One day in the spring of 1998, I received an out-of-the-blue call from my literary agent, saying that St. Martin's Press had referred an independent film maker to her. She wanted to know if I would talk with him about The Bell Witch. Now, I had had offers from indie producers before: One offered a $5,000 option advance for a one-year option, but wanted the money back in case the film wasn't made! Others had offered the sums of $40,000 and $68,000 as purchasing prices against $1,000 options, at the same time as Spielberg was paying Michael Crichton $2,000,000 for Jurassic Park.

This producer, however, turned out to be the real thing. He had picked up my book in a bookstore and become fascinated by it. Courtney Solomon's mother had worked in the Toronto film industry since about 1982, so Courtney grew up immersed in the business. Shortly after his 21st birthday, he convinced the owners of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise to sell him the rights to produce a movie based on the popular game. This was a tall order indeed for somebody who had never produced/directed a major motion picture. While many dyed-in-the-wool D&D aficionados deplored the movie, I thought it had many good things going for it. Apparently, its lack of commercial theater success arose more from the distributor's PR campaign directed at the wrong age group than the movie itself.

A half-hour phone talk with Mr. Solomon assured me that he understood my book and was going to make a movie with which I would be happy to associate my name. He was also willing to pay a very fair price for the rights, considering that the initial story was not of my invention. In essence, he was paying for my solution to the Bell Witch mystery. It took until September of 2004 to assemble backing, cast and crew. Early on, we discussed Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland; and even though Mr. Solomon went through a dozen other actors for the roles of Lucy and John Bell, the best two ended up taking the parts. These oft-lauded actors, interestingly enough, both got their start in horror films; but both had gone far beyond. I wrote several scenes of the film and several others were more or less verbatim from the book. I consulted, off and on, with Mr. Solomon concerning the screenplay until August of 2004 and I was satisfied with what he had.

Then many amateur chefs spoiled the soup.

I was also invited to come to Romania for part of the filming of the movie, and I was much impressed by production values. The set and costume designers were first rate. Adrian Biddle and his film crew became my heroes. Super pros! Of course, having done the cinematography on the two Mummy films, Shanghai Knights, Princess Bride, Reign of Fire (the only good thing about the film), Event Horizon (ditto), Aliens and many more, they were a top crew in the industry.

The film also starred James D'Arcy, the featured first lieutenant in Master and Commander, and Rachel Hurd-Wood, a most beguiling and vivacious young woman, who as a tyro grabbed the lead role of Wendy Darling in the blockbuster 2003 remake of Peter Pan. She also appeared with Alan Rickman and Dustin Hoffman in Perfume and was a hearthrob victim in the remake of The Picture of Dorian Grey.

I was invited up to the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2005 to see the first North American screening (albeit a private one to foreign-rights buyers) of the final cut. It was substantially different from the screenplay I had co-written: in particular it had far fewer speeches, which I felt limited the talents of Ms. Spacek and Mr. Sutherland. Owing to Sutherland's understandable guarding of his screen personae, he compelled an indirect, confusing revelation of the cause of the haunting. Rather than allowing more imagination and shepherding the film into the rare pantheon of great horror classics, the director made repetitious visual paeans to The Exorcist and cranked the sound effects up to fortissimo. Ultimately, movies are not books and should be judged on their independent merits. I enjoyed the movie per se, but to this day lament the abandoning of the early scripts. One thing is certain: to get the 360 degree view on this historical haunting, you will need to read my book and at least the family diaries.

The movie released on May 5, 2006, and ranked #3 its first week, with Mission Impossible 3 being first. It brought in $13.33M in the U.S. alone, and is available in R and unrated versions on DVD.