EXCLUSIVE: A nearly 80-year-old article in The New Yorker about the first documented haunted house has scared up a deal at Fox Searchlight. Searchlight will develop a movie from Voices Through The Trumpet, a two-part article written by Carl Carmer. JT Petty has been set to write, and Alison Greenspan is producing with Conde Nast Entertainment’s Dawn Ostroff and Jeremy Steckler. Denise DiNovi will be executive producer.
Conde Nast Entertainment was set up partly to cull through titles in the libraries of its many magazines, but you rarely see anybody going this far back in the archives to find movie material. Carmer, a journalist and author who wrote about myths and folklore, died in 1976.
But the New Yorker piece he got published in 1936 has a chance to live on. It takes place in the mid-1800s, the first haunted house documented in upstate New York. Two young girls, the Fox sisters, were at the center of the haunting. They remained in touch with a spirit that haunted them as they grew up. When they reached adulthood, both girls disavowed the haunting, then promptly died mysteriously. Years later, Carmer ventured back to the haunted house and the spiritualist community that sprung up around it to try to figure out what really happened, and is met with terrifying answers.
I saw the actual article, and The New Yorker looks frozen in time. It hasn’t changed stylistically, though the ads seem dated. There’s one offering a round trip to Mexico on the air-conditioned Southern Pacific rail line for $50; another for the corn-tipped Virginia Rounds cigarette promises that “less rounds satisfy,” though the Marlboro ad promises that “ivory tips protect the lips;” a Schick Shaver allows the user to indulge in a “before dinner shave without removing collar or coat.”
Petty, who’s also written genre films and is among the scribes who’ve worked on the Tom Hardy-starrer Splinter Cell at New Regency, has already cracked the research on the movie, getting involved in the mysticism and the local community. He’s repped by CAA and Circle Of Confusion.