Over the next fifty years, the duo investigated over 10,000 cases and authored several books on the paranormal. They were not without controversy, however, as their high profile cases attracted the attention of numerous skeptics who doubted their abilities and their motives as paranormal investigators. Recently, their stories have reached a new cultural consciousness with the adaptation of their case files into The Conjuring horror movie franchise and its growing list of spin-offs.
Here are five of their most infamous cases the Warrens worked which helped to make them the most famous ghost hunters in the world.
The Amityville Horror
The most famous of all the paranormal cases Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated, and possibly the most famous haunting in American history. In the early hours of November 13, 1974, Robert DeFeo brutally murdered his entire family with a shotgun before turning himself in and then claiming the voices of demonic entities had told him to do it. A year later, the Lutz family moved into the house. The Lutz’s lasted only 28 days before fleeing in terror from the supernatural occurrences they endured during their time in the house on Long Island. They were plagued with dead flies, disembodied voices, strange odors and sightings of a demonic figure with a portion of its head blown away. Kathy Lutz began having nightmares, receiving welts, and levitating in her sleep. George Lutz began waking up at precisely 3:15 AM which is said to be the time that DeFeo murdered his family. The Lutz’s young daughter Missy began to speak of an imaginary friend named Jodie who had glowing red eyes and piglike features, and hoof prints began appearing around the house.
Ed and Lorraine Warren were among the first investigators to answer the call for help from the terrified family. Upon visiting the house with a Channel 5 New York TV crew and a reporter from WNEW-FM they caught an image of a demonic boy with glowing eyes, believed to be the spirit of one of the murdered DeFeo children. The Warrens came to believe the house was haunted by a violent and angry demon and worked to exorcise it. The story and investigation became the basis for the book The Amityville Horror, which then became the basis of the subsequent movie.
Further reading: The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson
A Haunting in Connecticut
The case begins in Connecticut in 1986 when the Snedeker family moved into a new home to be closer to the hospital where their oldest son was receiving treatments for Leukemia. They found, after moving in, that the basement of the house held mortician equipment. After making some inquiries they were informed the house had once been a funeral home. Unnerved the family decided to stay as everything seemed fine…for a time that is.
Slowly at first, something within the house began to harass the family. The most visceral incident being when Carmen Snedeker claimed that the water turned to blood while she was mopping the kitchen floor. It seemed the activity was focused in on their eldest son who claimed to have constant visions of evil presences in the house and began to grow obsessed with the still functioning parlor equipment downstairs. In desperation, the family contacted the Warrens who believed the house to be infested with demons and vengeful spirits, angry at the morticians who committed necrophiliac acts upon their bodies as they were prepared for burial. After the Warrens exorcised and blessed the house and the Snedekers moved out, they claimed no further harassment from the spirits within and their son survived his cancer.
Further reading: In a Dark Place, by Ed Warren.
The Perron Family Haunting
In 1971 the Perrons and their five daughters moved into a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island and soon began experiencing strange occurrences. The daughters claimed to see a woman in a gray dress at the foots of their beds, sometimes telling them to “Get out. Get out. I’ll drive you out with death and gloom.” Soon the girls were plagued by unseen hands that pinched, slapped and a burning sensation. Furniture began to levitate, strange noises and odors were smelled and heard around the house. From the start, most of the paranormal phenomenon seemed to be directed at the mother, Carolyn Perron and culminated with her eventual demonic possession.
After calling the Warrens for help, the Perron’s discovered that the land the house sat on was once owned by Bathsheba Thayer, a colonial woman who had been accused of witchcraft and the murder of her child. The Warrens claimed she was still haunting her property and was responsible for several deaths and suicides on the land, including nearby houses that once belonged to the farm before it was subdivided. The Warrens work on cleansing the house only seemed to agitate the spirit more and the Perron family were financially bound to the home until they were able to sell it in 1980.
Further reading: House of Darkness: House of Light, by Andrea Perron
Smurl Family Haunting
This infamous haunting went on for over a decade, according to the Smurl family of Pittston, Pennsylvania. In 1974, Jack and Janet Smurl began claiming their home on Chase Street in West Pittston was home to some sort of supernatural, violent force. They claimed to hear loud noises, see levitating furniture, and violent incidents where their daughter was pushed down the stairs and their dog was thrown into a wall. Starting with Janet and then later Jack, the couple began to experience routine sexual assault at night by an unseen force.
