Juliet Bennett Rylah

Journalist, copywriter, editor, and creative fiction writer based in Los Angeles.

May 6, 2021
Published on: welikela.com
1 min read
The Geffen Stayhouse production of Someone Else’s House. Courtesy Mezzocchi Family photos.

The latest virtual offering from the Geffen ‘Stayhouse’ is Someone Else’s House. It’s a ghost story, the likes of which you might hear around a campfire or read on /nosleep. It comes from theater artist Jared Mezzocchi, drawing from what Mezzocchi says is a real supernatural experience.

What’s interesting about Mezzocchi’s story is that it didn’t actually happen to him, but to his family before he was born. In 1973, his parents—both teachers—moved into a large, old home in Enfield, New Hampshire.

Enfield is a small town—population 4,582 as of the 2010 Census—that once had a large Shaker community. Shakers are a Christian sect whose name is derived from their frenetic movements during worship. The home in question was well-known to its neighbors for its size and distinctive red color. Before the Mezzocchi family purchased it via auction, it had remained in a single family for generations.

Soon after moving in, Mezzocchi’s older brother, then eight years old, endured a series of bizarre experiences that left him traumatized for life. The family ultimately left that home for, well, obvious reasons.

Because Mezzocchi is 14 years younger than his brother, everything he knows about the alleged haunting comes second-hand from his family or through reading old articles. Thus, Someone Else’s House is as much a ghost story as it is a mystery that slowly unravels as Mezzocchi details his meticulous research into the home’s past.

Like previous Zoom shows from the Geffen, there are interactive elements, including a box that arrives via mail prior to your show date. Inside are a variety of objects you’ll use when prompted. But unlike Helder Guimarães’s The Present, which unfolded as a magic show where you performed a portion of the tricks in your own home, and David Kwong’s Inside the Box, which involved completing a series of puzzles, Mezzochi’s show doesn’t require interactivity.

The Geffen Stayhouse production of Someone Else’s House. Courtesy Mezzocchi Family photos.

This isn’t to say it doesn’t work as an interactive show. In fact, as a person with a penchant for horror, I found it the most compelling of the three. I was glued to his story from start to finish. The thing is, I likely would have enjoyed it just as much as a passive observer without any props and with my Zoom camera turned off. I may have even enjoyed it more, as I found the most interactive portion—in which we were tasked with helping him explore the family tree of the home’s previous owners—to be the least interesting.

When it comes to Zoom shows, I’ve found horror to be the most effective genre, followed by comedy. Drama often leaves me bored and wishing I could just watch a movie instead, while the more abstract shows designed to make me feel connected only work if they’re one-on-one or fairly short.

But there’s something about Zoom that’s primed for horror. Last year, horror streaming service Shudder released a film called Host that was entirely shot on Zoom. The premise was that a group of friends had hired a medium to perform an online seance for them. One of the women had done it before and liked it, but this time, a participant who fails to follow the rules unleashes a demon. Host ended up being one of the scariest films I’d seen in a long time, in part because I could see behind each character into their dark, not-so-empty homes. Each box was full of horrifying possibilities that only expanded when a character moved or was dragged off-screen.

Mezzocchi’s show has many of those elements and while I didn’t find it particularly terrifying, I did enjoy the foreboding sense of dread as the narrative came into focus. It gave my bearing witness a sense of urgency, in a way. That could perhaps be why I didn’t want to fiddle with my props, but keep my focus on Mezzocchi and his space. How am I supposed to tell you to look out behind you when my nose is in a stack of papers?

As for how true the tale is, I did about 20 minutes of research and found that many of the details lined up. Whether you believe that Mezzocchi’s family was truly haunted will likely depend on if you do or do not believe in ghosts. Regardless, while the show itself has a flair of the dramatic, there’s a lot in there that is legitimately fascinating. You may find yourself falling into a similar rabbit hole long after the show has ended.

Someone Else’s House is currently showing at The Geffen Stayhouse through July 7. The next batch of tickets goes on sale May 12 at 10 a.m. They’re $75 per household and include a box of objects you’ll use doing the show.