11 Haunting Facts About Paranormal Activity

Paramount Home Video
Paramount Home Video

When it was released theatrically in the fall of 2009, Paranormal Activity surprised everybody with its primitive thrills and huge box office take. Made on a micro-budget of $15,000 by first-time director Oren Peli, the film grossed nearly $195 million worldwide and spawned five sequels. Here are some spooky facts about the spine-chilling film that started it all.

1. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY IS THE SECOND MOST PROFITABLE FILM OF ALL TIME.

Often compared to The Blair Witch Project because of its low-budget nature and huge grosses, 10 years after The Blair Witch Project’s release, the original Paranormal Activity ousted the earlier horror film to become the second most profitable movie of all time, based on return on investment (ROI). Its 2010 sequel, Paranormal Activity 2, currently holds the 13th spot on that same list.

2. OREN PELI HAD NEVER WORKED ON A MOVIE BEFORE PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.

Oren Peli's background was as a software developer, a skill that provided him with the technical know-how to shoot a low-tech movie. “I’ve always been very comfortable with computers and software, so one thing that’s made my life easier is the fact that I was very quickly able to figure out how to edit the movie, how to do the audio mixing, and the CGI that’s in the movie,” Peli told Moviefone in 2009. He used a home movie camera, filmed in his own house, hired unknown actors who helped with the production, and edited down 70 hours of footage.

3. THE EXORCIST DISTURBED PELI SO MUCH THAT HE COULDN’T WATCH GHOSTBUSTERS.

FREDERIC J. BROWN, AFP/Getty Images

“I saw it [The Exorcist] when I was 11,” Peli told The Guardian in 2009. “It totally freaked me out. After that I couldn’t watch any movie that had anything to do with a haunting or a ghost. I was in my mid-teens when Ghostbusters came out and although I knew it was a comedy, I couldn't handle the idea of it. I didn’t see another horror film until I was well into my twenties.” Peli’s fear of the unknown, especially the strange sounds he heard in his own house, partially inspired him to make Paranormal Activity.

4. THE MOVIE KICKED AROUND THE FILM FESTIVAL CIRCUIT FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS.

Paranormal Activity premiered at Los Angeles’s Screamfest in 2007, where Katie Featherston won an award for Best Actress. Producer Jason Blum helped Peli get an agent, and they started submitting the film all over town looking for a distributor. Though they failed to get the movie into Sundance, it did screen at Slamdance, another Park City, Utah film festival, in January 2008. DreamWorks originally wanted to remake the film, but eventually decided it was scarier as is.

5. STEVEN SPIELBERG THOUGHT HIS DVD OF THE FILM WAS HAUNTED.

As the urban legend goes, Spielberg, whose DreamWorks Studios was considering distributing Paranormal Activity, took a DVD of the movie home to watch, but then got freaked out when the door to his bedroom locked by itself. “So the whole story about how the doors to his bedroom got locked from the inside ... personally I believe it,” Peli told Moviefone. “It’s not something the marketing department just came up with before releasing the movie.” Spielberg famously carried the DVD to work in a trash bag because he thought it was haunted. Despite the shock, Spielberg loved the movie and even suggested a new ending, which is the one audiences ended up seeing in the theatrical release.

6. PELI FILMED THREE ENDINGS TO THE MOVIE.

Speaking of the ending: The above video simultaneously shows all three endings, with the original being twice as long as the others. The original entails cops coming into the house the next day and shooting and killing Katie. The alternate ending features Katie gruesomely slitting her throat, and the theatrical ending is what most people saw in the theaters when Katie supposedly kills Micah and becomes possessed by the demon. According to Entertainment Weekly, there was also an ending they never filmed: “A possessed Katie corners Micah and bludgeons him with his precious camera, while viewers watch from the camera’s POV.”

7. PRODUCER JASON BLUM HAS BEEN NOMINATED FOR TWO NON-PARANORMAL OSCARS.

Around the time of Paranormal Activity’s film festival circuit success, Jason Blum was working for Miramax and hooked up with Peli to help him edit the film. Blum earned a co-producing credit on the first film (and its subsequent sequels). Besides producing other horror franchises like Insidious and The Purge, Blum has earned two Best Picture Oscar nominations for his producing work on Damien Chazelle's Whiplash (2014) and Jordan Peele's Get Out (2017). Blum is also the recipient of two Emmy Awards for executive producing work on Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart (2014) and Andrew Jarecki's The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, both for HBO.

