The Real Haunted History Of 'The Conjuring'

October 09, 2019 6:00 AM ‐ Movies
The Conjuring
This Halloween Zak Bagans and the 'Ghost Adventures' team are embarking on a special investigation of the house that inspired horror movie, 'The Conjuring'. So, we thought it was a good time to delve into the real-life paranormal story behind the infamous house in the movie.

The house the team will visit on Halloween night used to be the home of the Perron family and is the location of the true ghost story that inspired the first movie in James Wan's Conjuring series. The 2013 movie's plot is based on the case files of two of the most famous paranormal investigators of all time, Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Ed died at the age of 79 in 2006, but Lorraine was a consultant during the movie's production. She remained an active member of the paranormal community and even continued to run an occult museum from her home in Connecticut until her death earlier this year.

The movie starts with the story of a cursed doll, but Annabelle's tale is brief and is only told to set the scene and introduce us to Ed and Lorraine, who in the movie are played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Annabelle's story is based on one of the Warren's cases, however it doesn't relate to the Perron family. Of course Annabelle went on to become the subject of a spin-off movie series, so we'll deal with her another time.

The Perrons' Place In The Country

The Conjuring

The story of 'The Conjuring' really begins at the Perrons farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Carolyn and Roger moved into the house in 1971 with their five daughters Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, and April. In the movie Roger and Carolyn are played by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor.

We meet them on the day they move into their house, when they find that the family dog Sadie refuses to enter the house and almost straight away paranormal activity begins. This mirrors reality. 

Roger and Carolyn purchased the Old Arnold Estate for $75,000 in the winter of 1970, a nine-room colonial farmhouse with a barn and 200 acres of land. It was built in 1736 and situated in the remote country town of Harrisville. During the second week of January 1971 the Perron family moved in and despite the paranormal activity, stayed there for ten years.

The actual Perron house doesn't feature in the movie, instead the filmmakers opted to build their own version of the farmhouse on a sound stage in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Just like in the movie, the family also had a dog who was scared of the house. She was a Labrador and German shepherd mix named Jennifer and although she would come into the house, she refused to walk along the front hallway that connected the kitchen to the dining room. You'll be pleased to hear that Jennifer wasn't killed by anything sinister at the house. This part of the story was most likely based on the death of the family's previous dog that was killed on the roads near their home before moving to the farmhouse.

The next significant moment in the movie is when the children are playing a game of "hide and clap" and they stumble across the boarded up entrance to a cellar. The real life farmhouse did have a cellar, it was never boarded up, but it was one of the house's most active paranormal hotspots. In fact, the door to the cellar was in the front hallway and it was this door that the family dog wouldn't walk past.

The next hint of paranormal activity we see in the film is a mysterious bruise on Carolyn's knee and later on her wrist and shoulder. In reality spontaneous bruising wasn't reported during the haunting, but on one occasion soon after moving into the house Carolyn was alone in the barn and a scythe was seemingly thrown at her. The blade hit her hard across both her neck and upper body which left a deep bruise on her shoulder.

In the movie paranormal events occur within the first few nights and slowly start to escalate. This was the case for the real family. They witnessed everything from unexplained sounds, a fly infestation, disturbed animals in conflict with invisible foes, doors opening and closing at will and noxious odours - something that is mentioned in the movie after the family's first night in the house.

There's also the strange phenomenon of clocks stopping. In the movie this repeatedly occurs at exactly 3:07am, however in the real farmhouse they were troubled by an antique clock which stopped at various times, but the family noticed that it stopped at the same moment that paranormal activity took place in the house.

Some other pivotal moments early in the movie include the children finding an eerie wind-up music box and the revelation that April has an imaginary friend called Rory. In reality it's not documented than any of the girls had an imaginary friend, and a haunted music box isn't included in the case file - but it did make for a scary moment in the movie.

The activity escalates to the point where the children have seen apparitions. This was also true of the real haunting case. One of the first encounters was when Cindy was running along the hallway one morning and a "silky, smoky figure" came through the cellar door into her path. Cindy didn't have time to react and ran through the figure, which disappeared as she made contact.

World-Renowned Demonologists Get Involved

The Conjuring

Ed Warren was a former police officer, but went on to become the founder of the New England Society For Psychic Research. He met Lorraine while serving during the Second World War. Lorraine was a practicing medium and, after forming a partnership with and marrying Ed, discovered that she was able to communicate with the demons Ed encountered.

