The Arne Johnson Case
In February, 1981 Arne Cheyenne Johnson of Connecticut was charged with murdering his girlfriend’s employer. His attorneys presented the novel defense that while Arne physically committed the murder, he wasn’t ultimately responsible for it because he had been possessed by the same demons that plagued his girlfriend’s little brother.
Ed and Lorraine Warren had investigated this possession shortly after it began, and concluded it was initiated by “a devil of a very high order”.
This account comes from Gerald Brittle’s 1983 book The Devil in Connecticut, reprinted three years ago.
The Beast and the Waterbed
The Johnsons came from the Warrens’ hometown, Brookfield, Connecticut.
In the summer of 1980 Mary Johnson, 42, was a divorcee raising two daughters and a niece while working as a motel housekeeper and battling cancer. Her son Arne, 18, had been the man since he dropped of out tenth grade to help support the family. He was planning to marry his girlfriend, Debbie, that autumn. Debbie was a dog-groomer who had been renting a room in the Johnson home for four years, with her 7-year-old son from a brief teenage marriage. Arne was just 14 when they met.
On July 2, Arne and Debbie began moving the whole family into a rented country house in Newtown. The kids and their sheepdog, George, could romp safely in the yard. Arne, aspiring to be a tree surgeon, looked for landscaping work. Money would be tight, but Arne and Debbie seemed prepared for the challenge; both were mature, hardworking, and responsible. Yet Debbie’s parents, the Glatzels, thought it was a potentially disastrous move: A lot of time, money, and effort had to go into such a large family.
Brittle hints that the old ranch house itself held a disturbing presence. George the dog began barking as soon as he reached the threshold (just as the Lutzes’ dog behaved strangely at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville). Debbie felt a sudden chill in the stifling-hot hallway, and moments later had an uncharacteristically angry outburst at Arne. Such outbursts were also reported by George Lutz.
Debbie’s mother pronounced the house “creepy” and “not a happy home”, complaining of odd feelings when she was in it. A storage room in the basement was locked; the owner’s daughter explained that no one was allowed in there. Again, this “secret room” has a counterpart in the “red room” in the basement of the Amityville house, and such rooms will show up again in other cases investigated by the Warrens, notably the “haunting in Connecticut”.
Debbie’s three little brothers, ranging in age from 11 to 14, pitched in to clean up the house on that afternoon. 11-year-old David, a chubby and cheerful boy, was actually assaulted by the transparent apparition of an old man while he was alone in one of the bedrooms. The man shoved him backwards onto a waterbed left behind by the previous tenant, pointed at David, said, “Beware”, then faded into invisibility. David immediately fled the house and refused to re-enter it. A short time later, his brothers were momentarily trapped in the same bedroom after the door slammed shut by itself and refused to open.
The Johnsons didn’t say in the house that night, but George was left there to guard it. David told everyone about the ghost-man, and made the unnerving claim that he could still “see” events occurring in the house from a distance. He said the man had sprouted horns and was chasing George, causing the dog to scratch frantically at the front door and the door to the locked room in the basement where the old man “lived”. David was also receiving telepathic orders from the ghost-devil to remove all Catholic paraphernalia from the Glatzel home. Debbie was spooked enough by her brother’s story to announce that she had changed her mind about moving the Johnsons into it.
David next received a telepathic warning that no one was to tell Mrs. Johnson about the ghost. The boy announced, “Mary is his, he says. He’s been ‘interfering in her affairs’ for a long time …he’s going to break her down; he wants her to do his work.” (1, 29) Then he made two predictions: The waterbed would burst by 3:00 in the afternoon of the next day, and Judy Glatzel (his mother) would be blinded by midnight if anyone told Mary Johnson that her home was already occupied by…something.
“And if there’s any more impertinence…there’s going to be unrelenting pandemonium…” David was in special ed classes at school, and had never used big words like these. The family didn’t know what to think. They were certain the boy hadn’t taken any drugs or watched any scary movies, and mental illness or trickery apparently didn’t cross their minds.
As it turned out, George had scratched up the doors in the rental house.
