The Conjuring franchise, known for its chilling depictions of the paranormal and eerie narratives, has become one of the most successful horror movie series of the 21st century. The series has spawned several sequels and spin-offs, grossing over $1 billion worldwide. Much of its appeal comes from the claim that these terrifying events are not purely the product of imaginative screenwriters but are instead based on true stories. This article seeks to investigate this claim, focusing on the original 2013 film, The Conjuring, directed by James Wan.
The True Story Behind The Conjuring
At the heart of The Conjuring movie is Ed and Lorraine Warren, real-life paranormal investigators played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The Warrens were indeed real people and are famous (some might say infamous) in the world of supernatural research. Edward Warren Miney was a self-styled demonologist, and his wife Lorraine claimed to be a clairvoyant and a light trance medium.
The couple founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952 and spent their careers investigating paranormal events. They claimed to have worked on more than 10,000 cases throughout their careers, including some that have been adapted into popular culture such as the Amityville haunting.
The Perron Family
The central plot of The Conjuring revolves around the experiences of the Perron family. In the winter of 1970, Roger and Carolyn Perron moved into the Arnold Estate, a centuries-old farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, with their five daughters. Soon after, they began experiencing what they described as inexplicable and increasingly frightening occurrences.
The movie portrays these events quite accurately, according to Andrea Perron, the eldest of the five daughters, who has written a trilogy of books based on her family’s experiences. She explains how the family was indeed terrorized by a malevolent force that wreaked havoc in their lives. They experienced strange noises, objects moving on their own, and even physical attacks, which increased in frequency and intensity over time.
The Witch of The Conjuring
The Conjuring’s chief antagonist is Bathsheba, a malevolent spirit who curses anyone who tries to take her land. In the film, Bathsheba is a witch who, in a fit of rage, sacrifices her child to the devil and commits suicide, thereby cursing all who dare to live on her property.
In reality, Bathsheba Sherman was a real person who lived on the property in the mid-1800s. She was never officially accused of being a witch in historical records, but local legends and folklore painted a different picture. There were rumors about the untimely death of a child under her care, which added to her dark reputation. However, there’s no concrete evidence to support the movie’s claim of her being a witch or committing the horrendous acts as portrayed in the film.
How The Conjuring Depicts the Events
Despite being based on a true story, The Conjuring, like many Hollywood adaptations, takes certain liberties to increase the film’s drama and terror. For instance, Ed Warren was not involved in the climactic exorcism scene, as portrayed in the movie. According to Andrea Perron, it was a seance conducted by Lorraine Warren that went wrong, causing Carolyn to be briefly possessed. Ed, being a non-clergy, would not have performed an exorcism, as it’s strictly a rite conducted by Catholic priests.
Another exaggeration for cinematic purposes is the condensed timeline. The haunting events endured by the Perron family took place over approximately a decade, but the movie compresses them into a few weeks or months. Also, the family lived in the house for several years after the Warrens’ investigation, contrary to the film’s depiction of them fleeing the house shortly after the terrifying exorcism scene.
Despite these discrepancies, the general atmosphere of dread, the disturbing occurrences, and the sense of being haunted by an evil presence all echo the experiences described by the Perron family. Some of the events are almost directly lifted from the family’s accounts, such as Carolyn being trapped in the cellar, the daughters witnessing apparitions, and the strange odor of rotting flesh that often pervaded the house.
The role of the Warrens in the movie is also somewhat exaggerated. According to Andrea Perron, the Warrens were not continually present during the haunting but were called upon intermittently over the years for help. The Warrens themselves have always maintained that the Perron case was one of the most disturbing and significant in their career, but their involvement in the actual events was not as extensive or as climactic as depicted in the movie.
Divergent Views on The Conjuring
The Conjuring’s “based on a true story” claim has elicited divergent views. Some people are skeptical, considering the lack of solid evidence beyond the testimonies of the Perron family and the Warrens. They argue that most of the events can be attributed to natural phenomena or the power of suggestion. There are also critics of the Warrens who argue that the couple were not exactly impartial observers but had a vested interest in promoting the supernatural.
However, on the other side of the debate are those who firmly believe in the accounts. Andrea Perron has always defended the authenticity of her family’s experiences and the presence of a haunting in their former home. Lorraine Warren, until her death in 2019, stood by the investigations she carried out with her husband, asserting the reality of the paranormal incidents they witnessed.
In a fascinating twist, even the new owners of the house, who bought the property in 2019, have reported strange occurrences, which they’ve documented on their social media platforms. These accounts suggest that, for some, the haunting of the Arnold Estate is far from just a silver screen fantasy.
So, is it real?
So, is The Conjuring based on a true story? The answer depends greatly on one’s personal beliefs about the paranormal. While the movie undoubtedly takes creative liberties to heighten the drama and horror, the core narrative is grounded in the real experiences of the Perron family and the investigations carried out by the Warrens. Whether these events are truly supernatural in origin or can be explained through more mundane means is a question that each viewer must answer for themselves.
Regardless of one’s belief in the supernatural, there’s no denying the impact of The Conjuring. The movie has captivated audiences worldwide with its unnerving portrayal of the paranormal, forever embedding itself in the annals of horror cinema. It also continues to spark discussions on the nature of reality, the unknown, and the fine line that often exists between fact and folklore in tales of the supernatural.
What is real about The Conjuring 2 and 3
Like the first movie, “The Conjuring 2” and “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” (also known as “The Conjuring 3”) claim to be based on true events investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, renowned paranormal investigators. However, just as with “The Conjuring,” the movies do take dramatic liberties with the source material.
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist
“The Conjuring 2” is based on the Enfield Poltergeist case, one of the most documented paranormal events in history. It took place from 1977 to 1979 in the London Borough of Enfield and involved the Hodgson family, particularly the two daughters, Margaret and Janet.
Many of the film’s terrifying events mirror the experiences described by the Hodgson family and the investigators, including moving furniture, levitations, and disembodied voices. However, some aspects were added for dramatic effect, like the demonic nun character Valak, which has no relation to the original case. It’s also worth mentioning that the Warrens’ involvement in the Enfield case wasn’t as extensive as portrayed in the film. They visited the Enfield house but weren’t the primary investigators. That role fell to Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair, both of the Society for Psychical Research.
The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It
“The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” is based on the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, also known as the “Devil Made Me Do It” case. This was the first known court case in the United States where the defense sought to prove innocence based on the defendant’s claim of demonic possession.
Ed and Lorraine Warren were involved in this case and testified about the alleged demonic possession of the young boy David Glatzel, which later supposedly transferred to Arne Johnson. The film dramatizes these events, adding elements like a satanic curse and an evil witch that weren’t part of the original narrative.
Like the other films in the series, “The Conjuring 3” presents a blend of fact and fiction. The fundamental premise is rooted in a real event, but the film embellishes and adds to the story to enhance the horror and drama.
So, all three “The Conjuring” films are based on real cases investigated by the Warrens, but they all include dramatic and fictionalized elements to create a more engaging and horrifying cinematic experience. While they’re certainly not documentaries, they are inspired by and reflect certain aspects of the actual cases.