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Rose Red

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Rose Red (also known as Stephen King's Rose Red) is a television miniseries scripted by Stephen King. The series was first broadcast in the United States on ABC in 2002. The story involves a mansion called Rose Red which is investigated by parapsychologist Dr. Joyce Reardon and a team of psychics.


A team of psychics led by Dr. Joyce Reardon, a psychology professor, investigates the decrepit Seattle, Washington, mansion known as Rose Red in an attempt to discover scientific proof that ghosts exist. The mansion is thought to be haunted and quite a few people have disappeared or died there. The Reardon team's efforts unleash various spirits and uncover the horrifying secret of the house itself.

History of Rose RedEdit

According to information revealed at various points in the miniseries, the house which was eventually named "Rose Red" was built in 1906 by John Rimbauer for his wife, Ellen. John Rimbauer owned an oil company, and used much of his wealth to build the mansion, which was in the Tudor-Gothic style and situated on 40 acres of woodland in the heart of Seattle, Washington, in the United States. The site was a Native American burial ground (a common motif in early works by author Stephen King). The house appeared cursed even as it was being constructed: Three construction workers were killed on the site, and a construction foreman was murdered by a co-worker.

While vacationing in Africa during the construction of their home, Ellen Rimbauer made the acquaintance of Sukeena, a local tribeswoman. Ellen and Sukeena became very close, and Sukeena accompanied the Rimbauers back to the United States. The Rimbauers had two children, April (who was born with a withered left arm) and Adam. Deaths and mysterious disappearances continued at the house. One of John Rimbauer's friends died of a bee sting in the solarium, and John Rimbauer's business partner (whom Rimbauer had cheated out of his part of their oil fortune) hung himself in front of Rimbauer's children. Eight-year-old April also disappeared in the house, and Sukeena was tortured by the local police after being suspected of April's murder. John Rimbauer (whom his wife suspected of adultery) committed suicide by throwing himself from one of the mansion's towers shortly thereafter (an event which the miniseries later shows to have been John's murder at the hands of Ellen Rimbauer and Sukeena).

As revealed in the miniseries, Ellen Rimbauer and Sukeena continued to live in the house. Ellen believed that if she continued to build the house, she would never die. Rimbauer used nearly all of her dead husband's fortune to continually add to the home over the next several decades, enlarging it significantly (in a plot element reminiscent of the real-life construction of the Winchester Mystery House). Mysterious disappearances continued: Deanna Petrie, an actress friend of Ellen Rimbauer's, and Sukeena both disappeared over the next few years. Ellen Rimbauer herself disappeared in 1950.

Several characters in the miniseries relate that, for several years after Ellen Rimbauer's disappearance, only servants occupied Rose Red. Adam Rimbauer, who inherited the house, lived there for a short time with his wife but left after witnessing several paranormal events and allowed the house to be abandoned. After his death, his wife sold off many of the home's antique furnishings. She generated some income by permitting the fictional "Seattle Historical Society" to give tours of the house; these ceased in 1972 after a participant disappeared while on a tour of the mansion. Investigations of the grounds and structure were conducted in the 1960s and 1970s to seek an explanation for the strange sounds, lights, and other phenomena alleged to have occurred there. But these ended, and the house began to fall into disrepair. In all 26 people disappeared or died at Rose Red.

The miniseries begins in the year 2001. Steven Rimbauer, great-grandson of John and Ellen Rimbauer, has inherited Rose Red. He has been offered a substantial sum of money to have the house torn down and the site developed into condominiums. But he is intrigued by the paranormal history of the house, and has agreed to allow one more investigation of the structure.

Part 1Edit

The miniseries opens with a prologue set in 1991. Young Annie Wheaton is drawing a picture of a house as her parents and older sister, Rachel, argue outside her room. As she draws lines down over the house in her picture, rocks fall through the roof of an identical house belonging to an elderly couple down the street, destroying the building.

