2012 Prediction Fail


The Winner


The biggest fail is the late Terence McKenna’s Timewave Zero prediction. First published in 1975, it was predicated on McKenna’s complex novelty theory about the cyclical nature of time, and guesstimated that some kind of awesome singularity would occur in December 2012 (the date was based partly on his own calculations and partly on the Mayan calendar). Just how the arcane ramblings of a chemognostic savante ended up on Discovery Channel specials and in Britney Spears videos is beyond me, but the bottom line is: Nothing happened. No singularity. So let’s move on to that dagger-nailed doyenne of prophetic fail…

Sylvia Browne

Browne played it safe last year by making many of her 2012 forecasts hilariously vague. She asked us to “be mindful of trucks”, said she’s “still worried about trains”, and spoke of “airline difficulties” in several states. Which basically amounts to


She has stayed away from celebrity predictions altogether lately, since her 2009 prophecy about Clint Eastwood’s varicose veins failed to impress.
Her big prediction was that the economy, the job situation, and the housing market would all improve dramatically. Oh, and taxes would decrease. If by “dramatically”, she meant “somewhat”, then I guess this qualifies as a direct hit. Vagueness occasionally works in her favour.
When she was any more specific than that, she bombed. Here are a few of her biggest misses:

There will be a tsunami in Florida in the fall.
A cure for Multiple Sclerosis will be found.
Obama will not be reelected.


I’ve skipped most of her weather-related predictions, because they’re basically just variations of “There will be weather”. Glue some fake fingernails on your copy of the Farmer’s Almanac to achieve the same effect.

A few of her predictions did nothing but betray her uneven grasp of the sciences:

Weather stays terribly erratic. We are in a polar tilt.
The hell is a “polar tilt”?
We have to be more cognizant about vaccinations or we are going to have more outbreaks of measles, polio and whooping cough. These vaccines do not cause autism.
You don’t have to be psychic to know this.

A ridiculously safe bet:

There will also be earthquakes in Japan, China and Europe.
There have been major quakes in Japan every year since 2003, and in China since 2008. And there are earthquakes somewhere in Europe pretty much every year.


A few of her predictions were just nonsensical:

We will pay more attention to causes for eliminating hunger and animal care.
“More attention” than what? No attention at all?
More people realize this is a new age of enlightenment.
Again with the “more” thing.
We are looking at a time when spirituality is on the upswing.
Dogmatic religions will see their member numbers decrease.

Those last two statements actually contradict each other. Historical trends indicate that in times of economic crisis, spirituality and dogmatic religions flourish. When things get better – as Browne was predicting they would – religious fervour tends to wane. So the chances of a spiritual revival and an economic upswing occurring simultaneously are actually quite slim. Play the odds, Sylvia, play the odds.

Patrick Geryl

Belgian author Patrick Geryl seems to be a cross between the poor man’s Velikovsky and Charles Manson. His website looks sort of sciency, but the core of Geryl’s predictions have nothing to do with science.
Geryl claims he uncovered long-lost prophecies of the ancients by deciphering parts of the Dresden Codex in his own special way.  He combined these prophecies with his own bullshit astronomical observations to come up with the following predictions:

Some kind of solar Armageddon event Geryl called the “killer flare” was supposed to happen on December 20.

Within a few hours, Earth would be surrounded by a plasma cloud with a magnetic field that would “deflect” the earth’s core, causing it to rotate. Since the rotation of the core and the movements of the earth’s crust would be in different directions, massive earthquakes and other upheavals would occur, culminating in something along the lines of


Geryl and his handful of followers bunkered up and prepared for the endtimes, thinking they would have to repopulate the ravaged planet and rebuild civilization from scratch. Fortunately for Geryl, all he really has to do in 2013 is get a new domain name.

