The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, is one of the best horror films of the 21st century. It looks amazing, it plays on the audience’s worst fears, and it is based on a true story. But how true is it? There are a lot of films that say they are based on a true story just to get in an extra scare, but those claims rarely add up to anything more than a disclaimer on a movie poster.
Throughout the '70s, the Perron family claimed to have lived The Conjuring. The family members were thrown out of their beds, ghosts kissed them in the middle of the night, and they were preyed upon by the spirit of a witch named Bathsheba Thayer.
Was The Conjuring a true story? The Perron family certainly believes that they were haunted by something while they lived in a farmhouse in Rhode Island. They even got in touch with Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators who helped turn the Amityville Haunting into a household name.
Regardless of whether the haunting occurred the way that it was portrayed in the film, something very real seems to have happened to the Perron family, and like the photos that inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose, their terror went on to help craft one of the scariest movies of the 2000s.
When the Perrons moved into their new house, the most curious thing that happened to them didn't have anything to do with ghosts; rather, it was a piece of advice given to them by their neighbors: "For the sake of your family, leave the lights on at night!”
It wasn't long after receiving that fateful piece of advice that the Perrons encountered their first paranormal entity. As with all hauntings and long-term paranormal experiences, the terrifying events of the real-life Conjuring began as strange occurrences that barely registered as paranormal activity. Things moved, there were weird noises; it was nothing out of the ordinary for an old house.
In an interview, Cynthia Perron said that there were a lot of small things happening that no one talked about until it was too late.
[Things] would either be moved all around in a different position than how I left them or they would all be shoved up underneath the bed. And I would go to my sisters – of course, you’d go to your sisters – and ask, ‘Hey, what’d you do to my toys?’ And they’d say, ‘Nothing. Why would I mess with your toys, Cindy?’ That’s how it first started.
Unfortunately, the serenity of a banal haunting wouldn't last long.
After moving into their "dream home," the Perrons almost immediately realized that they were living with what they believe to have been an entire set of ghost roommates. At the onset of the haunting, the Perron children felt that most of the entities that walked their halls were benevolent, if not benign.
The five Perron children even claim that the initial entities acted as baby sitters on some nights. The ghosts tucked them in and kissed their foreheads. The way they describe the halcyon days of friendly ghosts gives the story an air of Leave it to Beaver meets The Munsters.
Both Cynthia and Andrea Perron remember the ghost who tucked them in – they even remember the way she smelled. Cynthia said, "When we first moved into the house, for the first two months, there was a woman that came and kissed me every night on the forehead that I thought was my mother." Andrea finished her sister's statement. "Mom smelled like Ivory soap and this spirit smelled like flowers and fruit."
After learning to live with their friendly ghosts, the Perron family made a go of it on their new farm. However, it didn't take long for more malevolent forces to begin creeping into their little slice of heaven.
The Perron girls claim that they were attacked in the barn by unseen entities and that one night, a series of voices began to speak to them about the bodies in their walls. Andrea claims that her sister Cindy climbed into bed with her one night to tell her about the harrowing news a disembodied voice had delivered.
She’d say, ‘Annie, I keep hearing these voices; it’s one voice, but it’s a lot of voices, but they’re all saying the same thing at once.’ And I’d say, ‘Honey, what are they saying?’ And she’d say, ‘There are seven dead soldiers buried in the wall.’
While the girls were dealing with something reaching out to them from beyond the grave, a different series of events began that foreshadowed the terror to come. They claim that at 5:15 in the morning, the smell of "rotting flesh" would waft through the house, tossing everyone out of bed one by one. Andrea claims, that around this time, the girls were visited by a male ghost that tortured them so badly that she refuses to give any concrete details. “Let’s just say there was a very bad male spirit in the home – with five little girls.”
While the entire Perron family had paranormal encounters throughout their time living in the house, Carolyn Perron – the matriarch of the family – seems to have been the most sensitive to the spirits inhabiting the home. In an interview with The Providence Journal, she claims that she knew something was wrong when a woman in grey appeared next to her bed moaning, “Get out. Get out. I’ll drive you out with death and gloom.”
The woman in the grey dress could have been Bathsheba Thayer, the witch believed to have done most of the haunting in this case. Although, she could have been a poltergeist created as a portent of things to come, or one of the many ghosts who dwelled within the home.
Andrea Perron, the eldest daughter later said, “Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position."