top of page

Haunted Homes: Rose Red (2002) & the Winchester House

Some houses are born bad. We say haunted but we mean the house has gone insane. Stephen King's TV mini-series, Rose Red, is a hidden gem. Rose Red is a perplexing architectural nightmare that feeds off of the energies and lives of its inhabitants. Gabe shares how Rose Red changed their horror life for the better and gives us a full kill count of this murderous house. Kat tells us about the Winchester House, full of broken architecture and spiritual oddities. Was it designed to keep the bad spirits at bay? Or is it the perfect analogy for the American Dream?

Sources in this Episode: | Deaths and Disappearances in Rose Red The Untold Truth Of The Winchester Mystery House The Scariest Part of the Winchester Mansion Has Nothing to Do with Ghosts Captive of the Labyrinth


Media from this week's episode:

Rose Red (2002) Miniseries

A three-part ghost story written for TV that unfolds in a sinister Seattle mansion known as Rose Red, where weird paranormal activities occur. Hoping to conjure up the abandoned house's spirits, a psychology professor and her team of gifted psychics move in for a weekend.

Written by Stephen King


Stephen King's Rose Red (2002): Some Houses are Born Bad by Gabe Castro

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Some houses are born bad. - Shirley Jackson

Some History on the Making of: Stephen King and Steven Spielberg were set to work together on a remake of The Haunting. But due to creative differences, they didn’t make the planned film and instead spilt ways. Spielberg made his own remake while King made Rose Red. The film is very clearly an homage to Jackson. Jackson’s novel, The Haunting of Hill House is about a team of investigators and psychics who go to a famous haunted house to either prove or discredit its status. Both feature a “special” and secluded woman as our protagonist, a murderous house influenced by the real-life Winchester House, an heir to the haunted property, and subtle queer undertones (for the time).

Stephen King had begun writing this screenplay but was halted in the middle due to a car accident. We explained in our episode about Stephen King that he had been hit by a van and nearly died. This incident changed him, resulting in him getting clean. Rose Red was the first thing he worked on after the accident, months after recovering. He had intended for this to be one of his last projects but I don’t know if King will ever be able to stop writing.

History of Rose Red: Rose Red was built in 1906 by wealthy oilman John Rimbauer for his wife, Ellen. Rimbauer used much of his wealth to build the mansion on 40 acres of woodland in the heart of Seattle on the site of an Indigenous burial ground (classic King). The house was rumored to be cursed the moment it began being built. Construction workers died. Business partners committed suicide. Tour attendees went missing. Professor Reardon explains that the house treats men and women differently. While women end up missing in Rose Red, men end up dead. Given that Rose Red is Ellen’s, to it’s core, this misadrist approach to it’s guest makes sense. While traveling through Africa (a truly Lovecraftian tale of white people in Africa, touching things they shouldn’t), Ellen contracts an STD from her husband which nearly kills her. He keeps up this behavior even when they return home, despite the impact it had on his wife. Ellen gives birth to two children, a son Adam (for he is the first) and later, a daughter born in April and named such. April is born with a withered arm, most likely a result of Ellen’s previous illness.

Ellen brings back with them, Sukeena, a woman from Africa that had helped nurse Ellen back to health. Ellen and Sukeena’s relationship is never that of Servant/Estate Owner but first as friends and later, Ellen refers to her as sister. However, the relationship seems even more intimate than they explain. Clearly, there is a connection between these two women who eventually conspire to murder Ellen’s husband John. When Sukeena is brought in for “questioning” regarding April’s disappearance, Ellen is absolutely distraut. The relationship and its queer undertones reminds of Eleanor or Nell from Haunting of Hill House and Theodora or Theo. The two women become friends but in reading it and even watching it on screen, Nell’s fascination and obsession with Theo can be understood of a sexual attraction and potentially, love.

Psychic Exploration: Dr. Reardon, a part of the Psychology department is intent on awakening the slumbering murderous estate, Rose Red. To do that she has assembled a colorful group of psychics. They all vary in their abilities since we don’t quite know what the house will find yummy enough to awaken. The team features a "touch know" played by Emily Deschanel, where she has the ability to see things when she touches someone and has a psychic television show. Then there's the precog, an older man who can see the future. The insufferable Emory is a post-cog, with the ability to see the past (which is actually pretty helpful when we don’t know who has died). There’s the Automatic Writer (the guy calls her a Oujia Board), where spirits and people can use her to voice their thoughts and also a telepath with remote viewing capabilities. Finally there’s the Carrie-esque Annie, a young girl with autism who is telekinetic but also a sprinkle of other things.

