The Fayette County home where the climactic scenes of “The Silence of the Lambs” were filmed is many things – an homage to the Academy Award-winning film, a boutique accommodation, an interactive cinematic destination – but is it haunted?
Owner Chris Rowan is inviting guests to the Laurel Highlands to find out with “The Spirit of Buffalo Bill, an Experiment in Paranormal Profiling,” a special event on Sunday, Oct. 30 that will feature Brian J. Cano, a television personality and paranormal researcher who has appeared on SyFy, Travel Channel and History Channel.
Since opening Buffalo Bill's House to overnight guests and tours a little more than a year ago, Rowan has shied away from marketing it as a haunted house, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out if any spirits are lurking in the 112-year-old Queen Ann Victorian structure that served as the cinematic home to serial killer Buffalo Bill in 1991’s “The Silence of the Lambs.”
“People call up or ask, ‘Is it a haunted attraction? Is it something that you go to at Halloween? Are there actors? Do people jump out at you?’ ” Rowan said during a recent private tour. “I love that stuff – as a fan of spooky stuff, I love the season. It’s great, but there’s a million of those out there. I always wanted to keep it traditionally Victorian but put in the dark sensibility of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and pay respect to the film that was shot here.”
Buffalo Bill’s House does that, with attention to detail in nearly every nook and cranny of the four-bedroom home, which was built in 1910 across from the Youghiogheny River. The Perryopolis home was privately owned when director Jonathan Demme and a location scout found it in the 1990s. A train enthusiast, Demme liked the fact that it was across from a working railroad and that the layout of the home allowed the murderous Buffalo Bill character, portrayed by Ted Levine, to lure FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by Jodie Foster, deeper into his lair.
It remained a private residence until October 2020, when Rowan, an art director and prop stylist from New Jersey, bought it. He spent 10 painstaking months getting it ready to open to the public. It’s now available for overnight rentals, and Rowan hosts tours one weekend per month.
“I pride myself on the details of the house,” Rowan said.
Upon entrance to the home, visitors are greeted by an animatronic version of Hannibal Lecter – the cannibalistic serial killer, played by Anthony Hopkins, who helps Starling catch Buffalo Bill. Tributes to Buffalo Bill and death’s-head hawk moths – the insect found in the throats of his victims – line the walls. Rowan’s wife designed custom bedding that looks as creepy as it is comfortable.
The second-floor bedrooms are themed, with one a tribute to Lecter, another to Starling, a third to Buffalo Bill and the fourth dedicated to Precious, Buffalo Bill’s little dog. The bathroom even gets in on the theme, with Buffalo Bill’s image on the shower curtain and specially made hand lotion, which is available for sale.
Rowan renovated the third-floor attic and it now serves as a playhouse that isn’t specific to “The Silence of the Lambs.” The film lover donated his personal collection to the home, so guests can watch any one of 500 movies on DVDs and videotapes – Rowan prefers physical media to streaming – or play retro arcade games. There’s a pool table in addition to more movie memorabilia, including production blueprints and a call sheet from “The Silence of the Lambs.”
The best photo opportunities lurk in the basement’s “Workshop of Horrors,” which includes a replica sewing area where Bill performed his grisly tasks as well as a disco ball perfect for recreating the killer’s haunting dance scene.
But Buffalo Bill’s House can’t-miss attraction is its latest addition – the replica of the well in which the killer keeps his victims captive. Scenes featuring the well were filmed on a soundstage, but Rowan’s recreation is a scaled-down version that is perfect for photos.
The well’s lead designer, Jerry Gergely, is the technical director for the Tom Savini Special Make-Up Effects Program at the Douglas Education Center in Monessen. Gergely, who was Levin’s makeup artist on the film, worked with students to build the well.
“It was super important to be screen-accurate. The well was built using screen grabs of the film,” Rowan said.
“It’s over the top, it’s ridiculous – that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.”
What: Paranormal investigation and tours of Buffalo Bill’s House, where scenes from “The Silence of the Lambs” were filmed
When: Various tour times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; investigation on Sunday
Where: 8 Circle St., Perryopolis
Tickets: Must be purchased in advance
More information: https://buffalobillshouse.com/