Even after you pass through the small town of Perryopolis, Buffalo Bill’s House is out of the way. To get there, you’ll need to pass through an imposing tunnel and over a one-lane bridge that spans the Youghiogheny River.
There are surprises in store once you arrive — from the recreated scenes in the basement of the 111-year-old home to the talking statue of Hannibal Lecter in the foyer. But this is more than just a location tour, and there’s nothing creepy about the lodgings; even without its slice of cinema history, Buffalo Bill’s House is simply a great place to spend the weekend.
The three-story home played a pivotal role in the Academy-Award winning “Silence of the Lambs.” As FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) searches for the identity of notorious killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine), she unwittingly walks into danger; thinking she’s asking a neighbor for clues, she unknowingly knocks on Bill’s front door. He leads her into the house; when she realizes the truth, Bill dashes into a darkened basement, hoping to lure Clarice into a trap.
These scenes were filmed in Perryopolis; most of the film was made in western Pennsylvania, including scenes at Soldiers & Sailors in Oakland. (That landmark is also celebrating “Silence of the Lambs” this week, with a 30th-anniversary screening of the film — in the room where Lecter escaped his cage — scheduled for Friday night.)
The home was a private residence, returned to its owners after filming; almost three decades later, it went on the market.
The listing caught the attention of Chris Rowan, a New York-based art director and prop stylist for feature films. He saw an opportunity to turn the property into not merely a place for “Silence of the Lambs” fans to visit — but also a rare opportunity for fans to actually stay in the world of the film.
“I’m a fan myself,” he explains. “I’ve been to the ‘Friday the 13th’ [filming site] in New Jersey, and the ‘Amityville Horror’ house in New York and Freddy [Krueger]’s house in Pasadena … Those are all places I’ve gone to see and take photos, and the only one you can only go into — on special tour dates — is the ‘Friday the 13th’ campgrounds.
“Buffalo Bill’s is different. Buffalo Bill’s allows you to engage at your leisure, in a totally private format.”
He put in an offer on the house in October 2020 and closed in January; the home opened for guests on Labor Day weekend. The first stay was given away for free on the property’s social media accounts; it was won by a New York resident who is a former student of Tom Savini’s special effects makeup program in nearby Monessen.
Throughout the main floor of the house, movie-themed artwork — much of it donated by fans of the film — and artifacts from filming accompany furniture sourced individually to match the Victorian style of the home. In the basement, however, fans will have a chance to indulge in a bit of role-play: Rowan has partially recreated Bill’s subterranean lair, complete with some surprising special effects.
“The goal is to provide an immersive experience — really kind of take you into this dark sensibility of Buffalo Bill … I want to take people into the film itself.”
Rowan is still adding to the set recreations in the basement, with plans to build a replica of the sinister well where Bill traps his victims. (Those scenes weren’t filmed in Perryopolis; the movie’s basement was created in a studio.)
“Because you get to stay here totally by yourself, with your own group, you should feel very comfortable having as much fun as you want recreating all the scenes.”
Buffalo Bill’s House is not a bed and breakfast or shared space; guests rent the entire property and have it to themselves for the length of the stay. The second floor has four bedrooms, comfortably sleeping eight people.
Beyond the many details and nods for film fans, Rowan has worked to ensure that guests will enjoy their stay. An in-ground pool sits next to a vintage railroad car he’s converting into a pool house; two outdoor seating areas, one with a grill, invite a leisurely evening. On the top floor of the house — dubbed Buffalo Bill’s Playhouse — guests will find working arcade games and a vast library of DVDs and VHS tapes.
“The inspiration for this room was to create a retro, ’70s, ’80s, rec room/game room type vibe — something that doesn’t correlate to the Victorian roots of the home, but is still retro in its own right.”
For fans, Buffalo Bill’s House is a must visit; as Rowan points out, it’s one of the most intimate experiences a horror hound can have with a filming location. But even for more casual fans of “Silence of the Lambs,” it’s a remarkable, unique and inviting vacation property. While Perryopolis may not be at the top of anyone’s list as a getaway destination, anyone looking for a fun and relaxing weekend should take a look.
Just bring your own Chianti.