Ed and Lorraine Warren
Part I Introduction to the Warrens/Amityville
Part II: The Arne Johnson Murder Case
Part III: The Haunting in Connecticut
Part IV: Dolls, Werewolves, and Perverts/The Next Generation
- There are lots of good reasons to object to “ghostbusting”. It’s often practiced by self-proclaimed experts with ulterior motives, and it’s a complete waste of time and money and effort. But is it dangerous? The folks behind the Dangers of The Paranormal Project think so. They point out that marketing ghostbusting TV shows, outings, and paraphernalia to young children introduces them to “after death” issues far too early, and can overload them emotionally with experiences they don’t understand. Not a bad point. Unfortunately, the site relies heavily on the expertise of the ghostbusters themselves, and stresses that supernatural dangers pose a threat to children who dabble in the paranormal (this page lists possession, insanity, and “getting pushed by entities”).
- What’s more disturbing than attributing evolution and the creation of all major world religions to evil aliens? An insanely animated website about those aliens. Probably not safe for epileptics. Also NSFW, unless you want your colleagues to think you’re losing your mind.
- And speaking of losing your mind, what’s stranger than listening to Steven Greer? Arguing with him. But that’s precisely what the duo of Project Camelot do in their latest video offering. Apparently, the PC folks believed they were furthering the aims of Greer’s UFO Disclosure Project by interviewing every lunatic who strayed into their path, and are rather miffed that he hasn’t thanked them yet. Highlight of the Greer/PC debate: “What we get from our secret witnesses, and from people who are exposed to the Illuminati philosophy constantly, is that our time is running out in terms of… like… there is around ten months left of food before it runs out on the planet and there’s another three to four years’ worth of oxygen.”
- And speaking of UFO disclosure, Gary “Because I Got High” McKinnon is still letting his mum fight his battles for him. Now she’s appealing to Obama for help. Meanwhile, another hacker with Asperger’s has been handed a stiff sentence – and no one cares, apparently because there isn’t any alien-type stuff involved. Interesting.
I mentioned Paranormal State in my last post on “ghostbusters” Ed and Lorraine Warren. At that time I thought the show had plumbed the depths of duuuhhhh, but that was before I watched the episode rebroadcast tonight. A middle-aged, menopausal woman was experiencing poltergeist activity in her house, and Lorraine Warren declared that hormonal changes other than puberty can create such disturbances (poltergeists are most often reported in the homes of young teenagers, surprise surprise). But that wasn’t the funny part. The funny part was when Ryan Buell and a priest set up camp in the woman’s living room and Buell shouted, “We command you to make your presence known! I know you have thrown potpourri! If you are here, throw some now!”
Dolls, wolves, and perverts. Oh my.
At long last, this is the final post of the psychic detectives/ghostbusters series (you can read the other posts by clicking on Psychic Detectives or Ghostbusters in the sidebar menu). Enjoy!
The Smurl Haunting
The following information comes primarily from The Haunted, a 1988 book written by Scrantonian Herald reporter Robert Curran. The Smurl family and the Warrens collaborated with Curran.
Jack and Janet Smurl were a hard-working, straight-laced young couple just starting out. Both raised in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, both devoutly Catholic, they had met at a Christmas party for the candy company where they both worked and married just one year later, in 1968. They moved in with Jack’s parents, John and Mary.
Life went smoothly for them until 1972, when the Smurl home was flooded during Hurricane Agnes. The entire family reluctantly relocated to the small town of West Pittston, where the elder Smurls purchased an old duplex at 328-330 Chase Street, a working-class neighorhood full of similar duplexes and single-family homes. The house had been constructed in 1863, but seemed to be in decent shape. John and Mary lived in the 330 half, and sold Jack the other for a fraction of its worth.
Janet was delighted to have her own home at last. She promptly decorated it with statues of the Virgin and chintz curtains. Jack’s touch was added, too; a German Shepherd roamed the yard, and a portrait of John Wayne squinted down from the living room wall.
They quickly became active in the community, joining the Lions and Lionesses clubs and coaching girls’ softball. John, a welder, settled into middle management at his company. They had four daughters: Heather, Dawn, and twins Carin and Shannon.
Reno work unleashes hell, literally
Nothing of any significance occurred until two years later. When Jack and Janet replaced the old carpeting in their half of the duplex, a “mystery stain” appeared on the new carpeting so many times that they finally got rid of it. Then animal-claw marks appeared on brand-new porcelain bathroom fixtures and on freshly painted woodwork. The plumbing leaked. For the next eleven years, faucets and radios sometimes turned themselves on, empty chairs creaked, and bad smells permeated the house. The smells made the Smurls fear the house was subsiding, a common occurrence in an area riddled with old coal mines.
In the mid-’80s, these minor annoyances started to truly frighten the family. One day in 1985, Janet heard a soft female voice calling to her in the basement. She headed straight for her rosary beads. In February of that year, she glimpsed the first physical manifestation of the presence in the house as she ironed in the kitchen. A tall, human figure made of “black, roiling smoke” (much like the “man” on the ceiling of the Snedecker house) floated soundlessly past her, only to vanish in the living room.
Simultaneously, Mary Smurl saw an identical shadow person float through her living room wall on the other side of the duplex.
Janet began reading everything she could find about ghosts and demons.
The haunting escalated rapidly. On the evening 13-year-old Heather Smurl was confirmed into the Catholic church, a light fixture crashed to the floor, narrowly missing one of the 7-year-old twins. Janet attributed this to a demon, because she had read that demons are outraged by sacred rituals and objects.
Later that year, Jack and his mother experienced levitation while lying in bed, just like Kathleen Lutz in the Amityville House. Mary claimed her entire mattress floated close to the ceiling and refused to descend, forcing her to jump to the floor. She injured both knees.
Janet was dragged across her bedroom by an invisible force.
John and Mary heard “foul, abusive” language coming from Jack and Janet’s side of the duplex even though the couple swore they hadn’t been home at the time.
Mary watched a “headless puppy” race across her living room and disappear beneath the sofa. Rather than say, “Maybe it’s time to take Gran to the doctor”, the Smurls declared this another demonic manifestation.
