The Real-Life Ghost Story That Inspired Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak

With the way that Crimson Peak opens, you'd half expect it to be based off of a book. The truth is, the film is an original creation inspired by Guillermo del Toro's love of Gothic romance, Hammer horror films, and a visitation that his mother experienced as a child.

As part of the recent press rounds for Crimson Peak, I was part of a group of journalists present for a press conference with del Toro himself. During the course of our time together, a lot of interesting facts were divulged involving the process that went into crafting the story. Perhaps the best part of the entire conversation was the fact that we actually got to listen to Guillermo del Toro tell us a ghost story. This wasn't just a fabricated campfire story, mind you – the following tale is from an actual occurrence from his mother's childhood:

The opening scene is based on a visitation that my mother experienced. My mother's grandmother died, and when she was a child she was crying in her bed, and she heard the silk of the dress of her grandmother move in the corridor. She smelt her perfume, and she heard the bed springs creak and felt the weight of her grandmother leaning on her back. She jumped up screaming and left the room.

That scene should sound familiar, as it's been used in the advertising campaign for Crimson Peak throughout the trailers and ads. In addition to the story that Guillermo del Toro shared about his mother's visitation, Crimson Peak was inspired by many works of the Victorian era.

In particular, del Toro cited Mary Shelley and Anne Radcliffe – two of the most popular writers of the era – as strong inspirations for his work co-writing Crimson Peak with frequent collaborator Matthew Robbins. Every inch of the film's story oozes these inspirations, as the story could have easily been a novel on the shelves in Victorian England. All of those varying inspirations coalesced to become the finished product, which you can see a taste of in the trailer below.

When del Toro revealed to the audience that he'd been obsessed with ghosts since he was 11, there wasn't a surprised spectator in the house. The supernatural is one of the standard elements in the del Toro toolbox, along with dark fairy tales and innovative creature designs. Crimson Peak is no exception, as its ghosts range from shocking, emaciated figures with skeletal faces to mere spectral visages of persons who have recently departed. If the description of the latter sounds like it's a signal of disappointment, it's not – as even the ghosts with a familiar face take on interesting qualities that make them a visual delight.

Personal experience is an invaluable inspiration when it comes to creating a work of fiction like Crimson Peak. With his obsessions and his life stories at his side, it's clear that Guillermo del Toro's passion for cinema and storytelling won't be extinguished anytime soon. These are early days, and we should all be excited to see what's next.

Crimson Peak is in conventional and IMAX theaters as of this evening.

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.