There’s nothing nicer than sitting down to a scary movie, wrapped up in a blanket, and ready for some fictional fear. Horror movies might sound terrifying but, in reality, they’re a safe place to be afraid. That is, until, ‘based on a true story’ looms on screen, giving you the goosebump-inducing knowledge that even a small part of this really happened.
Nowhere is this more terrifying than James Wan’s The Conjuring movies and prequel, Annabelle. Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, were a very real husband and wife paranormal investigator duo who attended very real disturbances. That blanket isn’t feeling as safe as it was, is it?
Featuring one of the Warren’s most infamous cases from 1971, The Conjuring revolves around the haunting of a family in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The Perrons had only just moved into their new home with their five daughters when they were met with bumps in the night as beds lifted and the smell of rotting flesh crept through the house. Lorraine, now 86 and an advisor on the movies, identified the offending spirit as a woman called Bathsheba who had sacrificed her young daughter to the devil and subsequently committed suicide.
And if you think that’s all that influenced the movie and the rest was fiction, you’d be very wrong. The exorcism scene where Carolyn Perron is possessed by a demon is also based on the true story. While Perron’s daughter Andrea, now 54, says that movie has “some moments of fiction,” she confirms seeing her mother fly across the room and says she witnessed the exorcism. Director James Wan might have had a hand in making things even more terrifying with his combination of jump scares and true horror as disembodied hands play clapping games but the story behind The Conjuring is a true scary tale.
The Conjuring 2
Of all the places in the world, a tiny council house in Enfield in London doesn’t spring to mind as being ideal haunted house material. Yet from 1977 to 1979, the Enfield Poltergeist became one of the most famous, not to mention best documented, paranormal cases in the world when a single parent family was harassed by an evil spirit. Peggy Hodgson called police to the house when she and her four children witnessed furniture moving of its own accord and knocks in the walls.
The haunting was witnessed by multiple people as well as the Warrens, who attended the case. Victims were plagued by strange noises, and even hit with Lego bricks (which were hot to the touch afterwards). A now infamous photograph of young Janet Hodgson apparently shows her levitating in her bedroom, held in place by evil spirits. Plus, if you truly want to scare yourself silly, wait for the end credits of the Conjuring 2 and listen to the actual recording of Janet apparently possessed by the spirit of an old man. Ask yourself honestly, could a little girl truly sound like that?
And finally, a real life member of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s Occult Museum (which is still open for guests today) Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann doll with a truly creepy past. She might look very different to her porcelain movie alter ego but don’t let that fool you. Suspected of still containing a demon, Annabelle is kept locked in a glass case with a sign saying ‘Warning: Positively do not open.” Just like the movie, the victims of Annabelle were student nurses, one of whom, Donna, was given the doll as a birthday present.
It wasn’t long after she arrived that Annabelle was found in various places around the house. While the nurses initially explained away her strange movements, what they couldn’t rationally explain were the notes that started appearing. Saying ‘Help us’ in childlike writing on parchment, these notes were scattered around the house. If that’s when you’d run out of the house screaming, you’re not alone but it took literal blood on the doll’s hands to send the nurses calling for a priest. Donna found drops of blood on Annabelle and called in help in the shape of a priest and the Warrens. Ed and Lorraine drove the cursed doll to their home, encountering unexpected car trouble all the way home. Too dangerous to be touched, Annabelle now lives in her glass case. Do you dare to visit?