All this time, the house continued to stink.
Janet finally decided to seek professional help in the summer of ’85. She phoned up parapsychology departments at various colleges, without success. Finally, a professor at Marywood College in Scranton referred her to the Warrens.
Once inside 328 Chase Street, the Warrens gave the Smurls their standard lecture about the very real dangers of tampering with witchcraft, ouija boards, and Satanism. The Smurls assured them they hadn’t experimented with anything of that nature.
It was time for Lorraine to do her sniff test. She quickly detected the presence of four entities: A senile old woman, an insane young woman, a man with a mustache, and a demon. Note, please, that Jack Smurl had a mustache.
As for the demon, it resided in the master bedroom closet. According to Lorraine, it had extraordinary powers; it could manipulate the other three spirits, put people into a state of “telepathic hypnosis”, and implant frightening images in the human mind. It might have been dormant in the duplex for a long time, but the adolescence of 16-year-old Dawn and 13-year-old Heather provided energy for the demon. Its goal was to keep the Smurls in a state of confusion, always doubting their own and each other’s sanity.
Immediately after warning the Smurls never to acknowledge or challenge a demon, the Warrens ordered the entire family to troop into the master bedroom while they attempted to flush out and challenge the demon. After taking infrared photos of the closet for no apparent reason, they used the time-tested method of turning out all the lights and playing Ave Maria on a tape recorder. Ed sprinkled holy water and prayed.
The demon reacted fiercely. The unplugged TV set glowed, dresser drawers trembled, mirrors swayed. Later that night, spirits slapped Janet awake and tickled Jack’s feet – not playful tickling, but what Curran described as the kind of tickling that can cause “weakness and even madness” if continued for a long time, whatever that means. Quake-like vibrations shook the entire house.
The house was blessed by priests on three separate occasions, but the Catholic church rebuffed all requests for an official exorcism. It was up to the Smurls and the Warrens to oust the spirits. The Warrens provided phone support throughout February 1986, as the infestation steadily worsened. Jack began seeing two transparent women hanging around the bedroom at night, wearing old-fashioned dresses and bonnets. Small objects like makeup vanished continuously, causing the girls to bicker. Lorraine pointed to this as another example of the demon causing strife; she didn’t suggest that perhaps the girls really were filching cosmetics from each other.
To aid them, the Warrens assembled a large, eclectic team of witnesses and researchers to spend time in the house. Members included police officer Roger Coyle and Ed and Lorraine’s grandson, Chris McKinnel (who also helped them investigate the Snedecker haunting). Every member of the team reported witnessing strange phenomena in the house, but McKinnell and Coyle saw and heard more than anyone. Chris heard pigs’ squeals on a tape recording.
Lorraine saw the shadow-man scratching on a bedroom window, and identified him as the demon. Ed claimed the demon tried to strangle him when he performed the “very dangerous” rite of provocation (calling forth a demon, then banishing it in the name of Christ). Writing appeared on a mirror: “You filthy bastard. Get out of this house”, an incident that echoes the scene from Jay Anson’s Amityville Horror in which a priest is ordered out of the house by a demon.
The creepiest revelation by any of the Smurls (and remember, these are people who saw headless puppies and leapt from floating mattresses) came from Curran’s interview with Jack. He related how on the night of June 21, 1987, he was sexually assaulted by a succubus in the form of a hag disguised as a young woman. The entity had red eyes and green gums. Janet didn’t witness this episode – she was sleeping on the couch at the time – but she accepted her husband’s story as factual, and again attempted to enlist the church’s help.
Another odd incident occurred the next day, when Janet phoned the diocese. She spoke with a Father O’Leary, who, to her relief, expressed sympathetic concern. He even promised to speak with the chancellor on her behalf. Later, however, a friend informed the Smurls there was no Father O’Leary in the diocese. Sure enough, when Janet called back, a Father Mullally (sounds a bit like O’Leary…) confirmed this. He was patient but uncooperative. Curran and the Warrens rejected the possibly that Janet had simply misheard a name over the phone, concluding instead that the demon had infiltrated the phone line to impersonate a friendly, compassionate priest just to humiliate Janet.
The Warrens soon called in Father McKenna to perform an exorcism. McKenna was defrocked in the ’60s for refusing to recognize the reforms of Vatican II. He then became a traditional Roman Catholic in the Dominican Order of Preachers, and was later declared a “bishop”. He worked with the Warrens several times, performing exorcisms at his own discretion (like that of Maurice Theriault, which we’ll examine later). In fact, at the time of the Smurl haunting he claimed to have performed 50 exorcisms – about 20 of them successful.
This one was not successful. Within a few weeks, Dawn had to fight off an invisible incubus in the shower, Janet saw a slimy 3-foot-tall creature in the bathtub, and horrible odours became routine. The family decided to load up the Smurlmobile and go camping in the Poconos to get some peace and quiet. Things went fine until Jack, alone by the campfire one evening, spotted a teenage girl in Colonial dress lurking in the bushes, smiling at him. She vanished before his eyes. Later, they all watched a metal trash can spinning in circles. This convinced them the demon had followed them, and would probably follow them wherever they went.
Predictably, the Warrens urged the Smurls to go public with their story on the pretext that someone who could help would contact them. They arranged for themselves to appear with Jack and Janet on an exploitative Philadelphia talkshow hosted by Richard Bey. But Jack and Janet protected their identity, appearing behind screens as Jack described being raped by the succubus. The Warrens, of course, did not.
In the months that followed the broadcast, no one with helpful information stepped forward, and the demon retaliated against the Smurls for appearing on Bey’s show (having seen it a few times myself, I can’t say I blame him).
Ed warned that the demon was struggling to physically possess one of the Smurls, and was frustrated because they were too resilient and godly to be overtaken.
The horrors increased: Jack saw a hairy pig-creature that walked on two legs (two legs good), and Janet spied the mustachioed spirit (he had horns).
In desperation, the Smurls decided to publicly reveal their names. Perhaps that would shame the Scranton diocese into helping them. Instead, rowdy gawkers camped out on their lawn, and reporters made the haunting a local legend.
