Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Ghost Sex, Celebrity Hauntings, and a Convenient Demon

This week, I’m going to labor the point that today’s celebrities just can’t seem to come up with anything original – even in the supernatural realm.

  • In 2011, Lady Gaga reportedly believed she was being followed around by the ghost of a dude named Ryan. A few months later, she told Harper’s Bazaar that the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen wrote her song “Born This Way” from beyond the grave (he had committed suicide the previous year). She might be the first celeb to have a ghost stalker, but she’s certainly not the first person to channel music from the dead. In the ’70s, an English senior by the name of Rosemary Brown released “new” works by major composers, including Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Weirdly, all of them spoke English.

 

  • Demi Lovato claims she has been followed around by the spirit of a little girl named Emily for most of her life. She told Ellen Degeneres she grew up in a “ridiculously haunted” house in Texas. Emily and her co-haunters like to screw around with electronics a little bit and make balloons float in the wrong direction. (Lovato also believes there might be mermaid aliens in the Indian Ocean, based mostly on an “extremely convincing documentary” she saw.)
    Even Ellen was unimpressed by the balloon story. And I’m unimpressed with the whole shebang, because it pales in comparison to the mother of all celebrity hauntings: Elke Sommer’s spooky-ass Beverly Hills house. In the mid- ’60s, Sommer and her husband, Joe Hyams, were hounded by poltergeist noises, ghostly dinner parties, and the spectre of a slovenly middle-aged man.
    While Lovato could produce nothing more than the unimpressive ghost photo you see below, Hyams became a less annoying version of the guy in Paranormal Activity, setting up microphones and even hiring a P.I. to monitor his house while he was away.

lovatoghost

 

  • Lee Ryan, a former member of some band I’ve never heard of,  says he grew up in Kent. But I think he grew up in the wilderness or something, because he didn’t recognize the ghost that visited him (via a psychic medium) when he was in his twenties. The spirit told him to work on his lower range and avoid drugs.
    Turns out it was Janis Joplin. Ryan took her advice about singing and abusing drugs, but may have forgotten to avoid abusing people.
    Michael Jackson did not grow up in the wilderness – though that might have been better for him – and immediately recognized Liberace when the ghost of the fabulous pianist began appearing to him with helpful career pointers. Jackson lined a secret room with mirrors so he could have a special place to commune with “Lee”. Then things got weird.
  • Ke$ha told Jimmy Kimmel that her hypnotherapist found a “ghost in her vagina” by waving a “ghost meter” over her body. She didn’t seem terribly concerned about this, and the whole thing may have been a publicity stunt. It’s not as disturbing as the fact that her mom dresses as a giant penis for her concerts.
    But then there’s B-movie actress Natasha Blasick. “I felt something entered the room. I couldn’t see anybody. Suddenly I could feel that somebody touching me,” she told the British TV show This Morning earlier this year. “Their hands were pushing me against my will and then I could feel the weight of their body on top of me but I couldn’t see anybody.” This sounded like a classic Old Hag encounter, until Blasick went on to say that when the experience occurred a second time she “decided to relax and it was really pleasurable, I really enjoyed it…You don’t see anybody but it’s very pleasant and it made me feel warm and fuzzy…It gave me comfort and support and love, and it did answer questions for me that there is something else out there.”
    Though the media had a field day with these crazy kids and their ghost sex, it’s all been done before. In the late 19th century, the much-persecuted sexual reformer Ida Craddock penned a series of works about her marriage to an angel/spirit she called Soph. For having the audacity to write about women and sex, Craddock was hounded to her death by Anthony Comstock.
    A few decades later, Englishwoman Dorothy Eady began receiving visitations from the spirit of Pharaoh Seti I, with whom she had been lovers in a previous lifetime. The two became lovers again, but Eady committed herself to a chaste life after becoming the unofficial guardian of the temple of Seti I in the ’50s. She took the name Omm Sety, meaning “mother of Seti”.
  • Now we move on to the dark side. Bob Cranmer is a former county commissioner in Pennsylvania. In 2003, he was charged with assaulting his 18-year-old son, punching him in the nose with such force that he was barely conscious by the time Cranmer’s 14-year-old son summoned the police. According to Cranmer’s younger son and wife, father and son had gotten into a quarrel over the bathroom. The charges were ultimately dropped.
    A decade later, Cranmer has a perfectly legitimate excuse for punching his son in the face: A haunted house. In his soon-to-be-released book The Demon of Brownsville Road, he explains that his Victorian home was possessed by a malevolent force that destroyed religious items, made a “blood-like” substance ooze from the walls, and wreaked emotional havoc on the entire family. He claims that his sons had to undergo psychological treatment to recover from the events of 2003-2006, and he has hinted that the demon infestation played a role in the family violence that erupted. What’s particularly odd about this demon is that the Cranmers had already been living in the house for 15 years when it became an “evil, evil entity” (to quote Cranmer).
    Sadly, this spirit-blaming business isn’t a new thing, either. When tomato farmer Maurice Theriault was charged with molesting his stepdaughter, professional ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren tried to pin the blame on an incubus (even after Theriault admitted to his crime). Perhaps keep that in mind if you watch the latest blockbuster inspired by the Warrens’ legacy.

