Since the 1970s, paranormal research has garnered a huge following. This has given rise to a series of paranormal investigators and ghost hunters. However, at the same time this has resulted in a myriad of entertainment shows aimed at portraying the entire ordeal as means of garnering ratings and popularity. Obviously, this ultimately shed bad light onto the real investigators out there.
Ed and Lorraine Warren are popular examples of high profile paranormal investigators who ended up getting the wrong form of limelight. Although outrageously popular with plenty of devout followers, there were multiple times that the pair of them were found to be straight up frauds. Ed claims that one needs to be a true believer in order to be able to derive meaning out of their findings. Being attached to some of the most famous paranormal cases of the 20th century, the two self-proclaimed demonologists certainly have stirred up a lot of controversy around themselves.
The Warrens’ investigations over the years may have stirred up quite the controversy. However, their website now includes a specific section named “Taking Psychic Photographs” that teaches “methods” to photograph spirits. The hints mentioned include, “Load your camera after you get to the site. Lorraine Warren believes that this gives recognition to the spirits and gives them maximum opportunity to imprint on the film. …use an auto focus or fixed-focus camera with an automatic flash, the more powerful the flash the better. …assuming you are successful in taking psychic photos, you want to be able to rule out clouds, the moon, and so forth as the origin of your ‘psychic’ photos…”
These instructions sound far too specific almost as if all the photos of “psychics” are nothing more than just light blobs. While writing for SkepticBlog in the “Hunting the Ghost Hunters” article, Steven Novella writes, “The vast majority of the Warren’s [sic] physical evidence is photographs. They have hundreds of ghost shots, taken by them and those who work for them… The bulk of these photos are simply blobs of light on a piece of film. There are dozens of ways to get such light artifacts onto film, but most fit into one of three categories: flashback, light defraction, or camera cords. Rare double or multiple exposures create more interesting, but still artifactual, photographs.”
The flashback category is the most telling of all. According to Novella, “Flashback is simply light from the camera flash reflected back at the lens, causing a hazy, overexposed region on the film. The result is often a whispy [sic] and blurry light image on the film.” Ghost orbs are generally no more than particles or dust motes that were exposed to the light of the camera. This is precisely why the Warrens encourage bright flashes.
This story talks about the extraordinary exorcism of a werewolf from a man’s body. The book published after, titled “Werewolf: A True Story of Demonic Possession”. In Kirkus Reviews, an unnamed author, notes, “Skeptics, please note the Warrens’ assurance that this is a ‘carefully documented’ case (they forgot to include the documentation, though).”
At “Unexplained Mysteries” a blog post by Ritoban Mukherjee provides an overview of the case. The post reads the following passage: “The Warrens haven’t been able to produce any photos or material evidence. But the very presence of the famous demonologist couple, paranormal collector John Zaffis, and famous exorcist Bishop [Robert McKenna] greatly increases the credibility.” Yet again, it is just the Warrens’ word that is taken to be the “truth”.
The Anabelle doll is perhaps one of the scariest horror stories to date. However, what is suspicious is the fact that all the information that exists about the doll and the hauntings related to it come directly from the Warrens. There is absolutely no evidence supporting or denying what the Warrens claim outside of their very own statements.
In the article “The Paranormal to Pop Culture Pipeline” writer Joseph Laycock discloses “…a nursing student received a Raggedy Ann doll from her mother in 1970. When the doll exhibited strange behavior, a medium revealed that the doll was possessed by a dead woman named ‘Annabelle Higgins.’ The student and her roommate took compassion for the spirit and granted Annabelle permission to reside in the doll. However, when frightening incidents continued to occur, they contacted the Warrens, who declared that ‘Annabelle Higgins’ was actually a demon.”
The Warrens took the doll to their museum and put it up for display in a glass cabinet with a cross hanging over its head. It also comes with a “POSITIVELY DO NOT OPEN” warning sign. Ed also warned visitors about the last man who mocked the doll and how he ended up dying in a motorcycle crash. The strange part is that there is no accompanying evidence or name to that story. It is all just the Warrens’ own words.
Snedeker Family Haunting
The Snedeker family haunting was the case that inspired the film “A Haunting In Connecticut”. Lorrain Warren loathed the film claiming it was historically inaccurate. She said, “It’s embarrassing. Do you know the amount of time and effort that we put into that case? Do you know how many meetings with the clergy we had to finally bring closure to the family?”
According to Lorraine, the original story involved the Snedeker family purchasing a new house for a lucrative offer which was conveniently located beside a hospital. Their son was receiving cancer treatment over there. Later they found out that the house used to be a funeral home where the morticians were rumored to indulge in necrophilia. The place turned out to be haunted and the family experienced the usual forage of paranormal activity.
