Article for iHorror by Author: Lani C.

 

Swarms of flies in the middle of winter. A flying ghost pig with glowing red eyes. Levitation. Cloven hoof prints in fresh snow. Not exactly the kinds of things that make a house a comfy home. But all these things supposedly happened in a house in the small town of Amityville, New York, in 1975. The goings-on at Amityville had several things in common with some of the other famous haunted house cases that occurred over the course of the next thirty years: the events were hard to verify; they bore a suspicious resemblance to incidents in The Exorcist, released only a few years previously; and the authenticity of absolutely everything that happened was enthusiastically trumpeted by Ed and Lorraine Warren.

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Ed and Lorraine had been paranormal investigators since 1952 (Ed died in 2006; Lorraine still makes frequent media appearances as a paranormal expert). Perhaps “investigators” isn’t quite the right word, for as far as I can determine, the Warrens never encountered anything “supernatural” that they weren’t eager to promote as being absolutely genuine, no investigation required. The two are associated with pretty much every haunting that became famous (and made money), probably because they either wrote a book about their involvement—the Warrens seemed to write books at the drop of a hat—or they hired someone to write a book for them. Needless to say, the purpose of every single book appears to have been to promote the Warrens and their amazing abilities. According to Ray Garton, the horror writer who was hired to write a book about the Snedecker haunting (later made into a movie, of course: Haunting in Connecticut), the Warrens had no interest in veracity; Garton was told to “make it up and make it scary.” (http://www.amityvillemurders.com/interviews/rgarton.html)

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How do you become a paranormal investigator, or a demonologist, as Ed Warren also styled himself? This is something I haven’t been able to determine. Is there a demonologist’s school? Both Warrens had a fondness for making pompous pronouncements, and they certainly made a good show of knowing what they were talking about. Steven Novella says he was told by Ed Warren that 3 a.m. is the worst hour for hauntings. (http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/06/22/hunting-the-ghost-hunters/) Why? Because demonic forces like to insult the Holy Trinity. Despite extensive research, I’m still not sure how Ed got his insider knowledge of the hours demons keep.

The Warrens’ pronouncements are pretty amusing, and reading about their cases can be hilarious—ghostly chickens clucking, a demon named Gaytois (http://swallowingthecamel.blogspot.com/2009/05/ghostbusters-ed-and-lorraine-warren.html)—but it’s also disheartening. Many of the people who claimed to be haunted were clearly in it for the money, but they were also frequently people with serious problems, and being associated with the Warrens seems to have made it likely that those problems weren’t addressed. In one case there was a murder, and the perpetrator, with the Warrens’ support (of course!), claimed he committed the crime because he was possessed by a demon. Immediately after the murder occurred the Warrens announced they’d be writing a book about it. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demon_Murder_Trial)

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Nothing in the Warren story is more ludicrous than their famous doll Annabelle, though where the Warrens are concerned there are lots of contenders in the “most ludicrous” sweepstakes. Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann doll that was purchased as a gift for a college student named Donna. Donna and her roommate Angie noticed that Annabelle seemed to move around the apartment on her own. Notes written on parchment paper started mysteriously appearing. Of course it didn’t stop there—then the doll began to bleed.

I would have thrown Annabelle in the trash long before the doll-bleeding stage, but this is one of those stories, like horror movies revolving around incredibly dumb high school students, where no one behaves remotely sensibly. Of course the girls didn’t throw the doll away—in classic horror story fashion they called in a medium. This didn’t help. Now the doll attacked their friend Lou, leaving claw marks on his chest. (Do any of these people even exist? Has anyone ever tried to find out?)

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Naturally it was time to call in a priest (instead of throwing the doll away), and naturally the priest called in the Warrens (instead of throwing the doll away). The Warrens explained that the doll was being manipulated by a demon who wanted to control Donna’s soul. (In that case, why did the demon give the game away by making a spectacle of himself instead of quietly taking possession of Donna’s soul? Even the demons don’t behave sensibly in the Warrens’ stories.)

The Warrens took Annabelle home. On the drive the car kept behaving erratically and dangerously, but of course the Warrens didn’t do anything rational like throwing the doll away. They instead gave her pride of place in their home museum (admission $35). According to the Warrens, a motorcyclist who visited their museum touched Annabelle despite their warnings and was killed later that evening in a motorcycle accident. So according to the Warrens’ version of events, they left an incredibly dangerous object on public display instead of destroying it, thereby causing the death of an innocent museum visitor. (http://www.warrens.net/Annabelle.html) In the topsy-turvy Warren world, this makes them fearless heroes.

Annabelle is featured in The Conjuring. Like all of the movies based on cases the Warrens have been involved in, The Conjuring claims to be based on a true story. Caveat emptor.