In 2008, filmmaker Ti West was making “House of the Devil,” a horror movie, at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville and the cast and crew were staying at the Yankee Pedlar Inn in Torrington.
“They stayed up late at night. They were hanging out with the night auditor, and he was telling them stories about The Pedlar,” said Sanjay Patel, the owner and general manager of the landmark hotel, which opened in 1891 and changed its name to Yankee Pedlar in 1956. “They became more and more intrigued, and finally told me, ‘we have a film in mind we want to shoot here’.”
That movie, “The Innkeepers,” was shot in April 2010. It makes its Hartford debut Friday and Saturday, March 3 and 4, and also Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10, at Real Art Ways in Hartford.
Hotel and Accommodation Industry
Real Art Ways
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56 Arbor St, Hartford, CT 06106, USA
Unlike most movies, which use locations but do not specifically name them, “The Innkeepers” takes place at a hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn.
It tells the story of Claire and Luke, the last two employees of a hotel that is closing after more than a century in business. Both believe in ghosts and are determined to find one before leaving the Yankee Pedlar forever. The arrivals of a psychic (Kelly McGillis of “Top Gun” and “Witness”) and a spooky old man change the game.
The film takes advantage of “The Shining”-like atmospherics, using historic photos of the hotel and long slow camera treks through the hallways to create a creepy mood.
The movie had its Connecticut premiere a few weeks ago at a theater across the street from the hotel, which is at 93 Main St. “It was out of control,” director Ti West said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “The first screening sold out, 1,700 people, so we added a second screening, and that was three-quarters full. After, there was a party at the hotel, and it was surreal, going there after seeing the movie.”
Patel said that there are many stories of hauntings at the hotel. “Personally, I have not experienced anything,” he said. “Other people who worked here before experienced a lot of strange stuff.”
Some of the stories revolving around the real Yankee Pedlar include rumors of wanderings by the ghosts of original owners of the hotel, Frank and Alice Conley, random disembodied voices, a chair that rocks on its own and doors that close on their own.
Room 353, which many believe to be the heart of the hotel’s hauntings because Alice Conley died there, is depicted in the movie as the most haunted room in the hotel. West said he chose that room for shooting without knowing of its history or notoriety.
“We picked the room because it was at the end of a hallway,” he said. “When shooting, we learned it was the most haunted room in the hotel.
“I’m a skeptic, but that was just too big of a coincidence,” he said. “That and other coincidences: the door to my room opened by itself, the TV turned on by itself, doors slammed shut, that kind of stuff. There’s something up there.”
Others have reported similar incidents. Several paranormal-themed websites “investigate” the Yankee Pedlar, and an anonymous reviewer on tripadvisor.com wrote in 2008 “My friend and I stayed here while attending a function a half-hour’s drive away. We had strange dreams two nights running (identical dream) and on the first night I got up to shut off the water in the sink. Neither of us had left it running.”
In the film’s press kit, cinematographer Eliot Rockett said the hotel’s renovations over the years enhanced the mood of the film. “It’s not like Hollywood rustic. It looks like a place that was once old and grand and that people tried to restore to its grandeur, but the people did it in a slipshod way,” he wrote. “It adds to the creepiness in a way that you can’t put your finger on completely. … This hotel is crooked and weird and not quite right. It’s a more off-kilter kind of place.”
“THE INNKEEPERS” will be shown at Real Art Ways, 56 Arbor St. in Hartford, on Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3, , at 9:45 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10, time to be determined. Admission is $10, $7 seniors and students, $5 members, $4.50 senior and student members. Details: http://www.realartways.org.