Thirty years after a serial killer wearing night-vision goggles stalked Clarice Starling in a dark root cellar, terrorized filmgoers can rent out the house where one of cinema’s most iconic psychological horror film scenes were shot.
The Queen Anne Victorian house in western Pennsylvania that stood in for Buffalo Bill’s home in the “Silence of the Lambs” is turning into a boutique vacation rental where movie buffs can spend a few nights or several weeks, beginning this summer.
“I couldn’t believe the house was for sale,” said Chris Rowan, the new owner of the property. “I jumped at the chance to buy it and can’t wait to open it later this year as a boutique accommodation and cinematic destination. I know film aficionados will also jump at the chance to stay in the house where the audience first meets Buffalo Bill up close.”
Rowan hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll rent out the brand new Buffalo Bill’s House on an online marketplace or on his own website. In addition to offering overnight lodgings, Rowan also plans to offer guided tours and make the property available as a location for TV and movies.
The grand, three-story house, which dates back to 1910, sits on 1.7 acres about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, in the town of Perryopolis, population 1,800. With four big bedrooms that comfortably sleep eight people, the old girl oozes Americana charm, with its big wraparound porch, clawfoot tub, pocket doors, ornate fireplaces, and built-in cupboards. In the backyard, there’s a swimming pool and a train caboose to explore.
The house evokes a more sinister presence in the movie, of course, as the residence of Jame Gumb, whose wild-west nickname stems from his penchant for skinning female victims so he can make a “woman suit” for himself. After he kills, Gumb stuffs a moth chrysalis into each of his victims’ throats.
An art director and prop stylist for TV and film and the longtime host of the New York City Horror Film Festival, Rowan has had an obsession with scary movies since he was a child. And, as a self-described massive “Silence of the Lambs” fan, he has big ideas for leveraging his creative skills and the house’s movie bona fides to create a new travel destination for lovers of the Oscar-winning psychological horror film.
“Aesthetically, the house still looks much like it did in the film,” says Rowan. “And with my background in the film industry, I have the intention to provide fans with very unique, interactive experiences.”
Movie lovers will immediately recognize the home’s graceful exterior from one of the most tense scenes leading up to the film’s climax. The FBI team thinks they have the killer and set off to raid his house, while Clarice heads out on her own to follow up on an interview lead. We see Buffalo Bill panicking at the sound of a bell. The camera cuts to the FBI team pressing a doorbell, then back to Bill cracking open the door. But there is no sea of blue raid jackets on his porch. Instead, he finds Clarice standing all alone, while the FBI team comes up empty somewhere across town.
The front porch and many rooms of Buffalo Bill’s House made it into the final cut of “Silence of the Lambs.” When Buffalo Bill invites Clarice inside his home, he lures her through the home’s actual foyer and into the cluttered dining room, where another pivotal scene was shot. While Bill is looking through some business cards, Clarice notices sewing equipment on a table, just as a moth lands on a spool of thread. In that moment, she realizes that she is with the serial killer.
While most of the horror in “The Silence of the Lamb” is of the psychological ilk, what happens on film in the house’s root cellar is flat-out spine-chilling. After Clarice chases Buffalo Bill down into the pitch-black basement, he stalks her in silence through the eerie green glow of night-vision goggles. Rowan says he plans to create an immersive experience where guests can actually wear a pair of night-vision goggles to recreate the scene from the movie.
“Actually, one of the nice things that came with the purchase of the house is a shovel with a very old wooden handle and a metal base,” says Rowan. “There is a sequence where Jodie Foster’s character takes this shovel and butts it up against the door lock, trying to keep Buffalo Bill out. So that was a nice little official movie prop that came included with the with the sale of the home.”
“Of course, the other famous location in the basement is Buffalo Bill’s workshop,” says Rowan. “He has his sewing station and a wall of newspaper clippings of his murder spree that he very proudly displays, as well as the dressing mannequins. It’s where he likes to do his avant-garde dancing. I also plan to recreate all of that to provide fans with an all-encompassing experience.”
Whether or not guests have the guts to don night-vision goggles in Buffalo Bill’s basement, Rowan hopes the legions of “Silence of the Lambs” fans will appreciate the occasional wink to a ghoulish line from the movie.
“Book your stay now,” says the property’s website, “or else you’ll get the hose again.”