8. THE MOVIE KICKSTARTED THE FOUND FOOTAGE GENRE.

Paramount Home Video

Though 1999’s The Blair Witch Project was hardly the first found footage film (many say that distinction belongs to 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust), it generated new interest in the format. Still, audiences would have to wait until 2008’s Cloverfield, which was a modest hit, and another year for Paranormal Activity (which was filmed in 2006) to start seeing found footage films emerge as their own subgenre. To this day The Blair Witch Project remains the highest-grossing found footage film of all time, though.

9. OREN PELI’S FOLLOW-UP FILM BOMBED AT THE BOX OFFICE.

A few weeks after Paranormal Activity became a smash hit worldwide in the fall of 2009, Paramount secured the rights to Peli’s next found footage film, Area 51. Budgeted at $5 million, the film got held up for six years until it was released on May 15, 2015, with a week-long limited theatrical run at Alamo Drafthouse theaters and on VOD. The film, which was eventually released in just 16 theaters, only managed to gross $7556—a far cry from Paranormal Activity’s phenomenal ticket sales.

10. ALEC BALDWIN AND STEVE MARTIN PARODIED PARANORMAL ACTIVITY AT THE 2010 OSCARS.

You know something has invaded the pop culture mainstream when it starts being parodied, which is exactly what Oscar co-hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin did during their opening segment at the 2010 Academy Awards. The premise was that they just happened to be sharing the same hotel bed, and Martin set up a camera to record their sleeping habits. Martin thrashes around all night and at one point gets up and slaps Baldwin. No ghosts here; just terrible sleeping companions.

11. PARANORMAL ENTITY TRIED TO CAPITALIZE ON PARANORMAL ACTIVITY’S SUCCESS.

Two months after Paranormal Activity was released, a film called Paranormal Entity used a similar surveillance format to create a story that may or may not be real. Three more movies were made to coincide with the Paranormal sequels: 8213: Gacy House (Paranormal Entity 2), Anneliese: The Exorcist Tapes (Paranormal Entity 3), and 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck (Paranormal Entity 4). None of them managed to even come close to the success of the series they were trying to emulate.

An earlier version of this article ran in 2015.

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Facts About Louis Armstrong

Getty Images
Getty Images

With his infectious smile and raspy voice, Louis Armstrong (who actually pronounced his own name "Lewis") won over fans worldwide. To untold millions, every note that he let loose made the world feel a bit more wonderful, and his music is still being discovered by new generations of fans. Here are 10 facts about the life of one of the 20th century's most important jazz musicians.

1. Louis Armstrong spent his adult life celebrating his birthday on the wrong date.

Armstrong used to say that he’d been born on July 4, 1900. Turns out, he was 13 months off. In 1988, music historian Thaddeus “Tad” Jones located a baptismal record at New Orleans’s Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. According to this document, the performer’s actual birth date was August 4, 1901.

No one’s quite sure why Armstrong lied about his age, but the most popular theories maintain he wanted to join a military band or that he figured he'd have a better shot at landing gigs if he was over 18 years old.

2. As an adult, Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant to honor the Jewish family who had employed him.

While growing up, Armstrong did assorted jobs for the Karnofskys, a family of Lithuanian-Jewish immigrants. “They were always kind to me,” Armstrong once reflected, “[I] was just a little kid who could use a little word of kindness.” Apart from monetary compensation, Armstrong was given a hot meal every evening and regular invitations to Karnofsky Shabbat dinners. One day, they even advanced him the $5 he used to buy his very first horn.

3. Louis Armstrong would sometimes use a food-based sign-off.

Pops” had a special place in his heart for both Chinese and Italian food. But, as a Bayou State native, Armstrong’s favorite dish was always rice and beans. In fact, before marrying his fourth wife, he made sure that she could cook a satisfactory plateful. To grasp how much the man adored this entrée, consider that he often signed his personal letters with “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.”

