“Get out! Get out! I’ll drive you out with death and gloom!” This is not the welcome a young family expects when they move into their dream home. But that is the warning that greeted Carolyn Perron when she moved with her husband Roger and their five children into what they thought was a charming old farmhouse in rural Rhode Island.
It was the winter of 1970. Locals called the house the Old Arnold Estate and it quickly unleashed its malevolence on its new tenants. Carolyn Perron told the Providence Journal she was awakened soon after moving in by a woman in an old gray dress with her head hanging to the side. It was she who delivered the ominous warning that the Perrons needed to find another place to live.
Carolyn decided her ghostly nemesis was a woman named Bathsheba who was born in Rhode Island in 1812. In the 2013 movie The Conjuring, based on the Perron’s haunting, Bathsheba is said to have practiced witchcraft, sacrificing her baby to the Devil before hanging herself from a tree in the backyard. In the movie, Bathsheba tries to possess the living and force them to repeat her grisly crime.
The Perron family pose outside their home (via HorrorGalore.com)
Bathsheba Thayer was a real woman. Records indicate she married a man named Judson Sherman and had four children, three of whom died in childhood. But at least one historian says she gets a bad rap in The Conjuring. J’aime Rubio writes about the real Bathsheba Sherman in a well-researched blog. Rubio says the Perron house may in fact be haunted, but that Bathsheba was no witch. Childhood deaths were not uncommon in the 19th century and Rubio finds no evidence that any of the children she lost were murdered.
All three children are buried nearby in the Harrisburg, Rhode Island cemetery. Bathsheba and her husband are buried there too, something Rubio says this pious 19th-century town would never have allowed if they believed she was practicing dark arts.
But the story of this haunted house is based on the memories of another real person, Carolyn’s eldest daughter Andrea Perron. Andrea wrote about her family’s years living with spirits in the three-volume series House of Darkness House of Light.
In the family’s accounting of their years in the house, Bathsheba resorted to more than threats. She got physical, starting with pinches and slaps and working up from there. Carolyn was the ghost’s chief target, and the family says she was ultimately threatened with images of fire and even stabbed with a knitting needle.
Lorraine and Ed Warren (via Flavorwire)
The Perrons didn’t move, but they did get professional help. Lorraine and Ed Warren are well-known paranormal investigators, real-life ghost busters, best known for their connection to the Long Island house immortalized in The Amityville Horror and the possessed Annabelle doll.
The Warrens came to the rescue of the Perrons in their battle with Bathsheba. They were consultants on The Conjuring, directed by Saw’s James Wan. In the film, the Warrens successfully cleanse the house of its evil spirits. (Bathsheba was not the only spectre tormenting Carolyn and her family, but she was the meanest.) But in reality, according to Andrea, the Warrens never drove the ghosts away, only aggravated them.
In any case, the Perrons continued to live in the house because they couldn’t afford to move. In 1980, after a decade of horrors, they finally sold the farmhouse and fled to Georgia, bidding goodbye to Bathsheba and the other spirits. Or so they thought. In a final twist Andrea Perron reports many of the ghosts had grown attached to the family and came with them, haunting them for years to come.