Ghost Chickens and other Horrors
When the Johnsons returned to the Newtown house, they found the landlady had lied to them; her daughter was still living on the property, and utilities would not be included in the rent as originally agreed. The daughter calmly informed Debbie that the man-devil was merely the ghost of her granddad, a harmless old man. Despite this and David’s warnings, Mary Johnson moved in immediately. But Arne and Debbie packed to their stuff and moved in with the Glatzels. Mary was upset that her son and his fiancee had backed out of their arrangement, especially on such a flimsy and bizarre pretext. Because of this, Arne became estranged from his mom and sisters.
At the Glatzel house, David was giving forth a new string of prophecies and warnings. Among other misfortunes, his own hand would be burned, and he would also be stabbed. Then he announced, hysterically, that the ghost was coming to get him at that moment. He charted the spirit’s progress as it floated over trees, houses, and roads, finally landing in the next-door neighbors’ yard. Mrs. Glatzel ran to fetch her holy water, splashing it across every door and window in the house to bar the devil-man’s entrance. This repelled him for a little while. According to David, the spirit returned to the Johnson house.
On July 14th, Debbie recorded in her journal, David was “stabbed” twice by an invisible knife wielded by an invisible entity. A few hours later, he was “shot” in the stomach by an invisible gun loaded with invisible bullets. Since he wasn’t injured in any way, the family merely doused him with holy water and recited the 23rd Psalm, as recommended by their priest.
Judy was “blinded” at 11:45 PM when her son accidentally poked his finger in her eye, scratching the cornea. David burned his hand at a 4th of July picnic. And the ghost that David now called The Beast finally penetrated the holy-water-saturated Glatzel house via an attic window. David told his mother The Beast was molesting the Johnson girls, and had ordered David to begin praying to him as his new “Father”. The boy received slaps from an invisible hand for talking about these things, he said. At night, the Beast demanded David’s soul, but David, being a good Catholic boy, held onto it.
Amazingly, nearly everyone in the Glatzel family (four adults and four boys under 14) bought into David’s weird stories, as did Debbie, and to a slightly lesser degree, Arne. They began hearing thumps, scratches, and footsteps from the attic. They swore that the Beast threw David around the room, banged on walls, and caused all other kinds of chaos in the household. They began sleeping in the living room out of fear. Only David’s dad, Carl, didn’t believe they were being haunted. He thought his son needed help. Carl Jr., 14, didn’t believe any of it either. He became angry, foul-mouthed, and confrontational, mocking everyone else for believing David’s stories. At one point he called his mom a bitch who deserved to be killed. He insisted the whole family had gone crazy, and needed mental help rather than a priest.
After The Devil in Connecticut was reissued in 2006, Carl Jr. filed a lawsuit against Brittle and the Warrens for defamation. Ed Warren had said of him, as quoted by Brittle: “Denial of the truth is the way of the devil, and young Carl’s behaviour was a classic illustration of that fact” (1, 164). Carl says the demonic possession of his brother was a hoax cooked up by the Warrens, and accused the Warrens and Brittle of invading his privacy with the publication of the book. In self-defense, Lorraine Warren declared the possession had been judged genuine by six priests, “the cream of the Catholic Church.”
When she arrived to collect her waterbed (which had indeed sprung a leak), the previous tenant of the Newtown house told Arne and Debbie of poltergeist activity in the house, including cold drafts and the clucking of ghostly chickens. For some reason, she believed the locked room held a “profane altar used by witches”.
Enter the Warrens
The Johnsons and Glatzels were all devout Christians. Mary had even spent four years in an Episcopalian convent prior to her marriage. She had reared all her children as Baptists, attending church and Sunday school every week. Sadly, this devotion had primed them to believe in some strange things, and they were all very concerned about the haunting. On July 6, a fellow dog-groomer told Debbie about the Warrens, who had helped her friend deal with a ghost. The following night, Debbie saw the Beast crawling across the living room ceiling in the Glatzel home.
The Warrens agreed to take the case. They would later call it the worst they ever saw.
They arrived with a Bridgeport physician, Dr. Anthony Giangrasso. Carl Sr. tried to dissuade them from entering the house, saying his family had gone crazy, but Judy welcomed them with relief. Dr. Giangrasso examined David. David was the only member of the household who could hear and see the Beast and the 43 demons, which he said had materialized from balls of light in his bedroom one night. The Beast claimed to be Satan, and said it had no soul. It liked to sit in a rocking chair in the living room (rocking chairs played prominent roles in the Amityville case and the story of the Ocean Born Mary House), while the other entities flocked to the attic to bask in the heat.