This all sounds too familiar, almost exactly like the scenario of “The Amityville Horror” and “The Conjuring”. Similarly, the Snedeker Haunting soon got its own title: In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting. It was credited to have been written by Ed and Lorraine Warren, Al Snedeker, Carmen Reed and Ray Garton. Garton was a hired horror novelist brought to help give shape to the Snedeker narrative. Garton told Horror Bound magazine that he “interviewed all the family members about their experiences, and soon realized that there was a problem: ‘I found that the accounts of the individual Snedekers didn’t quite mesh. They couldn’t keep their stories straight. I went to Ed [Warren] with this problem. “Oh, they’re crazy,” he said…”You’ve got some of the story – just use what works and make the rest up… Just make it up and make it scary.””
In June 2009, investigator Joe Nickell published an issue of Skeptical Inquirer, where he states that neighbors of the Snedeker family claimed that the family’s drug abuse resulted in the apparent paranormal happenings.
Perron Family Case
The Perron family case formed the backbone behind the blockbuster 2013 horror film “The Conjuring”. Lorraine and Andrea Perron, one of the daughters, insisted that the film was not exaggerated and that it was closely accurate to real-life events. Other sources claim otherwise and have supporting evidence.
Norma Sutcliffe, the current owner of the allegedly haunted house, researched the house’s history only to find multiple errors which were presented as the truth. She even sued Warner Bros. for the sudden influx of trespassers on her property after the release of the film. Journalist Kent Spottswood and Sutcliffe also produced a video which contained detailed research. The video alleges that Bathsheba Sherman, the “witch” featured in the film, was far from anything of the sort. It also states that all the infant sacrifices, Satanic worship and witchery in general was fabricated. These claims were backed up by Andy Smith in the “Providence Journal” as well as J’aime Rubio in the investigative blog titled “Dreaming Casually”.
The Amityville Horror cemented Ed and Lorraine Warren’s name in the world of the paranormal. It all started with the infamous Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdering his whole family in the dead of night in 1974 after claiming to hear voices. Shortly after, the Lutz family moved in and they too experienced paranormal encounters and unexplained phenomenon. In 1977, the booth “The Amityville Horror” was released and the public was made aware of the entire scenario.
Despite the stark reality that attached itself to the case, multiple accounts by different people confirm that the whole story was fabricated. According to ABC News, William Weber, DeFeo’s lawyer, claimed that he and the Lutzes had had “four bottles of wine” followed by a “a creative writing session about what kind of thing could go into writing a horror book.” The Lutzes however continually maintained that their experiences were in fact real. Their son Daniel even created a documentary, titled “My Amityville Horror” in which he builds upon his parents’ stories.
The Warrens fit into this story rather oddly. About two months after the Lutzes abandoned the Amityville house, they and the Warrens had a “psychic slumber party.” A local news affiliate’s camera crew were also present. Lorraine insisted that she sensed the presence of demonic entities in the house. Later, a photograph captured that evening surface which allegedly captured one such entity. It is very likely, though, that it was just one of the camera crew.
The TV appearances made by the Warrens later as well as the 1979 horror film released by the title of “The Amityville Horror” began the fervor for the “true ghost story” and secured the Warrens’ reputation for years on.
The Enfield Poltergeist
The Enfield poltergeist tale is that of an 11-year-old Janet Hodgson who was believed to have been possessed by a poltergeist. The entity was believed to be responsible for levitating the child in midair, throwing objects around the room and emitting strange noises. Soon the story garnered major media attention and the investigation into Janet and her 13-year-old sister, Peggy, began.
In 2012, Joe Nickell wrote for the “Skeptical Inquirer” how most of the paranormal incidents occurred when people were not around. The objects being thrown around the room were most likely Peggy or Janet when no one was watching them. An audio recording of the dresser falling down contains distinct footsteps leading up to the dresser. Most of the instances that involved the poltergeist speaking was just Janet or Peggy hiding behind doors – an obvious attempt at ventriloquism.
The photos that apparently depict Janet being levitated are surprisingly nothing more than her jumping off the bed. Yet, in “The Demonologist” Ed Warren swears states that he saw the girl “sound asleep, levitating in midair.”
In 2011, Janet, then 45 years old, admitted “that she and her sister faked some of the phenomena,” wrote Nickell. “‘I’d say 2 percent,’ she admitted.”
