The Spooky History Behind Rocky Horror Picture Show's Haunted Mansion

The Oakley Court Hotel is one of the most identifiable castles in the world, due in large part because of its frequent usage in horror movies. After Bray Studios opened next door in 1955, the Oakley Court's frontage was used in a number of films, but once owner and Turkish Consul-General Ernest Olivier passed away in 1965, the Hammer production company and other filmmakers turned it into a hotbed for horror movies. Built on the banks of the Thames, The Oakley Court appeared in over 200 films, including Hammer staples like "The Brides of Dracula, "The Reptile," and "The Plague of the Zombies." The castle was also used for "The Old Dark House," "And Now The Screaming Starts," "The Vampyres," "Murder by Death," and "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Perhaps most famously, the castle is also the domain of Dr. Frank N. Furter in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," better known as "The Frankenstein Place."

In "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," the castle serves not only as a house of debaucherous celebration, but also as a mad scientist laboratory, a homicidal crime scene, and a spaceship. For over 45 years, audiences have been scream singing at the castle during midnight screens across the globe, and making a pilgrimage to the location has been added to many (including my own) bucket lists. Fortunately for those of us looking to someday visit, the castle in Windsor, England is currently a fully operational hotel.

Oh, and it's apparently haunted as hell.

A Lot of People Died There

During the late 1960s, parts of the Oakley Court were converted into apartment flats, with many residents describing the castle as not just haunted, but "evil." Reports of unexplainable sounds, ghostly figures, an overwhelming sense of dread, and inexplicable streaks of bad luck struck the residents, with many dying by suicide. In 1971, a man drowned in the Thames after falling from a recreational boat, his body washing up near the house. The following year, a 26-year-old mother named Penelope Gallerneault moved into the converted servants' quarters with her husband and four children, fully aware of the castle's history of deaths by drowning and accusations of haunting.

The Gallerneaults brushed the rumors aside, but began experiencing strange happenings shortly after moving in. Mrs. Gallerneault claimed to see hooded figures walking the castle grounds, and once found a box on her doorstep featuring the corpse of her cat, its neck having been broken. No one ever solved the mystery of the dead cat, but most tragically, the Gallerneaults would lose two of their four children over the following three years. "The house has an aura of evil, and I could never go back there," Mrs. Gallerneault told reporters. "Horror films being made there might seem like a joke. I'm sure evil has rubbed off on the place or something awful has been invoked."

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was filmed shortly after the Gallerneaults moved out.

The Strange Events Get Stranger

After the castle was converted again into a hotel in the late 1970s, contractors immediately began noticing strange happenings on site. According to one contractor's report: "From the day we started on the site we were plagued by inexplicable events. It was as though we were not welcome in the house and everything happened to delay the work or drive us away." Workers reportedly fled the castle when a set of internal double doors flew open on their own, and the glass surrounding them spontaneously shattered as if someone threw an invisible baseball through it. Reports of strange noises were again noted from unoccupied parts of the building, tools and supplies randomly went missing, and the electrical work seemed to have a mind of its own. But it was when workers started seeing ghost-like figures that they refused to work on the house after dark, requiring a series of night watchmen who all reported moaning sounds, and what sounded like people marching on the roof. Allegedly, one of the night watchmen narrowly survived a fall through the roof after investigating the mysterious marching.

In the years since the full conversion, room 117 is alleged to be the most haunted, with many guests reporting the same visual of a 19th century man in evening dress, as well as "1408"-style hallucinations where the room appears to warp in shape. Unexplained knocking, phantom images in photographs are the most common reports from guests, but have become part of the appeal for many guests seeking a visit. "The darkness must go down the river of night's dreaming," indeed.