The Conjuring is an excellent film, period, but the effects of this are undeniably elevated due to the fact that it’s based on true events. As someone with a firm handle on delivering stellar scares without resorting to tacky tactics and overly grotesque imagery, director James Wan loads his latest with moments that’ll have you jumping out of your seat and/or covering your eyes. But the film's true roots lets the material truly seep in, leaving you with much more than the thrill of a good jolt. Taking horror one step further, it has the power to make you believe.
The Conjuring’s Ed and Lorraine Warren
In the film, Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga portray Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband-and-wife team of paranormal investigators. They make house calls and usually pinpoint logical reasons for even the eeriest of bumps in the night, but every now and then they come face-to-face with something not of this world. After exorcising a demon or locking away haunted artifacts in their personal archival room, the Warrens offer lectures on their work at a local university. And that’s where Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) tracks them down.
Lorraine is clairvoyant, and Ed is well aware that ability chips away at his wife with each demonic encounter. Yet after hearing Carolyn’s pleas and discovering that something particularly malicious is haunting her house and her family, Lorraine feels it’s the couple's duty to help.
The Real Ed and Lorraine Warren
Ed Warren crossed paths with demonic entities early on in his life, having grown up in a haunted house in Connecticut. On the Warrens’ official website, Ed is quoted as recalling, “My family would all go to bed, and just around two to three o'clock in the morning, many times I would hear the closet door beginning to open up. At first I'd look into that closet and see only shapeless darkness, then slowly I’d start to see a light beginning to form and it would morph into like a ball shape, sort of like a basketball, and then I'd begin to see a face in that ball.” Apparently, that ball is something called a "ghost globule."
Ed first met Lorraine when they were both 16, at the Colonial Theatre in Bridgeport. Ed worked there as an usher and Lorraine was a frequent patron with her mother. One night, Ed walked Lorraine home and asked her to go on a date, kicking off their remarkable relationship.
After serving in World War II, Ed returned home and began to pursue a passion for art at the Perry Art School. After determining his learning curve had peaked, Ed dropped $15 on a 1933 Chevy and he and Lorraine went out to try to sell some of his work. This venture went well, but anytime Ed heard of a haunted property in the area, his attention was quickly diverted. In an effort to keep a low profile while exploring, Ed would set himself up in front of a home and sketch it. He’d end up with a piece of art that he could offer to the homeowner, engaging with them and their potentially haunted house, too.
With that as their starting point, the Warrens went on to amass tons of case files and film poltergeists and ghosts. They even proved in court that a family was driven out of their home by ghosts, among the countless other milestones within their line of work.
The Real Annabelle Case
One particularly chilling encounter that you get a taste of in The Conjuring is the Warrens’ face-off with a doll known as "Annabelle."
Back in the 1970s, a young woman named Donna received an antique doll from her mother for her birthday. She was in college at the time, so she shared a small apartment with Angie, a fellow nursing student. Donna propped the doll up on her bed and went about her business until both she and Angie noticed that Annabelle seemed to have a mind of her own. First the doll just moved slightly, but eventually it would completely switch rooms all on its own.
On top of that, Annabelle had a habit of sending creepy messages, too. Donna and Angie would come home to find notes saying “Help Us” and “Help Lou” in a childish scrawl. One day the girls gave Annabelle a closer look and identified blood on the doll’s hands and chest. That was it. They needed help.
First came a medium who held a séance and enlightened the duo on the story of Annabelle Higgins, a young girl found dead on this very property before it became an apartment building. Annabelle’s spirit claimed to get a sense of comfort from spending time with Angie and Donna, so Donna agreed to let her stay with them. Trouble was, Annabelle wasn’t as innocent and helpless as she seemed.
There was also an incident with Angie and Donna’s friend Lou. In The Conjuring, you’ll notice that when Ed and Lorraine come to visit the women, Lou is there, too, yet in the film his side of the story is never told. Apparently, the real Lou always had a bad feeling about Annabelle. What really pushed it to the max, though, was an incident where Lou woke in the middle of the night and found Annabelle at his feet. Then the doll proceeded to climb up his body until, absolutely panicked, he passed out.
On top of that, while prepping for a road trip, Lou and Angie heard strange noises coming from Donna’s room. Lou went to investigate but found no one in the room – except for Annabelle. He moved in for a closer look but then was overcome with chest pains. He opened his shirt to reveal claw marks, which then mysteriously disappeared over the next few days.
Following that incident, Donna and Angie contacted one priest who reached out to another who then called in the ultimate folks for the job, the Warrens. After speaking with Donna, Angie and Lou, the Warrens concluded that Annabelle wasn’t possessed, but rather she was being manipulated by an inhuman presence. The spirit wasn’t looking to hang out in the doll and enjoy Donna and Angie’s company, as was originally believed. The spirit wanted to get close enough so it could eventually move on to occupy a human host. Had the Warrens not come to the rescue, Annabelle could have escalated the situation to a full-blown human possession.
In the end, the Warrens decided to have a priest cleanse the apartment and the Warrens relegated Annabelle to their artifact room for safekeeping.
Where Are the Warrens Now?
Sadly Ed Warren is no longer with us (having passed away in 2006), but Lorraine is, and she has contributed significantly to The Conjuring. She joined Wan and the cast on the prerelease press circuit, reading auras and discussing her true experiences freely. With New Line currently developing a sequel the film, hopefully Lorraine will return to offer her insight again, as The Conjuring’s respect for its true roots is instrumental to its success.
(True accounts via TheWarrens.net)