Ed Dames and other Remote Viewers

On the October 6-7, 2011 broadcast of the paranormal-themed radio show Coast to Coast AM, professional remote viewer Ed Dames predicted a 40% unemployment rate, the imposition of martial law, and mass detainment in FEMA camps within the next two years. He said he didn’t believe there would be a presidential election in 2012 as a result of all this.
Back when he started predicting the “Killshot” (yet another solar flare that was supposed to destroy Earth), Dames’ crack team of remote viewers “saw” a bombed-out stadium and “many thousands” of dead Americans in relation to some unspecified disaster that Dames thought might strike during the Superbowl or the 2012 Olympics. Keep in mind that this guy used to claim a 100% success rate for properly-conducted remote viewing.

In 2008, similar predictions were issued by a team of other military-trained remote viewers working on a project for the Farsight Institute. They were supposed to be remote-viewing climate changes, but instead “saw” a huge meteorite slamming into an ocean, causing tidal waves and volcanic explosions. This would happen by 2013, they said.

For pure psychic lulziness, check out this About.com roundup of predictions from “leading” psychics, ranging from “gold disappoints” to “the Holy Grail will be found”. Here are a few of the highlights:

“Psychic to the Stars” Nikki

These are some of the flat-out weirdest predictions I have ever seen. Nikki seems to be predicting cataclysmic, earth-shattering events on the order of 2012 or Birdemic, but she also takes time out to let us know what will be on TV. Sure, most of us will die, but Ellen stays on the air! And Stallone gets a Tony! So it’s all gonna be okay.


I’ve tweaked Ms. Nikki’s predictions a little, because as written they look like drunk texts.

An earthquake will destroy most of Mexico City.
There will be a giant earthquake in California.
Animals and birds, wild and domestic, will attack people leading up to the end of 2012.
Someone will find giant prehistoric Sea Monsters under the sea.
There will be major UFO sightings all over the world. A spaceship might land.
North Korea will attack South Korea and Japan.
There will be an attack on the Vatican and the Pope.
Earth will fall off its axis a little more.
The Holy Grail will be found.
A plane crash will crash into the White House.
The map of the world will change because of catastrophic events happening in the world.
Ellen DeGeneres will join the army for one week.
Sylvester Stallone gets nominated for a Tony Award.
Madonna will break a leg.
There will be a National Hockey League for women.

Terry and Linda Jamison, The Psychic Twins

The Psychic Twins look kind of like the little girls from The Shining, all grown up and full of shit. They claim to be the world’s “most documented” psychics, with accurate predictions of 9/11 and the May 2000 stock market crash. So how did the creepy duo make out in 2012?


Double your fail!

Terrorist attacks are planned for New York, Washington, Boston, Texas and Florida, but most of them will be thwarted.
Economic growth; no recession; unemployment stays about the same.
Letting go a negative patterns; more acceptance of positive patterns and choices.
Earthquakes in Mexico, eastern and western China, and in Los Angeles in April.

Don’t be sad that the good predictions didn’t pan out. I’m sure the Grail, sea monsters, and “positive patterns” will turn up this year. And even if they don’t, there’s still lots of fun stuff in the future. I, for one, am looking forward to mocking the hell out of Mike “The Health Ranger” Adams’ 20 Dark Predictions for 2013, the Year of Oppression and Insanity, in 2014.

The Prodigal Witch Part XVIII: Today’s Former Satanists

The tradition continues….

Jeff Harshbarger

Jeff Harshbarger is a South Carolina minister who claims he was a teenage victim of Satanic deception and demonic possession. In 2005 he published an autobiography about his years as a Satanist, From Darkness to Light: How to Rescue Someone You Love From the Occult.
His Refuge Ministries educates others about Wicca, Satanism and the occult, with the goal of persuading them to abandon those practices in favour of Christ. His new book featuring the testimonies of other “exes”, Dancing with the Devil, is due to come out next year.
Refuge is a member of the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, and has some connections to Reachout Trust U.K., the organization that promoted the false Satanism stories of Audrey Harper and Derry Mainwaring Knight and drummed up Satanic panic throughout the UK in the late ’80s (Reachout member Doug Harris was one of Harshbarger’s teachers at Bible college).