The Hollywood version of the story shows the husband and wife ghost hunting team giving a talk on demonic possession at the Massachusetts Western University. Look out for the real Lorraine Warren's cameo in this scene as a member of the audience. We then see Carolyn approach Ed and Lorraine for help outside the lecture hall.

The story was probably told in this way to save time and to avoid introducing unnecessary characters into the plot, but the reality is that the Warrens were introduced to the case by a local paranormal investigation group. The couple came to the house with a sincere desire to be of assistance. The energy Lorraine released and the compassion Ed harboured for the children, coupled to create a "whirlwind of activity no one could have predicted". 

Over the ten years that the family lived in the house, the Warrens made multiple trips to investigate. In the movie we see them place cameras and bells around the house to gather evidence. In the climax of the movie, Ed performs a dramatic exorcism in the house's cellar.

In reality, Lorraine insisted that the cellar was where the "beast dwells", near a well. She strongly advised that the room be sealed up and permanently abandoned, but she has stated that there was never an exorcism and insists that neither her nor her husband would ever have conducted one, as they must be performed by Catholic priests.

Instead Lorraine conducted a séance to attempt to contact the spirits that were tormenting the family. During the séance, Carolyn seemed to become possessed. She spoke in tongues and it's claimed she even floated above the ground in the chair she was sitting in - something which is mirrored in the movie.

After the séance, Roger kicked the Warrens out of the house for good as he was worried about his wife's mental stability. The family continued to live in the house until they were financially stable enough to move elsewhere in 1980, at which point the paranormal activity at the farmhouse stopped.

The Real Bathsheba Sherman

The Conjuring

In the movie it is Ed and Lorraine who research the house's history and uncover the name of a former resident, Bathsheba. In reality it was Carolyn who did research on the property prior to the Warrens' involvement in the case, but the facts given in the movie are true.

Carolyn discovered that the farmhouse had been owned by the same family for eight generations and that many of them had died under mysterious or tragic circumstances. It's claimed that several of the children drowned in a nearby creek, one was murdered and it's even said that several former residents hanged themselves in the attic.

Carolyn and the Warrens believed that it was this death and suffering that was now responsible for the property's haunting. They blamed the ghost of Bathsheba Sherman, who was born in 1812 and married Judson Sherman in 1844. 

She spent her life as a housewife while her husband farmed their land, that was later divided, part of it becoming the Old Arnold Estate - the eventual home of the Perrons. Local legend states that she was a witch and Satanist and that she laid down a curse that anyone who lives on her land in the future would die a terrible death.

Although no records exist, it's thought that the couple had three children, none of whom made it to their eighth birthday. The causes of their death are not recorded, but details of Bathsheba's child murder allegations are.

It's a matter of record that a child in Bathsheba's care died. After an examination it was determined that the death resulted from a fatal wound caused by a large sewing needle being impaled at the base of the child's skull. Due to a lack of sufficient evidence, Bathsheba was found innocent of any wrongdoing, but the locals were not convinced, instead choosing to believe that Bathsheba sacrificed the child as an offering to the Devil.

Bathsheba died in 1885 at the age of 73 and was buried in a cemetery in Harrisville three miles from the location of the Perrons' family home and not far from the boundaries of the original farmland owned by her and her husband.

'The Conjuring' Official Trailer

'The Conjuring' is one of the most true to life ghost movies of recent years and successfully launched a whole franchise. The 2013 movie was followed up by 'The Conjuring 2', another true story based around Ed and Lorraine's investigation of the Enfield poltergeist case. There's also be several spin-offs, including two movies based around the cursed doll Annabelle and 'The Nun'.

The movie version of the Perron case is exaggerated and dramatised, but the backbone of it is fairly true to the real life claims of the family, who all supported this movie's production. Andrea, one of the daughters, has also written a book entitled 'House Of Darkness House Of Light'.

Although the paranormal activity at the Perrons house is reported to have ceased in 1980 when the family moved out, the house will be the scene of a televised ghost hunt on the night of Halloween 2019. The news came just a few weeks after it emerged that a couple had bought the house and had plans to open it up for tours.

Cory Heinzen and wife Jennifer, who have a keen interest in the paranormal, decided to snap up the haunted home after seeing it advertised online. Cory revealed the news on Facebook, "so we did something yesterday, bought this little farmhouse with a crazy history to it. I think it was even made into a movie?"

It seems that Zak Bagans and the 'Ghost Adventures' crew will be among the first to brave the house, but will they be able to stir up the dormant spirits that terrorised the Perrons four decades ago?

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