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The Conjuring Movies' Most Disturbing Moments That Had Us Totally Spooked

It sure is a good thing that Ed and Lorraine Warren love each other so much. Because apart from the warmth and care shared by the demon-hunting dynamic duo (portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), "The Conjuring" films are a relentlessly spooky experience. From restless spirits to hellish creatures, "The Conjuring" series is rife with opportunities to thank your lucky stars you wore your brown pants to the theater. After all, these moments are why audiences flock to these films in the first place. Who doesn't love a good heart-pumping jolt or unshakable sense of unease? 

The continuously expanding Conjuring Universe is full of spooky, scary, and otherwise disturbing moments (looking at you, tea party scene in "Annabelle: Creation"). But in the interest of keeping things focused and narrowing down what characterizes a good scare in the core trilogy of the franchise, we're just going to be looking at the scariest moments from the three mainline films in the series: 2013's "The Conjuring," 2016's "The Conjuring 2," and 2021's "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It."

From expertly crafted and well-earned jump scares to atmospheric chills and creature reveals so terrifying they spawned their own spin-offs, we've combed through the core "Conjuring" films to deliver the demonic goods. Hope you've all got your Bibles handy.

Bathsheba squatting on top of the dresser - The Conjuring

Not long into the runtime of "The Conjuring," it's clear that there is something incredibly wrong with the immense, wooden wardrobe in Andrea's (Shanley Caswell) room. And if little, sleepwalking Cindy (Mackenzie Foy) bonking her forehead against the doors in the middle of the night didn't seal the deal, it's when we learn the dresser came with the house that we're all but convinced — this fearsome piece of furniture is no good. Ever the careful showman, director James Wan builds tension around the armoire long before we get to this iconic scare. From a kid's perspective, it's exactly the kind of harmless, inanimate object that takes on a frightening aspect in the dark. And by focusing a number of other scares around the wardrobe (including the "hide and clap" game), we are primed and ready when Wan finally plays his hand.

After a slow, unnervingly quiet scene where Andrea, once again, finds Cindy knocking against the wardrobe in her sleep, she tucks her sister into bed. Except, to Andrea's confusion, the doors of the armoire keep knocking rhythmically, all on their own. Andrea approaches the wardrobe as Cindy sits up slowly. Then, her shocked face twists into terror at what she sees. And from Cindy's perspective, we see it too. It's Bathsheba, mouth agape, crouched on top of the wardrobe, ready to pounce. We zoom in on the gruesome image as the witch launches herself down on Andrea ... and then the screaming starts.

The hide and clap basement jump scare - The Conjuring

Parents, we are begging you: Stop letting your children play such creepy games. When the Perron family first moves into their supremely spooky new home, the younger girls initiate a game of hide-and-clap, a needlessly tense variation on hide-and-go-seek. The idea is that the blindfolded seeker is allowed to ask those hiding to clap three times to pinpoint their location. The moment this game appears on-screen, it's clear that "The Conjuring" has some other, nefarious motive. Sure enough, later in the film, little April (Kyla Deaver) asks her mom, Carolyn (Lili Taylor), to play a game of hide-and-clap with her. When Carolyn can't find April, our minds immediately assume the worst.

Once it becomes clear that something isn't right, Carolyn takes off her blindfold and ventures downstairs. Her increasingly panicked cries are answered by a horror fan's worst fear: the basement door opening, all on its own. The out-of-tune piano drones a couple of notes, and Carolyn approaches. After finding herself pushed down the stairs and locked in the basement, ghostly shenanigans and exploding lightbulbs force her back up to the top of the stairs. Now bathed in black, Carolyn fumbles with a box of matches. With our attention masterfully misdirected toward the bottom of the stairs, it's spooky and surprising when a pair of ghostly arms shoot out from behind Carolyn's shoulder, clapping and extinguishing her match. Lesser horror directors take note: This is how you earn a jump scare.

