in a tale straight from the movie Poltergeist, a cemetery was moved (said bodies are now located in Rosedale Cemetery in the West Adams neighborhood, by the way).  Yes, there was a school (that crazy stainless steel building) that was built on a former cemetery and yes, that is a haunted building.  Bodies from the original cemetery were found on this site from the original cemetery as recently as 2009.
Continuing down Spring, you’ll eventually make a right at the corner of Spring and Ord.  This is the site where, not all that long ago really, LA was gripped by the possibility that huge quantities of buried treasure was hidden underground throughout LA.  Who put this treasure here?  A now extinct species of 6 foot tall reptiles, of course (this is a true and strange footnote in LA’s already strange enough history).

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Now turning the corner and heading through Chinatown, you get a nice look at the ornate dragons that keep watch over the neighborhood before walking a couple more blocks to Olivera Street.
 photo 20150507_122756_zpsrsl8r5gx.jpgGetting here has only taken about 15-20 minutes out of the 90 minute lunch, so there’s even time to visit the free Old Plaza Fire House museum (pictured left, with City Hall in the background on the right edge of frame), which is really not much of a museum, but you do get to enter one of the original fire stations in LA and see some of the vintage fire fighting gear and impressive photos of the LAFD in action through the years.
To read more about this haunted history of the Pueblo de Los Angeles including Pico House, the Avila Adobe (also a free location to visit) and La Gondoloria Resuaturant, check out my article here.
I grabbed my lunch to go (it did live up to the hype) and walked back to and past the courthouse building to have lunch in LA’s Grand Park.  It’s no Grant Park in Chicago or Central Park in New York, but the city has done a lot to create a gorgeous, large park right in the middle of this portion of the city.  In addition to a nice aesthetic, there are exhibits worth viewing including quotes and pictures from survivors the Armenian Genocide (pictured below, right with City Hall looming in the center of the image and the criminal courts building on the left).
 photo IMG_2695_zps5skjclan.jpgDay 1 ended with me actually getting assigned to a case.  Though most cases are only 1-2 days, this one was estimated to take 6 days if I was selected to the jury.  This was not a lock as I was one of about 50 people to make it to this stage.

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Day 2

My second day of jury duty started around 11am or so and after just 60 minutes of jury duty, it was time for my 90 minute lunch.  It’s amazing anything gets done, really.

Unfortunately, on this day it was raining, so I decided to see what fun I could have in the building. Unfortunately there is no top floor observation deck, but I did find a museum-caliber display covering both the 17th and 18th floor of the building. It’s amazing!
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The displays are floor-to-ceiling and do cover every lady square inch of the walls on the two floors. The display is a timeline of crime in LA (technically, it’s about the district attorney’s office, since we are on the floor the D.A. is on).

 photo 20150508_124844_zpsm7rham6o.jpgThe perspective is interesting, looking at the history of Los Angeles as it relates to crime, from the 1871 Chinese Massacre through the Griffith J. Griffith attempted murder case in 1903, the 1910 LA Times building bombing, Bugsy and Mickey’s Mafia control in the ’30s, the career-ruining Pantages trials the Manson Family trial, through the modern age of the LA Riots and the OJ trial.  Among the more well-known stories are some tremendous events that today are largely forgotten.
Did you know that there were sea battles just a few miles beyond the Santa Monica Pier between authorities and floating casinos?  It’s a saga that went on for years and somehow we haven’t seen a movie based on these events yet(?).  Tony Stralla’s name appears on these walls a couple of times.  Before he went on to create the Stardust Casino on the Vegas strip, he was a prohibition-era bootlegger and casino operator in the soutland.

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This location also ties in beautifully with the afore-mentioned book, “A Bright and Guilty Place,” as pretty much every event covered in the book also appears on these walls, as well as personalities like Dave Clark (an LA City prosecutor who got his hands dirty and bloody more than once) and Burton Fitts.
LA’s DA office is about to move to another building, so this exhibit will not be here forever, so whether or not you have jury duty, this is a public building, so make sure you make time soon to go up and walk these halls.
Another must-do in this area is check out the observation deck on the LA City Hall building located just across the street from the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, named after the first female lawyer on the west coast.
 photo dd5f032c-321b-439a-8a36-385a14e11d60_zpsni4d9tzn.jpgJury duty or not, this location offers some of the best views of downtown LA and is a must visit.  Sadly, the view towards the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory is frequently obscured by smog and other larger buildings in the area block some other ideal sites, but it’s still well worth the visit.  West Hollywood, the Brewery artists lofts and, much closer Broadway and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  This is specifically a way to handle jury duty here in downtown LA, but when it comes down to it, no matter where you are, you can find an interesting way to entertain yourself.  Turn it into an opportunity.  How often do you have 90 minutes to kill away from home?  We’re always in a rush nowadays and you can use this time to your personal benefit.  The fact that you’re also pridefully doing your duty as a US citizen…. also a nice perk.

First Annual ScareLA Convention!

This previous Sunday Los Angeles Hauntings had the pleasure of attending the first ever ScareLA convention. ScareLA is a event where people in the Halloween industry can meet up and swap ideas and share any tips or tricks. We had a great time at the event and met all types of people, mostly artists and haunted house builders, but also a paranormal group and a great historic society!

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The Los Angeles Hauntings at ScareLA began met Krampus… and we were well behaved enough not to get thrown in a river!! (Though maybe we were lucky that LA doesn’t have much water…)

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Connor got distracted by the early halloween candy, almost lost her hand to this “Handy” Guillotine made by Mesmeric Creative

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Dapper Cadaver made fake corpses that were a little too close to the Black Dahlia crime scene for our comfort. The case still fresh in our mind after a recent video of Elizabeth Short’s Los Angeles.

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But, we had a great time finally getting to meet with Richard from GOULA who’s “Spirits with Spirits” events on the 13th of each month we always seem to miss because of tours! Richard was great and we are really looking forward to working with GOULA on future events!

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We are also looking forward to heading down to San Fernando this weekend to visit the Pioneer Memorial Cemetery along with developing a relationship with the Historical Society there to help them raise money to preserve the beautiful and haunted lost graveyard. We had the pleasure of chatting with some of the members of the historic society who told of of the plight of the cemetery where only 214 of the estimated 700 graves have been located with the use of ground penetrating radar.

Here’s some other pictures from ScareLA

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It was fun running into poe again after our latest video

Scott with Oliver Robins from Poltergeist!

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Watch Ursula Bielski on Jeff Belanger’s “30 Odd Minutes”

A while back Ursula Bielski, owner of the Los Angeles Haunting Ghost Tour Company, appeared on the fun and fairly wacky series “30 Odd Minutes” hosted by Jeff Belanger.  While on the show she talks in depth about children and the paranormal, which is the subject of one of her most recent books, “There’s Something Under the Bed: Children’s Experiences with the Paranormal.”

In this interview, Ursula talks about some very famous paranormal cases including the Cottingley Fairies and the Tina Resch poltergeist cast.

Visit Ursula and Jeff in person at the Chicago Ghost Conference October 4 & 5.  Learn more about the conference and buy tickets at this link!