(Submitted by our current record Ho-lder for Longest Tit-le Ever, Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for setting the record straight -and giving me an eXXXcuse to post Ho-t Patrick Wilson pics- my Ho-norable Ho-rror Ho-mie! 😉 xoxo)
Ed and Lorraine Warren are back in The Conjuring 2, investigating the infamous Enfield Poltergeist case, one of the most well-documented hauntings in history. James Wan’s sequel is a terrific ghost story with images that linger, effective shocks, and a likable cast. Really, there isn’t much to criticize on my end. I was thoroughly entertained. Highly recommended to all fright fans. Watch out for that Crooked Man, my favorite monster of 2016.
Now, while I pretty much covered my thoughts on the film itself, I want to focus more on the Warrens themselves. In the film, they are charmingly and endearingly played by Patrick Wilson (“Woot!!” -D.P.) and Vera Farmiga. Now, I’m sure you all know that the Warrens are/were real people. This franchise is not only based on a true story, but proudly presents it as its primary gimmick. We are being presented with real hauntings dramatized. After all, horror is certainly more horrific if we believe it can happen to us or those like us.
There’s a lot of humbug in pretty much every case the Warrens tackled. Their most famous case, the Amityville Horror, is almost universally accepted as a hoax. A book entitled The Amityville Horror: A True Story, written by Jay Anson, was published in 1977 and was an instant success. We love a good ghost story and that was what we got. Anson was not a resident of the infamous possessed house, but a professional writer hired to pen a book based on supposedly “true events” that had taken place there several years earlier. The gist of this morbid novel was that six members of the DeFao family were killed in the house with the only surviving member, Butch, being arrested in the November of ’74. Years later, the Lutez move into the house of demonic terrors where the DeFao clan was claimed.
Unseen forces ripped doors from hinges, green slime oozed from the ceiling, biblical swarms of insects attacked, voices told them to “get out”, and a demonic beast with glowing red eyes left cloven-hoofed prints in the morning snow. This is the type of haunting William Castle would’ve appreciated. Soon, psychics, ghost hunters, and demonologst were brought in, including the Warrens. Joe Nickell, author of Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons, and Other Alien Beings and a man who has personally visited Amityville and interviewed later owners of the house, found numerous holes in the Amityville story. Here are just a few of these discrepancies:
*The weather reports show no snow, meaning no footprints, demonic or otherwise, could be discovered.
* While the book details damages done to hinges and such, no damage could be found.
*The book and movie show that the police were called. Nickell wrote, “During the 28-day ‘siege’ that drove [the Lutz family] from the house, they never once called the police.”
Butch DeFao’s lawyer, William Weber, admitted that he, along with the Lutzes, “created this horror story over many bottles of wine.” While the Lutzes lived well off of their story, Weber had planned to use the haunting to gain a new trial for his client. George Lutz reportedly still claims that the events are mostly true, but has offered no evidence to back up his claim.
Amityville is important when discussing the Warrens because this is the case that made them rock stars of the field, for better or worse. They engaged in a “psychic slumber party” some two months after the Lutzes abandoned the home, followed by a camera crew from a local news affiliate. Lorraine “sensed” great malevolence in the house, and insisted it was infested with demonic entities. A photo allegedly captured of one such entity, though it is believed to be a crew member in the house. The TV appearance cemented their status, despite no real evidence.
Often the case with the Warrens is that the only info we have from the couple themselves, meaning we have to take their word on the presence of spooks. Annabelle, the infamous Doll of the movies, is legend coming directly from the Warrens and not existing prior to their case. Another infamous case of the Warrens was detailed in their book, The Devil in Connecticut. A teen named Arnie Johnson murdered his landlord while supposedly possessed by demons he had inherited from a little boy named David Glatzel after David was given an exorcism arranged by the Warrens. Carl Glatzel Jr., David’s brother, sued the demonologists on the grounds that his brother was mentally ill, not possessed, and needed actual help. According to Carl, the Warrens promised his family that they’d be “millionaires” if they would insist that the boys had been plagued by demons from Hell instead of a normal and treatable mental disorder. The pair also promised that Johnson could beat the charges by blaming demonic possession.
The Conjuring 2 is based on the incident of the Enfield Poltergeist.
Janet Hodgson, 11 years old at the time of the disturbance, was alternately tormented and possibly even possessed by a poltergeist. This malevolent spectre was responsible for throwing random items across the room, knocking sounds, strange voices, and growling noises, and even causing Janet to levitate in midair like a David Copperfield routine. Janet’s ghost was a fan of the classics. The story became a media sensation, and led to numerous investigations of Janet, her 13-year-old sister Peggy (who also seemed to be affected by the poltergeist’s presence), and the entire house.
Most agreed these were pranks pulled by the girls. A series of photos depicting Janet’s “levitation” are clearly of her jumping. Janet herself admitted that some of the Enfield haunting events were fabricated. In 1980, she told ITV News, “Oh yeah, once or twice (we faked things), just to see if Mr. Grosse and Mr. Playfair
[investigators] would catch us. They always did.” Janet said that roughly two percent of the paranormal activity in their Green Street home had been fake. I think we can assume the percentage was much higher.
The real Warrens had very little involvement in the occurrence. Ed and Lorraine Warren briefly investigated the Enfield Poltergeist in the summer of 1978 and were just two in the grand circus of investigators to visit the Hodgson’s North London home on Green Street. Most articles about the Enfield Poltergeist case don’t even mention the Warrens. Paranormal investigator Guy Lyon Playfair came out recently and said that the Warrens had showed up “uninvited” and only stayed for a day.
Does any of this make The Conjuring 2 less compelling? I don’t think so. It still succeeds as horror. Is it as true as we are lead to believe and are the Warrens badass champions of God/ghost hunters? Again, I say no. To me, it’s fascinating that the words, “based on a true story,” are enough to make things more frightening to the average filmgoer. The actual history almost means nothing in that case, but I believe it’s always worth knowing. The film’s Warrens are great paranormal investigators, even if their real-life counterparts are more dubious ghost hunters.