Lorraine could sense the Beast’s presence, and the fact that David could see and hear the Beast from the very beginning indicated to them that it was an unusually powerful entity. They were alarmed by the speed with which the phenomena had progressed; barely two weeks had elapsed since David’s first encounter with the “ghost”.
David, they concluded, was a victim of “transient possession”.
The Warrens quickly pinpointed the cause, though it would later be replaced by a more sinister explanation: In the early ’70s, Debbie had taken an elective high school course on witchcraft and the occult. (It seems unlikely to me that a Bridgeport high school would offer something like this, but I’ll let it slide. It’s not exactly the most problematic aspect of this case.) Debbie had also used a ouija board, receiving messages from entities the Warrens identified as incubi and ghosts. Even though she had disposed of the board, the “law of invitation” left the entire, extended family vulnerable to the entities that dwelt in Mary Johnson’s rented house.
Weirdly, the demon horde commuted between the Glatzel home and the Johnson house, but the latter manifestations were limited to strange noises heard by Mary’s youngest girls, ages 9 and 12. Mary would later move her family out of the Newtown house because the girls were afraid to live in it.
There were other factors, too: Carl, Sr., had never been baptized, Carl Jr. was non-religious, and Debbie and Arne were living in sin.
Possession x 2
For a couple of weeks, David’s possession worsened. He became hateful and vulgar, pulled a knife on one of his brothers, showed an aversion to holy water, and tried to strangle Arne. The family summoned the Warrens, Dr. Giangrasso, or John Kenyhercz (one of Ed’s assistants) whenever he got out of control.
Then, in the latter half of July, all was relatively quiet. Until David and his brother Alan reported hearing strange noises: a girl calling out for help, a snake hissing, disembodied whispers. The Glatzel house, like the Amityville house, became thick with flies. Activity resumed full-force when Father Dennis, the family priest, departed for a vacation in Ireland. Objects levitated and struck people, apparitions appeared, a humming or vibration permeated the house. The Beast returned to tell David there be death in the family, and no one would be able to help them. The physical attacks on David increased in frequency and violence. Judy kept him indoors at all times, and watched him continuously. She also refused to be left alone with him.
Fathers William Millea and Steve DiGiovanni, filling in for Father Dennis, were summoned to the house by Judy. They urged a superior, Father Grosso, to help the family. He was skeptical until he witnessed David being levitated, strangled by an invisible force, and speaking in a strange voice.
Meanwhile, Arne took matters into his own hands. As the demons demanded David’s soul and threatened to kill someone, he splashed holy water in the directions indicated by David and commanded them all to begone. “Without realizing it,” Brittle writes, “Arne was violating the essential precept that man can command such spirits only in the name of God… one of many sincere but tragic mistakes Arne would make in the case.” (144)
Arne even begged the demons to leave David’s body and possess him instead. Soon, Arne was able to see the Beast as clearly as David saw it.
David’s possession continued to escalate. He spoke backwards and in tongues, and his body swelled to such enormous proportions that his skin cracked. On August 5th, his head rotated 180 degrees. On August 6th he woke from a nap to find he had undergone a physical transformation: bloated, nose like a pig’s snout, limbs limp. He spoke and laughed only in a throaty growl. Such dramatic and horrifying transformations are rarely reported in poltergeist cases, but they pop up again and again in the Warrens’ cases. Recall that Kathleen Lutz saw a floating demon-pig, and took on the appearance of a hideous hag while sleeping. The Smurl haunting, which will be discussed later, included a demonic pig-monster and a physical transformation.
The entity that possessed David’s body attacked Alan and Arne, called Judy a “strutting harlot”, and made sexual overtures to Judy and Debbie. David could merely point at an object to make it fly across the room. Despite continuous observation, David was able to get his hands on knives, fireplace pokers, and other dangerous items with which he tried to kill members of the family. Throughout this period, it was Arne who protected the family from assault. Certain her son was now fully possessed, Judy summoned the Warrens.
