Demonologists, authors, lecturers, and occult museum owners Ed and Lorraine Warren are two of the world’s most well-known paranormal investigators. Their casework, much of which was carried out through their New England Society for Psychic Research, involved everything from exorcisms alongside priests, seances and spirit cleansings to photographic documentation of supernatural events. It also brought them to people and places around the country, resulting in supernatural accounts so disturbing they’ve inspired numerous box office adaptations. These six Warren family cases caught the country’s attention.
1. The Perron Family Haunting
When Roger and Carolyn Perron moved their family, including their five young daughters, to their new 200-acre home in Harrisville, Rhode Island, they were unaware of its allegedly insidious former resident.
Originally built in 1736, the country home was once inhabited by Bathsheba Thayer and her four children, three of whom died young. Despite the era’s high infant mortality rates, those deaths and the circumstances around them roused suspicion within the town, resulting in the ostracism of Thayer. Labeled a satanist by her community members, she allegedly hanged herself in her backyard. While the Perron family lived in the home, numerous pleasant ghostly interactions, like spirits playing with the children or helping to do chores, were reported. But so were darker interactions from ghosts like Thayer’s, who took on a more menacing presence in the home.
Disembodied voices, furniture moving on its own, and full spectral appearances were among the many ghostly experiences shared by the Perron family. Matriarch Carolyn was all egedly one of Thayer’s most consistent targets, supposedly jealous of the living woman’s role as both mother and wife. The ghost reportedly pinched and slapped Carolyn quite a bit, and even touched Roger inappropriately on several occasions.
The Warrens were brought in to help in 1974, but their presence aggravated the conditions, and Thayer's supposed ghost, so much that the family eventually asked them to leave. Horror icon James Wan turned the Perrons' experience into his box office hit The Conjuring in 2013.
2. The Amityville Case
Arguably the most famous of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s paranormal investigations, this investigation has been adapted into a frightening and seemingly unending film franchise. This Warren case involved the Lutz family. The Lutzes took up residence in a suburban, Dutch Colonial house in Amityville, Long Island in 1975.
Only a year before their move-in, the residence had been the site of a deadly mass murder when Ronald DeFeo, Jr. brutally killed six members of his family. For 28 days, the Lutzes and their three children lived in that very same house. While there the family reported antagonistic voices, swarms of flies, welts, family members levitating, banging noises, and unseen entities.
Ed and Lorraine Warren were eventually called in to cleanse the house—and brought a local TV crew with them. After snapping photos, including one featuring a boy with glowing eyes, the Warren’s determined that the land had curses on it. In a 2013 interview with Yahoo!, Lorraine Warren said the Amityville house was the one case that haunts her the most.
"Amityville was horrible,” she said during a press conference for The Conjuring. “It was absolutely horrible. It followed us right straight across the country ... I will never go in the Amityville house ever again.”
3. Annabelle the Doll
This investigation took the Warrens to a thing rather than a place. More specifically, a Raggedy Ann doll that was purchased in an antique store—a much less sinister imagining than her 2014 Annabelle film counterpart. Given to the buyer’s daughter, the nursing student and her roommate quickly began to notice odd occurrences involving the doll such as changing positions or rooms. That eventually escalated to messages on paper and blood on the doll’s dress, and at one point violence.
Annabelle took particular aim at the fiancé of one roommate, who claims he woke up frozen in bed as the doll crawled up his body and strangled him. He also allegedly claimed that upon entering a darkened room where the doll rested he felt something attack him. When he flipped the switch, he saw his stomach covered in bloody scratches and the doll on the floor.
The behavior freaked the roommates out so much that they called in a medium, who explained that she believed the doll as possessed by the spirit of a deceased 7-year-old girl named Annabelle Higgins. Higgins had supposedly died on the land where the apartment stood. The Warren family also got involved, determining that a demonic presence was in fact behind the doll. They performed a blessing in the residence before taking Annabelle off the young women’s hands. Annabelle has since become a permanent and prominent fixture in the Warrens' Connecticut Occult museum.
