Construction on Rose Red began in 1906 by John P. Rimbauer at the top of Spring Street in the centre of Seattle, as a wedding present to his wife. Rimbauer was founder of Omicron Oil Company, the biggest oil company in America until 1950. That year was also the year Ellen Rimbauer disappeared.
The trouble with Rose Red started even before there was a house. Construction crews worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But that wasn't the problem, the problem was that even before there was a house there, that piece of ground drove people mad. Harry Corbin shot and killed Rimbauer's first foreman. Corbin made no effort to escape; he just dropped his gun in his wagon and went down to a Seattle saloon, which was where the police found him. When he was tried, he claimed he remembered nothing from breakfast that morning until the time he woke up in jail with a knot behind his ear. Neither the judge nor jury believed him and he was sentenced to 25 years. Harry Corbin may have been Rose Red's first male victim.
John Rimbauer and Ellen Gilchrist were married on November 12, 1907. He was 40 years old, and she was 20. Rose Red had been under construction for a year. Already there had been three deaths on the premises. One man was decapitated by a sheet of falling glass. Another fell from a scaffold and broke his neck. The third choked to death on a piece of apple.
One of the psychics mentions that Rose Red looks like it has metastasized after observing that the building had grown on its own over the years. No one really knows how many rooms it holds. 23 people have disappeared inside Rose Red's walls since the end of World War 1. Five men and eighteen women have disappeared in Rose Red. The last recorded disappearance in Rose Red was in 1972. Liza Albert, a woman on the Historical Society's annual tour, was with the group when they went upstairs. After the tour was over, the group realized that she was not with them anymore. The police did not find her, but they did find her purse, bloody and ripped. Since her disappearance, the house has been closed to tours.
After John and Ellen married, they took a long honeymoon which lasted a year. They circled the globe on liners like the Ocean Star. Rimbauer favoured his time in Africa. Ellen didn't enjoy it quite as much. In fact, she nearly died. She contracted an African illness. An African woman named Sukeena helped her recover. In her diary she called it "an unmentionable disease carried by men and suffered by women". Ellen recovered. When she and John finally took up residence in Rose Red in January 1909, Ellen was pregnant. John thought the house was finished, but the house was not completed; neither in his lifetime nor in hers. What makes Rose Red one of the world's most fascinating psychic artifacts is that the house continued to grow until its death in 1995 or 1996. Until 1950, changes and additions were made according to the will of Ellen Rimbauer. After 1950, Rose Red grew on its own.
In the fall of 1909, Ellen Rimbauer gave birth to a son. In her diary she wrote, "I have called him Adam, for he is the first." Sukeena saw Ellen through the difficult labour. In her diary, Ellen never refers to Sukeena as her servant. First she calls her, "my friend" and then later, "my sister". When Ellen gave birth to a daughter with a withered arm, she blamed her African illness and her husband's sexual appetites, although she wrote, "In my mind they are one," to which she added, "Damn all men." John and Ellen's daughter was born in April 1911, and she was therefore named April. In the years following the birth of Ellen's daughter, Ellen became convinced that her fever, which recurred periodically, would kill her young. That made her easy game for Madame Stravinsky, as she called herself. Not even Sukeena could convince her that the old lady was a fraud. Fraud or not, Madame Stravinsky—known to police in San Francisco and Los Angeles as Cora Fry—changed Ellen Rimbauer's life one night in August 1914. Madame Stravinsky told Ellen that she must continue to build. She also told Ellen that she would not die until the house was finished. Ellen told her that the house was finished, but Madame Stravinksy told her that Rose Red would never be finished until Ellen thought it so. Ellen took it seriously, probably she was right to. Everything else aside, she never had another attack of her African fever.
The next week, construction at Rose Red began for a new wing, the first of many. Her husband had nothing to say about this. The girl had a withered arm, but the son was fine. It was the son John Rimbauer cared about. In John's mind, Ellen had fulfilled her function, and could pretty much do what she liked. He was preoccupied with his business and extramarital affairs. Ellen continued to make additions to the house until her disappearance in 1950. Over 40 years of well-financed eccentricity. When she ran out of conventional additions to build to the house, she hired contractors and architects to build unconventional additions, such as the so-called tower of folly which was completed in 1921. John Rimbauer fell to his death from it two years later. Although his death certificate stated accidential death, gossip claimed suicide or ghosts. During Rose Red's active years, women in Rose Red tended to turn up missing, and men tended to turn up dead.