The 2001 Dark Castle horror remake Thirteen Ghosts is a highly underrated cult item, mostly thanks to its great line-up of angry spirits. Alas, poor Dark Castle Entertainment. Formed in 1999, Dark Castle was named after B-movie pioneer William Castle, and was designed with the goal of crafting crowd-pleasing theatrical horror movies with recognizable actors and studio budgets. Many of their films were remakes of horror classics, some of which had been produced or directed by Castle himself.
While Dark Castle’s output tended to be profitable, the company never did get much respect, either from critics or hardcore horror fans. However, in the years since Dark Castle’s heyday (they still exist, but aren’t nearly as high-profile today), some of their earlier works have gained cult followings and are seen as fun products of their time. No one would ever mistake even the best of Dark Castle’s films for a landmark effort like The Exorcist, still one of the scariest movies, but that doesn’t mean many aren’t worth watching.
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Thirteen Ghosts was Dark Castle’s second movie produced, after 1999’s House on Haunted Hill. It’s far from an amazing effort, but it’s got a great central concept, incredible production design, and some of the coolest ghosts ever created for the big screen. Here’s the full rundown of all 12. Yes, 12, not 13, for reasons that make sense if one has actually seen the film.
1. The First Born Son
In life, The First Born Son was a boy named Billy Michaels, who had an unhealthy obsession with pop culture involving “cowboys and Indians.” Any attempt to rip him away from his fantasy life would earn rage, but that rage, and a toy gun didn’t protect Billy from a real arrow fired into his head by another boy during an ill-conceived duel. Billy doesn’t attack anyone directly in Thirteen Ghosts, but he does scare them into the way of more violent spirits.
2. The Torso
The Torso is exactly what it sounds like, a disembodied torso wrapped in cellophane. In life, the torso was part of a compulsive gambler named Jimmy Gambino. Gambino was also a bookie, but his own gambling prevented him from being able to pay out the winnings of a “made man” in the mob, and the criminal didn’t take it too kindly. Mob goons killed Jimmy and cut him up, dumping his remains into the ocean.
3. The Bound Woman
In life, The Bound Woman was named Susan LeGrow, and had a privileged upbringing. She was a rich, popular cheerleader who dated the captain of the school football team. That was until said captain found her with another boy on prom night, and had a rather horrific reaction, to say the least. He bludgeoned his romantic rival to death, then strangled Susan with his own tie. Like the First Born Son and the Torso, she’s more scary than an actual threat.
4. The Withered Lover
The Withered Lover is one ghost that’s definitely not any kind of threat to the Kriticos family once they get trapped inside their presumed-dead relative Cyrus’ house of horrors. Of course, that’s due to her particularly tragic backstory, as she was Jean Kriticos, wife of protagonist Arthur (Tony Shalhoub) and mother to his children Kathy and Bobby. Jean died in a house fire that the rest of her family made it out of alive.
5. The Torn Prince
The Torn Prince was a high school baseball star in the late-1950s, explaining the ever-present baseball bat weapon that he’ll happily use to attack any of Thirteen Ghosts‘ living characters. Named Royce Clayton in life, The Torn Prince died during a drag race, after losing control of his car in a horrific accident. He shouldn’t blame himself though, as his opponent had secretly tampered with his brakes.
6. The Angry Princess
Born Dana Newman, The Angry Princess was an incredibly beautiful woman, by all standards but her own. Sadly, she was unable to be happy with her looks, seeing imperfections others didn’t, and constantly trying to improve her appearance via surgery. A string of abusive relationships did nothing to help her self-image. After botching an attempt to perform face surgery on herself, Dana died by suicide, cutting her wrists in a bathtub. Slimy lawyer character Ben Moss makes a rude comment about her nude ghostly appearance, and boy does he pay for it.
7. The Pilgrimess
Named Isabella Smith, The Pilgrimess was a victim of the witch trial hysteria that gripped New England in the late 1600s. A local outcast, Isabella was accused of witchcraft, and when an attempted burning didn’t work, the perception that she was evil only increased. In the end, The Pilgrimess was left to slowly die of starvation in the stocks her ghost remains locked in during Thirteen Ghosts.
8 & 9. The Great Child & The Dire Mother
The Great Child and The Dire Mother are another case of the ghosts being exactly what they sound like. Margaret Shelburne was a little person who worked in a carnival freak show, and her enormous son Harold was the result of a sexual assault by the carnival’s tallest member of the freak troupe. Some of the other freaks later murdered Margaret, leading Harold to go crazy with an ax and kill most of them, before he himself was killed by an angry mob.
10. The Hammer
These final three ghosts are definitely the most dangerous to the Kriticos family and Thirteen Ghosts‘ other human characters. Born George Markley, The Hammer wasn’t a bad person at all, working as a blacksmith in a small town. That was until he was falsely accused of theft by a white man and his family was brutally murdered. In a grief-fueled rage, George took his trusty sledgehammer and bludgeoned their killers. Of course, the townspeople blamed him, and killed him by driving railroad spikes into his body.
11. The Jackal
Easily the most volatile and unpredictable of the ghosts in Thirteen Ghosts, The Jackal was born Ryan Kuhn in 1887, and grew up to be a sick and twisted man. A vicious and compulsive sexual predator and killer, Ryan did actually seek help for his affliction, checking into an asylum. Not that it did him any real good, as before long he had completely lost what was left of his mind. He eventually died when the asylum burned down.
12. The Juggernaut
Horace “Breaker” Mahoney, The Juggernaut, is definitely the most dangerous ghost to be found within Thirteen Ghosts, and can be considered almost a “final boss” of the group. A mountain of a man, Horace was a serial killer who would pick up hitchhikers or offer rides to the stranded, only to take them back to his junkyard and tear them apart with his bare hands. He’d then feed their bodies to his dogs. Along with The Hammer, The Juggernaut sadly decimates friendly psychic character Dennis Rafkin.
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