Union Cemetery ‘White Lady’ Video
According to Wikipedia, the Union Cemetery in Easton, CT, “dates back to the 1700s and is reputed to be one of the most haunted cemeteries not only in Connecticut, but also in the entire United States.” One of the most famous ghosts who haunt those grounds is the Lady in White – a spirit believed to have sprung from grave misfortunes. Seeing how the cemetery is in fact close to the Warrens’ stomping grounds, they have made the best use of the legend. From an interview for GhostVillage.com with Jeff Belanger, Ed supposedly taped his run-in with the ghost, stating:
“Ed first recorded the White Lady on September 1st, 1990 at 2:40 a.m. ‘The only light was a street light which was 50 yards from where I was sitting,’ Ed recalled. ‘I heard a woman weeping and I looked out and saw hundreds of ghost lights floating around and forming into a figure of a woman. I couldn’t make out facial features but I could see she had long, dark hair and she was dressed in white.
I started to walk toward her and she disappeared. You never walk towards the ghost, you let the ghost come to you because you can change the molecular and magnetic field when a ghost is materializing.'”
No matter how much people have searched for the alleged video, they have found nothing. Steven Novella claims to have seen the video for himself and wrote an article titled “Hunting the Ghost Hunters” on his SkepticBlog and he had to say the following:
“We have only been able to view this tape in the Warren’s [sic] home because Ed refused to give it to us for analysis, a common theme in our investigation. The tape shows an apparent white human figure moving behind some tomb stones. Like videos of UFO’s [sic], Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness monster, however, the figure is at that perfect distance and resolution so that a provocative shape can be seen, but no details which would aid definitive identification. Ed Warren has not investigated the video with any scientific rigor, and refuses to allow others to do so. Despite Ed’s insistence that he was engaged in scientific research, he continued to jealously horde his alleged evidence, rather than allow it to be critically analyzed, as is necessary in genuine scientific endeavors.”
The Smurl Haunting
The Smurl haunting took place in the 1980s. Sheena Delazio stated in the 2012 “Times-Leader” article that the family reported “loud noises and bad odors” and “pig grunts” in the house. They also claimed that it “threw [the Smurls’] dog into a wall, shook their mattresses, pushed one of their daughters down a flight of stairs, and physically and sexually assaulted Jack on several occasions.” In 1986, the Warrens came to the rescue and Ed claimed to have seen “a dripping message on a mirror that told him to ‘Get out.'”
A philosophy professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo, Paul Kurtz, drew similarities between the Smurl haunting and the Lutz family haunting. About the Warrens he said, “They have no credentials in the scientific or parapsychological communities. There is no explanation for the Smurl house, but I wouldn’t simply assume it is a haunting… It seems to us that a great-to-do has been made about it, and we wonder if it is like the Amityville horror hoax, which was based on imagination rather than an actual haunting.”
Members of the clergy who were brought in to bless the house and perform exorcisms, stated that “nothing unusual” happened there.
The “Devil Made Me Do It” Case
In 1981, a contemporary article from People magazine written by Lynne Baranski, stated that Arne Cheyenne Johnson was detained and tried for murdering Alan Bono, his landlord. The defense argued that Johnson lacked control of his actions as he was possessed by a demonic entity.
Debbie Glatzel, who was Johnson’s fiancée, had a little brother, David, who was 11-years-old. He claimed to have been visited by “a man with big black eyes” resembling the Devil. After that incident, the boy began exhibiting strange signs such as hissing, growling, involuntary spasming, he gained 60 pounds and was “reciting passages from the Bible or from Milton’s Paradise Lost.”
The Glatzels disregarded nay psychiatric help and instead brought in priests and the Warrens to exorcise the child and bless the house. The Warrens claimed to have performed “three lesser exorcisms.” The Warrens claimed that they knew “there were 43 demons in the boy.” However, the priests involved at the scene negated the fact that any exorcisms took place. David soon showed signs of improvement, after being counseled and moved to “a private school for disturbed children.”
However, Johnson apparently attracted the demons that exited David’s body. Soon he began to exhibit odd behavior too from hissing to growling. He even experienced “trances” for months. Then he killed Bono using a five-inch pocket knife. He stabbing the man repeatedly while Debbie Glatzel watched.
Judge Robert Callahan did not buy the “Devil Made Me Do It” plea as neither did the jury and Johnson was imprisoned for his crime. In 2007, David’s older brother, Carl Glatzel, came forward with an attempt to sue Lorraine Warren and Gerald Brittle, author of “The Devil In Connecticut” for unspecified damages. Glatzel claimed that his family was manipulated and that Brittle and the Warrens “concocted a phony story about demons in an attempt to get rich and famous at [their] expense.”
The plethora of notable ghost stories attributed in the Warrens’ names may have confirmed their authenticity in the eyes of the public. However, when these cases are thoroughly reviewed and dusted a lot of flaws emerge. This raises the question, were the Warrens authentic ghost hunters or were they too playing on the public’s fear to line their pockets?