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The True 'Devil Made Me Do It' Case That Inspired 'The Conjuring 3'

March 16, 2020 31.4k views12 items

"The devil made me do it." The subtitle of the third film in the main sequence of the Conjuring franchise (not counting spin-offs like Annabelle and The Nun) has become a cliche and has been used as a justification for a variety of terrifying real-life crimes over the years. But the true story behind The Conjuring 3 is also the first time in American history that demonic possession was used as a defense in a court of law. 

In February 1981, Arne Cheyenne Johnson stabbed his landlord several times with a 5-inch pocket knife. The crime became the first murder on the books in the 193-year history of the sleepy town of Brookfield, Connecticut - but according to Johnson, while his was the hand that held the knife, the crime was actually committed by a demonic force that possessed him. Months earlier, Johnson had been present when amateur demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren had performed an exorcism on an 11-year-old boy. He claimed that one of the demons possessing the child had entered him and driven him to his dark deeds.

Now, here's the real story behind The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It.

  • Photo: Image courtesy of The Courtroom Sketches of Ida Libby Dengrove / University of Virginia Law Library / CC BY 4.0

    Johnson Received An Education And Got Married While In Prison

    Arne Cheyenne Johnson was 19 years old when he took the life of Alan Bono. He and Debbie Glatzel married in 1984 while Johnson was in prison, and stayed together following his release for good behavior.

    While serving his time, Johnson also received his high school diploma and took a number of college courses, earning various educational certificates, per the state's department of corrections. The chief of parole described Johnson as an "exemplary inmate."

  • Photo: Image courtesy of The Courtroom Sketches of Ida Libby Dengrove / University of Virginia Law Library / CC BY 4.0

    After Serving Nearly Five Years As A 'Model Inmate,' Johnson Was Released Early

    In January 1986, after serving a little less than five years of his 10-20 year sentence for first-degree manslaughter, Arne Cheyenne Johnson was released. He should have been up for parole that February, but his "exemplary" behavior while behind bars led to him being released early. Authorities said that Johnson's "mental condition was carefully examined" prior to his release and that they "found no negative factors."

    While in prison, Johnson had married Debbie Glatzel, and Ed and Lorraine Warren described the couple as "very happy." Lorraine Warren told reporters, "He's coming home to live in a very good family atmosphere."

  • Photo: The Demon Murder Case/NBC

    The Warrens Said Johnson Knew How To Ward Off Future Demonic Possession

    The state parole board may have asserted that there were "no negative factors" in Arne Cheyenne Johnson's mental state when he was released from prison, but if he truly had been possessed by demons, as he claimed, then it wasn't really his mental state that was the issue. Fortunately, the Warrens averred that Johnson also showed no signs of being possessed following his release.

    "Possession doesn't last 24 hours a day," Ed Warren said. "Arne understands what happened to him. He now knows if something happens how to ward it off and he won't be stupid enough to take on the devil again."

  • Carl Glatzel Claimed That The Warrens Took Advantage Of Them, But Johnson And His Wife Support Ed And Lorraine

    "My brother was never possessed," Carl Glatzel Jr., who was 16 years old at the time of his younger brother David's supposed possession, said of a lawsuit that he and his brother brought against the Warrens more than 20 years later. "He, along with my family, was manipulated and exploited, something the Warrens were very good at." The suit, which calls the contents of the book The Devil in Connecticut "complete lies," was prompted by the book being brought back into publication in 2007.

    Carl Glatzel Jr. asserted that his younger brother had suffered from mental illness - certainly, the family had sought psychiatric help even while the Warrens were performing their investigations - and that the Warrens had exploited him and their family with promises that they would be "millionaires." He also claimed that the publicity surrounding the case had cost him friends, relationships, and business opportunities over the years, and that the Warrens had painted him as a villain in the book, "simply because I had a sane voice and knew the story was false since the beginning."

    The Warrens, for their part, claimed that a "Satanic death curse was placed on both the Glatzel boys," and that Carl Jr. was "oppressed by demons" and used as a "pawn to instigate violence and arouse skepticism."

    At the time of the suit, Johnson and his wife, Debbie Glatzel, whom he had married while in prison, still contended that the demonic possession story was true, and supported Ed and Lorraine Warren, claiming that Carl Jr. was simply "suing to make money."