The Conjuring horror movie franchise has terrified audiences with its dramatic portrayal of demonic possessions, haunted houses, and unearthly spirits. But what many don’t realize is that these blockbuster films are based on real paranormal investigations carried out by the legendary husband-wife duo of Ed and Lorraine Warren in the 1970s.
The Warrens – self-taught demonologists and psychics – built their controversial careers on high-profile cases of hauntings and possessions. Two of their most infamous investigations, the Perron family haunting in Rhode Island and the Enfield poltergeist in England, directly inspired 2013’s The Conjuring and 2016’s The Conjuring 2.
How close are the Hollywood versions to what really transpired in these disturbing events decades ago? Here, we reveal the true stories behind the movies, spanning disembodied voices, levitating children, Satanic spirits, seances gone wrong, and more…
The Warrens – Seekers of Evil
Ed Warren grew up in Connecticut with a fascination for ghost stories and graveyards. As a teenager in the 1940s, he began investigating local hauntings, using his artistic talents to sketch ghosts and spirits from witness descriptions.
Lorraine Rita Warren claimed psychic powers and clairvoyant abilities from a young age, communing with spirits as a child. The pair met in 1952 when Ed came to her to have a painting appraised. Recognizing their shared obsessions, they married shortly after and embarked on a life-long paranormal quest together.
The 1960s saw a rise in public interest in psychic phenomena. The Warrens founded the New England Society for Psychic Research to document cases of paranormal activity and perform cleansing rituals in haunted locations. They went on to work on thousands of cases involving ghosts, demons, and possessions.
The devoutly Catholic couple saw their work as a religious crusade against the forces of Satan. According to Lorraine, “God gives us faith and this gift to believe in good and God and fight evil.” They referred to the possessed as “clients” in need of help, not horrors to be feared.
The Perron Family – A Dark Farmhouse
In January 1971, Roger and Carolyn Perron purchased a rural 18th-century farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, moving in with their five daughters Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, and April. Almost immediately, they began experiencing unsettling occurrences around the property.
The Warrens’ movie counterparts are portrayed as arriving shortly after the Perrons move in, but in reality, the family endured the haunting for nearly 10 years before calling for aid.
Carolyn saw apparitions of a ghostly woman wandering the grounds. She also endured repeated instances of waking in the night to feel an unseen presence pressing down on her chest. Her daughters complained of unseen forces yanking their legs and hair at night. Doors and cabinets flew open spontaneously around the house. The family reported being “watched” by some entity lurking in the cellar.
In the film, the Perrons‘ haunting escalates to dramatic levels in mere days. But according to Andrea Perron, later interviewed for books and documentaries, it took place gradually over years, with sporadic bursts of intense activity.
The Warrens did make two visits to the farmhouse at the family’s request in the ’70s. But the cinematic scenes of the Warrens moving in with crosses and cameras are fictional – their involvement was limited.
So what exactly was haunting the Perrons for so long?
The Witch Bathsheba
In The Conjuring, the Warrens trace the farmstead’s haunting to a witch named Bathsheba who cursed all who occupied her land. This character was based on the real-life Bathsheba Sherman, who lived on the property in the 19th century.
Bathsheba Thayer married prominent local farmer Judson Sherman in 1844. They had four children, but, tragically, three died young. Rumours swirled that Bathsheba had sacrificed the infants as offerings to Satan to secure her supernatural powers.
In 1885, Bathsheba died after hanging herself from a tree – one that later grew into the massive oak that dominated the yard when the Perrons moved in.
The Warrens theorized Bathsheba placed a curse on the property before her suicide. They speculated her ghost remained, tormenting any new residents of her beloved farmland. Though Bathsheba’s monstrous deeds were likely just malicious neighbourhood gossip, the Warrens believed this malevolent spirit was responsible for the disturbances plaguing the Perrons.
Beyond The Grave: Seances And Possessions
Desperate for a solution, the Perrons allowed Ed and Lorraine Warren to conduct two seances in the house. The first, held in the cellar in 1973, targeted contacting Bathsheba Sherman. Andrea Perron described how her mother Carolyn, acting as a medium, became possessed by a different spirit – that of a man named John Arnold.