Ed Warren told the family that if Arne hadn’t been present, someone would surely have been killed. This statement will become important later.
The family sought, and was denied, an official Catholic exorcism, but a Father Virulak agreed to perform a cleansing and perhaps an exorcism in the Glatzel home. He had worked with the Warrens in 1972, exorcising a house on Hartford’s Beelzebub Avenue.
Later, the bishop gave the go-ahead for a deliverance (not a full exorcism) to be performed in the chapel at St. Joseph’s on September 2nd. David had to be tied to a chair for transport to the church, where four priests performed the deliverance under the Warrens’ supervision. At the ritual’s conclusion, Lorraine announced that the lesser of the 43 demons had been successfully expelled, leaving only Gluttony, Lust, a demon named “Gaytois”, and one murderous devil that raged, spit, and blasphamed. Overall, in other words, the deliverance was unsuccessful.
FYI: There isn’t a “Beelzebub Avenue” in Hartford, but there is a Beelzebub Road in South Windsor, which is in Hartford County. And don’t bother Googling “Gaytois” unless you’re looking for a sale on buttplugs.
Ed Warren later described seeing a devil during David’s deliverance. “The room grew cold, and a dark form materialized. Normally, the features of the entity are not discernible, but I saw a face…changed from human to inhuman to Satanic to snakelike to lizard…I never want to see anything like that again.” (2)
The Case Continues, Unfortunately
The following Sunday, Arne cursed loudly and blacked out in the middle of a church service. He said he had seen a black entity standing at the altar, mimicking all the priest’s movements.
Later that week, David predicted someone would be stabbed to death and Arne would end up in prison. He then rattled off a string of unfamiliar names that would turn out to belong to judges, lawyers, and court officials involved in the murder trial of Arne Johnson. None of these names are given.
A psychiatric examination of David found no mental abnormalities, and family therapy was recommended. This angered Judy Glatzel and the Warrens. How dare qualified professionals suggest that people who are afraid to be alone in their own homes with their demon-infested children might be in need of professional help!
On September 8th, a second deliverance was conducted on David in a convent. Again, the boy broke out of his restraints and had to be held down on the floor by the priests. At one point he stopped breathing for over a minute, yet no one thought to summon medical help. This would be a good time to point out that there have been many fatal exorcisms performed on women and children in the past several decades. Exorcists, professional and amateur, have strangled, starved, suffocated, and beaten people to death in their efforts to roust demons.
This second deliverance, too, was only partially successful. Ed complained bitterly that this was because the Church had refused to allow the ancient rite of exorcism, the Rituale Romanum. Without it, the demons couldn’t be banished fully. Judy shared this view. “The church abandoned us,” she said. She claimed that a monk had visited them in a chauffeur-driven limo just to tell them that demons don’t exist.
The family’s troubles were not at an end. The Warrens believed there was still potential for danger in the Glatzel/Johnson household as late as October 1980, and broke their confidentiality agreement with the family to warn local police. Their fears were not unfounded. Carl Jr. allegedly stabbed his brother Alan, beat his mother, and harassed and tormented Arne by destroying his belongings. Police were called to the house up to two times per week, until the incidents died down in November.
Also in November, Debbie and Arne moved into a nearby apartment so that Debbie could manage a kennel for her new boss, 39-year-old Alan Bono. Having delayed their wedding, she and Arnie now planned to marry in the spring of ’81. Other than experiencing a few fleeting “posessions” that transformed his features into a demonic visage, Arne was a perfectly normal guy.
The Murder of Alan Bono
On Sunday, February 5th, Arne and Debbie picked up his little sisters at Mary’s house for an overnight stay at the kennels.
The following day, Arne felt flu-ish. He called in sick to work. Around 11:00 AM, Alan Bono invited the whole family out for burgers. He was already drunk, being (according to Debbie), an alcoholic. Alan drank wine throughout lunch, then continued to drink wine throughout the afternoon and evening while Debbie and the girls groomed dogs. Arne took a nap. Theyall planned to go to the Glatzels’ house for dinner at 6:00. Debbie later said she had felt uneasy throughout the day for no obvious reason, and Judy claimed she could feel tragedy closing in on the family. She phoned her daughter that evening with pleas to come over ASAP, before anything bad could happen.
