With Annabelle making her solo debut at the cinemas this Halloween, we’ve just received the news that The Conjuring Part 2 has the green light for production. So we thought it was an ideal time to look behind the horror franchises, at Ed and Lorraine Warren. Together they travelled the world tracking down and investigating some of the most famous hauntings in recent history. They were the original ghost busters and this is their story.
The Early Days
Ed Warren was working as an usher at the Colonial Theatre, Bridgeport the first time he saw his future wife and ghost hunting partner. “Lorraine and her mother used to come every Wednesday night,” Ed said in an interview. “So I’d see her coming in and we started talking and became friends. I was 16 at the time and she was 16, one night I walked her home and asked her for a date—and that’s how it started.”
The Early days – Ed and Lorraine Warren. Image source: www.warrens.net
On his seventeenth birthday Ed joined the navy to fight in WWII. After his ship sank just four months into his service he returned home on leave to marry his sweetheart. He returned once more to the navy and fought bravely before coming home for good after the war ended, and he and Lorraine began married life in earnest with the arrival of their daughter Judy.
After a stint at university studying art, Ed decided to go it alone, replying on his own natural born talent. With his small family in tow, Ed headed out on the road to earn his living as a traveling painter, and it was through his art that lead the Warrens to their first ghost investigations.
To fully understand where Ed’s interest in the paranormal began, we have to go back to his childhood. Growing up in a haunted house, his father a police officer would often say to his young son “Ed, there’s a logical reason for everything that happens in this house,” without ever coming up with any logical reasons for the persistent paranormal activity that plagued his family. Doors would open and close by themselves, footsteps, heavy breathing and unexplained lights would often be seen and heard around the house at night. From the age of five until twelve Ed and his family lived in the house until finally they moved. Although frightened, the experience left him with a life-long interest in the paranormal, and it was this longing to understand the unknown that eventually drew him back to haunted houses years later.
However Ed was not alone in his obsession. Lorraine also shared a history of paranormal activity. It was during her time at a local private Catholic girl’s school she began to see ‘lights around people’. In an interview with the Telegraph in 2013, she said ‘I confided in one of the nuns, my French teacher,’ she recalled. ‘I told her that her lights were much brighter than Mother Superior’s. I just assumed others could see them too.’Over the course of her life Lorraine would develop this natural ability, and in time would become a gifted psychic.
So it was in the mid 1950’s the couple found themselves making a living by selling Ed’s paintings. They soon began hearing tales of strange happenings in homes around the surrounding areas. Intrigued, the couple took it upon themselves to check out the hauntings for themselves. Thus began their joint careers as psychic investigators.
Applying policing methods he had learned from his father, Ed would ask questions and take meticulous notes. Discussing his methods during an interview “I have to see it, I have to feel it, I have to hear it, I have to record it before I accept it”. Lorraine on the other hand, worked entirely on instinct using her psychic gift. “If you look at a fan and it’s standing still, you can see the propellers very easily. But, if that fan starts up you can’t see anything—it’s invisible.” Ed explained. “Spirits are on that different vibrational field. They’re all around us right now but you can’t see them. But if you were like Lorraine, you could see them clairvisually, hear them claiaudioally.”
Perhaps that was the secret to the couple’s success, both employing different methods and skills to hone in on and identify the unseen and unknown. ‘I would get them to let me go round the house on my own, without any prior knowledge of what they had experienced, to see what I discerned.’ Lorraine told the Telepgraph. ‘And I would sit on the bed – where people spend a third of their life, that’s where you get the best vibrations – and names and visions would come to me.’
Together Ed and Lorraine quickly become efficient at identifying natural explanations for supposed hauntings from those that were the real deal. Rapidly building a solid reputation, it was in 1972 that the Warren’s got their first taste of fame. Invited to investigate the apparent haunting of Westpoint military academy, details of the case were subsequently leaked despite the best efforts of the Military. The suddenly Warrens found themselves and their work in the public eye. Soon they were travelling the world, giving lectures and investigating haunted locations around the globe. It’s important to note, that the Ed and Lorraine made a living from their lectures and from Ed’s paintings. They never charged for any of their investigations or related services.
Over a career spanning 50 years, the Warrens investigated over 3,000 hauntings and possessions. While many cases fell below the radar, some rose to worldwide attention inspiring a vast number of books and films. The most famous of which began with six gun shots fired in the night.