Robert McKenna performed two more exorcisms, both unsuccessful. All-night prayer vigils were ineffective. Finally, in the late ’80s, the Smurls sold the old duplex and returned to Wilkes-Barre. Though they have remained mum on the haunting for many years, the Warrens have claimed the demon followed them to their new home and may never leave.
If the incidents in The Haunted really occurred, then the Chase Street haunting would be one of the nastiest and most bizarre on record. But the Warrens’ involvement casts a shadow on the entire affair. Aside from the shadow man, the elder Smurls didn’t see or hear anything unusual at first; it was only after Janet began to tell frightening stories that they started to have strange experiences. The Haunted states there were 28 witnesses to the events, but virtually all of them “wished to remain anonymous”, and the ones who did permit their names to be used didn’t witness anything that couldn’t be easily explained as non-paranormal in nature. None of the photos taken in the house showed anything unusual. The tape recordings that featured mysterious pig squeals were not examined or preserved. In the end, there is no compelling evidence that the Smurl haunting was truly as horrendous as The Haunted or the 1991 TV movie of the same name would have us believe. It’s simply another notch on the Warrens’ very strange belt.
The Ultimate Frivolous Lawsuit
In a 1989 court case, according to Ed, the Warrens proved that a woman and her son had been driven out of their Hebron, Connecticut home by ghosts. “The Realtor that leased her the house was suing her for $2,000. She begged us to go into the house and to get some evidence that would prove that there really were ghosts,” Ed told Jeff Belanger (“50 Years of Ghost Hunting and Research With the Warrens”, Ghostvillage.com).
Strangely, this isn’t listed among the Warrens’ famous cases on their website (nor is the Snedeker case, nor the Arne Johnson case). And I can’t find any information on the lawsuit. However, a very similar judgement handed down by the New York Supreme Court in 1991 made it possible for new property owners to sue the sellers if they were not told the property was previously advertised as haunted.
The Warrens actually highlighted this case on their website, and it was featured in Gerald Brittle’s book The Demonologist. More than any other case in their careers, this one indicates that the Warrens were not dealing with the full deck of cards. It reads like a script treatment for Bride of Chucky: In the ’70s, two young nurses named Donna and Angie turned to the Warrens for help. A large Raggedy Ann doll given to Donna by her mother was changing position and moving around their apartment of its own volition when they weren’t looking. Then childishly scrawled notes with the unsettling messages “HELP US” and “HELP LOU” (their roommate) began to appear.
A medium told the nurses that the spirit of a little girl named Annabelle had entered the doll. She had died in their apartment when she was just seven years old, and was desperate for human playmates. So, rather than burning the thing or laughing themselves into a coma, the women started calling the doll Annabelle and treating it like a real child. Lou, on the other hand, was convinced Annabelle was a “voodoo doll” that was “taking advantage” of Angie and Donna. He had nightmares of the doll crawling up his leg to strangle him, and on one occasion a deep claw mark mysteriously appeared on his chest. The doll only moved when Angie and Donna weren’t around, but there’s no mention of where Lou was during these times. Both women insisted there were no signs of entry by an intruder. Now, any half-sensible person would wonder what role Lou might have played in all this.
Ed, on the other hand, immediately concurred with Lou: The doll was possessed, and not by some sweet little dead girl. The nurses had inadvertently welcomed a demonic entity into their home. It caught their attention by teleporting the doll around, which made them acknowledge the presence of a spirit (their first mistake). Then they consulted a medium to find out more about the supposed ghost (their second mistake; while self-proclaimed demonologists like Ed and self-proclaimed psychics like Lorraine are able to diagnose supernatural problems, self-proclaimed mediums are not). He immediately summoned an Episcopal priest, Father Cooke, to perform a blessing of the apartment.
Rather than burn Annabelle, Ed and Lorraine decided to take the doll home with them. But Ed “decided it was safer to avoid traveling on the interstate, in case the entity had not been separated from the rag doll. His hunch was correct. In no time at all, Ed and Lorraine felt themselves the object of vicious hatred. Then, at each dangerous curve in the road, their new car began to stall, causing the power steering and breaks to fail. Repeatedly the car verged on collision. Of course, it would have been easy to stop and throw the doll into the woods. But if the item didn’t simply ‘teleport‘ back to the girls’ apartment, at the least it would place anyone who found it in jeopardy.”
“The third time the car stalled along the road, Ed reached into his black bag, took out a vial, and threw a sprinkling of holy water on the rag doll, making the sign of the cross over it. The disturbance in the car stopped immediately, allowing the Warrens to reach home safely“.
In Ed’s office, the doll repeatedly levitated before his eyes (remember, the nurses didn’t see it move at all). Lorraine heard growling sounds throughout the house. She warned an exorcist named Jason Branford to be careful driving home after he casually picked up Annabelle and said, “You’re just a doll.” Sure enough, his brakes failed that day.
The doll is now safely ensconced in a glass cabinet in The Warren Occult Museum, behind a warning sign: “Positively do not open.” The museum also houses a haunted organ, a cursed string of pearls, a vampire’s coffin, and a portrait painted by the ghost of a witch. Price of admission? A mere $35 a head.
A London Werewolf in America
The Warrens branched out from ghosts and demons with the case of Bill Ramsey, an unassuming London carpenter/cabdriver who, one night in 1983, felt searing chest pains on his way to work. He drove himself to Southend Hospital, where he viciously attacked two ER nurses. A police officer happened by at the right moment, and with an intern’s help wrestled wild-eyed Bill onto a gurney. At some point, the cabbie confessed that he couldn’t remember anything about the incident except “changing into a wolf”, and this enraged wolf persona must have attacked the nurses. This made him a minor tabloid celebrity in the UK. The Warrens heard about him and offered to ship him to Connecticut to be exorcised by Father McKenna. Bill accepted. He told the Warrens that he had experienced intense, unfocused rage as a teenager and often saw mental images of himself as a wolf.
McKenna, in all seriousness, touched Bill’s forehead and attempted to “banish the werewolf” in front of numerous onlookers. Bill growled, drooled, and even charged McKenna at the altar, but the exorcism was ultimately successful. Bill returned to his wife and kids a wolf-free man. The Warrens wrote a book, Werewolf: A True Story of Demonic Possession.
