This essay contains selected email queries received by HistoryLink concerning Rose Red, an ABC-TV mini-series which aired in January 2002 and was based on a story concept by Stephen King and a related Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life At Rose Red (New York: Hyperion Books, 2001), in fact written by Ridley Pearson. These works of fiction claimed to tell the tale of an actual haunted Seattle mansion. The cachet of verisimilitude was reinforced by a seemingly legitimate "Beaumont University" website, which included a link to HistoryLink and generated numerous emails from visitors seeking "the truth about Rose Red." This sampling of queries sent to HistoryLink offers a case study in the power of media to mislead in the name of entertainment -- or worse.
The Haunting of HistoryLink
In the winter of 2001, HistoryLink staff historian Alan Stein noticed that our site had begun receiving referrals from a new website, www.beaumontuniversity.net. He backtracked and found a credible looking academic site -- except that all of its available content was devoted to one Dr. Joyce Reardon's investigation of a haunted mansion in Seattle called Rose Red. Everything else on the Beaumont University site was "under construction," and the only functioning external "link to the beyond" led to HistoryLink.
The stories of Rose Red, its builders John and Ellen Rimbauer, and the gruesome fates of its unhappy tenants were all news to us. Why had we never heard about this sinister fin-de-siecle mansion at 7th Avenue and Spring Street? A little late-night digging on Google quickly unearthed Stephen King as the creator of Rose Red and a forthcoming book and ABC-TV mini-series.
We do not know why the producers of the Beaumont site linked to us, but we like to think that they used HistoryLink for research to adorn this fictional story with historically accurate details. Recognizing that the Beaumont link offered an opportunity to introduce Seattle history and a few of our "real" ghosts to new visitors, we prepared some essays and features on the local filming of Rose Red and related topics. We have since registered thousands of visits via "Beaumont University" and Stephen King fan links, for which we are sincerely grateful.
The Truth is In Here
Our content stresses that the Rose Red mansion, the story, and its characters are entirely fictional. This is important because the promotion for the Rose Red miniseries implied, a la The Blair Witch Project, that it was based on a true story. Similarly, the paperback edition of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer and the "Beaumont University" website include no disclaimer that their content is fictional*. ABC also preceded the debut of Rose Red with a "mockumentary" on the film's "true story." (*The metatag for the Beaumont site, which few visitors ever see, admits that it is a "fictional university" and the original hardback edition of the Diary contained the word "Fiction" in small type. Stephen King recently identified Ridley Pearson as the book's actual author.)
Even before the Rose Red program aired on January 27, 28 and 31, 2002, we began receiving email from visitors interested in the "truth" behind Rose Red. We replied to each, but the volume grew so large that we prepared a standard response, as follows:
Thank you for your query. Stephen King's Rose Red mini-series and the accompanying The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life At Rose Red are works of fiction, although the script and "diary" incorporate some local historical references to create an illusion of verisimilitude. No Rose Red mansion exists or has ever existed in Seattle. Similarly, Beaumont University, the Rimbauer family, Joyce Reardon, and other associated characters and institutions are imaginary. Some Rose Red scenes were filmed in the Thornewood Castle, an estate located south of Tacoma, Washington, and in other Seattle-area locations. To learn more about the making of Rose Red, visit www.historylink.org and click Rose Red in the HistoryLink Favorites column on the front page. Thank you for visiting HistoryLink, the online encyclopedia of Seattle and King County history.
PS: HistoryLink has no connection with Stephen King, the Rose Red production, or Hyperion Books beyond the unsolicited "beaumontuniversity.net" link to us.
This satisfied most of our correspondents, who were just caught up in a good yarn and curious. Some were embarrassed (or annoyed) at being duped by the story, and a few were angry at us for debunking Rose Red. A small number were frankly shocked at our ineptitude in overlooking the existence of a giant man-eating, metastasizing mansion located just five blocks from our downtown Seattle office.
Things That Go Bump in the Inbox
We have removed names and personal references from the following selection of Rose Red email but have not otherwise edited these queries, which are presented in chronological order. We offer these notes in the spirit of a good practical joke played on all of us and not to mock the writers (hey, "Fauxmont University" had us going for a while, and we've written some pretty sloppy emails, too!) -- but this archive also contains a caveat.
Rose Red represents a sophisticated multi-media fabrication that confused or deceived a lot of people. Unlike Orson Welles's famous 1938 Mercury Theater radio production of War of the Worlds, Rose Red producers have been coy about the prank.
