After five years and several intervening spin-off movies, a new entry in the main Conjuring saga is about to hit UK cinemas – with The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It set for release on 28th May 2021.
As with The Conjuring 1 and 2, the film will centre on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively) as they tackle another grisly case with an apparent supernatural connection – this time focusing on a murder trial that took place in Connecticut in 1981.
And the new film shares something else in common with the first two: a surprisingly large number of the spooky details from all three movies are based in fact (albeit often rather jazzed up for the big screen). The first Conjuring film, which kicked off the franchise and was released back in 2013, introduced audiences to the Warrens, a couple who are hired by the Perron family to look into assorted creepy happenings at their new farmhouse in Rhode Island.
Of course, what follows in the film – hauntings, exorcisms and all the rest of it – seems far-fetched, to say the least, but the Warrens would probably tell you that barely a detail is inaccurate. Indeed speaking at the time of the release, Lorraine (who acted as a consultant on the film and passed away aged 92 in 2019) did exactly that, telling USA Today that “The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening. It still affects me to talk about it today.”
So who were the Ed and Lorraine Warren? Well, they were a pair of self-styled paranormal experts (the former a demonologist, the latter a medium) who rose to prominence in the 1970s, largely as a result of their involvement in the investigations into the legendary Amityville House – which itself inspired a separate successful franchise of horror films. In the following years, they struck up quite the reputation, setting up the New England Society for Psychic Research, working on a number of supposedly supernatural cases and even creating an Occult museum in which they would store mementos and oddities from their various investigations – including the real-life Annabelle doll.
Naturally, not everyone believed that the work they were doing was rooted in anything approaching the truth. In the same USA Today article mentioned above, neurologist Steven Novella expressed his major scepticism, explaining, “The Warrens are good at telling ghost stories, you could do a lot of movies based on the stories they have spun. But there’s absolutely no reason to believe there is any legitimacy to them.”
In terms of the Perron family case, the one explored in the first film, there are a few things we know to definitely be true: the family did (and still do) believe that their house was haunted, and they did call in the Warrens to make things better. In the days after moving to the house in 1971, the family said they immediately noticed something was wrong – although it was mainly small things to begin with, and there is no suggestion that their dog really was killed in the early days after the move, as the film suggests.
And then there was Bathsheba, the evil spirit that the Perrons and the Warrens insisted had set up residence in the house. Now, Bathsheba Sherman was a real woman, born in Rhode Island in 1812, but of course there is no evidence that suggests she actually was a real witch – aside from various references in local legends. Apparently, an infant had once died in her care, and many villagers believed that Bathsheba had sacrificed the child as an offering to the devil – although she was officially cleared of any wrongdoing. The real Bathsheba passed away in 1885 at the age of 73, according to official records – and her buried body still lies at the Harrisville Cemetery in Rhode Island.
One other aspect of the film that we know to definitely be fiction is the exorcism that Ed Warren carries out on his daughter after she allegedly becomes possessed by Bathsheba – the real-life Warrens were very clear that they did not carry out any exorcisms as they were not catholic priests and therefore did not have the authority to do so.
In real life, the Perrons actually kicked the Warrens out of their house after one of the daughters had secretly watched a seance and the father Roger became increasingly concerned for the welfare of the family. According to Andrea, the daughter in question, “I thought I was going to pass out. My mother began to speak a language not of this world in a voice not her own. Her chair levitated and she was thrown across the room.” After this incident, the family continued to live in the farmhouse for a further nine years – apparently continuing to come across paranormal activity until they eventually moved out.
And to this day the Perrons are convinced that the house was haunted. Andrea is quoted as saying about Bathsheba, “Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position.”
Speaking from the set of the first Conjuring film, Lorraine Warren told ScreenSlam, “The Perron house was a very very old house. Now certain families can move into these houses where phenomena have taken place and it doesn’t affect them, other families can move in and hell breaks loose.
“I mean they weren’t the kind of people that were opening doors with ouija boards and doing things like that, they weren’t that kind of people they were living out in the country and she was there alone a lot with those girls. So it was sad, it was a very very sad case. Do you realise things happen, there are laws of attraction and that family could move out, another family could move in and nothing happens!”
Another case investigated by the Warrens was the Enfield case in England, which formed the basis of the second film in the franchise. The Warrens visited this house in 1978, which demons once again having been reported, but they did not have as hands-on a role in this mystery. The case has since been widely debunked – with other paranormal investigators believing that the children living in the house had been faking it.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is released in cinemas on Friday 28th May 2021 in the UK. If you want a spoiler-free overview of the film, here’s our The Conjuring 3 review. You can watch The Conjuring on Netflix and The Conjuring 2 by renting on Amazon Prime Video.