A second seance was performed in 1975, focused on driving away the evil presence. Lorraine claimed to have come face to face with a ghastly entity in the cellar, after which the Warrens felt the property had been successfully cleansed.
But while the Warrens considered the case closed, the Perrons continued experiencing unexplained events at the farmhouse, especially Cindy and April. The sisters claimed incidents of trances and possession until the family finally moved away in 1980.
Andrea Perron, who wrote a trilogy of books on the haunting of the farmhouse as an adult, staunchly defends the events as real despite sceptics over the years attempting to debunk the case. She praised the cinematic portrayals in The Conjuring films for accurately capturing the terror they endured.
The current owners of the home report no supernatural experiences, though the address is kept private to avoid trespassers. But the haunted legacy of Bathsheba Sherman endures, immortalized on screen by the Warrens’ accounts.
The Enfield Haunting – England’s “Most Haunted House”
Across the Atlantic, another ordinary family fell victim to a terrifying poltergeist outbreak in Enfield, England. The Warrens took up the case after seeing coverage on the BBC in late 1977. Though oceans apart, the Enfield haunting shared many parallels with the Perron farmhouse.
Peggy Hodgson was a single mother raising four children – Margaret, Janet, Johnny, and Billy – in the working-class north London suburb. In August 1977, the family began hearing loud knocking sounds coming from the walls of their council house.
Before long, furniture slid untouched across the floor. Children’s toys activated mysteriously in empty rooms. Dark figures stood at the bedsides of sleeping children. Most disturbingly, lego bricks and marbles were thrown violently through the air, targeting the young Hodgson siblings.
The case grew infamous through newspaper reports and on-scene investigations, though opinions differed on whether the cause was supernatural or not. Neighbours eyewitnessed objects flying and furniture toppling over spontaneously, tagging it the “most haunted house in England.”
The Enfield Poltergeist – Fact Or Fiction?
Much like in The Conjuring films, Peggy Hodgson turned to paranormal experts like the Warrens after finding no help from police or clergy. Psychic researchers and journalists who observed the events drew dramatic conclusions about vengeful phantoms.
11-year-old Janet Hodgson was often at the centre of the activity, including creepy disembodied voices and apparent levitation. In perhaps the most famous scene from Enfield, Janet recoils as water allegedly thrown from an empty cup drenches her, captured by a photographer.
The haunting continued for over a year until abruptly ceasing in 1979, just as mysteriously as it had begun. Sceptics pointed out that Janet admitted to faking “2 per cent” of the occurrences, speculating that the entire affair was an elaborate hoax for fame or money.
But Lorraine Warren always maintained that Enfield was a true case of demonic manipulation. Like in The Conjuring 2, she claimed to have witnessed Janet become possessed while at the house. Yet other investigators argued the evidence for legitimacy was thin and inconsistent.
Ultimately, there is no consensus on what transpired in Enfield all those years ago. The now-adult Janet stands by her story today. Over forty years later, the bizarre events continue to fascinate paranormal enthusiasts and divide sceptics. For better or worse, the mysteries of the Enfield poltergeist may never be fully solved.
The Warrens’ Legacy
For Ed and Lorraine Warren, cases like the Perrons and Enfield validated their belief in supernatural forces of evil lurking in our world. Their faith led them to dedicate their lives to battling the demonic, even in the face of ridicule and doubt.
The couple lectured together about their spirit communication and investigations up until Ed’s death in 2006 and Lorraine’s in 2019. Their artifact-filled Occult Museum in Connecticut remains open to visitors – though not the faint of heart!
Though controversial and eccentric, one cannot deny the impact the Warrens had on popular culture. Hollywood brought their most famous cases back to life in blockbuster fashion with The Conjuring Universe. And 40 years later, we are still fascinated by the bizarre mysteries of what may or may not have happened to the families who called upon Ed and Lorraine for salvation from the darkness tormenting them.
The truth of these hauntings died with the Warrens. But their battles with spectral forces live on eternally in our imagination, blurred somewhere between reality and the silver screen. For in the end, there are always those who hear the call to seek out and confront that which hides in the shadows…
So turn on the lights and say your prayers, for none can say for certain what lurks out there in the dark beyond our sight. Some questions are best left unanswered.
Now that you’ve read about The Enfield Haunting – you might also like to read about The True story of Conjuring – The Devil Made Me Do It.-