Fortunately, Rose Red only intended to entertain its "victims," but what about the next time? Now that's REALLY scary.
- I am interested to know if there was ever a John and Ellen Rimbauer? (01/19/02)
- Is the story about the Rimbauer house called "Rose Red" based on historical fact? Or is it just the imagination of Stephen King???? The home supposedly is in Seattle? (01/20/02)
- I would love to know what the whole deal with this movie Rose Red and supposed history of Ellen Rmbauer is all about.They make half of it out to seem like it's a real story. The author editor of the book is supposed to be a real person then why is all of the information i find about this story just a movie? Can you find out and tell me what the whole story is and if there is any truth behind it. The house was also supposed to be in Seattle on Spring st. (01/23/02)
- I watched Rose Red on ABC and just wanted to know if there really is such a place and are the Rimbauers a real family or is this another Blair Witch type thing. (01/27/02)
- I AM TRYING TO FIND OUT IF THE RIMBAUER MANSION IS STILL THERE. IF NOT, WHEN WAS IT TORE DOWN AND WHY? HOW CAN I FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE FAMILY? THANK YOU. (01/28/02)
- Thank you for putting the bit up about Rose Red (aka Thornewood Castle). Of course the ABC website was portraying it as a true story and it was driving me crazy to find someplace that would just tell me the truth -- that is was (or wasn't) based on a real story. Anyway, now that I'm satisfied that a great, true, ghost story hasn't gotten past me, I can die happy. (01/31/02)
February 2002 (after the Rose Red broadcast)
- I live, in seattle, and I want to see the actual Rose Red mansion, where is it exactly? (2/3/02)
- I LOVE YOUR SITE, I'VE GOTTEN ALOT OF INFO FROM IT. BUT I'M STILL CONFUSSED. OKAY, SO THEY USED A DIFFERENT HOUSE TO FILM STEPHEN KINGS "Rose Red", I READ YOUR INFROMATION ON THE HOUSE THEY USED FOR PICTURES. MY QUESTION IS....... IS THERE A REAL RIMBAUER FAMILY, AND A DIFFERENT HOUSE THEY REALLY LIVED, IS THERE REALLY A "HAUNTED MANSION" AND IF SO DOES IT STILL STAND? I'VE BEEN TO BOSTON UNIVERSTIES SITE AND STILL NO ANWSERS. PLEASE REPLY (2/02/02)
- Is there any truth to the diary and stories being printed about the Rimbauer family in Seattle. Does the house exist? Is Steven the only surviving family member? If you can not give a location of the house, which was mentioned to have been an historical society project, at which a member disappeared, can you give an area of town in which it is located? I, after reading any good book based on history, have always enjoyed in studying more of what true history has to say about it. Are there newspaper articles in the area paper achieves as mentioned on the Beaumont univ. site? I would be willing to come to Seattle and visit the area libraries to learn more about it. -- but I don't want to go on a disappointing "wild - goose" chase. (02/08/02)
- I have a question about Rose Red. I would like to know if this house actually exists. I have looked on these pages and noticed that it was the Thornewood Mansion that was used in the filming of Rose Red. I did not find any pictures of Rose Red itself. Please contact me and let me know if the house is real, or just a myth made up by a few people to make money.