Lorraine sees Bathsheba's hanging body - The Conjuring

When the Warrens answer the Perrons' call for help, it is immediately clear to Lorraine that something horrible happened on this land. Finding his wife gazing out over the lake just outside the family's yard (okay, we kind of see why they bought the property), dutiful Ed comes to check on his sensitive wife. Before Lorraine can say anything to her husband, Ed's concerned voice fades, drowned out by the unmistakable sound of a swaying rope. Slowly, fearing what might be behind her, Lorraine turns towards Ed and the source of the noise. Her eyes creep upwards, her gaze fixed on something lurking just behind Ed. To her horror, she sees the swinging, pallid feet of Bathsheba, the witch who was hung on the gnarled tree that looms over the property.

The 50-foot-tall tree in question was created specifically for the film. And it's a relief to know that such a sinister shrub can't exist in nature. This scene is a great scare that doesn't overplay its hand with a musical sting. It's remarkable how watching Lorraine see Bathsheba is way scarier than Bathsheba herself.

A sheet catching on a human shape - The Conjuring

While the vast majority of these spine-tingling moments take place in the dark, it is a truth universally acknowledged by all open-minded horror fans that the scares that take place in broad daylight deserve their day in the sun too ... pun intended. After all, if supernatural happenings take place out in the open, there's nowhere to hide.

This moment begins after Ed and Lorraine share an adorable embrace out in the yard: They've had a glimpse of rural domestic bliss, and for a brief moment, they flirt with the idea of how nice it would be to settle down in the country. But the ghosts are having none of that. As the clouds begin to gather and the laundry starts to whip and flutter on the line, one sheet breaks loose. To our horror, it catches onto something ... a human-shaped something. It's a brief moment, but it lasts long enough for our eyes to register the ghostly presence. What comes next is unnerving in its own right, as the sheet flies up to the window where Carolyn Perron is in the process of being possessed. But it's the unexpected ghost reveal that sticks with us at the end of the (laundry) day.

Carolyn Perron levitating during her exorcism - The Conjuring

Okay, let's be honest, Carolyn's entire exorcism scene in the basement is super spooky. Deep in the clutches of Bathsheba — the nefarious witch who absolutely loves causing mothers to kill their children — it is extremely upsetting to watch the loving Perron matriarch twist into a feral, grotesque, kid-hating creature. Truth be told, it's hard to pinpoint which moment in the whole ordeal is the most disturbing. Carolyn taking a bite out of Officer Brad's cheek is definitely up there. Carolyn vomiting blood onto the stained white bedsheet over her head is also a contender. But for our money, the most skin-crawling moment in the whole set piece takes place when all the rumbling and frantic Latin verses fade into the background. 

With nothing but the creaking of the swaying lightbulb overhead, a chillingly still Carolyn levitates in her chair. In exorcism scenes, moments of calm can be even more disturbing than chaos. It's a chance to catch our breaths and gape at what we're witnessing.

My house! - The Conjuring 2

"The Conjuring" trilogy is filled with spooky moments that take place in the dark: in pitch-black corners, dusty basements, and too-long hallways. But one of the most alarming and unnerving scares across the three films takes place in broad daylight. In the scene, Janet Hodgson (Madison Wolfe) is home alone, attempting to relax when the TV starts acting up, and the remote somehow keeps getting misplaced. It becomes clear to viewers that the spirit is up to no good. After retrieving the remote, Janet settles back down only for a well-timed lighting strike to disrupt the signal.  

After fiddling with the bunny ears, Janet crouches on the ground where she (and the audience) is startled to see the blurry reflection of an old man on the TV screen. "What a good scare," we think to ourselves, proud of our steely nerves. But neither this grumpy old spirit nor director James Wan are through with us yet. After a moment filled with a false sense of security, a screaming, yellow-eyed visage of Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) appears behind Janet's shoulder, terrifying the young girl. The fact that Wan was able to tease so much terror out of what is basically an argument over what channel to watch is a testament to his skill as a director. While many jump scares feel cheap and surprising rather than scary, the "my house!" scare in "The Conjuring 2" is a well-earned spook that gets us every time.

Mom, who's that? - The Conjuring 2

If you ask someone what the scariest part of a house is, you'll probably get a lot of votes for the basement. You might get a couple of devil's advocates making a strong case for the attic. You may even hear some dissenting voices with strong opinions about crawlspaces. But the real ones know that the real champion of horror is the hallway. This fact brings us to this incredible moment in "The Conjuring 2."

