Many classic horror stories and movies are based on real events – The Exorcist, The Conjuring, The Possession, The Blob (really!). If you’re working on a screenplay about a scary cemetery, here’s a real-life horror tale that actually happened recently to a New York woman who lived to tell her story (so you may have to get her permission and pay royalties, but it’ll be worth it). While visiting the grave site of her parents, she found herself being swallowed up by the ground with no one around to save her. How did she survive? How much does she want?
“Getting sucked into your parents’ grave when you go to visit them on a cool December afternoon with the sun going down … it’s terrifying and traumatizing.”
That comes from her lawyer, who knows the answer to the second question -- $5 million. His client is Joanne Cullen, who lives in North Bellmore on New York’s Long Island, and that’s how much she sued the management of the St. Charles Resurrection Cemetery for last week for the horrific experience of December 19, 2016. On that day, in the dim light of dusk, the now 64-year-old visited the grave site of her parents, Evelyn and John Cullen, who had been buried there since 1995 and 1992 respectively. While bending down to fix a wreath, Joanne suddenly found herself being drawn rapidly into the ground. As her lawyer tells the New York Post:
“It caused her to fall forward and smash her head on the tombstone.”
It gets worse. Joanne peers into the creeping darkness and sees no one around to save her. (Cue the scary music.) Not ready to join her late parents but sinking rapidly towards that end, the court papers say she reached out and miraculously felt the headstone, which seemed to be solidly anchored. Not wanting to find out what was pulling her in, the terrified Cullen managed to pull herself out. She says she’s now suffering from “nightmares” and headaches and can no longer walk in open fields, much less cemeteries. As a result, she’s suing the St. John’s Cemetery Corp., which manages St. Charles Resurrection Cemetery for the Brooklyn Diocese of the Catholic Church.
What otherworldly force was sucking poor Joanne Cullen into the cemetery ground where she was mourning? Her lawyer contends that the cemetery’s gravediggers left an underground void while filling the grave next to Cullen’s parents and her weight coupled with the soft, shifting ground opened it up and she sunk in. Not exactly demonic, but easier to prove in a court of law – in this case, the Queens Supreme Court.
If you’re looking to spice up your horror screenplay, St. Charles Resurrection Cemetery was opened in 1953 and is the final resting place for a number of mobsters as well as the father, mother, two brothers and two sisters killed by their son and sibling, mass murderer Ronald DeFeo Jr. If that name sounds familiar, it might be because he killed them in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville (don’t get ahead of me here), which was the inspiration for … The Amityville Horror!
Let’s hope Joanne Cullen gets the peace of mind and monetary restitution she deserves … and is open to her role in the movie being played by Glenn Close.