Scene It Before: The Kimberly Crest House from Hell Night

A Redlands landmark played an abandoned mansion in the 1981 horror classic

Though I love Halloween pretty much more than life itself, I have never been a huge fan of horror movies. My parents would not allow me to watch them as a kid and, since I am a scaredy-cat by nature, I never felt inclined to make up for lost time during my teen and college years. Now that I’m older and married (and therefore no longer sleep alone), I’ve gotten a bit braver and am starting to embrace the genre. Recently I watched the 1981 slasher classic Hell Night from Tom DeSimone.

The flick centers around Garth Manor, an abandoned manse where Linda Blair and three fellow Alpha Sigma Rho pledges are forced to spend the night on the 12-year anniversary of a mass murder/suicide that took place on the premises. To create the Manor, a compilation of three different Los Angeles locales were used. Interiors were shot at a home in Pasadena (the location of which I am trying to track down), the underground tunnels that the pledges venture through existed on a soundstage at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, and the exteriors were lensed at the Kimberly Crest House and Gardens located at 1325 Prospect Dr. in Redlands.

A screen capture from Hell Night
A screen capture from Hell Night

The three-story, 7,000-square-foot estate was originally built in 1897 for a wealthy New York widow named Cornelia Hill. It was designed in the style of a French chateau by architects Oliver Perry Dennis and Lyman Farwell. (Fun fact: A little over a decade later, Dennis and Farwell built an almost identical mansion in Hollywood for banker Rollin B. Lane. That property still stands and is known today as the Magic Castle.) In December 1905, the residence was purchased by John Alfred Kimberly, one of the founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation, whose family used it as a winter residence. The Kimberlys transformed the property’s 6.25-acre grounds into elaborate Italianate gardens.

When the Kimberlys passed away, the residence was inherited by their youngest daughter, Mary Kimberly Shirk, a tireless philanthropist. In the late 1960s, a developer threatened to demolish Prospect Park, a 39-acre site located adjacent to the Kimberly Crest House, and turn it into a mobile home community. The city of Redlands wanted to thwart the plans, but came up $60,000 short in the funds needed to do so. To encourage citizens to donate to the cause, Mary promised to deed her famous home to the city if enough money was raised to save the park. The funds came through and upon her death in 1979, the historic property was bequeathed to the people of Redlands.

Today the site serves as a special events venue and is also open for tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. My husband and I toured the property recently, and we ventured inside the gorgeous mansion. Much of the original furniture and décor remains intact, so visiting the house was like stepping back in time to the late 1800s.

Hell Night proved to be a headache for the Kimberly Crest House curators. The movie premiered shortly after the property was turned into a museum and caretakers had to deal with ardent fans showing up to visit the mansion at midnight. They have been much more selective about filming opportunities since. The exterior of Kimberly Crest also appeared in Fleetwood Mac’s music video for “Big Love” in 1987 and in episodes of A&E’s America’s Castles and HGTV’s Christmas Castles, all productions which celebrate the beauty of the house, instead of the macabre. Want to embrace the manse’s horror movie background? Sign up for a tour this month.

Lindsay Blake is an actress, writer, celebrity admirer and Los Angeles enthusiast who contributes to CityThink each Thursday. Her true love is filming locations, and she founded the Web site IAMNOTASTALKER in 2007 to document her vast findings on the subject. For more “stalking” fun, you can follow Lindsay on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.