The Amityville Horror
During the early morning hours of November 14th 1974, in the placid New York town Amityville, Ronald DeFeo Jr shot and killed six members of his own family as they slept in their beds. The house lay empty for thirteen months after the murders until the Lutz family moved into the Long island home. They said they were unbothered by the brutal slaying that took place there. That was until the haunting began.
From the very first night, the Lutz family claimed they felt strange sensations. Within days the family’s personality had drastically changed, arguments ensued. George Lutz was plagued by a constant chill and his wife Kathy’s health declined drastically. The Lutz’s daughter began spending all her time in her room playing with an imaginary friend named Jodie. Mysterious foul odours would emanate from different locations, black stains appeared on the toilets and ceramic fixtures. Hundreds of flies appeared inside the house despite it being the dead of winter. George would wake up nightly at 3:15 a.m. which coincided with the time the police felt the Defoe’s were murdered, one night waking to witness his wife levitating off the bed.
Terrified the Lutz family tried to contact the local Catholic priest only to find the phones would cut out whenever they would try to call. On the final night things became drastically worse. Banging and wrappings emanated throughout the house, furniture moved by its own accord, and the children were terrorized by unseen entities. It was the final straw. After just 28 days the Lutz family fled the house, never to return.
American’s, at first enthralled by the brutal slayings were now enraptured by the subsequent haunting of the Lutz family. Into the eye of the media storm on March 6th 1976, Ed and Lorraine Warren entered the house to investigate alongside a crew from the television station Channel 5 New York and reporter Michael Linder of WNEW-FM.
Ed, by now a respected demonologist, was physically pushed to the floor while using some religious provocation in the basement, while Lorraine was overwhelmed by the sense of a demonic presence and was plagued by psychic impressions.
The little boy is believed to be the ghost of the younger of the DeFeo boys who had been murdered in the house
The most compelling evidence captured during the course of the investigation was from a series of infrared time-lapse photographs. One of the images seemed to show a demonic boy with glowing eyes standing at the foot of a staircase.
The investigation came to a close with the Warrens believing they at last understood what had caused such violent acts and extreme paranormal activity. After detailed research the team discovered the land had once been owned by John Ketchem, commonly believed to practice the dark arts. At his request, Ketchum was buried on the land on which the house would years later be built upon. Earlier still, the Shinicock Indians had once used the land as an enclosure to house the sick and the mad, who were deserted to die alone and in pain.
It was this dark history that the Warren’s claimed had impacted the lives of the Defoe and Lutz families so grievously. Believing the negative energy acted as a magnet for demonic spirits and the preternatural.
The Amityville house was sold in 2010 by the Lutz family for $950,000. There has been no further reported paranormal activity.
The Occult Museum and The Demon Doll
Locked within it’s case, Annabelle the demon doll still resides to this day
Once hidden in the basement of the Warrens clapboard house in a small Connecticut town, lies an impressive collection of unholy artefacts. A 7ft satanic icon stands amongst an assortment of human skulls, figurines, books, pictures and cursed masks. “In the Occult museum, there are things that are so dangerous that just in touching them you could be very badly affected. They are the opposite of what you would touch in a church, a holy relic, a cross a statue, the statue, the crosses and relics have been blessed.” Ed said in his interview with GhostVillage. The museum was eventually opened to the public (by appointment only) with guided tours for those interested in the unexplained.
Amongst the oddities a glass case sits, kept securely locked under strict instructions never to be opened. It’s the home of an innocent looking doll, but for those of us who have seen the 2013 smash hit film The Conjuring already know that looks can be deceiving.
Sometime during the early 1970’s Donna, a student nurse received an antique Raggedy Ann doll from her mother as a birthday present. Taking the doll back to her small apartment which she shared with her room-mate she placed the doll on her bed and thought no more about it until a few days later. At first both woman noted that the doll had started to creep them out. They began to notice that the doll had begun to change its position and eventually to move to different rooms from which it had been left seemingly of its own accord.
The doll not only moved but could write too. About a month into their experiences Donna and Angie began to find pencilled messages on parchment paper that read “Help Us”. The hand writing looked to belong to that of a small child.
Knowing that they must do something about the sinister doll, the room-mates contacted a medium who conducted a séance. Through the medium, Donna and Angie were contacted by Annabelle Higgins who told them her story. Annabelle was a young girl who had lived near to where the apartments were built. She was only seven years old when her lifeless body was found in the field upon which the apartment complex now stood.
