Tracking down The Marsten House, Salem’s Lot (1979)

There was an iconic moment in my life some time in the early 1980’s.

The limited terrestrial TV of Britain played a full-length, uncut version of the film adaptation of Stephen King’s “Salem’s Lot”.

At the age of 11 or 12, it blew me away.

Perhaps feeble in comparison to today’s rapid, ad-based editing, slash, SCREAM and gore methodology to horror films? No, I think not.

Ben Mears - Salem's Lot - Gaze up at Marsten House

Ben Mears – Gazes up at Marsten House

Salem’s Lot was, for me, far more about the atmosphere allowed to infect my pre-pubescent imagination.

The moment where Ben Mears stands at the foot of the looping driveway, rigid with unformed fears, tense and sweating as he stares up at the Marsten House… that FEAR, that comes from not actually seeing anything but from mere whispers, suggestion and vague recollections, really sank into me.  Particularly in the context of the house I’d been living in until the age of 9, a large, rambling thing of brick and shadows that used to belong to mayor of Newcastle back in the 1960s, a place that was genuinely haunted.

As Rifleman pointed out in his comments (below) it’s still an exceptional movie and worth while watching – and beats the pants off the current raft of vampire movies staining our screens.

Rather bizarrely, I’ve got a inkling it’s probably the character of Ben Mears, and his journey as a horror-writer through the horror story that his life becomes, that really inspired me to get into writing.  That and Call of Cthulhu.

So here I am, nearly 30 years later, still entranced by the memories and ghoulish fascinations the film instilled into me.

In particular, the Marsten House.

I’d like to draw your attention to some fabulous research done by one, Ian S. Bolton.

I’ve read various articles that describe how the Marsten House was actually a massive façade built onto an existing, much smaller and far more prosaic building.  Ok, so it’s fiction, but it’s not just the house.  It’s the whole location. It really did seem to be a place where ancient Evil would perch, gazing down on a settlement ripe for picking-upon.

Ian’s gone several steps further and pinged the actual real-space addresses where many of the film locations where shot.  *applause to him*

Filming Location: Ferndale, Humboldt, CA,

Following locations taken from Ian S. Bolton’s Panoramio Page, Images are a mix of scenes from the movie and from Google Maps (EDIT: January 2014, a raft of new images thanks to efforts of Brad Parker).

  • Barlow & Straker’s Fine Antiques (shop): 207 Francis Street, on north-west side, opposite Eugene Street.
  • Crockett Realty (shop): 248-250 Francis Street, on south-east side, next door but one to The Victoria Inn.
  • Harmony Hill Cemetery: Entrance used for Danny Glick’s funeral on south-west side of Ocean Avenue, just south-east of Berding Street.
  • Jason Burke’s School: On north-west corner of Main street and Arlington Avenue, opposite Arlington Avenue Extension.
  • Marsten House: 792* Bluff Street, on south side, going south-east (out of town), just past Strawberry Lane (on left) and just before road bends to left. Building in movie was a mock-up.

The Marsten House

As it is in the film

Marsten House – fabricated external facade

Marsten House Location, viewed through Google Maps

Image from Google Maps

I grabbed this in 2010, you can see the same structure that is underneath the fabricated external facade. The driveway is there, and this is where Ben Mears (David Soul) would have been standing (almost) gazing up at the Marsten House.

Seen from above, the driveway loops round to what would have been the massive set of steps leading up to the front door.

New Images extracted by Brad Parker:

The Marsten House, Salem’s Lot (1979) - scene from movie

The Marsten House, Salem’s Lot (1979)

The Marsten House, Salem’s Lot (1979) as it is today 2014

As it is today 2014 – Image from Google Maps

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When Ben Mears  stands observing Marsten House as it is today

Salem’s Lot (1979) - When Ben Mears  stands observing Marsten House

When Ben Mears stands observing Marsten House

Salem’s Lot (1979) - When Ben Mears  stands observing Marsten House as it is today

As it is today – Image Google Maps

 

Ben Mears driving through town – as it is today 2014

Salem’s Lot (1979) - Ben Mears driving through town

Ben Mears driving through town

Salem’s Lot (1979) - Ben Mears driving through town - as it is today 2014

As it is today – Image Google Maps

 

Straker and Barlow Antique Store

Salem’s Lot (1979) - Straker and Barlow Antique Store - scene from movie

Straker and Barlow Antique Store

Salem’s Lot (1979) - Straker and Barlow Antique Store - as it is today

As it is today – Image Google Maps


Harmony Hill Cemetery where Danny Glick is buried

Salem’s Lot (1979) - Harmony Hill Cemetery where Danny Glick is buried - scene from movie

Harmony Hill Cemetery where Danny Glick is buried

Salem’s Lot (1979) - Harmony Hill Cemetery where Danny Glick is buried - as it is today

As it is today – Image Google Maps

.