While staring slack-jawed at something, Lorraine's daughter, Judy (Sterling Jerins), asks her mom a simple question: Who is that terrifying, demonic nun lady (Bonnie Aarons) at the end of the hallway? The question of "who" the nun is will return later in the film with full narrative force (what with demons being controlled by their names). But in this moment, Lorraine is at a loss for who, or what, this entity is ... other than trouble. The nun looming at the end of the impossibly long hallway is infinitely more terrifying than any jump scare. The perverse lady of the cloth turns to walk away from Lorraine and Judy, heading towards Ed's study, which is far scarier than if she'd shot down the hallway for a cheap "boo!"

The Nun emerging from the painting -The Conjuring 2

The gift that keeps on giving. After terrifying Lorraine in the hallway, the demon nun, also known as Valak, continues her reign of terror in Ed's study. It's hard to isolate the scariest part of Lorraine's encounter with Valak. There's something to be said for the subtle stomach churn of Ed's painting — which eerily premeditated the demon nun's likeness — looming in the shadows over Lorraine's shoulder. The slow, push-zoom toward the portrait in the dark is also a candidate, with the painted eyes blazing on the canvas. But it's Valak's ultimate introduction that takes the cake.

A shadow slowly creeps along the wood-paneled wall, heading toward Ed's painting. Once there, Valak's pale fingers snake around the edge of the hanging painting. The spirit chooses the form of a nun to desecrate religious symbols and to mock the faithful, which feels pointed toward Lorraine. Powerful, personal, and perverse, Valak's introduction is an expertly crafted set piece that doubles as a character introduction for one of the most iconic villains in the extended "Conjuring" universe.

Bill laughing through Janet - The Conjuring 2

At the end of "The Conjuring 2," we learn that Bill Wilkins, the spirit terrorizing the Hodgson clan, is nothing but a puppet for the demon, Valak. But that doesn't make the ghostly presence's apparent possession of Janet any less terrifying. As Janet, Madison Wolfe does a wildly creepy job of twisting her face into the grimace of a terrifying spirit.

While being interviewed by local paranormal researchers and journalists before the Warrens' arrival, Bill, speaking through Janet, makes his anger and frustration with the new residents known. Janet's voice steadily fades as Bill's husky, predatory sneer takes over. Her blank face twists into a grimace. And after an especially inhuman gargle of hisses and shrieks, Janet/Bill lets out a horrifically creepy chuckle. Seeing an old man's giggle come out of a sweet little girl is inherently unnerving. It just feels wrong. And Bill's apparent enjoyment of Janet's torture is the stomach-churning icing on an already upsetting cake.

The Crooked Man cracking a smile - The Conjuring 2

While the nursery rhyme that the Hodgson kids' zoetrope focuses on in "The Conjuring 2" might seem too creepy to be true, it turns out that it is a real poem. The nursery rhyme was first put to paper in the 19th century, although the original author of "There Was a Crooked Man" is unknown. But, we have to assume that whoever wrote it must have had some deep-seated hatred for children because it's about a pretty terrifying image.

Seeing an opportunity to cause mental anguish, Valak assumes the form of the rhyme's titular crooked gentleman (portrayed by Javier Botet) to give Ed Warren a spook. Blinded by a rogue spray of steam (thanks, Valak), a half-blind Ed takes his search for Janet to the pillow fort at the end of the hallway. There, leaning over the zoetrope, Ed makes the pants-soiling decision to look up, where he's met with the Crooked Man's toothy grin. What comes next is absolutely unpleasant — limbs just shouldn't be that long, you know? — but the predatory grimace is the crown jewel of the sequence ... and the image that we assume kicked off talks about the Crooked Man getting his own sequel.

A face floating up in the waterbed - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

While the rest of the Glatzel family unloads the moving truck outside their new home, 8-year-old David (Julian Hilliard) does what any self-respecting kid would do, given the opportunity — he lies down on a water bed. After all, who can see a water bed and not lie on it? Well, anyone who saw "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It," has had their fantasies doused by the demons that have been added to the mix. Lying on a waterbed already came with an inherent degree of risk, but now we're not just thinking about the structural integrity of this glorified water balloon. Now when we think of water beds, we envision cloudy, yellow-eyed faces rising up from the depths, just outside of our peripheral vision. The demon is grasping with its gnarled arms, perforating the plastic to drag us down with it.

