James Wan’s latest foray into the haunted house genre leads him straight into The Conjuring, a film “based on a true story” about a family that was terrorized by demonic entities in which ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to investigate. Many movies are based on some truth, and when it comes to something as terrifying as The Conjuring, then naturally we want to dig deeper into the events that inspired them.
I just recently wrote about the true story behind The Possession, which was produced by Sam Raimi about the famous dibbuk box that held a malicious ancient spirit inside. While that story was much easier to track down, the Harrisville haunting—the inspiration behind The Conjuring—took a little more work because it was a largely unknown case from the Warrens.
What you’re about to read is entirely from the accounts of Andrea Perron, so keep that in mind. Read on and take from it what you will; whether you believe in these things or not, it’s a fascinating story that I hope you guys enjoy.
It had been a very long time before Andrea Perron told her account of what happened to her and the rest of the family in the quiet town of Harrisville, Rhode Island. She kept it all bottled up for three decades until finally releasing her first published work, marking the first book in a three-part series which tells the story of her family’s true experiences while living in a farmhouse riddled with spirits in the lonely Rhode Island countryside.
Although this particular haunting is very well-documented and considered to be one of the most significant hauntings in history, it is still very foreign to many people. The Warrens considered it their “most intense, compelling, disturbing and significant investigation”.
Roger and Carolyn Perron finally purchased their dream home in the winter months of 1970. Little did they know that this house was going to be full of nightmares. As many people would, they were excited to be living in a home full of history and were looking forward to raising their five daughters there. What they didn’t know was that this house was full of agony and death. Two former residents hung themselves — one from the rafters of the barn.
The home was built on beautiful land with plenty of room for five growing children to play. However, once they moved in the spirits began to make their presence known.
Perron says, “My mom just wanted a place in the country to raise her kids”.
“It is an extraordinary place. We started seeing spirits as soon as we moved into the house. Most of them were completely benign and some of them didn’t even seem to notice we were there, but eight generations lived and died in that house prior to our arrival and some of them never left.”
At first many of them appeared to be harmless, like the ghost that smelled of flowers and fruit, the one who would kiss the children goodnight in their beds every night, or the spirit that constantly picked up a broom to sweep the kitchen floor. Everything you would expect from a haunted house seemed to have been happening to the family as well, like things moving on their own and doors slamming shut, or quiet whispers heard throughout the night. Probably the most frightening thing was the sound of something that had the habit of slamming itself into the front door of the house in the middle of the night, waking everyone up. There were obviously some very disturbed spirits among the family.
“We had one my sister called ‘Manny’. He was a sympathetic soul. We think he was actually Johnny Arnold, who committed suicide in the eaves of the house in the 1800s,” Perron said. “He would appear in the house and watch over us. He always appeared in the same place, in the front hallway between the dining room and the kitchen. The apparition would always lean up against the door and would wear a crooked smile like he was amused by the children. As soon as we saw him and made eye contact he was gone.”
What is very interesting is that each member of the family actually saw these spirits wandering throughout the home. They weren’t the only ones though, because those who’ve lived in the house prior to and since the Perron family saw them as well. “Everyone who has lived in the house that we know of has experienced some type of supernatural phenomena,” Perron said. “Some have left screaming and running for their lives. The man who moved in to begin restoration on the house when we sold it left screaming, without his car, without his tools, without his clothing. He never went back to the house and consequently the people who owned it, the adjacent landowners, moved in only briefly and it sat vacant for years.”
Her descriptions of the numerous entities are vivid. Perron recalls their features (or lack thereof) as especially haunting. At times, the spirits would appear opaque, seemingly solid, and other times they were translucent or in the form of mist and fog-like haze. She also claims the spirits actually communicated with the members of the family but it wasn’t through speaking out loud. She describes their discourse as being “telepathic in nature”.
Perron said. “When they would appear it was as if all time stopped. My sister Cindy described it like being “in the bubble”. The air is suddenly compressed and we were unable to move or speak, prohibited from doing anything except listening to what the spirit was trying to tell us.”