Jeff Harshbarger with wife Liz

On The 700 Club, Harshbarger explained that an evil presence was first drawn to him when he was a child, after he and his brother played with a Ouija board their parents had given to them. Experimenting with the board on his own, he felt increasingly closer to this presence. This harks back not only to The Exorcist, but to the dire warnings about Dungeons & Dragons and Ouija boards issued by John Todd, Doreen Irvine, and other “former Satanists” of the ’70s and ’80s. After all those lizardpeople from Mars and Illuminati blood rituals, I have to admit it’s kinda refreshing to return to that quainter time when Satan used mass-produced boardgames to capture kids’ souls.

If you screw around with this particular board, you’ll end up possessed and depressed.

As Jeff entered his teens, the evil presence gave him psychic powers and the ability to travel outside his body.
In a promotional video for Refuge Ministries (below), Harshbarger gives only the vaguest details about how he actually became a Satanist. In 1978, when Jeff was 17, “another guy” (elsewhere described as an 18-year-old assistant manager at the store where Jeff worked part-time) invited Jeff to his apartment and told him all about the wonders of Devil worship. Awed by this charismatic older teen, Jeff was eager to sign on. The two boys prayed to Satan for Jeff to be possessed by demons, and voila! Insta-possession! The demons gave him a rush of power, but over time they sapped his strength and betrayed him. He could hear them speaking to him and through him, and over time he was able to see them, too.

At college, Jeff and the Other Guy formed a teen coven, recruiting half a dozen boys to take part in “elaborate rituals” with them. All of these kids subsequently became possessed by demons. Pangs of conscious and a growing conviction that Satanism was wrong almost led Jeff to commit suicide in 1981. When he actually attempted to shoot himself, however, he couldn’t pull the trigger. His attempt to hang himself also failed (on his website, he mentions that he offered himself up to his fellow Satanists as a human sacrifice, an offer they evidently refused). Instead, God spoke to him audibly. Jeff fell to his knees and accepted Christ. He had been a Satanist for just four years.
It was surprisingly easy for him to get rid of the demons. “Black witch” Doreen Irvine had to undergo seven months of grueling exorcism, but all Harshbarger had to do was go to a church and ask a member to pray over him. As soon as the woman commanded the demons to leave, they did. Poof! Insta-exorcism!

Harshbarger gives a typically flat, stereotypical portrayal of how Satanists think and behave. They all want power more than anything. They don’t care about anyone but themselves. What he doesn’t seem to realize is that this describes a good percentage of teenagers who don’t worship the Devil.
He was, admittedly, a self-styled Satanist. He and his mentor didn’t belong to any organized group, assembled their rituals in willy-nilly fashion, and took part in juvenile stunts like Bible desecration (though Irvine, Mike Warnke and others insisted – falsely – that this is something practiced by authentic Satanists).

The Refuge Ministries promo page for Dancing with the Devil actually contains a blurb from “former Satanist” David Berkowitz. Son of Sam has long insisted that his crimes were committed at the behest of a violent Satanic cult, and he now claims to be a Christian (though his correspondence with another serial killer would indicate this, too, is a ruse designed to attract attention and sympathy). Sadly, many gullible folks have bought into this.

Harshbarger takes a Bible-based approach to the occult, and doesn’t seem to employ any of the fire-&-brimestone hyperbole or absurdly tall tales we’ve seen from Bill Schnoebelen and Mike Warnke. Nor does he have a criminal record or a history of deception, like John Todd and Derry Mainwaring Knight. He doesn’t claim to have been the leader of thousands of devil worshipers, or part of a worldwide Illuminati conspiracy, or a third-generation warlock. In fact, he comes across as a pretty low-key guy who probably did dabble in some form of Satanism in his younger days. But his story matches nearly every point of the familiar outline laid down by the original, bogus ex-Satanist testimonies (Doreen Irvine, Mike Warnke).