PS: Sorry to bother you once again, but I am curious as to who wrote The Diary of Ellen Rimbaur if Rose Red is fictional. If Joyce Reardon did infact write this book, then why would she just take credit for the editing? (02/11/02)
- How is it that someone represents herself as an instructor at an university, with degrees, etc., writes a book.....based on a diary she found in a yard sale, that she says she has authenicated, etc., Gets away with a gross mis-representation of herself and her supposed "real diary".... isn't this some sort of fraud??? I feel this is unforgivable and really takes away from the books that are TRULY written, based on fact, that are out there to develop TRUE interest in our country's history and stories of our founding fathers. The public should be aware, she has sold a TON of copies of her book, I don't think it would have been as popular, had people known it was a fiction based novel. I felt as I was reading it, she believed things were happening to her, whether or not the reader believes what she experienced was true or not, was left to the reader. (2/12/02)
- I don't get it. I thought the Rimbauers were real. Please help. (02/22/02)
March 2002 (The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer appears in paperback)
- SO YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT NOTHING ABOUT THE BOOK HELD ANY TRUTH? (3/1/02)
- Please tell me that Rose Red exist? I have tried to email the person that wrote the Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, your web site is telling me that it is all ficinal is that True? (03/4/02)
- So you are telling me that there is no such thing as the Rose Red. Then what is the deal on beaumont university's web site that even shows real pictures of the house. All I would like to know is if the house was torn down or not. It was just curiosity. (03/4/02)
- That means that there isn't even a house in Settle called Rose Red? why is it in the Beaumont University web sit is there info on Rose Red and the study of this house. can someone really Write a book and make up a name that is not even a real person? I just don't understand, they say there is a true diary, and even in the book there are real pictures, even in your web sit there is a picture of Rose Red. I understand that the movie was drama ties d but there is got to be some true out of it. please email me and let me know thank you (3/5/02)
- Ok I am going to bite here, what gives with the Rose Red/Joyce Reardon and Ellen Rimbauer story?? I believe it to be a fictional story created by Stephen King, along with the mini series, yet you treat it as truth with real characters. So this must be one of those let's fool John Q. Public deals to see how many dummies fall for it right? Come on fess up, I am more than a little curious as to what your schtick is here, have almost finished the Diary as it were, where does Stephen King come into all this? Was the book first, then the movie, or vice versa??? Woud appreciate an answer!!! (3/5/02
- I have a college degree from a tier one university and will soon have a law degree. I am both educated and intelligent. I take issue, therefore, with Walter Crowley's insulting remarks as to those who were unintelligent enough to be duped by the created site beaumontuniversity.net. I saw The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer in the bookstore. I have never read nor seen Rose Red. I simply thought that this book was a diary some woman had written previously that contained reference to something violent that occurred 100 years ago. I did not realize, unfortunately, that it was bullshit until I came home. Reading the back of this novel certainly does not tell potential buyers that it is fiction (that is, unless you happen to notice the 4-point font that says "fiction" at the bottom of the back cover). I looked on the first page of the book and the back of the book and I honestly did not understand that this was fiction until I began to read more about the "editor" being a Ph.D. in paranormal phenomena. It was then that I looked up the fictitious site, and I realized that I had wasted $20 on something that was completely made up. The site even mildly looks real (with pictures of a university and students, no less). It is only after clicking onto some of the links that I fully understood the delusion. Yes, I was aware that a book Rose Red existed, but I thought that perhaps there was a mansion in which someone had died that King had used as his basis for fiction. Crowley's insulting comments then added to my frustation at having plunked down $20 needlessly. Thank you Mr. Crowley for assuming such negative things about the reading community. By the way, I also vote (intelligently, I might add). (03/15/02, reacting to Walt Crowley's comments in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article)
- The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red this is the topic I am confused about. I will copy and paste what is said on this website: (Stephen King fans please note that the Rimbauer family, Joyce Reardon, and the Rose Red mansion are completely fictional and have no basis in actual Seattle history.) Now this confuses me because on www.beaumontuniversity.net they have portriats of Ellen Rimbauer and so forth an so on. They are so convincing that all of this took place. So did or does Rose Red exisit? The Rimbauer family? Joyce Reardon? Please e-mail me this information as soon as possible. I believe it might have exisisted, but that it was very much exaggerated in the Stephan King version. Please keep me out of these doubts and e-mail this information as soon as possible. By the way I am 14, seen the movie Rose Red, and I am reading The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red at the moment. (04/5/02)
- If the story of Ellen Rimbauer is not true then where did the photos come from? How and who would make up such a story? and why cant i find the excerpts that was removed from the diary? (04/18/02)
- how to get to Winslow Library without it cutting out on me. Please help before my mom drives me crazy about this Rose Red stuff!! (04/23/02)
- why does your sight say that Rose Red is fictional when it is an actural occurance..?...also where can I obtain a clear picture of John and Ellen Rimbauer...? where can I find more information on this subject...I have already seen the sight at Baumont university but that is limited where can I find more such as newspaper clippings from the actual city where Rose Red is...etc...and pictures and other missing excerpts that dr. joyce reardon withheld from the public....? (04/24/02)
- I beg to differ about the Rimbauer family not living in Rose Red. There is now a published diary of Ellen Rimbauer of what it was like living in Rose Red. It was submitted by Steve Rimbauer and looked over by Dr. Joyce Reardon. Did the real Rimbauers live in Rose Red? (06/5/02)
- Your comment about the rimbauer history is totally wrong. The Rimbauer history is true and Joyce Reardon is a real person. She works for Beaumont University as the profesor of paranormal studies. The diary is real. Your very wrong and should check up on your "history" before u start writing things. (6/21/02)
- Recently I have become interested in the "Rose Red" shenanagins. I saw the movie and am currently resding the Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. If these events were all fictitious, how have the stories traveled through time and still remain unchanged. Where is the proof of yours claiming that the Rose Red tragedies are fictional? The unaccounted for bodies of those who visited the mansion should be proof enough. Seattle is an amazing city full of history, ghosts, and tales and who are you to depict which are true and which are false?
