Here’s the IRL Story Behind ‘The Conjuring’
When it comes to horror films, there’s one thing we all can agree on: The Conjuring is one of the scariest movies of all time. Unless you aren’t someone who’s terrified of possessed dolls, in which case we really can only assume you are a possessed doll. Anyway! In case you need a little refresher on the movie’s plot, here’s the TL;DR version: It is set in 1971 and focuses on the Perrons—a family of seven that moves into a clearly haunted farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Like, even their dog refuses to enter this place. And when the dog doesn’t want to go somewhere, you should take that into account.
A ton of spooky stuff inevitably goes down (who could have predicted it? OH, WAIT, THE DOG), with supernatural investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren being called in to rid the house of its demonic presence—especially Bathsheba, an accused witch who *checks notes* sacrificed her child to the devil and cursed future occupants of her home before killing herself. Cool-cool-cool.
ANYWHO, Bathsheba ends up possessing a doll named Annabelle (yes, that Annabelle) and just being downright RUDE, prompting Ed to casually perform an exorcism. Totally extra, we know, but clearly everyone loved it, because we are now getting yet another installment of this haunting saga: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
With movies this extra, fans might not be aware that the characters were actually real people IRL, with real-life cases under their belts. Buuut how true is the story? Truer than you’d think.
Let’s start with Ed and Lorraine Warren.
This IRL couple were probably the most famous paranormal experts the U.S. ever had. During their lifetime, they investigated quite a few high-profile cases, including the Amityville House (that’s a story to be read at another time). Oh, and in 1952, they founded the New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR), which is now considered to be the oldest ghost hunting group in all of New England. Talk about dedication to the cause!
But get this: apparently, Lorraine always claimed to be a clairvoyant and medium, with the ability to communicate with the spirits and demons she and her husband came in contact with. Up to the day she died (Ed passed in 2006, she in 2019) Lorraine maintained that almost every detail of The Conjuring was accurate. In fact, she was a major consultant on the first film as well as the subsequent sequels and prequels.
“The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening,” she told USA Today about the experience in 2013. “It still affects me to talk about it today.”
Over the years, the Warrens began housing and exhibiting their supernatural spoils at The Warrens Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut. Yeah, the last known home of Annabelle. Well, there’s a good reason not to go to Connecticut.
Okay, they’re real. But what happened to the Perron family?
Moving into the 14-room home in 1971, Carolyn and Roger Perron, along with their five daughters, lived in the Old Arnold Estate for a decade. Andrea, the oldest of the five Perron daughters, claimed that many spirits resided in the farmhouse as well, including Bathsheba. “Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position,” she told USA Today in 2013. #Creepy.
According to the family, the spirits stunk of rotting flesh (um, ew) and would arrive at 5:15 most mornings to lift beds. So, pretty much what I imagine life would be like in the Hype House.
After the events depicted in the film, Roger Perron apparently kicked the Warrens out, concerned for his wife’s mental stability. According to Andrea, the family could not afford to move out of the house until almost 10 years later—all the while, most of the hauntings continued. Casual.
Surely, Bathsheba can’t be real.
Wrong! Turns out, a woman named Bathsheba Sherman actually lived next door to the infamous farmhouse in the mid-1800s. She’s buried in the Harrisville Cemetery next to her husband, Judson Sherman, and she had a son, Herbert L. Sherman.
As for the witch/satanist/child-killer deal…that is something the world may never know.
So, what is the big difference between the story and the movie?
Well, unlike the movies, Ed never actually performed any form of an exorcism, especially since those can only be done by a Catholic priest. Though the Warrens did work with priests at times…. But in this case, they decided summoning a spirit through a séance would be good.
According to Andrea, she secretly watched the conjuring as it was happening. “I thought I was going to pass out,” she said. “My mother began to speak a language not of this world in a voice not her own. Her chair levitated and she was thrown across the room.”
Did someone ever burn down that house from hell?! If not, they should. (JK, Don’t. Do. That.)
Nope! In fact, the owners of the house called it a “real-life nightmare” for a completely different reason. The original Conjuring brought in $137 million in the U.S.—YAY—but it also attracted lots of unwanted visitors to Rhode Island. Back in 2015, Norma Sutcliffe planned to sue Warner Bros. after trespassers began showing up to the house to film it, steal objects, and try to be part of the phenomenon.
“They come at all times of the day,” said Sutcliffe. “Last Saturday, I called police at 3:30 a.m. because there was a whole group of them outside the house. It’s horrendous.” Honestly, talking to strangers is our worst nightmare, so we feel her pain.
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