When the Warrens were eventually called in in 1986, they attempted to exorcise the demon from the house by playing religious music and engaging in prayer. However, this seemed to only agitate the creature which left them threatening messages. Besides the Warrens, other investigators and local psychologists investigated the incidents in hopes of finding a cure or cause. Unable to rid themselves of the demonic forces infesting their home, the Smurl’s moved out, leaving the evil presences behind.
Further reading: The Haunted: One Family’s Nightmare, by Ed Warren
Demonic Werewolf in London
Possibly the most bizarre of all the Warrens’ exploits, the case centers around the exorcism of a man, apparently held prisoner by a “werewolf demon.” Bill Ramsey claimed to have first encountered this entity when he was 9 years old before it returned to haunt him into adulthood. The first incident occurred when Ramsey was a child and saw visions of himself as a wolf while succumbing to violent episodes of temper and experiencing foul smells. The incidents were so disturbing that both his parents and local children avoided him until the phases would pass. It was never mentioned again but in December 1983, the now adult Bill felt a sharp pain in his chest and broke out into a sweat while driving home. He got himself to a local hospital where the episode worsened and he reportedly growled at nurses and even bit one before being taken to a mental hospital.
The Warrens, who had seen Bill’s case on TV, tracked him down to exorcise whatever demon seemed to be inhabiting Bill. The exorcism took place in a church, with the help of a local bishop, and was reportedly an incredibly violent ordeal. Eventually, the entity was banished from Bill and from the church, he has since not reported any further violent episodes.
Haunted dolls are a staple of horror cinema. There is just something so inherently creepy about dolls, it makes perfect sense for filmmakers to use them to induce nightmares in the context of a chiller movie. When you walk into a room and meet the gaze of a doll, it feels like its eyes are penetrating your inner fears. There have been countless horror films featuring the spooky bastards, including the 2014 Conjuring spin-off Annabelle based on the real life case of the same name.
According to the Warrens, the real Annabelle case dates all the way back to 1970, when a Raggedy Ann doll was purchased from an antique store by a woman for her daughter. Upon arriving home that day, the doll was tossed on a bed and not given a second thought – at least not until it started to make itself more comfortable by changing positions. Alarmed, but choosing to not let superstitions cloud their logic, they attributed the doll’s shifting positions to the bed being nudged. Their opinion changed when it started making itself at home.
The doll was also a deft hand with the quill, leaving notes around the house which contained the messages “Help Me’’ and “Help Lou.’’ Then, one night they would return home and find the doll covered in blood. Thus, an expert was called in, who put them into contact with the spirit inhabiting the doll. Her name was Annabelle, a seven-year-old girl who was murdered years before and left to rot in a field. During the séance with the expert medium, Annabelle told them she felt comfortable living with them and wanted to stay and be loved. Feeling sympathetic, the mother and daughter agreed to let the doll stay with them as part of their little family. However, it was telling fibs. This was no little girl; Annabelle was a demon with behavioral problems.
The Warrens were brought in to investigate, and their results concluded that the doll was possessed. It now resides in their Occult Museum in Connecticut, living the dream in a display case for paying customers to goggle at.
Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson
The trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson in 1981 is the first known court case in the United States to use the “Devil Made Me Do It” defense. As such, that was the moniker given to the case by the media, during a time when America’s “Satanic Panic” epidemic was first gaining traction following supposed ritual abuse. Even though this had nothing to do with cults, the Devil was in the headlines, and people were scared.
The story involves the murder of landlord Alan Bono at the hands of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, while the latter’s fiancée watched in horror. Johnson claimed that he was possessed when he murdered his landlord, but this wasn’t the first time the involved parties had encountered demonic activity.
Prior to the murder, the 11-year-old brother of Johnson’s fiancée, Debbie Glatzel, played host to demons. When the Warrens were called in to dispel the demons from the child’s body, Johnson apparently invited them into his, and they obliged.
The defense didn’t stand up in court, and Johnson was convicted on the charge of manslaughter, serving a four-year sentence. A full account of the experience can be read in Gerald Brittle’s book The Devil in Connecticut.