- Where are the bodies of Ellen Rimbauer, April Rimbauer, Connie fauxmateur, the maid Delora, George meader, Deanna Petrie and Sukeena.? What posessed Mr. Corbin to shoot Mr. Williamson and what made him "forget" the incident? Who attacked another maid, Laura? (06/23/02)
- So, Beaumoint University is fake? If it is, who is running the website and why has it been running for this long ? Why would people get so involved in the making of the diary, the story of the house, and why would he incorporate so much of Seattle in to his fixation? This is really weird stuff. I thank you for replying. (06/25/02)
- In your site, you state (repeatedly) that the Rimbauer family, Joyce Reardon, and Rose Red do not exist. Is this true? I have read her book and it certainly appears to be a true story written by a real person. Can you email me back to let me know what the truth is to this tale? My husband and I are going to be visiting the Seattle area for the July 4th weekend and had planned to try to sneak a peak at Red Rose. Is this all from the imagination of Steven King? (06/24/02)
- I would like to know why, you say the story is completely fictional; when there is a Dr. Joyce Reardon listed on the Beaumont University website? (06/26/02)
- Yes, you did answer my questions. However, I am still slightly bummed about them. I was very interested in the house and its history. I love the city of Seattle and was planning on moving back up there to start a career in the study of such hooplah, but I have decided not to. There are too many people who make the interesting topic of ESP, "spirits, ghosts and another world" highly discreditable. I do not want to have a reputation of chasing foolishness. This is a shame, but it is also life. Although, I would still love to learn more about Seattle and I do plan on returning sometime in the future. I may contact you later on. Well, I thank you for your time and your answers. If any more questions do happen to strike my fancy, I will most definitely write you. Thank you again. (06/29/02)
- How can Joyce Reardon, and the Rimbauer family be "fictional" if Mrs. Reardon has published Ellen Rimbauers diary? And has pictures of the house, Rose Red? I understand that Stephen King may have twisted the story by making his movie, but what about the others? Or are you just saying this for privacy of Mrs. Reardon, and Steven Rimbauer? (7/08/02)
- Hello, I am writing you regarding the article about Rose Red on the HistoryLink web site. Its reads that the Rose Red Mantion is factorail and so is Joyce Reardon and the Rimbauer Family. Are you saying that there is mo such thing as Rose Red and all or that in the Rose Red movie the details about them are factorial?. Because i am right now reading the "diary of Ellen rimbauer My life at Rose Red" Also i have seen the story of Ellen rimbauer on t.v. Steve Rimbauer the great grandson is in it and as well as Joyce reardon.. (07/08/02)
- youve got to be kidding...?...what about the mansion that is shown to be abandoned what house is that..?...I saw on tv that said that that house was real and that is considered the most dangerous house in the country and that the son was saying that he wanted to knock the building down...they said that the rimbauers are real people and whose existance is listed in the county records...with some of the news papers which described the dissappearances of many ...how do you explain that...? (07/10/02)
- I found it very disurbing that in an article of yours about the Rose Red Mansion the editor (hired by you guys) mentions that Ellen Rimbauer, her mansion of a house, and Joyce Reardon do not exist when Joyce Reardon told us (viewers) that she and a team of experts will actually explore the mansion and that is what the whole movie is based on, what they may encounter. Also, Ellen's diary is in library's everywhere. It could be entirely based on the movie as the wine to the cheese, but then why did they delete more than a hundred of her entries? I am So not getting that. And by the way, why have more than 26 people (including the famed actress Deanna Petrie) died in a house that does not exist? This is greatly disturbing me. (07/26/02)
- To whom it may concern, I only have a quick question,and u probably get alot of these. So my question is.Is Red Rose still standing or has it got demolished yet. Sincerly and thank u for ur time (08/18/02)
- I think this topic requires further investigation. The so-called Beaumont University website says you can find the real diary of Ellen in the Winslow library of letters and memoirs in Seattle, I haven't found this library to exist. And what about the wedding picture in the actual book? There must be records of people who lived in Seattle at the turn of the century. Surely it can be found out if they actually lived. As for where the house was supposed to be, I am looking into that. They say it was at the top of Spring street. I am also looking into any museums that have pictures of Ellen and or John. So once again I think this deserves further research. (09/2/02)