– A deprived childhood (his father was a violent alcoholic, his parents divorced)
– An absence of time markers (in Harshbarger’s case, there are virtually no details at all. We know only that he practiced Satanism from 1978 to 1981)
– Lack of detail about the beliefs of Satanists (Harshbarger mentions only a craving for power and wealth), but extraneous detail about the practices of Satanists (invoking demons, communicating with spirits).
– Helplessness. Rather than being led into Satanic evil through his/her bad choices, the protagonist is usually a naive and vulnerable innocent victimized, lured, or coerced into sin by more worldly people.
– Supernatural abilities and events (Harshbarger communicated with demons via Ouija board, manifested ESP, astrally projected, and was later possessed by demons)
– A remarkable conversion experience (after God intervened in his suicide attempt, he embraced Christ and demons were expelled from his body with minimal effort)
– Complete redemption and forgiveness through Christ
– Expert advice on the occult. After sharing his/her testimony, the ex-witch or former Satanist gives us pointers on how to avoid occultism, prevent children from becoming involved in it, and/or how to expunge it from our communities. There are typically warnings about Ouija boards, Halloween, and occult literature.  Harshbarger dumps Eastern religion and New Age beliefs into the same pot as Satanism.

Perhaps the number one reason why Harshbarger’s story isn’t believable is that it exists in at least two different versions. On The 700 Club and in the promotional video below, he describes his initiation into Satanism as a demonic possession. But in a written version of his testimony available online, he claims he started out with LaVeyan Satanism – which has nothing to do with literal demons, nor even a literal Satan – then worked his way up to demonology. So which is it?

Refuge Ministries promotional video

Betty Brennan

Betty Brennan is a Brooklyn-born New Yorker who claims she was a Devil worshiper for most of her adult life. She is the only practicing Catholic in this series. That’s quite ironic, given that many of the other “former Satanists” included Catholics in their lists of Satanic baddies. Bill Schnoebelen stated that all Satanic high priests are required to become Catholic priests.  Leo Zagami declared that each and every Catholic works as a spy for the Vatican, which is at the head of the Satanic Illuminati.

Brennan’s message is so meticulously tailored to suit fellow Catholics that I doubt it would be of much interest to the evangelical Christians that ordinarily flock to these conversion stories. She has even told her audiences that Satanists are anti-Catholic (she herself was a “real persecutor of the Church”), and are imbued with Satanic powers that allow them to pick out consecrated communion wafers from unconsecrated ones.
Chosen faith aside, Brennan’s tale fits perfectly into the the ex-Satanist testimony template. Let’s take a look:

A Dickensian childhood. Betty’s father died when she was a child. Unable to cope with her grief and raise a family at the same time, her mother shipped Betty and her brother to overseas Catholic boarding schools, where they lived isolated and unhappy lives.
An early introduction to Jesus that would pave the way for salvation later in life. Betty’s mother was a devout Catholic, and raised her children to follow in her footsteps. They went to church, received religious instruction, and attended only Catholic schools.
An absence of time markers. In her speeches, Betty always mentions how long she has been out of Satanism. But she provides no other dates at all. We don’t even know when she was born.

After graduating from boarding school, Betty returned to the States and married. One of her children was born with a terminal brain disease that resulted in a slow, agonizing death just two years later. Her daughter’s death devastated Betty and caused her to become furious with God.
Betty was a professional cellist. Shortly after her daughter died, she joined an orchestra that contained four or five Satanic priests. One of them, an older psychologist, befriended her. They had long, heartfelt chats over coffee, and she became emotionally dependent on the man.
One night, Betty insisted on accompanying her friend to a “party” held in an old barn. Reluctantly, he took her along with him, but asked her to remain outside. It didn’t take her long to figure out that a Satanic ceremony was being conducted. Instead of running away, she felt compelled to join her friend’s coven. In this respect, her story diverges from the standard testimony, in which a dewy innocent is lured into a cult.

Betty didn’t tell anyone she was a Satanist. She continued to pretend she was a Catholic. We have seen this subterfuge again and again in this series, yet in the world of real Satanism, adherents are proud of who they are and feel no need to hide their lifestyle. They certainly don’t feel obligated to pay lip service to another religion.

Betty is careful to note that although she was deeply immersed in the “upper echelons” of Satanism, she stopped short of human sacrifice, implying that others did engage in it. One wonders if she has reported this to the proper authorities – no one else in this series every bothered to do so. Just like Brennan, they shielded alleged homicidal Satanists by refusing to divulge their names. Betty does not even give the name of the form of Satanism she supposedly practiced.

