The Real Ed & Lorraine Warren
Probably the most famous paranormal researchers of all time. The husband and wife team investigated such cases as Big Foot and the Amityville haunting, and have been portrayed in the horror movie, 'The Conjuring'.
I tracked down a rare copy of a book called 'Ghost Hunters' to give me some insight into the lives of the authors, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The names might be familiar to you if you've seen the 2013 horror movie, 'The Conjuring' but, away from Hollywood tales, I wanted to learn about the real Ed and Lorraine and I thought their 1989 book might be a good place to start.
'Ghost Hunters' is the first book written by the couple, who went on to publish five more titles before Ed died at the age of 79 in 2006. To this day, 89-year-old Lorraine is still an active member of the paranormal community and even continues to run an occult museum from her home in Connecticut.
Ed's background in the world of supernatural investigation is as the director of the New England Society For Psychic Research, spurred on by his experiences living in a haunted house as a child where he'd regularly see objects flying around.
Ed met Lorraine, a practicing medium, during the Second World War and together they went on to become world-renowned "demonologists" and devoted decades of their lives to exploring, authenticating, and documenting some of the most famous paranormal incidents ever reported.
Most notably the Warrens tackled the infamous and controversial Amityville haunting, they hunted down the legendary Big Foot and they came into possession of a haunted doll by the name of Annabelle. The story of Annabelle is touched upon in the movie 'The Conjuring' and a year later Annabelle was credited with a whole movie to her name. However 'The Conjuring' mainly focused on another of the Warren's case, that of the Perron family of Rhode Island.
The Perrons claimed their home was haunted by the ghost of an early 19th century witch who lived on the site and cursed the land. The family enlisted the help of Ed and Lorraine to try to put an end to the hauntings. But the Perrons weren't alone, word spread about the Warrens abilities and they were called to help many families from far and wide. They even ended up here in London investigating one of the UK's most haunted houses.
The Enfield Poltergeist
The haunting took place on Green Street in Enfield, North London between 1977 and 1979. the events focussed on two teenaged sisters, Margaret and Janet Hodgson. The story, which attracted a huge amount of press attention at the time, is debated even today.
While many now believe that the Enfield haunting was nothing more than a children's prank which got out of hand, the Warrens took this, and all of the cases they investigated very seriously and it's for this reason that I wanted to find out more about the ghost hunting duo and learn about their experiences with the unknown from their perspective. So, where better to start than at the beginning, 'Ghost Hunters'.
The World's Most Famous Demonologists
To give it it's full name 'Ghost Hunters: True Stories From The World's Most Famous Demonologists' is a collection of true stories from Ed and Lorraine. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, these events did happen in one way or another and I was hoping the book would help me to see these experiences from the couple's own perspective.
Sadly, this isn't what the book delivered. It was a real struggle to get through the ageing, yellow-paged book. It was littered with grammatical and spelling errors and it lacks any drama, personality or wit. All of the events which are talked about in the book are told in a very matter-of-fact manner, there's very little analysis of the occurrences, the only attempts at being descriptive are cliches and for the most part, the authors fail to convey any emotional insight into these happenings.
Other than the poor standard of writing, the other thing which hit me was mentions of religion, the Warren's were devout catholics and it seems that every haunting they investigated wasn't a ghost, spirit or poltergeist but in fact was a demon. This is how they justified their belief in the paranormal as catholics, in the knowledge that demons are unholy and answer to the devil. They even manage to attribute sightings of Big Foot to a demonic force.
But don't get me started on the chapter about Big Foot, frankly Lorraine's testimony of events reads like the ramblings of a mad woman. Lorraine recalls how she made mind-to-mind contact with the beast, a "psychic link-up." Big Foot shared his thoughts with her and led the search party to a vacated clearing in the forest where they found his blood on the undergrowth. Of course any good research would have collected a sample of that blood for analysis... you won't be surprised to hear, the Warrens didn't.