The setting now switches to 2001. Dr. Joyce Reardon is a professor at the Beaumont University who teaches classes on psychic phenomena. Kevin Bollinger, a reporter for the campus newspaper, sceptically questions her about a trip she will be taking to Rose Red, an ostensibly haunted and abandoned mansion in nearby Seattle. Dr. Carl Miller, Dr. Reardon's departmental chair who questions the validity of Reardon's research, orders Bollinger to follow Reardon and spy on a meeting with the group of psychics she is taking to Rose Red. The group includes Victor Kandinsky, an elderly precognate with heart disease; Pam Asbury, a young psychometric; Cathy Kramer, a middle-aged automatic writer; Nick Hardaway, a telepath with remote viewing capabilities; and Emery Waterman, a young, obese post-cognate. The group meets with Steven Rimbauer, the last descendent of Ellen and John Rimbauer. Bollinger takes a photo of the group joining hands in a circle, and the photo and an article ridiculing Reardon are published in the campus newspaper. Dr. Miller takes Bollinger back to Rose Red and drops him off, instructing him to obtain additional embarrassing photos once the group of psychics arrives. Kevin is greeted by Sukeena at the front door, who tells him that he is expected. Not realizing she is a ghost, Bollinger enters the mansion. He becomes trapped in the solarium, where he is pulled off-screen by an unseen force.

The back-stories of two of the psychics are introduced: Emery Waterman and Annie Wheaton. Emery Waterman is a rude, sarcastic, and obnoxious young man under the control of his domineering mother, Kay Waterman. The audience learns that Rachel Wheaton now cares for Annie Wheaton, who rarely speaks and who refers to Rachel as "Sister." The audience also learns that Dr. Reardon is having a sexual affair with Steven Rimbauer, although the film remains unclear whether she loves him or is merely using him to gain access to Rose Red.

Later, Dr. Reardon and the group of psychics (now joined by Rachel "Sister" Wheaton and a teenaged Annie Wheaton) arrive at Rose Red. The team tours the mansion. Dr. Reardon and Steven Rimbauer point out that the home contains many optical illusions as well as an upside-down room and a library with a mirrored floor. The team finds Bollinger's cell phone, and Steven Rimbauer calls Dr. Miller to confront him over his duplicity. That night, Emery Waterman and Pam Asbury dream of a decomposing Bollinger; the Wheaton sisters are visited by a ghost under the bed and in the closet; and Cathy Kramer sees something moving under the carpet and her blankets. Later in the night, Pam Asbury is lured outside into the garden.

The next morning, Dr. Miller receives a voicemail message from Steven Rimbauer saying that Bollinger slit his wrists and wrote Miller's name in his blood before expiring. Alarmed, Miller drives to the mansion. Kay Waterman, too, has driven to the mansion after being unable to reach her son via cell phone. The two arrive simultaneously, and their cars collide in the driveway when Kay Waterman swerves to avoid what she believes to be a figure running across the road. Terrified, Kay Waterman begins to run through the forest on the grounds of the mansion while calling for her son. Miller, wanting to get her insurance information, pursues her. Inside Rose Red, Emery hears his mother's cries but dismisses them as an auditory illusion created by the haunted house.

On the other side of the house, Pam Asbury leads Victor Kandinsky into the garden toward a pond with a statue in it then disappears. When Kandinsky looks down into a pond, he sees what he believes to be Asbury's dead body. He attempts to pull her out of the water, but the body vanishes and he is left clutching only her nightgown. He panics and runs back toward the house. Looking back, he sees the statue come to life and has a heart attack. Kandinsky tries to draw the attention of Emery Waterman, but Waterman again believes this to be an apparition and refuses to open the window. Nick Hardaway arrives and tries to open the window, but it refuses to open and the glass cannot be broken. Kandinsky collapses and dies in full view of Emery Waterman. Out in the woods, Kay Waterman is stopped and knocked unconscious by the ghost of Kevin Bollinger.