Lack of detail about the beliefs of Satanists (scripture, philosophy, etc.), but extraneous detail about the practices of Satanists (sacrifice, crime, etc.) This is particularly true in Brennan’s case. She conflates witchcraft with Satanism, and portrays the two belief systems as little more than magic shows for narcissistic, wayward people
Supernatural events and paranormal abilities are common. As mentioned above, the Satanists Betty knew could tell if a host was consecrated or not just by looking at it (sensing the presence of Christ’s flesh, I guess). Betty developed telekinetic powers and ESP. Later, she experienced spontaneous levitation, like Edna Moses supposedly did.
A remarkable conversion experience. Betty was working as a substitute teacher, carpooling with a colleague who happened to be Catholic. When this woman’s car broke down, she asked Betty to drive her to a healing Mass. Betty accompanied her into the church with the sole intent of interrupting the Mass by supernatural means. First she caused the lights to go out, but the priest produced candles. All her other tricks were foiled, as well. Eventually, the priest recognized that something was not quite right about Betty, and  gently confronted her. With very little coaxing, she confessed her Satanism.

Betty returned to Catholicism for real, but her deliverance from evil was a protracted affair. At each Mass she attended, she would invariably awe the other congregants by levitating.
Complete redemption and forgiveness through Christ
Expert advice on the occult. Betty has been very active in warning other Catholics about the dangers of anything non-Catholic, and urging them to gird themselves against occult influence with their faith. One of her talks is titled “The Family Under Attack: The Sacraments as Our Defense“.


1. Undated, abridged speech by Betty Brennan @ Gloria.TV (this is from a Lighthouse Catholic Media CD titled “Former Satanist Becomes Catholic“)

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Time Travel Photos, and Other Worthless Things

  • Irish filmmaker George Clarke has found a “time traveler” in 1928 film footage of the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus. A woman in a fur coat approaches Grauman’s Chinese Theater with a cell phone clutched to her ear! Well, sort of. You can’t actually see what’s in her hand. At all. But in Clarke’s video, you can see a poster for one of Clarke’s films, as well as his production company logo. Hmm. (I have to wonder why any time traveler would carefully don era-appropriate clothing, yet yak on a future phone in a very public place right in front of a film crew. Also, how was she getting service?) (via Disclose TV)
  • Clarke’s cell phone lady is similar to the mohawk time traveler photo that circulated last month, and the “time-traveling hipster” from last spring. They’re more interesting than the photo of Jesus’ crucifixion, but not much more convincing when it comes to time travel. Unflattering haircuts and beards have existed for a long time, folks.
  • Octo-coverup: The untimely demise of Paul the psychic octopus may be more than it seems… Stew, anyone?
  • Over the years, there have been many weird hoaxes involving the collection of worthless objects for some worthy cause. Back in the ’30s, an 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy named Earl Baker saved up thousands of matchbox covers in the belief they would be used to procure an artificial leg, because a stranger had told him so. In this decade, hoaxes about raising money for wheelchairs, chemotherapy, and surgery by saving things like bottlecaps and potato-chip bags continue to circulate. (Messybeast.com has collected an astonishing number of these hoaxes, and Snopes has unearthed a few more.)
  • And the already-sad Randy Quaid arrest story gets even sadder, with Quaid and wife Evi claiming that a Hollywood assassination squad is gunning for them.

Wednesday Weirdness Roundup: Awesome Alien Stories

…that turned out to be b.s.