Around 5:00, Alan Bono asked Arne if he could fix a stereo speaker in his office. Then he implored Debbie and Arne to have dinner with him. Debbie relented. She ordered pizzas. Rather than eating, Alan became belligerent; banging on his TV set, playing loud music. Debbie decided to go to her parents’ house, after all. But Alan refused to let the three Johnson girls leave his apartment.
At this point, Arne experienced one of his transitory demonic possessions. Without provocation, he knocked Debbie to the floor and began kicking her viciously in the stomach and head.
Alan and Arne soon got into a fight in the yard. Suddenly, Alan collapsed to the ground. He had been stabbed four or five times by a knife that Debbie and the girls claimed they hadn’t seen until they found it on the ground nearby, covered in blood. By that time, Arne had left the yard. He was found wandering on the side of a road in a daze.
Charged with murder, Arne Johnson claimed to have no memory of the evening’s events, and insisted he would never have killed his friend unless (you guessed it) he was possessed by demons. And the Warrens backed him up. Brittle: “There was no intent or premeditation on Arne Johnson’s part to harm anyone; his body was simply siezed and used as instrument to kill.” (1, 239)
The Warrens’ take on the story was, essentially, that because Debbie dabbled in the occult as a teenager, she left her family susceptible to demonic attack. Years later, her little brother David wandered into a house owned by a “witch” and encountered a powerful demon which summoned dozens more demons to possess the boy. By challenging the demons without invoking God, Arne inadvertently left himself open to possession. Then, six months later, the demons made him go batsh** insane and stab his landlord to death.
A likelier story: The somewhat religious, heavily superstitious Glatzel and Johnson families interpreted the theatrics of David as actual demonic possession, and the story became more elaborate and more dramatic after the Warrens got involved.
Months later, Arne Johnson was beating the hell out of his girlfriend in front of his sisters and his landlord. Alan Bono tried to intervene, and Arne stabbed him to death.
Afterwards, Debbie and the Johnson girls wanted to keep Arne out of jail. So they crafted a story about him being possessed by the same demons that supposedly exited David months earlier, and painted the victim as a belligerent drunk.
The “Real” Explanation
A priest from Quebec, Father Deschamps, later examined David Glatzel. He informed the family that David’s possession stemmed not from his sister’s academic interest in the occult, but from a Satanic curse placed upon Carl Jr. and David by a family they joined every year in Old Forge, New York, for a snowmobiling vacation. These people were practicing Satanists who had pledged the souls of the two boys to the Devil in exchange for some unknown benefit. This was why the Glatzels suffered misfortunes like broken bones and sciatica after every trip. Judy and Carl Sr. confirmed that this middle-aged, married couple with two kids had a houseful of “occult paraphernalia” such as black velvet furniture, chalices and daggers, an altar, even a skull.
Hence, by the end of this awful story, every iota of blame has been removed from the Johnsons and the Glatzels. According to the Warrens and Father Deschamps, there was nothing they could have done to prevent the crazed, violent behaviour of David or Arne’s murder of Alan Bono.
In October 1981, Father Deschamps performed a Charismatic deliverance on David inside an old stone church in Quebec City. At the conclusion of the ritual, the spirit identified itself as Beelzebub. David didn’t speak throughout the deliverance. His voice was projected from the mouth of one of the priests, instead. Uh-huh.
Also in October, Arne went on trial for murder. His demonic possession defense – the first in U.S. criminal history – was quickly squashed, thanks to Judge Robert Callahan’s ruling that David Glatzel’s behaviour was not relevant to Arne Johnson’s state of mind.
Arne refused to accept a plea baragain for the lesser charge of manslaughter, was convicted of manslaughter anyway, and was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. His lawyers declined to appeal the decision. He was released in 2001.
The Warrens continued to defend Arne Johnson, and they would go on to defend several other criminals whom they declared weren’t really responsible for their own actions due to possession by devils, demons, ghosts, and werewolves.
1. Brittle, Gerald. The Devil in Connecticut. iUniverse, 2006.
2. Stanley, John. “A Strange Dinner with ‘Amityville’ Demonologists”. San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 26, 1982.