 

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25 thoughts on “Tracking down The Marsten House, Salem’s Lot (1979)

    • Morning Ian. Sadly not. I couldn’t stretch my itinerary in California to get there. Tracking down The Fog was all I could do. I’m planning on heading back out there next autumn, or in 2012. Let me know if you get there first!
      Best wishes
      David

  1. Damn! I was really looking forward to your story and pics. I’m not sure if/when we might getb there. There is a ‘west coast/pacific highway’ trip in our very vaguest thoughts, but it may be a couple of years away yet. Keep up the good wrk, my man, Ian.

    • You’ve GOT to do the pacific coast highway. And make sure you rent a really cool car to do it in. You’re logged in my mind as the man who helped me find the realspace locations for so many Salem’s Lot locations so I’ll be sure to keep you posted when I finally get my arse over there. Peace. Djr

  2. I love Salem’s Lot and have dug up quit a bit about the filming locations, sets, etc. I disagree that it has not aged well. Yes, it’s 33 years old (some would say I haven’t aged well either!) and the fear, the scares and the terror is still there. Compared to many of today’s “horror” or “vampire” movies it is still light years ahead.

    • Hi fella, thanks for your words. Maybe I was being a little unkind when I said it hasn’t aged well. More like it looks dated. But yeah, compared to current raft of vampire and horror flicks, Salem’s Lot stands stake and crucifix above the rest.

      • Hi, i am thinking of going to Ferndale next year 2014(WHATS THE BEST MONTHS WEATHERWISE?) also i have got to see point reyes station (Carpenters The fog)also i would like to add that Salems lot being a 70,s movie is what makes it so special for me as i saw it first in England in 1980 at the age of 10 i will never forget it ….what a classic.

      • Hi Craig. Personally, I’d say best time to head up there in September. As you get to enjoy the autumn colours and hopefully catch the off-season prices. But California is just an amazing place and crammed with really wonderful people. I think you’ll have a fab time any month of the year. If you manage to snap a photo of the Salem’s Lot location please post it here – or send me a copy. It’s a definite WANT TO DO on my list of places. Thanks for the comment. Djr

  3. Thanks David i will defo take some pics and post them , September sounds like a good time of year for me as i have a slow period in business , is this a good time to get Alaskan king crab as my time in Florida at “red lobster ” got me hooked and it is a must for my next U.S trip , best wishes Craig.

    • Drew- The inspiration for the Martsen House was the house from the Shirley Jackson novel “The Haunting of Hill House”.

      • Check out Shiloh chapel on Durham Maine. I just read this location might have also served as inspiration for the Marsten house.

  4. I haven’t heard that Drew but I have read that King based the house on Shirley Jackson’s book (which is a King favorite). Thanks.

  5. Planning to do this some time soon, maybe next year (2014). Trying to convince some like-minded friends, but failing that would be happy to go with some new like-minded friends! Want to check out the locations of my “big three” which are Salem’s Lot, The Fog and Halloween 3 (Loleta, Humboldt County). MS me if you want to start conspiring.

      • Yes, thanks David. It was you guys that gave me the idea. Saving up now. Cash and courage. Never driven abroad before and looks like a LOT of driving!

      • Ah you’ll be fine. Just make sure you rent an automatic (if you’re used to them) rather than a stick shift. One less thing to think about whilst your brain is processing the task of driving on the “other side” of the road. I utterly loved driving in California. More of a pleasure than a bum part of the trip. Oh, and check out costs for renting a convertible Mustang. That was fun and wasn’t too pricey. :o)

  6. Just a side note. I am writing a novel that is set in the 1890’s in Virginia. It deals with a troubled minister who lost his young wife years before due to illness. His faith, still shaky is tested by her untimely death but even more so by a vampire who terrorizes his small community. The novel, while not religious per se, is as much about faith & it’s importance in battling pure evil. This is what makes Salem’s Lot so good. Ben Mears is that type of man, neither brave or heroic, but realizes that he must make a stand against the evil (okay I guess he could have run) in the Lot. The characters in the movie are realistic & posses depth. Their weaknesses are plain to see & we get to examine first-hand how easy it would be to simply run, rather than face the evil.

  7. I actually took a trip to Cali a few years ago and spent time in Ferndale without every realizing it was the town. Stayed there over night and enjoyed the town & the ocean the next day.

    But the whole time I kept looking around like “why do I feel so at home here – why does this all look so familiar”?

    I watch Salem’s Lot at least once a year – one of my favorite movies – and YES scarred me as a kid as well! lol

    Later that year when I watched it – bang ! I put the connection together.

    I could see streets I drove down etc. – I was smiling.

    Great article with lots of info – thanks David!!

    • Great comment PK! Left me smiling as I can totally relate to that vibe. Strange how these places, used in a fictional context, can generate such an emotional reaction in us. Thanks for dropping by. Djr

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