 

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Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

skullofhangoverdoom

So that’s what those things are for…

  • In 2004, a creepy ghost video surfaced online. It had been taken with a VHS camcorder in the Smith Building, a former office located at Schatzell and Mesquite streets in downtown Corpus Christi, Texas, by a 20-year-old painter who was part of a renovation crew (the building is now called Retama Vista Apartments). Shot in 2002,  the video shows cameraman Mike De La Garza walking through a vacant office suite on the building’s second floor. From his comments, you can gather that someone else has been reporting strange noises, and that De La Garza thinks a female ghost is responsible. “She’s here…it’s cold,” he says as he walks from room to room, searching for her. He comments that doors are closing, apparently of their own volition, and in one of the rooms a light seems to switch off by itself. One of his co-workers, a man named Tom, sits in a hallway hugging a gigantic crucifix to his chest, looking nervous.
    Every room on the floor is empty, except for one darkened space; what appears to be the figure of a young girl is fleetingly glimpsed, standing in the corner. De La Garza dashes away from the apparition in terror, so we don’t see much detail. There’s just the impression of a dark-haired girl in a long white skirt, facing the corner. But it’s such a classic horror movie set-up – the warren of empty rooms, the grainy footage – that gooseflesh ripples down your arms when you realize there’s someone standing there. Let’s face it: It’s scarier than the last Paranormal Activity.
    After the video became public, De La Garza explained that he had seen the little ghost-girl he called “Christie Smith” before, and told Tom about her. Tom, in turn, told some locals about her. His story attracted so much attention in Corpus Christi that De La Garza and a friend conducted ghost tours of the second floor for a while, telling visitors that they, too, might catch a glimpse of Christie. Then Mike decided to try and capture the ghost on video.
    The video was posted on countless websites devoted to ghosts and the paranormal, and the Smith Building was added to lists of haunted places in Corpus Christie. The building’s current owner, Tracy Long, once discovered a group of people conducting a seance on the second floor.
    This October, De La Garza finally decided to come clean. He now says the “ghost girl” was a prank he pulled on  Thomas after finding some old clothes in the building. He rigged up a mop and a yardstick to simulate the appearance of a young girl, had a friend turn breakers off to make the lights flicker, and instructed another friend to slam doors when no one was looking. By the time he took the video, however, Thomas was in on the hoax.
    An “outtake” from the ghost video shows De La Garza and two friends sitting beside the obviously fake “ghost” in a well-lit room.
  • Speaking of creepy videos, what’s weirder than ranting about the New World Order for four or five hours a day? Putting a terrorist mask on your kid and coaching him to do the same thing.
  • In 1924, 14-year-old Anna Mitchell-Hedges discovered a skull sculpted from quartz crystal in the ruins of the Mayan city of Lubaantun while exploring with her adoptive father, the English adventurer Frederick Mitchell-Hedges. They handed it over to locals, but when the family was preparing to return to England three years later, it was returned to them as a farewell gift. At least, this is one of the stories Anna told. It seems her father never mentioned the skull in any of his writings, and no one can recall Anna being in Lubaantun with him. There is evidence that the skull didn’t come into her possession until 1944.
    For years, Anna kept the “skull of doom” on her dining room sideboard. It passed to her friend Bill Homann (mistakenly identified as her widower in several news stories) upon her death. Though Anna always insisted it was used by Mayan priests to place death curses upon their enemies, the skull bore more than a passing resemblance to another crystal skull held by the British Museum, and experts who examined that one found evidence of modern tool marks and machine grinding on the quartz, leading them to conclude it’s a clever fake. Just who created the skulls, and when, remains a mystery.
    The skulls became a popular symbol of the unexplained, appearing in Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (aliens made it, of course) and on an episode of Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.
    Now, there are reports that an archaeologist in Belize is suing the makers of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Homann, and the Mitchell-Hedges estate. News stories claim that not only does Dr. Jaime Awe of Belize’s Institute of Archaeology want the skull returned to Belize, but he’s upset that the filmmakers didn’t ask permission to use the skull as the model for the prop in the movie (which doesn’t even look very much like the Mitchell-Hedges one). However, according to this report from Belize, Dr. Awe was not even aware a lawsuit had been filed, does not believe the skull is a genuine artifact, and wants nothing to do with the group that launched the suit.
  • It’s been three years since Wife Swap participant, stormchaser, and all-around jackass Richard Heene reported that his 6-year-old son, Falcon, may have stowed away in his homemade flying-saucer balloon, which had escaped its moorings and was floating over Laramer County, Colorado. The whole thing turned out to be a publicity stunt, as little Falcon accidentally revealed in the family’s first televised interview. So what’s up with Balloon Boy these days? Would you believe…preteen heavy metal boy band?
  • Henry Makow has appeared on the Wednesday Weirdness Roundup many times, but he has finally jumped the shark with his December 11 article “Aliens Have Abducted Our Women“. No, he’s not talking about alien-aliens, he’s talking about the “Illuminati Jewish bankers and their Masonic lackeys” who have used the Communist conspiracy known as feminism to transform Western women into frigid lesbians. He goes on to cite – big shock – a book published in the ’50s.