Later, we learn that David's incident with the waterbed was just the first step in the Occultist's plan to summon a demonic entity (David was targeted for being "the child" demanded by the ritual). Through some careful backtracking, the Warrens discover a bone-covered totem beneath the floorboards, right under where the waterbed was located. It's the first clue that they're dealing with a satanic curse — of course, a disciple of Satan is behind this. Only a demon-summoning witch could defile something as pure and innocent as a waterbed. Uh — a child. We meant a child. Obviously.

Bruno crawling towards Arne - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

The entire sequence depicting Arne's (Ruairi O'Connor) perspective of his possession is one of the highlights of "The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It." After coming home early from work after the whole "being cursed by a witch" thing making it hard to wield a chainsaw, Arne's landlord, Bruno (Ronnie Gene Blevins), talks him into fixing the music system so they can party. While Arne's girlfriend is actually trying to squirm away from handsy Bruno, Arne sees something much more sinister. Sweating and stumbling, Arne begins to spiral while Blondie's "Call Me" pounds in his eardrums. We'll call this a not-so-subtle jab that maybe he shouldn't have invited the demon in during David's possession.

Arne sees Bruno transform into a hideous, sharp-toothed demon, appropriately causing him to flee the living room and fall to the floor amidst the dog kennels. Wide-eyed and terrified, he stares down the hallway as his vision plunges into darkness. After slowing to a demonic crawl, Blondie cuts out from the speakers. And then, from Arne's perspective on the floor, we see a glowing-eyed version of Bruno crawl like a bat out of hell straight toward us. It's one of those shots that spurs something primal in the audience, like a gut reaction urging you to get back and put your hands up in self-defense. Benefiting from a great build-up, Bruno's scrambling crawl is easily one of the greatest scares in the series.

Ed hallucinating a cadaver fight - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

The hulking cadaver pops up a couple of times in "The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It." Bloated, sutured, and fit to burst with all manner of necrotic ooze, the unnamed corpse is the muscle the spindly Occultist lacks. It's a hulking mass of cold, rotting tissue that's animated by the clear, unambiguous goal of thwarting the Warrens in their quest. The cadaver's first appearance is in the morgue while Lorraine attempts to learn more about the Occultist via Jessica's (Ingrid Bisu) corpse. And while the build-up is relatively tense, if we're being honest, the "punchline" of the scare prompts more of a chuckle than anything else. (Even if it is a massive, re-animated corpse, being bonked on the head and falling down is always funny).

That said, the cadaver's second appearance is properly unnerving. Ed, who has been targeted as the third and final piece in the Occultist's dastardly demonic plan, has very little time to think before the conjured corpse lurches in his direction. Dodging the charging cadaver that has suddenly materialized in his home, Ed begins to terrorize the bloated apparition. And while the idea of having a stinky dead body chasing you around your house is scary enough, the ultimate reveal that Ed was actually about to stab his wife, Lorraine, in mid-hallucination is the truly terrifying knife twist of this scene.

The real-life exorcism audio - The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

Depending on who you ask, the scariest part of "The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It" actually takes place after the story ends. "The Conjuring 2" featured excerpts of audio of the real-life Ed Warren speaking to the supposedly possessed Janet Hodgson. The third film in the trilogy follows suit with audio from one of the three exorcisms performed on David Glatzel. While the credits roll, accompanied by newspaper clippings and photographs from the real case surrounding Arne Johnson's alleged possession, we hear clips from David's exorcism. While not nearly as gymnastically over-the-top as the exorcism's dramatization at the beginning of the film, the audio is arguably more chilling than its fictional counterpart. The voice we hear is not something you could imagine coming out of the body of an 11-year-old boy. The voice is deep, guttural, wheezing, and giggling.

While "The Conjuring" never apologizes for playing fast and loose with its source material, its tether to reality is an integral part of the trilogy's appeal. And by the time you get to the end of these films, you could use a reminder that an element of these stories did actually happen to real people. It's a genuinely terrifying thought to leave the audience with, that hauntings such as these are possible, whether within the human imagination or a more spiritual plane.