Part 2Edit

Annie Wheaton has discovered a dollhouse that is a replica in miniature of Rose Red. While standing on a chair in an attempt to reach the dollhouse, she falls and is knocked unconscious. Rachel Wheaton and Steve Rimbauer see her fall and attempt to render first aid. Meanwhile, on the other side of the house, Rose Red's windows and doors mysteriously open again. Nick Hardaway brings Victor Kandinsky's body into the mansion. Emery Waterman, realizing that his mother's screams were not an illusion, runs outside to look for his mother. He runs into Dr. Miller, who warns him to stay away and then flees. Emery chases him but gives up and returns to Rose Red. Miller, too, is stopped, attacked and killed by the ghostly Kevin Bollinger.

Emery Waterman attempts to convince the others that they should all leave. They refuse, and Waterman tries to depart on his own. As he does so, he runs into the ghosts of Pam Asbury and Deanna Petrie, the movie star who vanished in the house in the 1940s. Waterman has the power to make apparitions disappear by repeating the phrase "not here," and avoids the deadly fates of his mother and Dr. Miller. As Emery is about to leave Rose Red, Annie Wheaton wakes and via psychokinesis the house once again uses her to cause the doors to slam shut—severing four of Emery's fingers. While the others assist Emery, Joyce Reardon mistakenly assumes that Annie (not Rose Red) is holding the windows and doors closed. Joyce quietly asks Annie to continue to keep the doors and windows sealed, promising to give her the dollhouse if she does so. Steven Rimbauer, however, soon discovers that he is able to communicate with Annie telepathically, and she begins to form a friendship with him.

Later, Steven relives some repressed memories of a visit to the house with his drunken mother during which a ghostly Ellen Rimbauer appeared to him and attempted to lure him away into the recesses of the house. Emery Waterman, meanwhile, suspects that Annie is keeping the house sealed. Nick Hardaway confirms Waterman's suspicions, and then informs the group that Kevin Bollinger has appeared to have hung himself in the library. The group begins to speculate that Rose Red has never been in a dormant state, and that the mansion's supernatural powers are linked to Annie and Steven (whose psychic abilities become apparent only when he is in the house because of his familial connection to the property). Nick Hardaway correctly guesses that Joyce Reardon brought the psychics to the house in an attempt to reawaken it rather than simply investigate it.

The wounded Emery Waterman soon talks of killing Annie in order to escape, alarming the group. While in the kitchen, Cathy Kramer is attacked by Kay Waterman and is rescued by Nick Hardaway. The two decide to leave the deranged woman in the kitchen and not inform Emery so that the unstable young man does not become more unbalanced. A ghostly Sukeena appears and drags Kay Waterman off into the darkness. As Hardaway and Kramer head back toward the main hall, the house changes around them and they become lost. A mysterious shape under the carpet chases them, and they flee. The shape begins to catch up to them, so Nick shoves Cathy into a room and slams the door behind her. Cathy leaves the room a short time later, and is unable to find Hardaway. As the house continues to change around her, she ends up in the attic. Overcome by the urge to automatically write, she witnesses the murder of John Rimbauer by Ellen Rimbauer and Sukeena. Steven Rimbauer and Rachel Wheaton decide to look for Nick Hardaway and Cathy Kramer. They find Cathy in the attic, where she is about to be attacked by a corpse-like form. Their presence breaks the spell, and Cathy is spared. They quickly deduce that the corpse is that of Steven's missing great-aunt (and Ellen's daughter), April Rimbauer.

The group reunites in the main hall. Emery attempts to attack Annie with a fireplace poker. Using psychokinesis, Annie has a suit of armor attempt to kill Emery with a halberd. Neither attack succeeds, and Joyce Reardon calms both individuals. In an attempt to uncover the secret of Rose Red, Steven Rimbauer creates a telepathic link between Cathy Kramer and Annie Wheaton, and Cathy begins to engage in automatic writing. Annie begins to draw pictures of explosions, smashed doors, and broken glass, and soon doors and windows all over the house are opening and closing violently and glass in the windows is shattering. Cathy automatically writes "help us" and "open the doors," prompting Annie to unseal the house. Steven, Emery, Cathy, Rachel and Annie make their escape from Rose Red, but Joyce Reardon refuses to leave. The group is attacked by the spectre of Ellen Rimbauer, but Annie prevents Ellen from coming after them. Kay Waterman's ghost leaps from a mirror and attempts to draw Emery into the spirit realm, but he is saved by Steven Rimbauer and Cathy Kramer (who encourages Emery to resist his mother for the first time in his life). The survivors flee to their cars as boulders rain down on Rose Red. Back in the house, Joyce is surrounded by the ghosts of Rose Red: Nick Hardaway, Pam Asbury, Victor Kandinsky, Kay Waterman, Carl Miller, Kevin Bollinger, Sukeena, Ellen Rimbauer, and Deanna Petrie. She screams in terror as the film fades to black.