The Girl in the Fire


On the night of November 19, 1995, a fire broke out at the Town Hall in the village of Wem, not far from Shrewsbury, Shropshire. The building was engulfed in flame when a local man named Tony O’Rahilly stood across the road and snapped a photo of the front entrance, capturing what is inarguably one of the eeriest ghost images of all time.

In the developed black and white photo, a young girl is standing behind a railing, inside the burning building. A loose, slightly old-fashioned white dress falls to her knees. She gazes out into the night with an unreadable expression, seeming to stare directly at the camera.
O’Rahilly and villagers who were standing near him when the photo was taken claimed they didn’t see the girl at all, and by all accounts there was no one inside the Town Hall as it burned. O’Rahilly denied any trickery. Dr. Vernon Harrison, a former president of the Royal Photographic Society, concluded the image had not been doctored after examining the photo and its negative. Like many skeptics, however, he surmised that the “girl” could be an optical illusion created by smoke and shadow.
Experts at the National Museum of Photography declared the photo a fake.

Others considered O’Rahilly’s photo evidence of the afterlife, and set to work figuring out who the girl in the fire could be. Some came to believe she was 15-year-old Jane Churm, the girl responsible for accidentally started another famous fire in Wem in the year 1677. On the night of November 3, Jane set the thatched roof of her home on fire by carelessly placing a candle too close to it. As it was dry and windy, the flames spread rapidly and devoured numerous other cottages in Wem. One man tried to hide beneath his house, and it collapsed on top of him.
Now, more than three centuries later, Jane had returned to Wem to haunt another fire.

For the past 15 years, the girl in the fire has appeared on virtually every list of the most chilling, and the most convincing, ghost photos. Wem even added “Ghost Town” to its sign.

In May of this year, the Shropshire Star newspaper included a 1922 Wem postcard in its “Pictures of the Past” feature. The black and white photo showed a street lined with shops, and outside one of those shops stands a solemn young girl in a loose-fitting white dress and a frilled white bonnet. She looked much like the girl in the fire. Reader Brian Lear of Shrewsbury alerted the paper to this eerie resemblance, which turned out to be more than coincidental: Both the girl in the fire and the girl in the postcard wear black neckties of exactly the same width and length, the blouses of their dresses are wrinkled near their waists in precisely the same spot, the frills of their bonnets cover their hair in the same places, and their faces are identical.

As an overlay demonstration by computer programmer Richard Deeson shows, the two pictures are the same.