  • By now you’ve probably heard that the UN has appointed an “alien greeter” to welcome ETs to Earth. Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman was selected for the unprecedented task, probably because she already heads a “little-known” UN department called the Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), based in Vienna. Well, it’s a hoax. UNOOSA really exists, and Othman does head it, but she told the Guardian she has not been asked to become an alien ambassador. The story was first reported by Sunday Times science editor Jonathan Leake, who appears to be standing behind his reporting. The reason for the discrepancy has not yet been explained. Several bloggers, like Loren Coleman, have pointed out the interesting fact of Othman’s name: M. Othman.
  • I recently came across an episode of the Mexican TV show OVNI (UFO) that claims a clan of “Nordic” aliens are living on Friendship Island off the coast of Chile. Since the early ’80s, various contactees have claimed to be in radio and/or telepathic communication with these aliens, and one man insists the aliens cured his cancer. There are even tape recordings of some of the radio conversations. However, the most interesting part of the story is not the ET colony, but the fact that there is no “Friendship Island”. This website gives a good rundown of the story’s origins.
  • Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the newly re-elected head of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), professes to believe that aliens brought chess to Earth (along with corn and the Internet). Ilyumzhinov is a colourful character, to say the least: A mechanic who became a multi-millionaire, he was elected the first president of the Russian republic of Kalmykia in 1993. In 2006, he claimed that aliens summoned him to the balcony of a Moscow aparment in 1997 and invited him aboard a tube-shaped UFO. He was given a tour of the ship by “people in yellow spacesuits”, then taken to “some kind of star”. State Duma deputy Andrei Lebedev reportedly called for an investigation into the incident, concerned that Ilyumzhinov may have given state secrets to the visitors.

Psychic Detectives

Part I: Intro/Gerard Croiset and Peter Hurkos
Part II: Dorothy Allison and Noreen Renier
Part III: Sylvia Browne, Psychic Clown
Part IV: Other “Notables” (including Allison DuBois)
Addendum: Uri Geller

Hoaxes From Space: Time Travel Hoaxes, Part I

A Photo of Jesus

On May 2, 1972, the magazine La Domenica del Corriere (basically the Italian equivalent of Parade) published a picture of Jesus Christ (above, left). This wouldn’t be a big deal, except the picture was supposedly a photo.
And it had been taken by a living monk, Benedictine scholar Pellegrino Ernetti of Venice. Various sources have referred to him as a musicologist, an exorcist, a quantum physicist, or a total nutbar. While he did perform exorcisms and did study archaic music, his degree in theoretical physics is very much in doubt. No one seems to know where he earned it.
According to friend and paranormal enthusiast Francois Brune, Ernetti explained that in the 1950s, Werner Von Braun, Enrico Fermi, and ten other internationally renowned scientists agreed to help him develop a time machine. In the course of his studies into Gregorian chants, Ernetti had stumbled upon a kind of time travel involving communication with the dead (EVP). While using a recorder to study the harmonics in these chants, he and Father Agostino Gemelli heard the voice of Gemelli’s late father speaking to them. This convinced Ernetti that electromagnetic energy from the past could be accessed, with the proper equipment, enabling us to view or even hear things that happened on earth years ago. A similar “recording” theory has often been put forward as an explanation for ghosts, phantom ships, spectral cities, and other ephemera.
The time machine Father Ernetti came up with couldn’t physically convey anyone to another time, though. Instead, it captured images from a given time and place. Ernetti called it the Chronovisor.
Ernetti and the scientists witnessed numerous historical events through his time camera, but of course the one that interested Ernetti most was the Crucifixion. The only photo he provided to the public actually showed Christ dying on the cross, his eyes rolled toward heaven.
As a favour to Professor Giuseppe Marasca, he also produced his own transcription of a lost tragedy by Quintus Ennius, Thyestes, after watching a performance of it in 169 B.C. Strangely, the full play consisted of just 120 lines. Dr. Katherine Owen Eldred of Princeton, an expert on Ennius who translated Father Ernetti’s manuscript, observed that whoever wrote it was not overly fluent in Latin. Rather odd for “the father of Latin poetry.”
After their forays, the team agreed to dismantle the Chronovisor and secrete its components in various parts of the world, for fear it would fall into the wrong hands.

Ernetti couldn’t, or wouldn’t, provide Brune with any evidence to back up his story. While it’s true that Father Gemelli reported hearing his late father’s voice on a recording in the ’50s, it isn’t known if Ernetti actually worked alongside him.

