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Rose Red House: Was the Story Actually Inspired by True Events? Inside the Thornewood Castle


Thornewood Castle's House Photos

Tacoma Home
Sarah Paschall
Sarah Paschall

Updated on September 30, 2021

Rose Red Stephen King

If you’re a longtime horror fan, you were probably like the rest of us who tuned in to ABC to watch the series Rose Red in 2002. Rose Red tells the story of Dr. Joyce Reardon, a psychology professor, who enlists a team of psychics to investigate an allegedly haunted estate. In their hopes of finding proof of paranormal activity, the group awakens the dark forces, thought dormant, within the Rose Red mansion. In typical horror film fashion, lots and lots of bad stuff ensues thereafter. Rose Red was conjured from the mind of master horror author Stephen King and consisted of a 3-episode mini series. If you ever wanted to learn more about Stephen King’s Rose Red house, without angering the ghosties, you’re in luck! Velvet Ropes has everything you need to know about Rose Red house and the real-life mansion featured in the series below.


8601 N Thorne Ln SW, Lakewood, Washington

Where Is Rose Red House?

The Rose Red House Seattle

The Rose Red house, featured in the series, is located in Seattle, Washington. Since it’s the only castle on the west coast, it’s pretty hard to miss.

Rose Red Real house

The Rose Red house Seattle is real! Though in reality, its actual name is Thornewood Castle. While the real castle (thankfully) isn’t the hellish landscape depicted in the film, it does have its fair share of alleged paranormal activity.

Thornewood Castle

Thornewood Castle was constructed over a 3-year period from 1908 to 1911. Mr. Chester Thorne, the original owner, employed the help of architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter to create his dream home.

Thornewood Castle Rose Red

The English Tudor castle sits on 4 acres of lush landscape at American Lake in Washington State. It’s one of the few privately owned castles located in the United States and a must-see for lovers of historical architecture.

Where Is Rose Red House

Prior to its construction, Thorne purchased a 400-year-old Elizabethan English manor in 1907 and actually imported pieces of the manor to incorporate into Thornewood.

The oak panels, handcrafted front doors, and grand staircase were all taken from the English manor and transported to Thornewood by way of ships. Even the red bricks used on the exterior were imported from Wales.

The castle boasts a whopping 27,000 square feet as well as 22-bedrooms and 22-bathrooms. Visitors of the castle can expect to find a plethora of beautiful artwork and painted glass windows that date back between the 15-17 centuries.

Rose Red Real Life Inspiration

On the grounds of the gothic mansion, you can find a private beach with its own dock, a sunken garden with a fountain at the center, and a loggia.

Where Is Rose Red House

True Story of Rose Red Mansion

The true story of Rose Red mansion, aka Thornewood Castle, is far from the horrific tale spun by Stephen King. In reality, the castle was commissioned by Chester Thorne for his wife Anna and their children as a family residence. Thorne, a wealthy financier, and co-founder of the Port of Tacoma spent a small fortune to create this ultimate family estate.

Rose Red Real House
Thornewood Castle | Facebook

While the castle isn’t bathed in bloody history, it was the scene of at least one tragedy. Anita, Chester’s daughter, lost one of her 3 children on the property after the child drowned in the ornamental pond.

Chester resided on the property until his death in 1927. The castle remained in the family until it was sold in 1959. It would later undergo a careful restoration process and be transformed into a Bed & Breakfast in 1995.

Thornewood Castle Rose Red

True Story of Rose Red Mansion

Despite lacking a history of mysterious deaths and all-around bad happenings, Thornewood Castle still possesses its fair share of spookiness. Deanna Robinson, co-owner since 2000 alongside husband Wayne, has reportedly experienced numerous paranormal events during her time in the castle. Some reported incidents include:

  • Hearing a ghostly cocktail party underway, including glasses clinking, lively chatter, and dancing. Hey, even ghosts gotta party from time to time, right?!
  • A strange supernatural vortex appearing on the staircase in the great hall.  
  • Visitors have also described witnessing full-bodied apparitions of a man and woman on the grand staircase. The woman is dressed in an empire-style gown, while the man is dressed in a leather outfit.
  • Light bulbs throughout parts of the home are frequently unscrewed, leading Deanna to believe the spirits dislike the light. This is often said to happen to the bulbs in the smoking room.
  • A guest of the castle allegedly witnessed the arms of a lamp swing so violently on their own that the attached globe lights smashed together and broke. Adding another layer of strange to this paranormal cake – once broken, the glass didn’t shatter everywhere as expected. Instead, it dropped directly to the floor below the lamp.  
  • The production behind Rose Red wasn’t even spared of ghostly happenings. During filming, tools would often disappear or end up being found in unusual places. Additionally, the production frequently experienced power outages as well as doors opening and closing on their own. The incidents with the doors even interfered with filming at times.