Bill Ramsey probably suffered lycanthropy, a rare delusional disorder that gave rise to epidemics of werewolf hysteria in the Middle Ages (along with tarantism, the delusion that one is being attacked by spiders or has been injected with a tarantula’s venom). Sufferers genuinely believed, as did Bill, that they were possessed by the spirits of wolves or had become wolves, and behaved like wolves for short periods of time. The symptoms usually subsided on their own, leaving sufferers confused but essentially unharmed. They often couldn’t remember what transpired while they were “under attack”, a common symptom of delirium. In other words, altthough the exorcism evidently helped Ramsey cope psychologically with his experience by placing it in a context that was more acceptable to him than believing he was delusional, it was not at all necessary.
Next to the Arne Johnson murder case, the possession of Massachusetts tomato farmer Maurice “Frenchy” Theriault is the most disturbing one ever handled by the Warrens. At best, the Warrens helped a deeply troubled man overcome his guilt. At worst, they aided and abetted a child molester by providing supernatural excuses for his behaviour.
It began in the summer of 1985. Maurice was experiencing blackouts, bleeding from his eyes, and accomplishing feats of what he considered to be paranormal strength. For some reason, he considered himself a danger to others and voluntarily relinquished all his firearms to the local police (note that this is something George Lutz reportedly did while living in the Amityville house, though Lutz himself denied it during a Coast to Coast AM interview with Art Bell shortly before his death).
Like all of the Warrens’ clients, Theriault was devoutly Catholic. So his wife, Nancy, appealed to the parish priest, Father Boyer, who in turn got in touch with the Warrens. They sent assistant Paul Walukiewicz to the farm to observe Theriault overnight.
Though Maurice’s primary complaint was the bleeding, no one thought to take him to a doctor. Ed, when asked by a young assistant if there might be a medical rason for the bleeding, sadly informed her there couldn’t be – Mr. Theriault was clearly possessed.
Nice try, but numerous conditions and diseases can cause blood to seep from the tear ducts, including thrombosis of the sinuses, brain tumours, adult onset hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”), and syphilis. Some of these can also cause delirium.
Only Mrs. Theriault had actually witnessed anything “demonic” about Frenchy. The Boston archdiocese recommended he see a psychiatrist, but as soon as the psychiatrist ruled out demonic possession as a possible source of his problems, Maruice stomped out of his office. Ed gave the shrink a tongue-lashing, hinting that he wished the doctor would become possessed just like the man he “refused to help”.
Ed came up with his own diagnosis: Theriault had become possessed in his sixties because his father had practiced Satanism on him when he was a child. Needless to say, the senior Theriault was not around to defend himself against these allegations in 1990, when they were published in the book Satan’s Harvest, by Boston Herald reporters Michael Lasalandra and Mark Merenda.
The archdiocese refused to push for an exorcism, so the Warrens again called in “Bishop” McKenna. McKenna would perform three exorcisms on Theriault, the final and most dramatic of which was successful. The video of this event, portions of which are still available on YouTube, is disturbing. In the opening interview, Theriault seems to be a calm and ordinary man in farmer’s clothes, but as soon as McKenna begins to speak Latin, Maurice’s skin blisters, he drools blood, and his staring eyes become filmy and blank. A split appears to form in his forehead, though this could be just a deep furrow.
Though the demon was successfully expelled, Maurice’s troubles weren’t over. Shortly after the exorcism he was arrested and charged with molesting his stepdaughter over a period of several years. The charges were dropped not because the girl or Theriault denied they were true, but because the district attorney was reportedly reluctant to deal with a bizarre insanity plea involving possession. Theriault relocated to another New England town, still bleeding occasionally.
The Warrens didn’t try to convince anyone that the molestation occurred only because Theriault was demonically possessed at the time, unable to control his actions. No, that would be too simple. Instead, Ed actually declared that Maurice didn’t molest his stepdaughter – an incubus in his image did. Maurice, he stated, simply wasn’t capable of such actions.
As for evidence, there is none. Maurice’s preternatural strength was demonstrated by a single photo of him lifting a concrete statuette of the Virgin, roughly 3 feet tall, a few inches off the ground. Maurice was a farmer who had done hard physical work all his life – it would be remarkable only if he couldn’t pick up Mary.
Ghostbusters: The Next Generation
With cases like this, you would think that Lorraine Warren would be living in obscure semi-retirement, known only to a handful of the most credulous ghosthunters, supernatural enthusiasts, and lovers of ’70s horror paperbacks.
You’d be so wrong.
Lorraine Warren is currently a consultant to Pennsylvania State University’s Paranormal Research Society, the subject of A&E’s popular program Paranormal State. The founder and head of the society, Ryan Buell, is also a psychic who has had terrifying encounters with ghosts and demons (which he calls bunnies, to disempower them) since he was a small child. Lorraine is his mentor, and she appears on the show whenever Buell feels compelled to call in the big guns. That is, whenever a case is suspected to involve malevolent entities or bunnies.
In one case, a woman was compulsively using Electronic Voice Phenomena to contact her dead son. Lorraine firmly told Buell that this must be stopped; the woman was bringing spirits into her home with this activity (which consists of turning on recording devices in empty rooms). In another case, a deeply distressed woman reported hearing a disembodied voice in her home say “Malthus”. A member of Buell’s team looked up the name on Wikipedia and found an entry for a demon known as “the Earl of Hell”. Seeing it, Lorraine expressed shock and horror, a rather dramatic reaction for a seasoned ghostbuster.
Buell, taking the Warrens’ cue, believes that supernatural activity is heaviest around 3:00 AM. He refers to this witching hour as the Dead Time, and schedules his team’s activities to coincide with it. The hour features prominently in The Amityville Horror, The Haunting in Connecticut, and other movies inspired by the Warrens’ investigations.
Psychic medium Chip Coffey also serves as a consultant for the Paranormal State ghostbusters. He and Carmen Reed are writing a book about the haunting in Connecticut.