But why the photo was faked may forever remain a mystery. Tony O’Rahilly died in 2005.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • After my first encounter with “Satanic Nephilim hybrids“, I didn’t think I’d be running into any more fusions of alien abduction lore and Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) narratives. So far as I know, alien abductees rarely recover memories of human abuse under hypnosis (David Icke’s Reptilian/Illuminati survivors would be an exception), and ritual abuse advocates generally don’t stray too far into the paranormal (Michelle Pazder’s Marian visitation would be a notable exception). It’s just not a likely combination, though both phenomena probably involve false memories and/or fantasy-proneness to some extent. So I was hugely disappointed to learn that on the most recent edition of his online radio show, Dreamland, famous alien abductee Whitley Strieber featured a woman named Christine Day who claims not only that she’s in communication with Pleiadians, but that her parents “gave her to a Satanic cult when she was a child.” Day’s contact story is remarkably similar to hundreds of others. She was taken aboard a huge UFO near Mount Shasta (a sacred energy site to New Agers) and felt an overwhelming sense of peace among the Pleiadian aliens. Their vibration filled her with a powerful energy that forced her to undergo a spiritual/psychological transformation. Two months later, Jesus appeared to her and declared, “The Pleiadians are part of the Oneness, and we are part of the Oneness. We are all part of the God-self.” Day claims these memories are consciously recalled. The SRA memories, on the other hand, remained repressed until Day was a grandmother; she accidentally slammed her fingers in her garage door, and spontaneously recalled Satanists breaking her fingers when she was a child. After four years of intense treatment with a therapist who “specializes in this sort of work”, she recalled a life full of Satanic atrocities. (And that’s not all. Sai Baba appeared in Day’s bedroom one night to urge her to go to India.) In a July 9, 1993 interview on Larry King Live, Whitley Strieber said he was working on a novel about ritual abuse, but told guest host Frank Sesno, “Something is happening, people are getting beat up, but it is a psychological thing, basically. I don’t think it’s real.” Now, granted, the Dreamland interview with Christine Day was conducted by guest host Marla Frees. Perhaps Strieber didn’t want to touch the subject himself. Nonetheless, it’s still discouraging to see unverifiable contactee messages being merged with verifiably false SRA information, which can’t possibly do any real favours for either alien abductees or SRA survivors.
  • This is just sad: While searching for the legendary ghost train of Iredell County in Statesville, North Carolina, 29-year-old concierge Christopher Kaiser was struck by an actual train. About a dozen amateur ghost-hunters were on the elevated train trestle called Bostian Bridge in the predawn hours of August 27th, waiting for the phantom #9 out of Salisbury to make an appearance on the 119th anniversary of its crash. That’s when a three-car Norfolk Southern train somehow took them by surprise. Mr. Kaiser reportedly saved his girlfriend’s life by pushing her off the tracks into the ravine 30-40 feet below, just before he was struck head-on. Something tells me that next August 27th, people are going to gather on the trestle to look for the ghost of the guy who saved his girlfriend from an oncoming train. Sigh. Sadder still: This is not the first preventable death to occur on an amateur ghost-hunting trip. Last September, 29-year-old Leah Kubik fell to her death from the roof of the “haunted” Connaught medical research building on the University of Toronto campus after she and a date snuck into the building in search of ghosts. In 2006, 17-year-old Rachel Barezinsky was shot to death by the owner of a “haunted house” in Worthington, Ohio. Allen Davis says he didn’t know that the people who continually lurked on his property were searching for witches and ghosts; he just assumed they were up to no good and loaded his rifle.
  • The blog Three Dead Words, maintained by a Saskatchewan veterinarian who evidently believes her province is crawling with Satanists, is trying to put a Satanic spin on the crimes of Stuart Northcott. He’s the serial killer depicted in The Changeling (you can read my post on him here).

Ghostbusters

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

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • 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.

Demons prefer air freshener

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!”

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup

  • I just learned that Jay Smith, one of two men convicted for the brutal 1979 murder of Pennsylvania teacher Susan Reinert and her two children, died in May. His conviction was overturned in 1992. If you’re not familiar with the “Main Line Murders”, there’s a fairly good synopsis at truTV’s Crime Library. Be warned that it’s one of the most bizarre, convoluted, and disturbing cases in the history of American crime. I’ve read the two major books on the case several times each, and I still don’t know what the hell was going on at Upper Merion High School in the ’70s. It was either a conspiracy between two killers, or one of the most elaborate frame-ups imaginable.
  • Remember the Austrian journalist who’s filing criminal charges against various health officials and pharmaceutical companies over the Swine Flu “depopulation plot”? Well, I should’ve seen this coming, but I didn’t: People are referring to her as a “whistleblower”. This is one term that is horribly abused by the conspiracy community. Whistleblowers work within the industry they are exposing. Ms. Burgermeister is, at best, a muckraker. But I hesitate to even call her that, because muckrakers usually have lots of hard evidence to back up their work.
  • Gullible’s not in the dictionary: A UK woman reportedly supports her 13-year-old son’s account of being trounced by a ghost, and has turned to a priest for help.

Ghostbusters Part IV: Ed and Lorraine Warrens’ Other Notable Cases

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.

Guess who?

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.

Succubus

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.

No Exit

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.

Raggedy Rampage

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.”

Um. Okay.

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“.

Whew.

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.

Frenchy Theriault

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.

Yeah, right.

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.

Ghostbusters Part III: The B.S. 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”

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.”

The House

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 Family

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.