It’s been over a month ago since I first discovered The Blackwell Ghost streaming on Amazon Prime. Honestly, I had passed it over in the suggestions menu several times, but it was one of those late nights where I wanted one last movie and this one was only an hour or so long.
The first interesting thing about this film is that it is described as a documentary. In fact, there was no mention of this being a horror film or even found footage in any description I could find.
Now, I’m a paranormal enthusiast and have been an investigator for years, so I was further excited as the film began and the filmmaker in voiceover talked about his experiences making zombie movies in Los Angeles and how he’d decided to try something new.
In short, he wanted to make a documentary about the paranormal, and his interest had grown from a viral video that had made the rounds on YouTube of supposed actual paranormal phenomena caught on CCTV.
Over the next hour, I watched as the amateur documentarian went on his own adventure investigating a home in Pennsylvania. Supposedly, in the 1940s, the home was owned by James and Ruth Blackwell.
Ruth had a reputation for being a bit strange, so it was no surprise to her neighbors when she was accused of murdering seven children and disposing of their bodies down the well in the basement.
Throughout the film, he never once wavers in his assertion that what he and his wife, Terri, are experiencing is actually real. Furthermore, he backs up those claims with alleged researched proof of the history of the home. I have to admit, by the end of the film I wasn’t entirely sure what to believe. What I knew for sure was that it was a hell of a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Over the next few days, I watched the film five or six more times. I showed it to local friends and recommended it to others. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it, but their reactions were the same across the board–they just weren’t sure they could believe what they were watching.
And really, who could blame them?
We live in a post Paranormal Activity world. In an era filled with technology where the line between reality and illusion seems to blur more and more every day, and while belief in the paranormal is actually growing, there’s a general certainty that we won’t find it on film.
Perhaps it was natural that my reporter’s sense kicked in at this point. I chatted with our editor-in-chief here at iHorror and decided I needed to dig into the story of The Blackwell Ghost.
I began my search by attempting to discover who the filmmaker was. He is not listed in the credits; however, he did include pictures of a couple of scenes from one of his zombie films.
I was able to match those scenes to a film called Disaster L.A., a low-budget zombie flick from 2014. The name of the filmmaker there was Turner Clay, but Clay is a total ghost online. I found no actual pictures of him and so I could not verify that the man in the film was the man who made the movie.
After hitting a virtual dead end while tracking down information on Turner Clay, I turned my search to James and Ruth Blackwell in Pennsylvania in the 1940s and immediately got a hit on the names. However, census records show that the only James and Ruth Blackwell in Pennsylvania in the 1940s were a young African American couple. James and Ruth in the film were not only white, but they were also a much older couple as evidenced by the picture of Ruth that the filmmaker displays in the film.
It was another dead end but I wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
I contacted Dr. Marie Hardin at Penn State University who put me in contact with Jeff Knapp at the Larry and Ellen Foster Communications Library.
Knapp spent a weekend digging into the library’s considerable resources and at the end of his research could find no mention of the murder I described in 1941 or the years surrounding it.
Furthermore, he could not find a James or Ruth Blackwell connected to a murder investigation at all in the time period. Finally, nowhere in the archives were details of Detective Jim Hooper, a name I had pulled from a newspaper article the filmmaker displays in the movie.
With this information in hand, I sent a series of emails to the filmmaker via a third party in hope that he would make some time to talk to me. As of this writing, none of those emails have been answered.
So, here I am, several weeks on with no definitive answers to my questions. I have, however, whittled the possibilities down in my mind.
A. The filmmaker came up with as clever a plan for marketing a horror film as I’ve seen since The Blair Witch Project way back in the 1990s. He filled his film with just the right kind of information to draw the viewer in and foster belief in his audience. In which case, I say “Bravo, a job well done!”
B. The filmmaker actually made a documentary and in the rarest of cases caught actual evidence on camera. For whatever reasons, to protect his own identity or the descendants of those mentioned in the film, he decided to change the names and locations of the home and its sordid history.
At this time I personally lean toward my first explanation. As I said in the beginning, I am a paranormal investigator and have spent a large part of my life pursuing those mysteries. In other words, to embrace the cliche, I WANT TO BELIEVE!
If you’re out there reading this, Mr. Clay, please reach out. I’d love to discuss your movie.
In the meantime, fans of the paranormal or horror movies in general, I encourage you to check out the trailer for The Blackwell Ghost below and stream it on Amazon Prime.