A Haunting in Connecticut
The haunting of a Connecticut funeral parlour that was turned into an apartment building was featured on the Discovery Channel series A Haunting in 2002, and is the basis of the recent horror movie The Haunting in Connecticut. The Discovery documentary should be the more factual of the two retellings, but as we’ll see, the story isn’t as straightforward as Lorraine Warren or celebrity psychic Chip Coffey would like us to believe.
In A Haunting, the family is called the Parkers. Mother “Karen Parker” does some of the narration, but does not appear in the show. The recreations feature actors.
14-year-old Paul Parker, diagnosed with cancer, was given six months to live despite aggressive treatment. The long trips to hospital were wearing on the family, so they made the difficult decision to move closer to the hospital. With four kids, Karen had a hard time finding a place to rent in the area. She finally found a fine old house with hardwood floors, with two bedrooms plus a basement that could serve as a bedroom for two of the kids. It seemed out of the Parkers’ price range, but wasn’t.
As it turned out, the house had a secret. Mortuary equipment was still in the basement, including a bone saw, freezer, and jars of embalming fluid. Karen didn’t want her sick child living in a former funeral home, so most of the equipment was removed before the Parkers started moving in. They didn’t tell Paul about the house’s past.
The first terrifying thing happened immediately. As Karen mopped the kitchen floor, the water turned blood-red for no apparent reason.
Paul was creeped out by the basement. He felt cold chills there, and felt he was being watched. In other parts of the house he heard creaking footsteps, heavy breathing, a voice calling his name, and other strange sounds. Karen began to fear that because her son was close to death, he could sense that the house had been a funeral home. She and Ed took Paul to their priest for a “healing”.
Despite his fear of the house, Paul liked to play in the old morgue room, which (in this version of the story) still contained a steel gurney. One day he took his younger brother Bobby into the room, told him to lay on the gurney, then spun it around in circles until the boy became dizzy and frightened.
The boys’ little sister, Connie, saw a ghostly woman in her bedroom. Karen assumed the boys had told her about the funeral home, and scolded them. They denied it. A short time later, the boys also saw a shadowy figure walking around in the basement. They decided to sleep in the living room. Bobby was reluctant to go into the basement after that. When Karen insisted he go down there, he could hear a voice calling Paul’s name. Karen, who didn’t believe in ghosts, teased and chided the kids for their behaviour. Ed Parker finally told the kids they were living in a former funeral home, but insisted it was not, could not, be haunted. They were growing concerned about Paul’s mental health. Karen wondered if Paul’s medication could be causing hallucinations. Paul’s doctor assured her it couldn’t.
One morning, Karen set the dining-room table for breakfast before returning to the kitchen. When she re-entered the dining room, the table was completely bare, all the dishes mysteriously returned to their cupboards. She tried to ignore the incident.
Paul and Bobby, forced to sleep in the basement, continued to see apparitions in the basement. Now they were so well-defined that both boys could clearly identify them as four men, talking amongst themselves. The men picked up objects, read papers, and went about their business as if they were still very much a part of the living world. To calm his sons, Ed checked all the windows and doors for signs of entry. Everything was locked up tight. This sort of thing happened nightly. Ed and Karen grew exasperated. The boys, frustrated that their parents didn’t accept the reality of the ghosts, slept with the lights on and discussed their experiences with each other. “That’s where we got our strength from,” a shadowed “Bobby Parker” says, “because no one believed us.” Paul stopped talking to his parents about the things he experienced, becoming “more reserved and quiet.” He set up his own bedroom in the basement, wore dark clothing, took little joy in anything, wrote dark and disturbing poetry. Nothing unusual, particularly for a boy who had been through a devastating illness.
The family was under great financial strain, due to Paul’s medical bills and high electrical bills. To ensure the boys wouldn’t continue to sleep with their lights on, Ed removed all but one lightbulb from the basement. One night, Bobby woke to see one of the bulbless lights flicking on and off. His sister Connie was standing at the top of the steps, flicking the light switch on and off. When he chased her upstairs, however, she vanished. Karen told him Connie had been upstairs asleep in her own bedroom for hours.
That winter, Paul’s cancer went into remission and a 13-year-old cousin, Theresa, came to stay with the family while her parents went through a divorce. Paul began to confront his fears. When he heard voices whispering his name from the morgue room, he entered it and faced the apparition of a bearded man in an old-fashioned suit.
Theresa noticed the changes in Paul. He was angry, mean, hateful, seeing things. He complained to Theresa that a demon-man came to his bedside every night and told him to say bad things to his parents and siblings. Paul was unable to resist; the man had total control over him. Eventually, he wasn’t even able to move when the man came to him. The man threatened to harm him if he didn’t do as he was told.
Theresa told Karen about these visitations. She was now fearful of her cousin. So was Bobby. Theresa slept with rosary beads for comfort. One night, Ed and Karen heard struggling in the room Theresa slept in, and entered to find Paul grappling with her on the bed. Was he trying to sexually assault her? Ed pulled him off and subdued him, with difficulty. The family called an ambulance for Paul. He screamed and struggled as paramedics led him out of the house. At the hospital, he told his parents, “Now that I’m out of the house, they’ll be after you.” Karen feared that her son would never be mentally well again.
Early that morning, before dawn, Ed left for work. Exhausted, Karen descended into the basement and sat on the bottom step, gazing around, hoping to see some of the same things Paul had seen so she could be reassured that her oldest child wasn’t really disturbed. She saw nothing. She went upstairs to take a shower. She became tangled in the shower curtain, and was convinced that an unseen force had wrapped her up in it. At almost exactly the same time, Theresa felt the covers of her bed being pulled away from her by invisible hands, and heard her aunt’s muffled cries for help. She ran to the bathroom and disentangled Karen from the Shower Curtain of Death. Both of them were now certain that the house was haunted. Theresa sobbed in fear. Downstairs, the kitchen phone rang. Karen answered it, and heard only the eerie giggling of a child. Both women felt and saw a “darkness” like black smoke descending over them, “like a thousand hands”.