If you’re brave enough and have a pension for all things spooky, Thornewood Castle is actually an inn! That’s right, if you want to stay the night in a classy, and potentially haunted, castle – Thornewood is where it’s at. The castle even acts as a venue for weddings and parties.

Rose Red Stephen King

Rose Red Movie
Rose Red | ABC

Stephen King’s haunted house story Rose Red was a hit with viewers when it debut in 2002. The series, reportedly based on true events, kept viewers tuning in night after night to watch the 3-part ABC series. But was there actually any truth to the story of Rose Red or Ellen Rimbauer?

Rose Red Book

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red was released in 2001 – a year before the mini-series debut. While it may appear that the novel was the inspiration for the series, it was actually the other way around.

Two years before the series was released, author Ridley Pearson was tasked with writing the book as a tie-in to the show. It was all part of a carefully constructed, and highly effective, $200,000 marketing campaign to promote the series.

Rose Red Book

Under the pseudonym “Dr Joyce Reardon,” Pearson wrote what was meant to be an edit of the actual diary of Ellen Rimbauer. Rimbauer was the wife of Rose Red’s builder and her diary tells her story of living in the cursed mansion.

Unexplained disappearances, deaths, and misfortune take place on the grounds of Rose Red. The home is also supposed to have been built on a Native American burial ground (which always goes well in the horror movies, right?).

The whole thing was presented as real events – from the diary to Dr Reardon herself. In reality, however, the entire story was a well-written, and carefully crafted, work of fiction.  

Rose Red Real-Life Inspiration

The story of Rose Red was conceived with a variety of different horror stories in mind. Despite it being a work of fiction, however, it did pull inspiration from the real, unusual, story of Sarah Winchester.

Winchester was the heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in the 1800s. Shortly after her husband’s death, Sarah Winchester was told by a medium that she was cursed by those killed with the Winchester rifle. Sarah was instructed to move out West and purchase a property that she must never stop building onto if she meant to appease the spirits.

Rose Red Real-Life Inspiration
Sarah Winchester House

Winchester ended up relocating to San Jose California and purchasing a 2-story farmhouse. As instructed, the home’s construction continued for the duration of Winchester’s life. In present, what is now known as The Sarah Winchester Mystery House in San Jose California is considered a historic landmark.

Rose Red movie

Stephen King originally envisioned Rose Red to be a feature film and even pitched it as such to Steven Spielberg in 1996. It was meant to be a (sort of) remake of the 1963 Robert Wise film The Haunting. Wise’s film was in itself based on Shirly Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House from 1959. Oh, and if you’re wondering – yes, the Netflix series by the same name is loosely based on Jackson’s book!

After the 1999 remake of The Haunting was released, Stephen King’s script was redesigned into a mini series. The 3-part mini series, staring Nancy Travis as Dr Reardon, was filmed in Lakewood, Washington, and broadcast on ABC. To further promote the show, the mockumentary Unlocking Rose Red: The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer debut a week before the series.

In 2003, a film prequel of Rose Red titled The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer debut on ABC. The plot focuses on the construction of the mansion as well as the Rimbauer family during that time.

Sources series)#Plot,The%20Diary%20of%20Ellen%20Rimbauer%3A%20My%20Life%20at%20Rose%20Red,in%20the%20early%2020th%20century.&text=The%20novel%20also%20presents%20a,by%20Ellen%20Rimbauer’s%20grandson%2C%20Steven.


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Sarah Paschall
Written by

Sarah Paschall

Sarah has written and edited for numerous media outlets in a variety of different niches – though entertainment is her all-time favorite topic to cover. When she is not hard at work researching and writing about Hollywood’s top talents for Velvet Ropes, Sarah enjoys working on her fiction novels, developing her blog, and gaming. You can follow Sarah on Twitter at: