Before shows like Ghost Adventures captivated audiences, and long before "ghost hunters" started posting creepy videos on social media, there was Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Ed Warren was a former police officer and self-described demonologist, and Lorraine claimed to be a psychic who could communicate with spirits. Together, the Warrens' names have been attached to some of the best-known paranormal cases in the latter half of the 20th century. The couple even opened an occult museum in their Connecticut home, featuring artifacts from their most famous cases.
While many people believe in the Warrens wholeheartedly, a fair number of paranormal investigators and skeptics have questioned the legitimacy of the couple's findings. Here are some of Ed and Lorraine Warren's most controversial cases in their decades-long career.
'The Amityville Horror' Case May Not Have Been 'A True Story' After AllPhoto: The Conjuring 2 / Warner Bros.
Amityville is perhaps the most famous Warren case, and thus it's the most thoroughly investigated. Here are the facts: In 1974, in Amityville, NY, Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed his entire family in the middle of the night, then later claimed he heard voices plotting against him. Roughly a year later, George and Kathy Lutz moved into the home with their three children. The Lutzes then began claiming they were experiencing unexplainable phenomena and nightmares, and that they were surrounded by demonic entities. Their story eventually turned into the book The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson in 1977, as well as a movie of the same name in 1979.
The Warrens came to investigate the house, bringing along a film crew from a local news affiliate. The investigation has been referred to as a "psychic slumber party" by skeptics, but Lorraine sensed great malevolence in the house and insisted it was infested with demonic entities.
This TV appearance cemented the Warrens as experts in the field of paranormal research, despite the fact that they presented no physical evidence of their findings. A photo of a "ghost boy" taken at the house is said to be proof of the haunting, but it is widely thought to be a hoax.
- Photo: Annabelle Comes Home / New Line
One of the biggest difficulties in investigating any of the Warrens' cases is that scant information exists outside of what the Warrens themselves have provided. This is especially true in the case of the infamous Annabelle doll.
According to Joseph Laycock in his article "The Paranormal to Pop Culture Pipeline," "...a nursing student received a Raggedy Ann doll from her mother in 1970. When the doll exhibited strange behavior, a medium revealed that the doll was possessed by a dead woman named 'Annabelle Higgins.'" The student and her roommate took pity on the spirit and gave Annabelle permission to inhabit the doll; however, frightening events began occurring soon after, and the student contacted the Warrens to investigate. According to the ghost-hunting couple, a demon was inside the doll, and it was intent on murder.
The Warrens took the doll back to their museum and put it on display for safety's sake. Before his passing, Ed Warren would apparently warn museum visitors that the last man to mock Annabelle ended up perishing in a motorcycle crash, though he provided no names or evidence for this claim. Laycock also points out that a 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone centered around a woman named Annabelle who gives her daughter a doll that comes to life and terrorizes the family.
- Photo: The Conjuring / Warner Bros.
The Perron family haunting was the basis for the hit 2013 film The Conjuring. While certain events depicted in the film were exaggerated for the purposes of spectacle, Lorraine Warren and one of the Perron daughters, Andrea, both insist it was mostly accurate to real-life events. Outside sources contest this, however, and they have a fair amount of evidence to back up their claims.
Primarily, the current owner of the supposedly possessed house, Norma Sutcliffe, researched the history of her home and discovered many factual errors presented as truth by the Perron family, the Warrens, and subsequently the filmmakers behind The Conjuring (she also sued Warner Bros. due to an influx of trespassers following the film's release). Sutcliffe produced a video detailing her research, which alleges that the "witch" featured in the film, Bathsheba Sherman, was anything but, and that any Satanic worship or infant sacrifices were pure fabrication. Sutcliffe's evidence is further detailed by Andy Smith in an article for the Providence Journal and is corroborated by J'aime Rubio on the investigative blog Dreaming Casually.
While there very well may have been paranormal activity inside the Perron home, a substantial amount of information contradicts the Warrens' findings.
- Photo: The Haunting In Connecticut / Lions Gate Films
Lorraine Warren was reportedly not a fan of The Haunting in Connecticut due to inaccuracies in the story. She stated in an interview, "It's embarrassing. Do you know the amount of time and effort that we put into that case? Do you know how many meetings with the clergy we had to finally bring closure to the family?"
According to Lorraine, the real story of The Haunting in Connecticut involved the Snedeker family, who purchased a home near the hospital where their son was receiving cancer treatment. As it turned out, the home was formerly a funeral home, and the family claimed that they began experiencing the usual strange sounds, demonic entities, possessions, etc.
The Snedeker haunting came with its own book, In a Dark Place, which was written by Ed and Lorraine Warren, Carmen Reed, Al Snedeker, and Ray Garton. The Warrens hired Garton, a horror novelist, to help shape the Snedekers' narrative. According to Benjamin Radford, writing for Live Science, Garton told Horror Bound magazine that upon interviewing the family, he realized their stories weren't matching up. When Garton voiced his concerns to Ed Warren, the demonologist allegedly replied, "Oh, they're crazy," then added, "You've got some of the story - just use what works and make the rest up... Just make it up and make it scary."
Some have also suggested that drugs and mental illness factored into the Snedeker case rather than actual paranormal activity.