Tonight’s entry into the Based On A True Story is a total cop out and I am very, very sorry. I did The Entity during last year’s 31 Ghost Stories blog-a-thon and I said that I wasn’t going to do it again this year but it’s late and I need to get something up here. I’ve also had numerous requests for this movie to be in the rotation, so apparently nobody reads this blog because if they did, they’d know.
So we all know at this point that haunted house flicks really get under my skin. I’ve said it a thousand times. With rare exception, the only kinds of movies that make me look over my shoulder while walking around my house in the dark are movies about families tormented by ghosts. I’ve had my own personal encounter with the unexplained and even though I remain skeptical, the whole experience planted a seed of irrational paranoia in me that I can’t seem to shake. I also seem to be surrounded by people who keep me informed of spooky goings on in the Fortean/paranormal world so I can’t help it. The recent flick, Insidious, literally gave me nightmares, The Amityville Horror actually makes my skin crawl in parts and even mild made for TV shit like The Haunting and Unsolved Mysteries’ ghost episodes shake me up a bit. Last year at this time I re-endured the Tall Man’s Ghost episode (haunted bunk bed) and while it didn’t frighten me quite the same way that it did back when the show first aired and upon reruns, it still made me uneasy. Ghost stories, well executed ones, that is, get right into that primitive fear-driven module of my brain that puts me in fight or flight mode at the worst times. So bearing all that in mind, here’s the true story that inspired one of horror’s most underrated achievements. In spite of its absolutely mind-bendingly terrible ending, The Entity scared me half to death when I was a kid, seeing it for the first time.
It’s 1974 in Culver City, California. A pair of investigators, Kerry Gaynor and Barry Taff were giving a talk at a local book store about paranormal investigation and were approached by Carla Moran, real name Doris Bither. Moran made an appointment with the two at her home, claiming that the place was haunted and in a subsequent interview with the two, she apprehensively admitted that the spirits in her home, at first described as your usual knocking on walls, disembodied voice types were actually extremely violent entities and that she had been beaten severely and savagely raped by these unseen monsters. Taff and Gaynor initially scoffed at this allegation. Physical contact with spirits is a rare thing and often a fleeting sensation. A force powerful enough to do what Moran was saying was unheard of even in the world of paranormal investigation. However, in a follow up call, Moran told them that the beings had shown themselves to her and there were other witnesses. This was enough to spring into action and look a little closer. Taff and Gaynor arrived with photography equipment and described the beings’ attempts to manifest but the best they could do at the time was cause pops of light here and there. No photographic evidence could be collected since these lights were so quick. This was just the start, however. Taff and Gaynor claimed that as they interviewed Moran’s teenage son in the kitchen, cabinets flew open and spit out pots and pans and Moran began freaking out, alerting everyone to the presence in the bedroom. Photos were taken but the Polaroid shots were useless and bleached. Photos from the same camera, taken with the same cartridge of film developed normally after Moran told everyone that it had gone and upon its return, the same effect was applied to further Polaroids taken, this time only obscuring Moran’s face.
The investigation lasted ten weeks with a lot of nickel and dime evidence captured by Taff and Gaynor. Moran described horrible encounters with the being, a huge man accompanied by two smaller beings who held her down. Taff and Gaynor could capture no such evidence of the being. The only documented evidence they could keep was some photos of lights, though they admit to having seen the shape of a person take form from these lights. This being only ever seemed to attack in the presence of her family, sometimes in front of the children and she often bore bruises and bite marks on her neck left by the being. During one particularly vicious attack, Moran’s son tried to intervene when he heard her screaming and was thrown across the room, breaking his arm from the sheer force of the attack.
In the end, the advice from Taff and Gaynor was simple and unsatisfying. Move out. Moran was a single mother of four living in a twice condemned dump in Culver City. Moving out wasn’t exactly an option but the severity of the situation made it an easy decision in spite of lacking the resources to do so. The Moran family picked up stakes and moved to Texas, keeping in touch with the investigators. What’s really too bad is that the attacks didn’t stop, immediately. For another couple of years, Moran was brutally assaulted by this being before it got bored and moved on to another victim.
Years passed. A movie was made but the real Carla Moran, Doris Bither, disappeared with her family, went underground. In recent times, some of the children have come forward and talk to people on the paranormal web about went on there to defeat some of the claims from the book that Barry Taff wrote following the attacks. The details are mostly factual according to the kids. Often times during the pop culture paranormal investigations of Ghost Hunters, the investigators pick a location based on its reputation as a haunted house but what they fail to connect with is that it’s not the house that’s haunted. It’s the people living there. This is why they don’t get any worthwhile evidence. The story of Doris Bither is a sad one. She was an alcoholic, he children were each born to different fathers and she went through countless relationships and marriages before her death by heart attack in 1995. The Entity, the movie highlighting these attacks, is a pretty spooky affair that goes completely off the rails by Hollywood standards in the final act. I recommend it.