THORNEWOOD CASTLE Haunted manor house and bed-and-breakfast in Lakewood, Washington. Thornewood Castle was used as the setting for the Stephen King made-for-television films, Rose Red and The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.
Thornewood was built from 1911-1914 by Chester Thorne, a Quaker and prominent businessman in Tacoma, Washington. Thorne was born in 1863 in New York to an English lineage that had been in America since before the Revolutionary War. Thorne graduated from Yale University in 1884 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and went to work as an engineer for the Pacific Railway Company. In 1886, he married Anna Hoxie of Des Moines, Iowa. In 1890, the Thornes moved west to Tacoma, where Chester rose in business, becoming director of the National Bank of Commerce. He played a major role in a building boom, and when depression hit Tacoma in 1893, he helped the city weather through it. He also quietly helped many persons with financial assistance, expecting nothing in return.
Thorne began construction of the manor house in 1911, building it on a tract of 100 acres on the shore of American Lake in Lakewood, south of Tacoma.. (The house is called a castle because of a parapet on one side.) Construction took three years and cost about $1 million (the equivalent of about $30 million in modern times). Thorne hired a prominent architect, Kirtland Kelsey Cutter, to manifest his vision of a grand, Tudor/Gothic residence. Many materials were imported from England and Wales. Massive oak doors were acquired for Thornewood’s front doors. Stained glass pieces dating from 14th to18th centuries were bought from a castle in England, and were placed throughout the house Red brick facing from Wales was used on the exterior. A fine oak staircase from an English castle was used for Thornewood’s central staircase. Thorne topped it all off by purchasing artwork dating to the 15th through17th centuries that had been collected by an English duke All of these items had to be shipped around the African Horn at tremendous cost.
When it was finished, Thornewood was more than 27,000 square feet with 40 rooms, and 18-inch thick exterior walls. Thirty-five acres were turned into elegant English gardens, including a sunken garden with a pool. Over time the manor house was expanded to 54 rooms, including 28 bedrooms and 22 baths.
Thornewood was the scene of elegant living and entertaining. Thorne loved his home, and worded his will to protect its integrity. He died in 1954 and left his estate to the Thornes’ daughter, Anna Stone. His will specified that the property was never to be divided and sold in pieces, and the manor house was never to be altered into apartments. In 1959 Stone sold the property to a developer, Harold St. John, who immediately took legal measures to break the will. St. John divided the land into lots and sold them, and remodeled the house into apartments. The house deteriorated over time, and was sold to other owners. Eventually it was turned into a bed and breakfast. In 1982, Thornewood was placed on National Historic Register.
In 2000, Thornewood was purchased by Deanna and xx Robinson. ABC/Disney was searching for a house to serve as the setting for Rose Red, about an evil, intelligent house that kills people to feed off their life force. Dozens of properties in the United States and Canada were considered. Producers were immediately interested in Thornewood, which closely resembled the house described by King in his script.
ABC/Disney contracted to use Thornewood, agreeing to make renovations to restore the house to its 1911 condition. Small rooms and apartments were eliminated, and ceilings, walls, light fixtures and floors were restored.. The gardens were improved. The total cost of the renovation was between $500,000 and $600,000. Filming was done on site in 2000, and the film aired on television in 2002. The success of Rose Red led to a prequel film, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer, to explain the history behind the haunting. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer also was filmed at Thornewood. Many of the scenes in both films show the real house, but sets were also created in Hollywood of other rooms that do not exist at Thornewood.
The Robinsons run Thornewood as a luxury bed-and-breakfast. Bedrooms are named and each has a unique decor. The Roninsons added their own furniture and extensive fine art collection. They do not live on the premises, but reside in a smaller and more modern house adjacent to Thornewood.
Thornewood had ghost activity prior to the films, but reports of haunting activity increased after 2002, with many guests coming to Thornewood in anticipation of experiencing something paranormal.
According to Deanna Robinson, phenomena manifested shortly after they moved into Thornewood, though no one expected anything unusual to happen. The first phenomenon was a light bulb that would be repeated found unscrewed from a lamp in the smoking room, located off to side of the Grand Room. Robinson would put the bulb back in, only to find it out of the lamp again the following day. This went on for two weeks. Robinson thought it might be a sign from Chester Thorne, and she asked him to stop. It did, but then happened periodically, apparently when Thorne or another ghostly resident wants Robinson’s attention.
Other early phenomena are:
– sounds of glass and china breaking, though no actual broken objects are found
– old light globes found shattered
– movements and displacements of small objects
– cold breezes
– music, whispering voices and footsteps
– sensations of being touched, especially on the shoulder from behind
– strange shoots of light
– apparitions of men and women dressed in Elizabethan garb and sometimes smelling of oiled leather coming through the huge oak doors into the Grand Room
– ghostly forms in the gardens, along with sensation of the presence of angels and fairies.