Annie’s character is rather problematic as she is introduced as a “special” girl who after being bit by a dog exacts revenge upon the owner’s of said dog by summoning stones from the sky. The issue here is her being autistic and that being understood as “enough” to explain her abilities. I think the biggest thing is that as someone with autism, Annie isn’t able to mask or control her powers in the way the others have learned to do. She doesn't tamper down her abilities and so perhaps is more raw and unfiltered, making her a larger battery for psychic energy. I wonder though, if we could accomplish this same understanding if she were simply young and sheltered, like Carrie had been. Instead, we’ve got a differently-abled trope, labeling her special and therefore important. Even her Haunting of Hill House counterpart, Eleanor is also a “special” woman who activates the house, however she isn’t autistic but just a recluse who’s been sheltered.

Deaths and Disappearances in Rose Red: (thank you Wikipedia)

  • 1906-1909- Construction workers die on site: Teamster Harry Corbin shoots Foreman, One worker decapitated by falling glass, one choked on a piece of apple, one falls off scaffolding and breaks his neck.

  • March 13th 1909- Rose Red claims its first victim to feed of their life force: Connie Fauxmanter vanishes while admiring a globe in the west wing library. She is never seen again despite numerous searches.

  • September 23rd 1909- Laura the housemaid vanishes and is never seen again.

  • May 21st 1911- Delora vanishes and is never seen again. 1911 or 1912- Another housemaid, Gale, vanishes and is never seen again.

  • John fires his business partner, Douglas Posey in November 1914. The film insinuates that he was gay, which could’ve possibly contributed to his firing (otherwise…why even bring it up? I guess for jokes like “He likes chaps in chaps? Was he a wrangling or brander? Jokes about being a cowboy…) In 1915, as revenge, Douglas Posey hangs himself in a suicide in front of the Rimbauer children in the downstairs palor. Soon after April stops speaking and Adam is sent off to boarding school.

  • February 17th 1917- Rose Red grows jealous of Ellen's relationships with her young daughter April. The child vanishes in the kitchen and is never seen again. Over 50 search men raid the house without finding any clues. Sukeena is used as the scapegoat and is taken to the local police station for questioning in regards to her "murder".

  • March 9th 1918- John's drinking buddy, George Meader dies from an allergic reaction to a bee sting in the Solarium.

  • SPOILERS 1923- John is pushed from the tower by Ellen and Sukeena who make it look like a suicide.

  • February 19th 1928- Rose grows jealous of Ellen's relationship with Sukeena. The woman vanishes in the Solarium and is never seen again.

  • January 15th 1946- Rose Red feels threatened by the glamorous movie star and good friend of Ellen, Deanna Petrie. The woman vanishes in the Billiards Room during one of Ellen's yearly January 15th parties. The only thing found of Deanna is one of her earrings. After her disappearance the January 15th parties are canceled for good.

  • January 15th 1950- Rose Red finally claims its most desired victim. Ellen herself vanishes while in the Perspective Hallway. Last seen by maid, who wished her good evening.

  • 1960s- Team of scientists investigate Rose red. Conclude that hauntings and screams are caused by water running through old drainage pipes. Head investigator, Max Bernstein goes missing, never to be seen again.

  • 1972- Liza Albert vanishes after straying from her tour group and is never seen again. The only trace of her is her handbag ripped to bloody shreds. Historical tours of the house are immediately shut down for good.

  • “Present Day” Deaths and Disappearances

  • Kevin Bollinger, a pesky disbelieving reporter, becomes trapped in the solarium, where he is pulled off-screen by an unseen force.

  • Pam, the touch-know, is lured outside into the garden the first evening they are in the house. (again, men die and women go missing in Rose Red).

  • The villainous Dr. Miller and the overbearing Kay Waterman (mother of Emery) end up at the estate and get into an accident. They both roam the premises in search of someone, Miller looking for Bollinger and Waterman looking for Emery before they end up dead or missing at the hands of the ghostly Bollinger. Later, Mrs. Waterman attacks them in a frantic episode before a ghostly Sukeena appears and drags Mrs. Waterman off into the dark wine cellar.

  • The ghostly Pam lures Vic, the precog, out to the pond where he believes he finds Pam’s dead body. The panic results in a heart attack.