James Wan’s The Conjuring is a motion picture based on the haunting which occurred in the Perron home and persists to this day. It is a story told from the perspective of Ed & Lorraine Warren, the paranormal researchers who conducted an investigation of their farmhouse in the early 1970′s. The screenplay is based on their case files as well as information that Ms. Perron provided to the producers. The Warrens did an investigation of the supernatural activity at the house while the family lived there in an attempt to intervene on their behalf. During a séance that goes terribly wrong, they awaken and call forth a horrendous presence, one that Mrs. Warren believed to be Bathsheba, described as a “God-forsaken soul”.
Bathsheba wanted control over Perron’s mother, Carolyn, and was hell-bent and determined to drive her from the house, terrorizing her because the spirit apparently perceived herself as the rightful mistress of the house. She saw Carolyn as competition. She lusted after Roger and coveted the five children, routinely acting out and making her intentions obvious to all of the mortals in the house.Bathsheba frightened Carolyn straight to her bones, tormenting her with fire, a mother’s greatest fear. The spirit would approach her in the night and is described as having a gruesome, misshapen face and a broken neck. This thing was like looking at something straight out of your worst nightmare.
According to legend and local folklore, Bathsheba was suspected of being a practicing witch and was accused of sacrificing an infant child as an offering to the devil. More than two dozen mysterious and tragic deaths occurred on the property. Although she was absolved of any wrongdoing in a courtroom, the court of public opinion was not so kind. Bathsheba lived a miserable life and died an old woman in 1885 from a bizarre form of paralysis which the physician who examined the corpse found stunning and utterly inexplicable.
Early accounts of Bathsheba’s life before becoming this tortured soul are said that she was a young and beautiful woman when an infant mysteriously died in her care. When the baby was discovered, the mortal wound was presumably caused by a needle which was impaled at the base of its skull, which caused it to have convulsions and die. Bathsheba denied these charges and ultimately walked free due to insufficient evidence. Although Bathsheba may have walked free, these accusations never left her as they haunted her for life. Perhaps this is why Bathsheba wanted Perron’s mother out of the home and away from the children so badly.
“What she put my mother through, no human being should ever have to endure,” Perron claims. “She appeared to several of us, but I never saw her. I saw many of the spirits, but I never saw her except in a telepathic dream state. When she would appear to my mother, I would see the encounter in a dream state at the same time it was occurring, though I was rendered immobile and helpless to offer any assistance while she was appearing to torment my mother.”
Perron’s description of Bathsheba is where things really start getting creepy because she describes the sprit’s face as having almost no real features. Instead, it looked like a lifeless beehive with vermin crawling all over it. “Its head was leaning off to one side. It was round and gray, resembling a desiccated hornet’s nest. I couldn’t see anything underneath it… no eyes or mouth…it looked like the cobwebs hanging in the corners of the cellar.” This, as described by her mother.
Despite having Ed and Lorraine Warren attempt to dispel the evil spirits they ended up doing more harm then good and were never successful in ridding the house of its horror. The family stayed in the home for ten years before finally leaving — but the horrible things that happened within those walls stayed with them forever.
Perron always knew there would be skeptics and I don’t blame her. Her story isn’t the only one that has been subject to criticism over whether it is true or not, which explains why she waited 30 years to tell the world what really happened in that farmhouse. Obviously there is so much more to this story than what I’ve covered here and quite honestly, I have only scratched the surface. This article is only meant to give you an idea as to where the story for James Wan’s The Conjuring came from and to hopefully give you some insight as to what really happened. What I’ve written here is really all I know on the events so if you want to learn more I strongly urge you to read Perron’s book, House of Darkness House of Light: The True Story, because it gives a very in-depth and detailed look into this story.
So what do you guys think? Do you believe her story and that evil spirits really do exist? Have you ever had an experience like this yourself? Personally, I’ve never experienced any sort of paranormal happenings but that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t believe in ghosts or tortured spirits. It’s one of those things that’s truly hard to believe until you’ve experienced it yourself. I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts on this so please leave them below. Also, I thought you guys would dig this — it’s a photo of Lorraine Warren, one of the major inspirations behind the film.
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— Read more articles like this: The Quiet Ones and its True Story, Annabelle and her terrifying True Story, The Possession and its True Story, The Conjuring 2 and the True Story Behind the Enfield Poltergeist, Winchester and the True Story behind the Mystery House