The survivors visit Rose Red six months later, just before the mansion is to be demolished and replaced by condominiums. They pay their last respects to the dead by laying red roses on the path leading up to the house. As they drive away, music can be heard and Ellen Rimbauer, Sukeena, and Joyce Reardon watch the survivors depart from a tower window.


In 2000, two years before the miniseries aired, the producers contracted with author Ridley Pearson to write a tie-in novel, The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red, under the pseudonym "Dr. Joyce Reardon" (one of the main characters of the miniseries). The novel presented itself as nonfiction, and claimed to be the actual diary of Ellen Rimbauer (wife of the builder of Rose Red). The work was originally intended to be an architectural book featuring photos and drawings of the fictional Rose Red house with the supernatural elements subtly woven into the text and photos, but Pearson (building on several references to a diary in King's script) wrote it as Ellen Rimbauer's diary instead. King came up with the idea of presenting the novel as real by having "Dr. Joyce Reardon" edit the "diary". King also inserted a reference into the book's forward that a "best-selling author had found the journal in Maine", so that fans would be misled into concluding that King had written the work. The ruse worked. Fans and the press speculated for some time that Stephen King or his wife Tabitha King had written the book until Pearson was revealed to be the novel's author. Intended to be a promotional item rather than a stand-alone work, its popularity spawned a 2003 prequel television miniseries to Rose Red, titled The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. The novel tie-in idea was repeated on Stephen King's next project, the miniseries Kingdom Hospital. Richard Dooling, King's collaborator on Kingdom Hospital and writer of several episodes in the miniseries, published a fictional diary, The Journals of Eleanor Druse, in 2004. Eleanor Druse is a key character in Kingdom Hospital, much as Dr. Joyce Readon and Ellen Rimbauer are key characters in Rose Red.

A fictional Web site for "Beaumont University" (where Dr. Joyce Reardon, one of the main characters in the miniseries, taught parapsychology) was established. The site (still active as of May 2009) provided information on the history of Rose Red, background on the Rimbauer family, and limited information on various disappearances at the mansion. (

The marketing campaign was considered highly successful. Many readers came to believe that The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer was real. The fake Beaumont University site was bombarded with emails from fans who were convinced that Dr. Joyce Reardon, Beaumont University, and Rose Red were real.


The miniseries originally aired on the ABC broadcast television network in the United States on three nights, from January 27-29, 2001.

A DVD running 4 hours and 14 minutes was released in 2007.

Links to other King novelsEdit

The character of Annie Wheaton is similar to another Stephen King character, Carrie White—the main character from Stephen King's first published novel, Carrie. As a young girl, Carrie White telekinetically dropped stones on her house, and Annie does the same thing at both the beginning and end of Rose Red.

The story has connections to at least four other King books as well. In both The Shining and Rose Red, young people with telepathic/empathic abilities are wanted by a haunted building for its own uses. Rose Red is referred to in King's Black House as one of the places where "slippage" occurs. King's short story "The Langoliers" (which appeared in his collection of four novellas, Four Past Midnight) features a mysterious British citizen named Nick H who is often assumed to be the character Nick Hardaway from Rose Red "Beaumont University," the college of at which Dr. Joyce Reardon is a faculty member, shares its name with Thad Beaumont, the protagonist from King's novel The Dark Half. The Beaumont name is common in King's works, as one of his favorite authors is speculative fiction author Charles Beaumont.

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