Theresa cries during this part of her story, re-experiencing the terror and helplessness she felt at that moment. Theresa and Karen actually saw the form of a man develop in the “smoke” that crept across the dining room ceiling. The rosary around Theresa’s neck levitated into the air.
Meanwhile, at work, Ed watched his truck start up by itself and cross the parking lot of its own volition. It slammed through the wall of the small outbuilding in which he was standing. He phoned Karen, who was by now hysterical, to tell her what happened. They agreed to ask their priest for help immediately.
Bobby, asleep in the living room, was awakened by Paul calling his name, asking for his help.
Karen alerted their priest to what had been happening. He advised her to forget about it. Acknowledging the evil presence would only give it more power.
The Warrens Investigate
Karen had recently read about the Warrens in the newspaper, so she turned to them for help. After hearing the family’s stories, Lorraine did her usual walk-through of the house. She felt drawn to the basement, where she sensed a “horrible infestation”, a non-human presence. The Parkers needed an official Catholic exorcism, the Warrens declared. They recommended the entire family stay together in the house, even sleep together in the living room, for safety as the Glatzels and Johnsons had done. The Warrens would stay with them. John Zaffis, Ed Warren’s nephew and another demonologist/investigator working with the Warrens, declared this the worse demonic infestation he had ever witnessed. He experienced cold spells, “which means a lot of energy is being drawn”.
Michael Cuneo, author of American Exorcism, appeared on A Haunting to explain that people who request exorcisms typically believe in such infestations of houses, rooms, or individuals. The Catholic clergy is trained to take a more skeptical stance.
Exorcism can be a “very effective therapy”, at least in the short term, Cuneo says, because people have a strong expectation that it will work. It can be like a supernatural placebo.
The Haunting Worsens
Karen felt “crushing guilt” for initially disbelieving Paul’s stories. According to the narrator, this guilt made her very vulnerable to the entity in the house. She suddenly collapsed in the living room, overwhelmed by every negative emotion. Her neck swelled up. She experienced an out-of-body sensation. Prayers by the family and the Warrens eventually brought her around, after she had been “out of body” for 8 hours.
That night, Karen saw the mattresses on which the family slept “breathing”. Zaffas felt a sudden drop in temperature, and descended alone into the basement. He saw the bearded man at the foot of the stairs. Before his eyes, the “man” morphed into a demon, then a fireball that roared up the steps, blasting Zaffis backwards in a burst of heat and smoke.
A priest, “Father Frank”, arrived to determine if an exorcism was needed. After listening to Karen and the investigators, he approved an exorcism and assigned a “Father Richard” to perform it. This is not how official Catholic exorcisms work, however; approval from a bishop is required.
“Father Richard” experienced poltergeist activity in the basement, which was witnessed by Karen; his shirt seemed to pull away from his body momentarily, as though being plucked at by invisible fingers. Later, upstairs, books and figurines flew off shelves of their own accord. A strange fluid leaked from a statuette of the Virgin Mary. Karen was thrown against the wall, levitated, then dropped to the floor. Theresa was levitated and choked.
But at the conclusion of the exorcism, the house suddenly felt warm and comfortable. The investigation/exorcism had lasted nine weeks.
The Parkers moved out of the house a short time later, anyway, for fear the entity could return. Paul was released from hospital in the spring.
The Real Haunting
The real case of the Snedeker family, as related by psychic Chip Coffey in his essay “Demons from the Dark“, is not quite as dramatic as the events portrayed in A Haunting.
Allen and Carmen rented the house in Southington, Connecticut in 1986, shortly after it was converted from the Hallahan Funeral Home. They soon encountered multiple entities, described by Carmen: “One of the demons was very thin, with high cheekbones, long black hair and pitch black eyes. Another had white hair and eyes, wore a pinstriped tuxedo, and his feet were constantly in motion.” The family often smelled foul odours. According to Carmen, they learned that “one of the men who worked in the funeral home was guilty of necrophilia, so perhaps his heinous actions stirred up the demonic forces.” The most disturbing poem written by her son Philip involved necrophilia.
Zaffis saw an apparition and heard the sound of flapping wings; Coffey makes no mention of a fireball that blasted him off his feet.
Carmen, Zaffis, and Coffey planned to release a book about the case in conjunction with the movie.
According to a March 23rd story on Yahoo Movie News, the house’s current owner, Susan Trotta-Smith, has experienced nothing unpleasant aside from curiosity-seekers invading the neighborhood. She loves the house, but hates the attention the haunting has brought to it recently. “It’s been a total change from a very quiet house in a very quiet neighborhood to looking out the window and seeing cars stopping all the time. It’s been very, very stressful, and sometimes worrisome.” Police have been forced to add extra patrols to the area, thanks to trespassing.
Neighbor Katherine Altemus: “It’s disgraceful. None of the haunting took place, and now it’s ruining the lives of that wonderful young family that lives there.”
Lorraine Warren is quoted: “In the master bedroom, there was a trap door where the coffins were brought up. And during the night, you would hear that chain hoist, as if a coffin were being brought up. But when Ed went to check, there was nobody down there.”
In 1991, a writer was commissioned to write a book about the case. The author of the book In a Dark Place, Ray Garton (now a writer of horror fiction), wanted to publish the Snedekers’ story as fiction, but because of his agent at the time and a contract he was bound by, the story was labeled “a true story” against his wishes.
According to Mr. Garton: “Elements of Carmen Snedeker’s story clashed with elements of Al Snedeker’s story, and it seemed everyone was having a problem keeping their stories straight. Frankly, I didn’t notice until I had nearly finished all my interviews and began going over my notes, then I started having trouble matching up the details.”
Garton said Ed Warren told him to just “make it up and make it scary” when he approached the Warrens with his concerns over the inconsistencies. They told him they had videotapes of some of the activity in the house, but never produced them because they had been lost. He told Damned Connecticut, “Since writing the book, I’ve learned a lot that leaves no doubt in my mind about the fraudulence of the Warrens and the Snedekers — not that I had much doubt, anyway. I’ve talked to other writers who’ve been hired to write books for the Warrens — always horror writers, like myself — and their experiences with the Warrens have been almost identical to my own.” He said the Snedekers did know the house was a former funeral home prior to moving into it.