- I have to do a research paper on the land of Rose Red, its history (some of the books I read said that there was a burial ground there) Is that why the grounds are haunted? I want to know what happened on those grounds (land). if there was anyone murdered there before the cemetery? then if there was any abnormal activity happening when the cemetery was there and why did the rimbaurs do what they did why they took out the corps? if you have any information on this or any lead you can give me i would appreciate it thank you (10/17/02)
More Emails from the Crypt
Since HistoryLink posted the notes above as "Emails from the Crypt" on October 22, 2002, Diary author Ridley Pearson advised us that production of a movie version of the Ellen Rimbauer story has been launched. We have also received many additional messages from the beyond, mostly appreciative, including these:
- I'M CONFUSED. ROSE RED, THE RIMBAUERS, AND EVEN JOYCE REARDON ARE FICTIONAL? WHAT THE HELL????? WHO ARE THE PHOTOS OF? WHY DID "JOYCE" EXPLAIN WHY SHE OMITTED SOME EXCERPTS? SERIOUSLY, REAL OR NOT? (10/31/02)
- The Rose Red essay (Haunted Email from Rose Red) is hilarious. But I have to admit, the more I read, the more it scared me that the people writing those e-mails really exist! (11/14/02)
- I would like to leave a positive note for you regarding The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. As I am familiar with the downtown Seattle area, I was amazed that I never noticed such a large property at the given location. Researching Seattle history, not finding the Rimbauer or Omricon Oil names, I went to Stephen King's site. Answers were there. Unlike the folks that basically ripped you up, I applaud your directness and honesty to try and keep the public accurately informed. Also, I left a comment with Mr. King's site applauding he and Ridley for a job well done. They created a mystery that is apparently still disconcerting many. Though disappointed that Rose Red is not a true story and structure (as I would like to have investigated it myself) it was a wonderful book to read and hope to be true. Their project was a great success! I'm still smiling at how easily we humans are duped! Like "they" have always said -- don't believe everything you see. (Readers: Why would a university of supposed long standing, not have their web-site current, and all the links go to Rose Red? Don'tcha think that suspicious to begin with?) Reality check! (11/28/02)
- Rose Red!!!! Ellen Rimbauer My life at Rose Red....Got Me...... Thanks for correcting this (11/30/02).
They (still) Walk Among Us!
While the flow of Rose Red email has slowed, it has not dried up completely. Such things never die, apparently. Here are a few choice selections from our 2003 files:
- If Rose Red and Dr. Joyce Reardon are fictional, why do they both exsist? Joyce Reardon is a doctor at Beaumont University and has a PHD in Parasycology. Rose Red apparently exsisted because on the university website, they have all about it and Dr. Reardon. You can read all about her and Rose Red at www.beaumontuniversity.net
- We are really confused is it really or fake. We are getting so many different answers. Can you please just tell us the truth!! Is the house still standing if it is real and were Ellen and John R real?? Please answer soon with the truth...
- I am quite upset at the essay on the up coming "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer" and what you say about the story, the characters, and Joyce Reardon herself are all fictional. If you take the time to look at Beaumont University website and go to the link of "departments" you will see that Joyce is an actual professor at this university and that you need to re-research your facts, because clearly you did not do an efficient job.
- Hi, My Name Is [withheld] And Im Living In Uk, I Too Have Seen Rose Red, But Truth To Tell Are You Telling Me That Rose Red The Mansion Doesnt Exsist? Well Your Wrong ? My House Is Called Rose Red. And Its Got Rose Red Roses All Over , And I Can Hear Ghosts And Have Connected With Ellen Rimbauer, So Tell Me What You Think Of That. Yes I Hear Spirits And I Too Have Strong Powers.
But then, there's also an occasional note of reassurance from the Great Beyond...
- Rose Red. Real or not? Please let others know this. They acually think it's a real place and I did, too. I was tricked into believeing that there was a real Rose Red. I didn't believe it was an acutal place until I visited Beaumont University's website. That is what made me think it was real. Thanks alot(sarcastically).
- Just thought you'd enjoy yet more Rose Red. I work at the Klondike Gold Rush NHP [National Historical Park] in Pioneer Square. My coworkers and I are regularly asked about Rose Red, both at work and away from work. I have yet to be asked a question by someone who wasn't duped. On another note, we love HistoryLink. We use it almost every day. Since, of course, we're Seattle history geeks, finding a new article can start a lively debate that goes on for days and goes back to your original sources. Keep up the great work!
THE END ??????????