There were allegations that Ernetti confessed to hoaxing the photo and the play on his deathbed (without retracting his claims about the time machine), but in 2003 (9 years after his death), Francois Brune insisted Ernetti had been coerced into confessing, that the Chronovisor was real, and that the Vatican probably tried to gain control of the device. An only slightly less credulous stance is taken by Peter Krassa in his book Father Ernetti’s Chronovisor, which is the primary source for this post.

Brune and Krassa were a little too late to convince the world that Ernetti pioneered time travel. Almost as soon as the Jesus photo was published in 1972, people noticed its uncanny resemblance to a carving by Cullot Valera (above, right), which hangs in the Sanctuary of Merciful Love in Collevalenza. Brone dismissed the resemblance, suggesting that a nun may have directed Valera whilst in the throes of an ecstatic vision of the Crucifixion. Sure thing.

Pious hoaxes, even ones this absurd, are not unheard-of. In 1987, a Kenyan nun called Sister Anna Ali declared that Jesus paid visits to her room. Zambian archbishop Emmanuel Milingo requested evidence, so she supplied a “photo” that was plainly a drawing. This was enough to convince Milingo (later defrocked for performing unauthorized exorcisms).

Father Ernetti refused to tell Brune how his machine was assembled, mentioning only that a plain old cathode ray tube from a ’50s TV set was used in the viewing screen. This renders his and Brune’s claims essentially un-debunkable. So If you really want to believe that some of the finest and most ambitious scientists in the world discovered the secrets to time travel, commissioned a monk with no specialized expertise to develop a time machine, used it to witness a few major historical events without taking more than one photo (that one photo being a grainy head shot), then decided, “Nah, the world’s not ready for this. Let’s go back to making Disney movies“, go right ahead.

Jurassic Dork

Billy Meier, the one-armed Swiss contactee we’ll see again in this series, claimed that his buds from the Pleiades helped him move through time and space to tour a “prehistoric planet”. He presented a few extremely blurry photos, including a dramatic one of a pterodactyl dropping a mouthful of food in mid-flight.
Compared to his famous UFO photos, they sucked, but his bevy of devotees didn’t seem to care – not even when critics produced an illustration from a 1972 book entitled Life Before Man that perfectly matched the pterodactyl. You can see some of the other dino photos in this video, along with a photo of a dust storm on Mars and one of Billy’s alien girlfriend, Asket (actually a still from The Dean Martin Variety Show).

“The Rainman of Time Travel”

In 1981 Nebraska farmer Steven Gibbs received a letter from himself. His future self. Written (and postmarked) in 1994, it informed him that he would soon be embarking on a struggle to build a time machine, and “predicted” some other events that would soon occur. Gibbs dismissed the letter as a prank until these things actually started to happen. Then he got to work. A mere four years later, he had a fully functional Hyper Dimensional Resonator that can astrally transport you just about anywhere. Like most such inventions it is mysteriously powered by an electromagnet, a Tesla coil, and a quartz crystal, and can be purchased for a few hundred dollars from the same websites that sell stuff like stirwands. I’m pretty sure it’s what Napoleon Dynamite’s brother used.
Now for the mindf*** part: After he completed work on the HDR, Gibbs decided not to write a letter to himself in 1994. That’s a wise choice, but how did he invent the thing if (as he claims) it was advice from his future self and another time traveler that made its creation possible in the first place? And which postal service are these people using, anyway?

A nearly identical device was created under a railroad bridge in Chalk Farm, London, by Tony Bassett. He originally designed it to boost the immune systems of cancer patients, using a powerful magnet and electrical field to generate a broad range of high-frequency energy. Naturally, people have reported feeling disembodied when they get too close to the “bio-energizer”; its effects are probably similar to those induced by Michael Persinger’s “God helmet“. Bassett believes it helps users direct their consciousness toward any time or place.

