Netflix’s Phenomena: the true story of the Hepta Group

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It’s always fascinating when a horror movie is based on a true story. There are a handful of films that are able to open a secret window through a world that we usually wouldn’t imagine: movies like The ExorcistAnnabelleThe Conjuring, or Veronica, are perfect examples of cases where something real inspired a horror, supernatural film. And in 2023, it’s the turn of Phenomena, the Spanish horror directed by Carlos Therón and inspired by real events. Let’s discover them in this article.

You can find the official trailer for Phenomena here on Youtube.

Netflix’s Phenomena: the true story of the Hepta Group

It’s not easy to find more information on the Internet, especially in English, but yes, the events presented in Phenomena are based on a true story that occurred in Madrid in 1999. The Hepta Group is real, founded in 1987 by Father José María Pilón, and you can find its official website here.

Father Pilón was a Jesuit priest with a Philosophy and Sacred Theology degree. He specialized in paranormal phenomena, wrote many books on this topic, and founded AMIPSA, the Spanish Association of Friends of Parapsychology. He’s considered one of the most famous Spanish priests of the 80s and the 90s and one of the most prominent experts of radiesthesia. You can watch here on Youtube an interview with him about this practice (in Spanish), and here is a bio page dedicated to him (always in Spanish).

He founded the Hepta Group in 1987 and recruited talented people who could investigate supernatural phenomena with him. The three women protagonists of the movie Phenomena are inspired by his three main collaborators: Sol Blanco-Soler, Paloma Navarrete, and Piedad Cavero. The movie is indeed dedicated to Paloma Navarrete, who died in 2022, shortly after the movie filming, whereas Father Pilón passed away in 2012.

The case presented in the movie Phenomena is a true story, one of the most famous cases ever managed by the Hepta Group. It took place in an antique store in Madrid called El Baúl del Monje: the owners reported strange events happening in the store, including violent noises, flying objects, unpleasant smells, and human shadows appearing and disappearing inside the rooms. It’s considered one of Spain’s most important Poltergeist cases, and it has a dedicated page on the Spanish Wikipedia. On that page, you can find the description of what was happening by the mediums of the Hepta Group:

“The lamps began to move by themselves. For example, the crystalline ornaments that hang from them appeared in other rooms. They jumped in front of your eyes or directly broke. The faucets turned on on their own; sometimes, it seemed like tableware had fallen on the floor. Many other times, a rotten smell arose, turning into an incredible scent of roses. It emerged from the rooms and impregnated some furniture. It smelled like burnt hair inside one of the closets.”

As director Carlos Therón admits, the movie took some liberties about the events that occurred in that shop in Madrid, but the three members of the Hepta Group were ok with the movie’s transposition. According to the three experts who investigated the case, the origin of those events was a poltergeist: a ghost who occupies the places hosted by the living because they need someone to listen to them and help them escape the conditions they are blocked in.

Surprisingly, most of the things we see in Phenomena really happened. They are unrelated to the death of Father Pilón, but if we exclude some fictional elements introduced by the director to make the movie more interesting, Phenomena is just telling a true story that occurred in Madrid in 1999.

Read other true stories behind movies and TV series on Auralcrave