The Real Paul
Garton also had a niggling suspicion that Philip might not have had cancer. The Snedekers were vague about what kind of cancer it was (Carmen now identifies it as Hodgkins), and people who knew them at the time told Garton they weren’t aware that the boy had been sick. He did have drug problems and mental problems, though. “Personally, I have no solid evidence that the boy did not have cancer, and I’ve never said that he didn’t. But the evidence that he did is pretty flimsy, and when you combine that with the other holes in this story and some of the disreputable details about the Snedekers and the Warrens, it’s difficult not to question it.”
Skeptic Joe Nickell investigated the Snedeker case in ’92-’93. According to his report, “Demons in Connecticut“, Allen and Carmen Snedeker moved into the Hallahan House on June 30, 1986, with Carmen’s two sons from a previous marriage (ages 13 and 11) and their own two children (a 6-year-old girl and a 3-year-old son). Two nieces would also move into the house. The house had, indeed, once been the Hallahan Funeral Home, and relics remained: coffin handles, a blood-drainage system, a coffin-hoist pulley.
The behaviour of the oldest boy, Philip, was far more disturbing than the Warrens and Snedekers have let on. He was using drugs, vandalizing property, and molesting both of his cousins. He was picked up by police, not an ambulance, after being caught at this. He confessed that he had tried to rape his 12-year-old cousin. Rather than being in hospital, he was sent to a juvenile detention center. He once broke into a neighbor’s house with the intention of stealing a shotgun. He told Carmen he wanted to shoot Allen with it. The Snedekers chalked up this erratic behaviour to the cobalt treatments Philip was receiving at the time. Later, Philip’s behaviour was extensively sanitized to make him look like a normal boy preyed upon by evil, supernatural forces. In reality, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic.
Carmen and Al allegedly suffered sexual attacks from an unseen entity, but this part of the story didn’t emerge until after the Warrens came on the case. This is also what happened in the Smurl case, which I’ll examine in the next post.
The Warrens had already made a book deal before their investigation was complete, allegedly promising the Snedekers a third of any profits. That book was Garton’s In a Dark Place, released around Halloween 1992. The Snedekers appeared on Sally Jesse Raphael, The Maury Povich Show, and A Current Affair to promote the book.
Kathy Altemus told Nickell that most of the events attributed to ghosts were probably caused by mundane neighborhood events. For instance, she claimed that around the time Lorraine Warren heard chains rattling in the basement, a rattling truck was driving down the street. Nickell concluded that other “mysterious events” that occurred at the time of the alleged haunting, such as a power outage caused by a falling tree limb, had ordinary explanations.
Though A Haunting claimed the family voluntarily moved out a short time after the exorcism in ’88, their landlady said they had been served an eviction notice for failure to pay the rent. Both the landlady and the upstairs neighbor had witnessed nothing out of the ordinary, and suspected the Warrens and Snedekers were perpetrating a profit-driven hoax.
Garton has disowned his own book about the case, explaining, “The family involved, which was going through some serious problems like alcoholism and drug addiction, could not keep their story straight, and I became very frustrated; it’s hard writing a non-fiction book when all the people involved are telling you different stories.”
Built in 1916, the house was the Hallahan Funeral Home from 1936 until shortly before the Snedekers moved in (it was under reno at the time).
Far from shielding the family from outside intrusion that might have made their situation worse, the Warrens immediately publicized the case. The first story about it appeared in the Bristol Press of August 11, 1988, under the headline “Southington Family Spooked by House”.
The Catholic church has declined to confirm or deny that an exorcism actually occurred. In 1988, after the exorcism supposedly took place, the family priest told A Current Affair that no exorcism had been scheduled.
There is no recorded evidence of a necrophiliac ever working in the Hallahan Funeral Home.
The Snedekers experienced a string of tragedies during the time they lived in the house. In addition to Philip’s cancer, mental illness, and criminal activity, Carmen’s father died in 1987, suffering a heart attack during a home invasion that was never solved. Her sister was diagnosed with AIDS. Her brother died in an auto accident.
Garton was initially excited about writing a book about the case, as he found the Warrens “entertaining.” But instead of finding a haunted and terrorized family, he found a rather dysfunctional one. Carmen was allegedly running an illegal interstate lottery business. Philip admitted, in a phone interview, that he stopped hearing voices and seeing strange things after he went on psych meds.
When Garton approached Ed Warren with his concerns about the family’s conflicting accounts, Ed told him, “Everybody who comes to us is crazy. Otherwise why would they come to us? You’ve got some of the story – just use what works and make the rest up. And make it scary. You write scary books, right? That’s why we hired you. So just make it up and make it scary.”
Carmen eventually divorced Allen Snedeker and is now known as Carmen Reed. She claims she has been psychically gifted since childhood, having been born with the caul, but suppressed that ability at the time she lived in Southington; that’s why she initially disbelieved her sons’ stories about ghosts. Her first supernatural attack occurred not in the late ’80s in the Hallahan House, but in another rented home in a different city in 1980. She has a spirit guide named Jaco, and like Lorraine Warren is a consultant to others experiencing hauntings.
Once again, the Warrens took a highly suspicious “haunting” and turned it into a profitable tale of supernatural evil and terror. So did the makers of the 2009 film, The Haunting in Connecticut, which deviates even more dramatically from the original story by turning the fictional undertaker-ghost into a sinister spiritualist who conducted seances in the basement, when he wasn’t horribly mutilating the bodies of his clients. In the movie, the character based loosely on Philip Snedeker is called Matt (Kyle Gallner), and he dramatically relives the seances that occurred in the house many decades before his family moved into it. The movie includes CGI ectoplasm, doors that operate by themselves, and a pastor who warns the family to get out of the house immediately. There is no mention of criminal activity (molestation, robbery, etc.), though father Peter (Martin Donovan) has a drinking problem and Matt lashes out violently on one occasion.
Gold Circle Films is reportedly planning two “sequels”, based on other installments of A Haunting.
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.
