Todd Kaumans and brothers Dylan and Jesse Stipek are three 20-something friends who share a unique interest: an obsession with the movie, The Ring. They fell in love with the film as adolescents and recently decided to take their fandom to a new level. A few months ago, they learned the farmhouse and ranch where the movie was filmed was up for rent. So — as any die-hard fan would do — they moved in.
“It kind of just fell into our laps,” says Todd. “We decided to jump on it because we knew we’d regret it down the road if we could have had the chance to live in The Ring house [and didn’t take it], so we were like ‘let’s just do it,’’’ he says.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, The Ring is a 2002 horror film in which Journalist Rachel Keller discovers a nightmarish VHS tape that brings death upon anyone who watches it — exactly seven days after they first view the video. The culprit behind the killings turns out to be the vengeful spirit of a little girl, Samara, who — in her past life — was banished to live in the horse barn due to her bizarre and creepy demeanor.
For the Stipek brothers, excitement surrounding the film began before it was even released. They grew up just a mile away from the ranch they now call home where The Ring was filmed.
“It was inspiring,” says Jesse, reflecting on his experience as a 13-year-old aspiring filmmaker who eagerly followed the film’s production near his home.
“I was making little films with VHS recorders at the time. It was just super cool to have Dreamworks here,” he says.
“Riding the bus — going by and looking at the movie sets — the fog machines, the huge cameras, the cranes, the lights, the helicopters — I was like man I want to do that someday,” he recounts.
Today, Jesse is a video producer for 343 Industries, which created the wildly popular Halo Xbox franchise for Microsoft. His producer skills and proximity to the ranch inspired him and Jesse — also a video producer — to create a fan-fiction film based on The Ring, titled Ring Whispers.
Dylan was not part of the film’s production, but works alongside his brother Jesse at Xbox and shares his roommates’ obsession with The Ring.
“The thing I love most about The Ring,” says Dylan, “is that it looks very Pacific Northwestern. Since we grew up like a mile away from this location... I could connect the dots together and it’s just very familiar ground for us,” he says.
The Ring is one of the last great horror films. And I’ll take that to my grave.
“The whole movie is almost like a student film,” says Jesse. “Which made it so much more unique than a jump-scare movie or Final Destination. I think, arguably, The Ring is one of the last great horror films,” he gushes. “And I’ll take that to my grave.”
Fifteen years after the movie was filmed, the house retains much of what the film captured.
“Most of the exteriors have remained the same,” says Todd. “You can watch it and still pull up and look at the farm and it looks exactly the same. So it’s just basically a living time-capsule of The Ring — and we’re living in it,” he says.
The basement…. I don’t go down there alone. It’s kind of creepy.
Do these eerie similarities keep them up at night?
“The first night was spooky,” admits Todd. “The basement…. I don’t go down there alone. It’s kind of creepy.”
But, Todd says, that the spookiness is part of allure of living in the house.
“Everybody seems to think it’s really cool. The first thing people say is like, ‘that’s ridiculous and creepy but it’s awesome’ and you know, it’s kind of true.” says Todd. “But it’s been super fun.”
Jen Germain is a producer with WG206. Jen is a graduate of the Film and Video Program at (the former) Seattle Central Community College, as well as a graduate of the Communications Program at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, CO. She completed an internship with Filmateria Studios and worked as a videographer with Pixel Dust Weddings before commencing working as a freelance production crew member and producer.
Fun fact: Her favorite TV show is Gilmore Girls, and she binge-watches the entire series at least twice a year.More stories by Jen Germain