HEY, have you noticed how some recent haunted house movies have advertised themselves as being based on a true story?
And that some of them -- like The Conjuring -- kind of make that the whole point, going on and on about the “real” adventures of this husband-and-wife house de-haunting team?
That’s Ed and Lorraine Warren, who’ve made a half-century’s worth of headlines as honest to goodness ghostbusters -- not so much the wisecracking Bill Murray kind as the shit-your-pants spider-walking Exorcist kind. They have performed thousands of paranormal investigations since founding the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952 and were long considered the go-to experts on demonology, a field in which we imagine there isn’t much competition. Their chilling true-life cases range from a demonic child’s doll to a dude possessed by the spirit of a motherfucking werewolf.
One of the Warrens’ earliest claims to fame was the Amityville Horror, which, as most people are now aware, was an elaborate hoax. But what’s the big deal, it’s all just fun and games, right? Who cares if these people go around selling Hollywood fake ghost stories?
Well, another famous case of the Warrens was detailed in their book The Devil in Connecticut, about a teenager named Arnie Johnson who murdered his landlord while possessed by demons he had inherited from a little boy named David Glatzel after David was given an exorcism arranged by the Warrens. Carl Glatzel Jr., David’s brother, wound up suing the Warrens on the grounds that his brother was mentally ill, not possessed, and needed actual help from actual doctors. According to Carl, the Warrens promised his family that they’d become millionaires if they would insist that the boys had been plagued by demons instead of a completely treatable mental disorder. They also promised that Johnson could beat the rap by using demonic possession as a defense, a seemingly bulletproof tactic that somehow only succeeded in earning Johnson a prison sentence.
When the Warrens were writing In a Dark Place, the book upon which the cosmically forgettable 2009 film The Haunting in Connecticut was based, they contacted horror author Ray Garton to help. Garton went into the project thinking that he’d be interviewing a family who truly believed they were being haunted, but quickly found that the family was deeply troubled, and no one involved could keep their stories straight. When he expressed his concerns to Ed Warren, he responded, “All the people who come to us are crazy ... just use what you can and make the rest up ... make it up and make it scary. That’s why we hired you.”