Beyond any doubt, the most prolific ghostbusters of the twentieth century were the late Ed Warren of Connecticut and his wife, Lorraine. Together they spent over 40 years getting rid of spirits, demons, and poltergeists with the aid of some assistants and a few traditionalist Catholic exorcists. Their exploits have been featured in numerous sensationalistic horror books and TV documentaries. The recent horror flick The Haunting in Connecticut was inspired by one of their cases, and Lorraine makes regular appearances as Ryan Buell’s mentor on the A&E program Paranormal State.
Typically, this is what the Warrens did when called in on a case: After getting some background from the complainants (usually a family), Lorraine walked through the house to pinpoint the problem. Demons can be detected by the presence of a particular nauseating odor, according to the Warrens. They prefer dark nooks and crannies, so the Warrens always cased out basements, crawlspaces, and closets. After giving the house the sniff test, they turned on an ordinary tape recorder. It sometimes picked up unexplained noises, and the Warrens played these tapes for their demonology students and lecture audiences, to prove that demons walk among us. They also displayed blurry photos that depicted white streaks; Lorraine explained these were round “globules” of spirit energy invisible to the human eye, but not to cameras.
The Warrens believed that people, not just homes, can be possessed by demons. Ed taught his students that demonic possession occurs in an orderly, 5-step process: Encroachment/permission, infestation, oppression/obsession, and possession (actual replacement of the human spirit). If the process isn’t interrupted by a knowledgeable demonologist or spiritual leader, he warned, suicide and/or murder is always the final step. The Warrens always determined which stage had been reached when investigating a demon-infested house.
Part of his investigative process was to identify the occult “entryway” the spirit(s) had used to enter our reality. It could be something as innocuous as a ouija board session conducted for fun by a single member of the household a decade earlier, or something as dastardly as generational curses and pacts with the Devil made by Satanists.
As legend had it, Mary Wallace had been born at sea in 1720, en route from Ireland to America on a ship captained by her father, James Wilson. Somewhere in the Atlantic the Wolf was raided by Spanish pirates under the command of a terrifying buccaneer called Don Pedro. Hearing the newborn baby’s cry from below deck, Don Pedro demanded the baby be brought to him. He had intended to slaughter everyone on board, but when he saw this tiny infant cradled in her mother’s arms, he softened. He ordered his men back to their vessel, allowing the Wolfto forge on to America. As a parting gift, he gave the captain’s wife a length of beautiful green brocade silk.
The real story of the Ocean Born Mary House isn’t quite as interesting. The house had actually been owned by one of Mary Wallace’s sons, and she never lived there; she lived a mile away, with another son. There wasn’t a pirate protector, there was no gold. But the legend and the tales spun by Louis Roy gained wide attention with the publication of Hans Holzer’s book Yankee Ghosts, and to this day the Ocean Born Mary house – though unremarkable in just about every respect – continues to draw curious tourists.
The problem with this story is that Satanic rock was around before 1979, and not one of its originators lived in or around Ridgefield.
In my humble opinion, bonfires, loud parties, and a freaky girlfriend do not a Satanist make.
- The house was not situated on a site where local Native Americans abandoned their insane and dying, and there is no evidence for Hans Holzer’s claim that an Indian chief was buried at the site.
- There is no evidence to support Jay Anson’s claim that Amityville settler John Ketcham lived “within 500 feet” of the house, or that he was a devil worshipper, or that he was driven out of the area for practicing witchcraft.
- The “secret red room” in the basement was an ordinary storage area, clearly marked on floorplans.
- The priest who blessed the house, Father Pecoraro, gave conflicting accounts of what he experienced there. At first he told researchers he didn’t experience anything unsual at all, though in the fictionalized account he was ordered to “Get out!” by a throaty, disembodied voice, and later broke out in boils. Later he admitted he heard the voice and experienced some car trouble, but didn’t attribute these things to the supernatural.
- Subsequent owners found no evidence that the doors and windows had been damaged by mysterious gale-force winds that came of out nowhere, as described by George Lutz.
- The Lutzes resided in the house for several months, not just one.
- Most damning of all, Butch DeFeo’s defense attorney, William Weber, had commissioned Anson’s book and met with the Lutzes to discuss its contents. He told People in 1979 that he and George Lutz had concocted the whole story in the hopes of selling the rights to it. He hoped to gain an appeal for his client by presenting evidence that the house contained some force, natural or otherwise, that drove some of its inhabitants to insanity. He won the protracted legal battle that resulted from his collaboration with Anson and the Lutzes, but his client remains in prison.
- In 2003 Kathleen Lutz’s middle child, Christopher, declared the haunting was a hoax. He later partially retracted his accusation, saying that while some of the incidents were fabricated, the haunting really did occur.
The Warrens in no way contributed to resolving the case, aside from bolstering William Weber’s argument that his client was insane or under some mysterious influence, rather than being criminally liable for the carefully orchestrated murder of his entire family. And even in that regard, the Warrens were less than helpful: Butch DeFeo remains in prison. Currently, he denies that any external influence drove him to kill his parents and siblings.
The Warrens were paid consultants to the first Amityvillemovie sequel.
George and Kathy Lutz insisted until their deaths (in 2006 and 2004, respectively) that the haunting was real.
– Anson, Jay. The Amityville Horror: A True Story. Prentice Hall, 1977.
– Brittle, Gerald. The Devil in Connecticut. iUniverse, 2006.
– Lynott, Douglas B. “The Real Life Amityville Horror: The Murder of the DeFeo Family”. TruTV Crime Library website.
– Nickell, Joe. “Amityville: The Horror of it All“. Skeptical Inquirer, Jan./Feb. 2003.
– Osuna, Ric. The Night the DeFeos Died. Imprint, 2006.
– Wikipedia entry for “The Amityville Horror”
Since I don’t live in a kid-dense area, Halloweens are pretty quiet. I’m spending much of this one watching the Most Haunted marathon on the W network. Tell me, does anything ever happen on this show? The historical tidbits at the beginning are interesting, but then the program just turns into an hour of people bumbling around in that celebrity-sex-tape nightvision, jumping at noises and asking the spirits questions that never seem to get answered. It’s not even remotely suspenseful or scary.
Derek Acorah in a sex tape, now thatwould be scary.