Ed and Lorraine Warren, devout Catholics, famed paranormal investigators and the reigning king and queen of hauntings both in Connecticut and Hollywood, will be featured in the latest film about their exploits, “The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It,” which opened Friday.
From an apartment in Hartford where the real “Annabelle” lived, to a crime scene in Brookfield that inspired “The Devil Made Me Do It,” to the “Haunting in Connecticut” house in Southington, the Warrens, who are both now deceased, told tales that later were turned into movies, which collectively have grossed more than a billion dollars.
Ed Warren identified himself a demonologist. Lorraine Warren declared herself a clairvoyant and trance medium. They investigated alleged hauntings and wrote books and gave lectures on paranormalism. But who were the Warrens, really? What are the bases for their beliefs and the stories they told?
Ed and Lorraine were born in Bridgeport, he in 1926 and she in 1927. Their son-in-law Tony Spera, in a phone interview from his home in New Milford, said Ed grew up in a house he believed was haunted. From age 5 to 12, Ed heard knocking, sounds, footsteps, shadows, names called out. He was terrified.
“His father … said to Ed, there is a logical reason for everything that happens in this house. So his father was aware that there was something strange about the house,” Spera said. “But his father never gave him the logical reason.”
Ed and Lorraine met in 1944. Lorraine believed she had a sixth sense. She recalled, as recounted on tonyspera.com, “I didn’t see the slender young man. … I ‘psychically’ saw Ed as a grown man. A man that I would marry.”
The two married in 1945. They had one child, Judy, who is married to Spera. Ed went to Paier College of Art in Hamden, but couldn’t let go of his ghost fascination. So he read Fate magazine to find haunted houses, traveled to those houses and sketched them.
“He would hand the sketch to Lorraine and tell her, go knock on the door and give them the sketch and tell them we like your house and are intrigued by it,” Spera said. “They wanted to get into the houses and talk to people about hauntings.”
The pair became stars in the paranormal-believing community. High school and college lectures followed. The money was good. They founded the New England Society for Psychic Research, which Spera now runs. Then people started calling them to talk about odd occurrences in their homes.
In 1970, a nurse in Hartford received a thrift-store Raggedy Ann doll as a gift.
“One day the nurse came home and thought, I could have sworn I put that doll on the couch. It was in the bedroom. Then it happened more,” Spera said. “One day she was sitting at the breakfast nook with the doll and suddenly the doll’s arms moved.”
Later, the nurse claimed the doll attacked her friend. She held a séance and was told the doll held the ghost of a girl named Annabelle. The nurse called a priest. The priest told her to call the Warrens. The Warrens decided “there was something evil in that doll,” Spera said.
“The nurse called the priest to do an exorcism on the house and bless the nurse and her roommate. They said, we don’t want the doll anymore. The Warrens took it back to their museum” in Monroe, he said.
It’s there still, in a glass case. Due to zoning regulations, the museum is not open to the public. Spera will bring the doll to “The Warren’s Seekers of the Supernatural Paracon” on Oct. 30 at Waterbury Marriott.
‘The Amityville Horror’
“The Amityville Horror” was based on a book by Jay Anson. But the Warrens were in Amityville first.
In 1974, a mass murder happened at a home in Amityville, Long Island. About a year later, a new family moved into the house. Less than a month later, they fled the house.
“George Lutz was so afraid of that house. He is not a wimpy guy. He’s a former Marine, a black belt in karate, a motorcycle guy. But he said, ‘I’m not going in that house’,” Spera said.
Ed and Lorraine were called in to visit the house and decided that it was haunted.
“Lorraine was picking up a lot of bad vibrations. Ed was attacked by something invisible. He said he felt as if somebody took a hot, wet, woolen blanket and put it over him to try to suffocate him and knocked him to the floor,” Spera said.
‘A Haunting in Connecticut’
In 1987, a Southington family found out their house was once a funeral parlor. “I didn’t believe that houses could be haunted,” Carmen Reed, the mother in the family, told The Courant in 2009.
Spera said the Warrens, helped by their nephew John Zaffis, examined the house and decided it was haunted. But they never put their finger on the source of the haunting.
The movie spins an elaborate tale that most experts believe has been fabricated far beyond any incidents that may have taken place at the home, possibly at the urging of Ed Warren.
‘The Devil Made Me Do It’
The newest movie based on the Warrens, “The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It,” is inspired by a 1981 slaying in Brookfield. Arne Johnson participated in three exorcisms prior to killing Alan Bono. The Warrens advised Johnson on the exorcisms.
Johnson’s lawyer Martin Minnella and the Warrens believed Johnson was innocent because he had been possessed by demons. The demons had escaped 12-year-old David Glatzel, they believed, and inhabited Johnson in the boy’s place.
“Arne can’t remember doing anything. One minute he was standing in front of this guy and the next thing he remembers, he was in custody,” Spera said. “He was overtaken by something.”
This belief in demonic possession stemmed from the Warrens’ devout Catholicism.
As would be expected, the Warrens have many detractors.
In a 2009 blog post at theness.com, a website of the Connecticut-based New England Skeptical Society, Steven Novella wrote the Warrens had “a ton of ‘evidence,’ but none of it stands up to rigorous scientific testing, and most of it not even to cursory testing. None of it.”
At the time of the Arne Johnson trial, George Kresge, also known as the mentalist The Amazing Kreskin, told The Courant of the Warrens, “They have an excellent vaudeville act, a good road show.”
Carl Glatzel, the brother of the allegedly “possessed” child David Glatzel, sued Lorraine Warren in 2007 after a book, “The Devil in Connecticut,” was reprinted about his brother’s “exorcism.” He accused Warren of exploiting his family.
Hollywood doesn’t care. It isn’t done with the Warrens yet. A spinoff of “The Conjuring,” “The Nun,” in which the Warrens were characters, has a sequel in the works. And if “The Devil Made Me Do It” is a hit, a fourth “Conjuring” movie is inevitable. Like the purported ghosts they investigated, the Warrens keep making their presences known long after their deaths.