If self-described “demonologists, ghost hunters and kooks” Ed and Lorraine Warren didn’t really exist, Hollywood would have invented them.
In addition to investigating 10,000 cases of paranormal activity — including exorcising a “werewolf demon” — they founded the New England Society for Psychic Research, authored three books about their ghostly exploits and were the proprietors of Warren’s Occult Museum in Monroe, Conn.
They are colourful eccentrics whose wild exploits are perfect big-screen fodder.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga played them in 2013’s The Conjuring. Based on a real-life haunted house in Rhode Island, it comes complete with slamming doors, someone or something goosing family members in their sleep and the smell of rotten meat.
Directed by Saw co-creator James Wan, it’s a mashup of The Exorcist and a particularly unnerving episode of Ghost Hunters and earned Farmiga a nomination for the MTV Movie Award for Best Scared-As-S—t Performance.
The demon-hunting duo are back in theatres in The Conjuring 2. This time they’re looking into the Enfield Poltergeist incident. Instead of a ghost in a house, malevolent spirits possess young children who speak in strange voices, levitate and do all manner of spooky things.
“I’ve known about them since I was pretty young, back in high school,” Wan says of the Warrens.
“I was fascinated by what they did and who they are. I’ve sort of kept them in my peripheral all these years, and I’ve always thought their life stories would make a very interesting movie.”
The Conjuring films are scary but they’re not the only supernatural cases the Warrens investigated that went on to get the big-screen treatment.
Annabelle, a 2014 prequel to The Conjuring, proves you can’t keep a good doll down. It tells the story of Annabelle, that movie’s creepy, possessed dolly before she was safely locked away in Warren’s Occult Museum. Echoes of Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion reverberate throughout the movie’s low-key weird atmosphere.
The Warrens’ much-documented Carmen Snedeker situation gave us The Haunting in Connecticut. In a disturbing flick that breathes the same air as any movie involving evil spirits, a haunted house, an old aboriginal cemetery or former insane asylum, evil forces torment the Snedekers after they move into a converted funeral home in Southington, Conn.
In the real-life 1986 event, the Warrens were called in and declared the Snedeker house to be crawling with demons, the result of former funeral home workers practising necrophilia.
How accurate was the movie?
“I was also told about scratching on the walls, blood and séances,” Lorraine told MyRecordJournal.com. “That isn’t the type of thing … occurring within the house at all. The movie is very, very loosely based on the actual investigation.”
The eerie couple’s most celebrated case happened at 112 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, Long Island. Known as The Amityville Horror, their look into the Lutz family’s outrageous claims of supernatural terror after moving into the large house where Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed six members of his family, has been the subject of 10 movies and a number of books.
“The case itself has affected our personal lives more than any other case we’ve ever worked on in 54 years of research,” Lorraine said.