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The Smith Estate from “Insidious: Chapter 2”

Oct 18th, 2017 | By | Category: Haunted Hollywood, Movie Locations

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Considering I’ve been stalking full-time for close to a decade and annually covering Haunted Hollywood locales for just about as long, you’d think I’d have the market on spooky sites cornered by now.  That is definitely not the case, though.  I am continuously discovering new-to-me spots, scary and otherwise, which speaks more to the vast history and landscape of Los Angeles than anything else.  There’s always somewhere fresh to be explored in this magical place we call LaLaLand.  One frequent horror film star that I only just learned about is the Smith Estate, a historic Highland Park Victorian so sufficiently looming and mysterious I fell in love with it upon sight.  The pad literally looks like it was ripped right off a scary movie screen – so much so that I couldn’t help but pretend to be screaming in my ubiquitous header photo.

The Smith Estate was originally built in 1887 for David P. Hatch, a practicing judge who also wrote books on the occult (fitting, considering his home!).  I first came across information about the striking Queen Anne-style residence, which can be found at 5905 El Mio Drive, while researching the Finis E. Yoakum House, another Highland Park horror film regular that I blogged about here.

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In the 1890s, the 4,528-square-foot, 6-bedroom, 3-bath pad, which sits on a 0.53-acre lot, was sold to Charles Smith, who ran the Los Angeles Railway’s Yellow Car trolley system.  The Smith family continued to live on the premises through the late 1950s, garnering the home the moniker it is still known by today.  (The house is also sometimes referred to as “El Mio,” after the street it is located on.)

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In 1988, after a succession of different occupants, then L.A. deputy mayor Michael Gage and his wife, Lacey, purchased the Smith Estate, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

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The Gages sold the dwelling to its current owners in 1997 for $290,000.  Zillow estimates the property’s worth at just over $2 million today!

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Situated atop a towering butte, the Smith Estate seems to loom over the entire city.  As I got out of the car and walked up to it, all I could think was, ‘This is a real life house on Haunted Hill!’

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Because of its elevated layout, the property can be viewed from all sides, which made for an unusual stalk.

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The Grim Cheaper and I had a blast venturing 360 degrees around the structure snapping pics of every angle.

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I absolutely love the photo below!  Spooktastic!

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Toward the lower portion of the sloped lot, we came across what we believe to be the home’s original garage.  Because of the way it is situated, I am guessing that there is, or at least was at one time, some sort of underground passage leading from the garage to the residence.

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At the front of the house is an adorable in-law unit situated above the property’s detached three-car garage.

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I would so live there!

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Due to its aesthetic, it is not hard to see how the home came to be a favorite of horror movie directors.

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The Smith Estate’s most famous onscreen appearance is in 2013’s Insidious: Chapter 2, in which it portrays the residence of Lorraine Lambert (Barbara Hershey), where Josh Lambert (Patrick Wilson), his wife, Renai (Rose Byrne), and their children move after having to leave their own house due to the events of the first film.

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According to the movie’s production notes, director James Wan said of the property, “This was an amazing location.  It’s really cool because the house is situated on the top of a mountain and the surrounding neighborhood houses are literally underneath it, so it is an amazing vantage point for views around Los Angeles.”  The pad’s hill top locale truly does give its such a fabulously imposing presence.  It would have such a different feel to it if it was situated on flat land.

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The Smith Estate looks much the same in person as it did onscreen.  Not much set decoration is needed to give the place that chilling quality horror flicks require.

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The real life interior of the home was used in Insidious: Chapter 2, as well.  Shooting on the premises really helped Rose Byrne get into character.  In the production notes, she is quoted as saying, “These places they find are very eerie and weird, and dark and low-ceilinged, and that for me is very scary.  I just think, ‘How could you live in this house?’  It’s just my sensibility; I’m just way too sensitive for it.  Even more than the ghosts and all those sequences, it’s the houses that get me.”  Me, too, Rose.  Me too!

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You can check out a video of the Smith Estate’s interior here.

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In 1967’s Spider Baby, aka The Maddest Story Ever Told, the Smith Estate plays the role of the Merrye (pronounced “Mary”) House, home of the Merrye family, history’s only sufferers of Merrye Syndrome – “a progressive age regression” causing victims to retreat “beyond the prenatal level, reverting to a pre-human condition of savagery and cannibalism.”  Yeah, I know – sounds like a real winner of a movie.  Winking smile

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The Smith Estate also portrays the mysterious residence that college student Scotty Parker (Rebecca Balding) moves into in 1979’s The Silent Scream, though the property is made to appear as if it is situated on the coast in the flick.

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Unless the dwelling underwent a serious renovation after The Silent Scream was filmed, it seems that only its exterior was utilized in the flick.  As you can see in the screen captures below as compared to the video I linked to earlier, not only is The Silent Scream home’s main stairwell in a completely different place than that of the Smith Estate, but the two interiors just don’t seem to match at all.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The Smith Estate, from Insidious: Chapter 2, is located at 5905 El Mio Drive in Highland Park.

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