Annabelle told the women that she felt comfort and safe with them and wanted to stay with them and be loved. Feeling compassion for Annabelle and her story Donna gave her permission to inhibit the doll and stay with them. They were to soon find out however, that Annabelle was not what she seemed to be.
After a series of violent attacks by an unseen entity Donna contacted a priest named Father Cooke who immediately called in the Warrens. After speaking to the room-mates, Ed and Lorraine came to the conclusion that the doll itself was not in fact possessed but manipulated by an inhuman presence. This spirit manipulated the doll and created the illusion of it being alive in order to get recognition. The inhuman presence was not looking to stay attached to the doll, it was looking to possess a human host.
The Warrens believed that the next stage of the demonic infestation phenomenon would have been complete human possession. Had these experiences lasted another 2 or 3 more weeks the spirit would have completely possessed, if not harmed or killed one or all of the occupants in the house.
At the conclusion of the investigation the Warrens felt it appropriate to have a recitation of an exorcism blessing by Father Cooke to cleanse the apartment. At Donna’s request, and as a further precaution against the phenomena ever occurring in the home again, the Warrens took the big rag doll along with them when they left. They had a special case built for Annabelle inside the Occult museum, where she resides to this day.
The Harrisville Haunting
Central to their relationship, the Warrens shared a deep belief in the Catholic faith, and in turn the existence of evil, demons and demonic possession. Never one to hold back, Ed often spoke about his beliefs; especially in connection to what he claimed were demonic cases. His critics often called him an eccentric because of his beliefs, but to Ed it was a simple matter of faith. “I learned about them [demons] as a child and proved they exist as a man” he said in an interview. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt. If you don’t want to call them devils and demons call them evil—I don’t care what you call them. Religions are man-made, but spirituality isn’t.”
Through his continued work with the Church, Ed became one of only seven religious demonologists in the United States. All bar him were priests. ‘We had one bishop who was really supportive and helpful. But there are very few exorcists around these days.’ Lorraine told the Telegraph. If a priest was not available, Ed himself would sometimes perform the rituals when they encountered cases of what they believed to be demonic possession. One such case that required their unique knowledge and experience involved the Perron family.
“Leave the lights on at night” Roger and Carolyn Perron were advised when they purchased the Old Arnold Estate in Harrisville, Rhode Island. They had moved to 200 acre estate seeking a quieter life in the country for themselves and their children in the winter of 1970.
The house, originally built in 1736 was one of the first plantations in the area. Eight generations of families had lived and died within the estate before the Perrons took ownership. A series of suicides, hangings and poisonings made up just some of the Old Arnold Estate history, alongside the rape and murder of a young girl, two drowning’s in the creek by the house and finally the mysterious deaths of four men who were found frozen on the grounds. Knowing the history of the place, nobody was surprised; least of all the Perrons when they discovered they were not alone in the house.
At first the family found that they were happy to share their new house with the numerous spirits that resided there, the children in particular even grew fond of some. The girls would often sit down to watch their toys being pushed around by the invisible hands of a young boy. ‘Manny’ was also a favourite spirit of the Perron children, they believed he was the ghost of Johnny Arnold who in the 1700’s had hung himself in the attic. He would appear, standing quietly in the corner of the room watching the children as they played, a crooked smile upon his face. Another of the friendly ghosts was a female spirit, who the family recognised by its scent of flowers, would gently kiss each of the girls goodnight as lay in their beds.
However not all the spirits were so nice. Some would bite and scratch the children, pulling their hair and pushing them to the floor. At night one spirit would keep the family awake by its continuous call of “Mama! Maaaama!”, while another would whisper into the children’s ears of dead bodies hidden within the walls. But the worst of them targeted Mrs Perron with such violence and malice that its actions would eventually draw the attention of Warrens. The family came it know it as Bathsheba, while the Warren’s they knew it simply as a demon.
Bathsheba Thayer married Judson Sherman on March 10, 1844, and sometime after came to live at the Old Arnold Estate. The first child of the union died with Bathsheba charged with its murder. Her baby’s body had been found, impaled in the head with a sharp object. Locals and the authorities alike believed the murder to be a sacrifice to Satan and that Bathsheba was a practising Satanist. The case was eventually dropped due to lack of evidence, and Bathsheba lived the rest of her life as an outcast from the community. She died in the early 19th century by hanging herself from a tree behind the house. The coroner wrote that upon examination of her body, he had never seen anything like it – her emaciated body had solidified, seemingly turned to stone.
