Annette is probably our favourite of the ghosts, and one of the most effective in terms of special effects. To create her we used video projection, silent film and photographs.
Annette Northmoor was a silent movie star who, when the talkies came in, found work drying up and became clinically depressed. She was convinced by her brother Godfrey Northmoor to move into Northmoor house for a break and a bit of country air while she tried to catch her breath and waited for opportunities from her agent and friends. Godfrey played on her insecurity, hiding any correspondence that the outside world sent to her (the players found it later in the house). She thought she had been forgotten, abandoned, and committed suicide in 1934 by slashing her wrists in the bath.
Discovering the Story
The players had read about Annette in newspaper articles, and a few of them had shared letters with her when they were much younger (supplied in the briefing packs). When the players arrived at the house, they found a wardrobe in one of the bedrooms – the one which had been Annette’s. On opening the wardrobe they found a shrine she’d made to herself – lots of publicity photographs.
In another room in the house, they found a ciné projector. The staff could help them watch a list of black and white silent films; included in that was Nosferatu, which the players knew Annette had starred in. So they could watch her on-screen.
Annette manifested in a few ways – photographs taken on our in-character cameras over the weekend in a particular bathroom showed her in the room; a bloody handprint sometimes appeared in the bathroom; and then, at times, they saw her wandering the corridors as a black-and-white ethereal figure that came and went apparently at will.
Behind the Scenes
We asked a friend of ours – Flossie Smalls, a dancer and actress – to be Annette, and before the event we set up a photoshoot with her, taking lots of 1930s-style pictures of her. Then we filmed her for her segments in Nosferatu. And then we filmed her with bloodied hands and wet hair as the ghost.
The photos in the wardrobe were straightforward. The Nosferatu film was simply a case of a bit of work with After Effects, replacing segments of the movie, and replacing the cast & crew credits to include Annette. The photos on-site were using our IC photo system. For the floating ghost, we used a very small hand-held projector, and two sheets of gauze with a frame. At appropriate points in long dark corridors we’d set up the frame & gauze and project the figure on to the gauze. It worked very well, scaring us even during tests.
(Side note – why two layers of gauze? With one layer, it looked like she was being projected on to a flat wall. With two, suddenly she became 3D and very eerie.)