Time Travel Whistleblowers

Then there are those unlucky few who have been forced to travel through time, usually as part of a secret government experiment: the doomed sailors of the USS Eldridge, the Montauk boys, etc.
Duncan O’Finioan is one such time traveler. In 1966, when he was six years old, Duncan was inducted into a top secret program called Project Talent, which trained children to become psychic super-soldiers. His first session was conducted in the back room of a Kentucky hardware store.
Duncan believes he was selected for his ethnic background (half Irish, half Native American), because this particular genetic mix often results in enhanced psychic abilities.
At one point in his training, Duncan was strapped into a chair and sent through a wormhole to another time and place. The children of Talent and its various sub-projects were also trained to kill with the power of their minds, making them an invaluable tool in Vietnam and in political assassinations. Duncan mentally slaughtered many people before deciding to come clean and reveal Project Talent to the world in 2006. He had two compelling items of evidence: a cranial implant and a bionic arm. For some reason, even though he has been interviewed on video by Project Camelot, he hasn’t gotten around to showing us this evidence.

As distasteful as O’Finioan’s tasks were, at least they were exciting. The same can’t be said for the job given to John Titor. He was sent back in time to fetch some archaic computer technology for the bigwigs of the future, who are apparently too busy watching Rocky XXII to run their own damn time-travel errands.
Titor surfaced online in 2000, claiming to be a visitor from the year 2036 with nothing better to do than lurk on 36-year-old message boards devoted to Art Bell and ancient astronauts. He offered up a dazzling array of “predictions”, including:

  • 2004: Civil war would erupt in the U.S., pitting militias and other armed citizen against something he called the American Federal Empire.
  • 2014: Civil War II ends when Russia attacks the U.S. WWIII begins. The U.S. loses, and is reduced to ruins along with China and the EU.
  • 2036: America is rebuilt and back on its feet, though considerably diminished. Then Mad Cow becomes pandemic, affecting virtually every beef-eater on the planet. Despite all these setbacks, the U.S. is in possession of time travel technology. In fact, time travel would become a reality in 2001, right after CERN’s larger facility began operating.

Titor was a U.S. soldier working on a time-travel project based in Florida. His mission: Go to 1975 and retrieve an IBM1500 computer, which could be used to debug legacy computer programs (the UNIX 2038 timeout error). Titor’s granddad had been involved in its development. Like another time travel insider we’ll look at later, Dan Burisch, Titor believed in some kind of parallel timeline or universe. Hence, the past he was in wasn’t actually his own past – just a very similar one.
Titor decided to make an unscheduled stop in the year 2000 to save some family photos that he knew would be destroyed in Civil War II. While there, he decided to blow the minds of a few basement dwellers by posting photos of his time machine on the Coast to Coast AM (C2C) online forum and at anomalies.net. It was housed in a ’67 Chevy Corvette, but Titor later moved it to a truck so he could have four-wheel drive.
Titor returned to 2036 in the spring of 2001. A website devoted to his wisdom is still up, though, and for a time his attorney and spokesman, Larry Haber, remained a frequent guest on C2C, sharing Titor’s information about all the terrible things that were supposed to happen to us but actually didn’t. Thanks a bunch.

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.


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“.


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 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.

Ghostbusters: Ed and Lorraine Warren Part II

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.

The Diagnosis

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.

The Defense

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.

Psychic Detectives: Addendum

I mentioned in Psychic Detectives: Part I that Uri Geller claimed he had worked with the FBI. The FBI denies it. But Geller has indisputably been involved with crime-solving on a smaller scale, and it would be interesting to see how successful he was.

Geller is primarily a telepath and a psychokinetic (think Carrie, minus the prom). Unlike most psychics, he rarely makes predictions. When he was informally tested at the Stanford Research Institute in the early ’70s, the examiners didn’t even try him out on their pet project – remote viewing. However, he did show some promise in reproducing sketches that were not visible to him, and it is this sort of eyeless sight that could theoretically enable him to recreate a crime scene or find a missing person.

In 1992, Geller got the chance to do just that when the mother of a missing teenager asked him to locate her. Helga Farkas had vanished in Budapest shortly after her high school graduation the previous year, and her new sports car had been found abandoned. Geller announced to the family and to the Hungarian press that Helga was alive and would soon be returning home.

Authorities later learned that József Csapó and his associate Benedek Juhász had kidnapped Helga for ransom, then killed her when the public attention became too intense. Csapo was convicted of her murder in 1998. Her body has not been recovered.