The 1980 film The Changeling follows a music composer who moves into a haunted mansion and uncovers a horrific crime at the center of the paranormal activity. But that chilling tale has its basis in fact, and the true story of the house that inspired The Changeling is even creepier than the movie. When you look at the facts surrounding the haunting of Russell Hunter, though, you're bound to have some questions. Hunter said he moved into a supposedly haunted mansion in Denver, Colorado, and by all accounts a lot of weird stuff happened there. But did he really live through a haunting that would go on to inspire a horror movie?
The story of The Changeling is all the more fascinating because there’s not a clear answer about what happened to Russell Hunter. The area where he lived is still rumored to be haunted, and even if some of his claims are extraordinary, there are stories and facts to back them up. This real-life version of a fictional event is incredibly strange, but did Russell Hunter barely survive his ghost-infested house, or did he just spin a great yarn?
A Séance Revealed The Ghost
The next step was to learn more about this mysterious boy. Russell Hunter hosted a séance at his home, during which the spirit revealed a chilling story.
Supposedly the child became sick and died. His parents, worried they wouldn't be able to claim his inheritance from his maternal grandmother, devised a hideous plan. First, they secretly buried their child in a field in southeast Denver. Then, they allegedly found a child who looked just like their son and raised him as their own so they could take the money.
This all sounds pretty extreme, and there's no concrete evidence to back up this story. But, Hunter did follow the directions of the entity that he spoke to, and he claimed to have found the field in southeast Denver where the boy was supposedly buried. The burial spot was under a home on South Dahlia street, and with the permission of the landowners he did some digging. He supposedly found human remains and a gold medallion with a boy’s name inscribed on the back.
The Boy's Story Is A Mystery
Russell Hunter’s story about a “sickly boy” is spooky, but it might not be true. The staff of the Denver Library did some digging into the backstory of the house, and discovered that Henry Treat and his wife never had children.
However, the Treats did have a niece and nephew who stayed with them for a few years. The niece moved out once she was married, and the nephew enlisted in the army during World War I and died overseas. There are conflicting reports about the nephew’s death. He either died in Paris from “exhaustion” or “from the effects of nervous strain from the close application of his duties.” There’s no other information about a young boy who possibly lived in the house.
The Paranormal Activity Turned Violent
After conducting the séance, Russell Hunter's life took a turn for the worse. Instead of the now-expected bumps in the night, the paranormal activity became violent. Hunter said that a set of glass doors “blew up” in his face, severing an artery in his wrist. If that wasn’t bad enough, he also claimed that “the inner walls over the head of my bed violently imploded.”
The Haunting Continued After Hunter Moved
Shortly after the violent outbursts in the mansion, Russell Hunter moved to a new home in the Denver area. But when he settled into his new place, he found the spirit wasn't quite done with him. Hunter never described the paranormal activity that followed him across town, but it got bad enough that he contacted the Epiphany Episcopal Church and had someone perform a cleansing of his new home. Afterwards, things apparently settled down.