Murder Most Violent
The scariest story in the book was the second chapter entitled, "Murder Most Violent." This section of the book talks about the time that Lorraine was approached by a police officer investigating the murder of a 27-year-old woman called Janice Baines. As a clairvoyant, Lorraine has experience in gaining insight from victims of crime from beyond the grave, so after some hesitation she accepted the case.
One night several days later, Lorraine suddenly found herself scribbling out a letter which accounted all of the details of the harrowing case which led to the arrest and imprisonment of three men.
There were two things I found really disturbing about this story. Firstly the fact that the authors delved head first in to this case without any warning of the gruesome details. From what appeared to be a fun, biography about the supernatural I found myself reading the graphic details of a particularly nasty gang rape and murder case.
The second thing and the thing that really terrifies me is that the book suggests that these three men were convicted based on Lorraine's psychically obtained testimony. There's nothing written publicly about the murder of Janice Baines which I could find, which means I haven't been able to do any independent research into the case, so I'm not questioning the guilty verdict of the three men as such, but the book fails to talk about any of the legal process of the convictions.
The authors make it sound like Lorraine received this insight from the deceased victim, handed it over to the police, who then drove over to arrest the men and locked them up. This story covers fourteen pages in the book, however the detail about the convictions are summed up at the end of the chapter in just three lines "the three men Lorraine Warren described to Detective Steinberg were apprehended, charged and convicted of murder."
I hope the US justice system isn't so corrupt that that's how they deal with a murder trial. Surely there was much more evidence in this case and in reality I would hope that Lorraine's statement was just a tiny part of the overall investigation.
By far the Warren's most famous case is that of the Amityville haunting, the subject of a book which lead to several movies adaptations. Above all other, it's probably the best known, real-life haunting story told around the world and Ed and Lorraine were a part of it.
The Warrens were there in Long Islandm New York. They heard first-hand accounts of the happenings from the residents, George and Kathleen Lutz. This is why I bought this book, I was excited to read from Ed and Lorraine's perspective what it was like being amongst the terrifying occurrences in the most infamous haunting of all time.
So, you can imagine my disappointment when I reached that ten page chapter. Ten pages? That's all they have to say about Amityville? Really? But it gets worse, it's not even an account of their time investigating the Dutch Colonial house, it's an interview carried out by the couple's ghost writer about the legitimacy of the case.
Ed states in the interview that "there's no other explanation for what happened there" other than demonic forces but he does admit that some of it was over-dramatised, however he doesn't think that this discredits the case.
Oh, yeah... also as well as being the most famous haunting story, it's also the most widely regarded as the biggest paranormal hoax of all times.
The ghosts might be fictional but the house really does have a grizzly past. It was once home to Robert DeFeo, who was convicted of murdering his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters with a shotgun in the house in 1974.
This horrific event became the basis of the hauntings, which was actually a story devised by DeFeo's lawyer, William Weber. Weber has admitted that he "created this horror story over many bottles of wine" with the Lutz family. The story was later embellished by Jay Anson while writing his 1979 book, 'The Amityville Horror.'
Perhaps the Warrens were sucked in by the lies, but it still would have been nice to hear about their time validating this case. I'd be really interested to know at what point they were involved, before the book after the book? I'm sure it would be quite amusing to learn what lead Ed to the conclusion that "there's no other explanation" other than the supernatural for what happened? Ed, you couldn't have been more wrong.
Would I Recommend 'Ghost Hunters?'
So, was the almost thirty-year-old book worth the over-inflated price I paid for it? Simply, no. Not at all. 'Ghost Hunters' is poorly written, lacks in any real detail, contains no evidence and skims over all of the cases where it would have been possible to validate or corroborate their minimal claims.
In Hollywood, "based on a true story" is a pretty flakey claim so a lack of evidence hasn't stopped Warner Brothers producing a sequel to 'The Conjuring' which sees Ed and Lorraine take on the poltergeist of Enfield. 'The Conjuring 2' comes to cinemas on June 10th 2016, you can check out the trailer below.
The Conjuring 2: Official Trailer
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