4. During a famous recording, Louis Armstrong allegedly dropped his sheet music and improvised.

At one point in “Heebie Jeebies”—a 1926 song released by Armstrong and his "Hot Five” band—the singer vocalizes a series of nonsensical, horn-like sounds. Music historians recognize this as the first popular, mass-market scat ever recorded. Ironically, Armstrong later wrote the whole thing off as a big blunder on his part. In a 1951 interview with Esquire, Armstrong claimed to have come prepared with printed lyrics that day. Midway through the recording session, he accidentally dropped them and scatted to fill the ensuing silence. “Sure enough,” he explained, “they … [published] ‘Heebie Jeebies’ the same way it was mistakenly recorded.” However, most biographers believe that Armstrong made up this anecdote and had planned on scatting all along. It's also worth noting that even though he brought it into popularity, Armstrong in no way invented the technique, which dates back to at least 1906.

5. Louis Armstrong used to give away laxatives as gifts.

Between 1952 and 1955, Armstrong shed 100 pounds. Losing weight proved difficult at first, but his luck changed once he learned of an herbal laxative called “Swiss Kriss.” The artist promptly went out, bought a box, and became a lifelong spokesman. After trying it, he said that defecation sounded like “Applause.” Enamored, the musician began handing out packets to admirers, loved ones, and band members. Though he was the product's biggest cheerleader, Armstrong neither requested nor received any payment from its manufacturers.

6. Segregation laws drove Louis Armstrong to boycott his own state.

The year 1956 saw Louisiana prohibit integrated bands. Outraged, Armstrong refused to stage another concert within the state's borders. “They treat me better all over the world than they do in my hometown,” he said. “Ain’t that stupid? Jazz was born there and I remember when it was no crime for cats of any color to get together and blow.” Nine years later, after this ban had finally lifted, he again took the stage in New Orleans on October 31, 1965.

7. While playing before the royal family, Louis Armstrong gave King George V a new nickname.

At His Majesty’s command, several of the biggest names in jazz took their talents to Buckingham Palace, and in 1932, Armstrong was requested for a royal performance. Evidently, the show went well. According to Armstrong, that night’s “biggest laugh” came right before his group started playing “You Rascal, You.” Without warning, he looked straight up at the monarch and hollered, “This one’s for you, Rex!”

8. Louis Armstrong went on several goodwill tours during the Cold War.

Fresh off the wild success of his “Hello, Dolly!” cover, Armstrong made a trip to communist East Berlin in 1965, where he gave a two-hour concert that earned a standing ovation. While not officially government-sponsored, there are some who believe the concert was arranged by the CIA, which would make this just one of the many taxpayer-funded appearances he’d make abroad during the Cold War in an effort to strengthen diplomatic relations overseas. Previously, Armstrong had performed throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa—though he famously canceled a planned 1957 Soviet Union tour, citing the recent Little Rock crisis. “The way they are treating my people in the South,” declared Armstrong, “the government can go to hell.”

9. “What a Wonderful World" was originally pitched to Tony Bennett.

The song for which Pops is most widely remembered, “What a Wonderful World,” was almost never his song at all. After completing the optimistic anthem, songwriters Bob Thiele and George David Weiss thought that Tony Bennett would eat it right up. He subsequently passed, so the duo contacted Armstrong in August 1967.

10. "What a Wonderful World" didn't make a splash in the U.S. until well after Louis Armstrong's death.

The first recording of “What a Wonderful World” was produced by ABC Records, which made no attempt to advertise it domestically. Although the ballad topped the 1968 charts in Great Britain, American sales were abysmal. When Pops (who adored Thiele and Weiss’ masterwork) passed away on July 6, 1971, “What a Wonderful World” seemed destined for stateside obscurity.

Then along came a bare-knuckled comedy called Good Morning, Vietnam (1987). The joyous tune perfectly and ironically clashed with the wartime horrors depicted in one montage, so director Barry Levinson added it to his film’s soundtrack. “What a Wonderful World” struck a chord with moviegoers and was re-released that year, becoming an oft-requested radio hit.