4. A Haunting in Connecticut
In 1986, Carmen and Al Snedeker rented a home in Southington, Connecticut to be closer to the hospital where their son was receiving treatment. Unfortunately, the family had little knowledge about the residence's strange and gruesome past. The former funeral home came complete with the remnants of a mortuary in the basement and a graveyard outside.
Upon moving in, their eldest son began seeing terrifying visions of ghosts. The family would uncover the existence of toe tags in the house regularly. Lights often flickered, dishes would shake, the smell of decaying flesh hovered, and reportedly water would, on occasion, turn blood red. Carmen and Al even alleged that the demons had sodomized them during their two year period there.
The Snedekers asked Ed and Lorraine Warren for help, and the investigators attributed the hauntings to the ghosts of those who were brought to the funeral home. According to the Warrens, the morticians partook in unsavory activities with the dead bodies. After a two-year stay, the Snedekers finally moved out. Like the Perrons' story, the Snedekers' haunting was immortalized in film.
5. The Southend Werewolf
Perhaps one of the more unusual cases from Ed and Lorraine Warrens' case list, this investigation took the Warrens out of the U.S. to a seaside town in Essex, England. There, a man by the name of Bill Ramsey was believed to be possessed by a demon that manifested as a wolf. Growing up, Ramsey was a normal, happy boy. One day, though, at the young age of nine, he suddenly began exhibiting inhuman qualities.
Reportedly, while playing outside in his backyard, Ramsey felt a frigid cold overtake him, and his nostrils were overcome with an awful stench before he flew into a rage, uprooting a fence post (fence still attached) and gnawing on its wire meshing. Ramsey eventually grew up, became a loving husband and father of three and was incident free until the 1960s.
The early years of his marriage were plagued by nightmares, cold sweats and waking up to the pants of a wild animal—which he soon realized were coming from him. In the 1980s, Bill would repeatedly feel overcome by the sensations he had as a child while hanging out with friends and even once while doing a citizen’s arrest. At one point, he attacked a friend in a car on their way from a pub and manhandled police in intense altercations on several occasions.
In the midst of this, Ramsey spent several stints in the hospital, all featuring the same symptoms of rage: inhuman strength, bared teeth, growling, hunched shoulders, and hands curled like claws. In an interview with the Warrens about their experience with Ramsey, Ed Warren stated that Ramsey would “ask to be locked up in a jail cell for his protection and the protection of the public.” When the Warrens got wind of Ramsey’s situation, they asked him to their Connecticut home where Bishop Robert McKenna would perform a recorded exorcism on Ramsey.
6. The Trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson
In this landmark trial, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to testify on behalf of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, the first known case in the U.S. to use “The Devil Made Me Do It” defense. On the evening of February 16, 1981, 19-year-old Johnson—engaged to Debbie Glatzel and out for dinner with her, their landlord Alan Bono and others—stabbed Bono multiple times using a pocket knife. Johnson would plead not guilty by possession, a defense founded on Johnson’s relationship with his soon-to-be wife’s younger brother, David.
In the summer of 1980, David woke to what he described as “a man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns, and hoofs.” The demon’s description mirrors the creature from horror hit Insidious and apparently scared David so much that Debbie turned to Arne for help. Johnson couldn’t find a reasonable explanation for David’s bruises or scratches, so the family pivoted to a priest. That supposedly only angered the entity more, causing it to make David hiss, speak in multiple voices, and quote Paradise Lost.
The Warrens were brought in. In an interview with People Magazine, Lorraine stated that “While Ed interviewed the boy, I saw a black, misty form next to him, which told me we were dealing with something of a negative nature. Soon the child was complaining that invisible hands were choking him—and there were red marks on him. He said that he had the feeling of being hit.”
The Warrens supposedly worked with the diocese of Bridgeport and four priests who were brought in to exorcise more than 40 demons from David. The diocese has only admitted to investigating the Glatzel case, but allegedly the event saw David return to normal. Arne, however, became their alleged new target. After moving in with Debbie and going to dinner at a bar with Bono, a fight between the two older men broke out, and Johnson stabbed Bono. Johnson’s defense didn’t hold up in court, and he was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter, serving out only five years of his initially longer sentence.
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