Carolyn Perron described Bathsheba as having a face “similar to a desiccated bee hive”. She would walk into a room, or wake up in the middle of the night to see the entity sitting watching her, its head, round and grey leaning off to one side as if its neck had been broken and a putrid stench permeating the room. It would pinch and slap Carolyn; throwing things at her all the while telling her to “Get out!” and to leave the house and never return.
The attacks progressed in ferocity; one time as Carolyn was lying on the couch she felt a sharp pain in her leg. Upon examination she found a large bleeding puncture as though she had been stabbed by a large sewing needle. After the warnings and attacks failed to make Carolyn leave, the entity took a different plan of action. Bathsheba began to invade and possess Carolyn from within. It was then that the Perron family finally reached out to Ed and Lorrain Warren for help.
The Warrens already famous for their work on the Amityville case, were conducting a series of lectures and talks around the country. Tackling Ed and Lorraine as they left a speaking engagement, Roger Perron pleaded with the couple to help his wife, unable to refuse the Warrens agreed.
By the time the Warrens become involved it was believed that Bathsheba had completely taken possession of Carolyn. After a short assessment, the Warrens were left in complete agreement and successfully sought the permission from the Vatican to conduct an exorcism. The Perrons eldest daughter Andrea recalled the night the exorcism took place “The night I thought I saw my mother die was the most terrifying night of all. She spoke in a voice we had never heard before and a power not of this world threw her twenty feet into another room.”
It’s at this point where the film The Conjuring and what actually happened in reality differ. Unlike the films portrayal of the Warrens successfully exorcising the demon, in truth the Warrens on this occasion failed. Carolyn recalled that “dreadful night” and explained that even though the Warrens’ intentions were good, they found that things “got worse around them”. Fearing for their lives Roger Perron felt he had no choice but to ask the Warrens to leave the house immediately.
After the failed exorcism, the Perron family continued to endure the consistent haunting. Unable to leave the house due to financial constraints, they continued living at the Old Arnold Estate for a further 10 years until at last they were able to vacate the house. In 1980 they left for good and found a new home and life in Georgia.
Notable Cases and an End of an Era
Since 1952 the Warrens directed the New England Society for Psychic Research. Over the years and through thousands of investigations the goal of the N.S.P.R. remained the same – to share information and to help people plagued by the supernatural.
Although their attempts to help the Perron family ended unsuccessfully, they continued to investigate hauntings and paranormal occurrences, including some high profile investigations. One such case was the Demon Murder, as it would later be known. The Warrens were called in to help with a case of man supposedly suffering from demonic possession. After the investigation, Arne Johnson, the brother of the possessed man, murdered his landlord Alan Bono. The Warrens were called into court and gave evidence at the trail, claiming the defendant had also been possessed at the time of the murder along with his brother. Johnson was eventually found guilty of the crime and sentenced to 20 years.
Another notable case that gained wide media attention, was that of the Smurl family haunting. Pennsylvania residents Jack and Janet Smurl called in Ed and Lorraine claiming their house was haunted. After a thorough investigation the Warrens came to believe that the Smurls were indeed being haunted, not by one but by three separate spirits and a demon. The case became notorious when details were given to the press that the demon had sexually assaulted both Jack and Janet. A book titled The Haunting, detailing the harrowing account of the Smurls was published in 1986, and made-for-tv-movie of the same name was aired in 1991.
The case of the White Lady of Stepney Cemetery was to be one of the last cases the Warrens would work on together. Reports of an apparition seen at the cemetery date back to the late 50’s, taking up the challenge Ed began an investigation, eventually capturing the White Lady on film. In August 2006 Ed sadly passed away, Lorraine holding him in her arms. At his request he was buried in Stepney Cemetery.
The Warrens son in law Tony Spera eventually took over from Ed, assisting Lorraine who still occasionally agrees to investigate a haunting, and also aids in the running of the Occult Museum which still resides in the Warrens Connecticut home . When asked about how she feels about continuing the work of the New England Society for Psychic Research, she said simply “It was really Ed himself that let me know that he wanted me to [continue to] do this, so I will say that I am doing it for him. I am doing it to honor my husband. The work meant a great deal to him, so that is why I want to carry on his legacy.”
The Occult museum is open to the public, but by appointment only.
‘The Amityville Horror‘ ‘The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren’ Gerald Brittle
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