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The Ending Of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It Explained

"The exorcism of eight-year-old David Glatzel was meant to end the months of torment. But for Arne Johnson, it was just the beginning. The tragic events that followed made nationwide headlines and led Ed and Lorraine Warren to the most sinister discovery of their career."

That's the main title crawl of "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It," the third installment in the mainline saga of the sprawling horror franchise about the adventures of everyone's favorite poltergeist-investigating power couple, the Warrens. "The Devil Made Me Do It" is based on the real-life murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who famously used demonic possession as his defense in court after butchering his landlord during an altercation in 1981. As usual with these film adaptations, there are some extreme embellishments to the story and the Warrens' involvement is beefed up, sending them on a twisty investigative journey into the shadowy world of the occult.

Unlike the previous "Conjuring" movies that predominantly took place in a haunted house as the Warrens observed strange happenings and assisted tormented families, "The Devil Made Me Do It" is the most Warren-centric of all, sending the couple to various locations as they play detective, and at times even separating the duo. This is no typical, paint-by-numbers exorcism movie, either. Rather than dealing with the classic demon that strives to use a human host as a permanent vessel, the demons here come and go as they please, and with unique reason.

If you've seen the movie, you're probably aware that there are several moments of exposition with a lot of one-time clues and details hastily dropped during the proceedings — and you likely have some questions about who was behind all the supernatural shenanigans and why. As we lay it all out for you, proceed with caution: spoilers lie ahead.

'It's got Arne'

The film opens up with the exorcism of little eight-year-old David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard). The Warrens are in attendance, as is Arne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor), who is the boyfriend of Debbie Glatzel (Sarah Catherine Hook), David's big sister. It's here that Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) touches David and experiences her first blink-and-you'll-miss-it psychic glimpse of what appears to be an altar with a pentagram carved on it, covered candles, and a goblet (more on this later). In an act of bravery that will inevitably later produce a sinister outcome, Arne intervenes during the frenetic exorcism performed by Father Gordon (Steve Coulter) and pleads for the demon to "take me" and spare poor little David. The demon obliges and, during all the chaos, it passes into him, but the only one to catch a glimpse of this body swap is Ed (Patrick Wilson), who unfortunately suffers a massive heart attack before he is able to sound the alarm.

Days later, Arne starts experiencing demonic hallucinations of his own, including what appears to be a gaunt-faced goth librarian who is at first simply known as the Occultist (more on her later as well). As Ed finally regains consciousness in the hospital, he doesn't waste a second and immediately tells Lorraine that "it's got Arne." This warning, of course, comes far too late, and while Arne and Debbie are hanging out with their surly landlord Bruno, Arne suffers extreme hallucinations and mistakes Bruno as a fanged minion from Hell and stabs him to death.

'Demons don't just disappear'

Following Arne's incarceration for the murder of Bruno, the Warrens — along with Debbie Glatzel and a Father Newman (Vince Pisani) — visit him in prison. Arne is convinced that the demon tricked him into killing Bruno. It's at this point that the Warrens have Arne read Bible verses and attempt to provoke the spirit with various religious objects. After witnessing no reaction, they determine that he is not possessed. This raises some huge questions — such as to how does this demon come and go when it pleases? As Lorraine later states, "Demons don't just disappear," so this forces the Warrens to retrace their steps and circle back to the Glatzel house. David Glatzel's very first demonic encounter took place in the guest room, where he was attacked by a dark spirit lurking within the waterbed. After Ed observes rotted wood on the floor that doesn't appear to be from water damage, Lorraine makes her way under the house and discovers a gooey black substance dripping from the floor above and a unique type of witch's totem derived from animal bones. And surprise, surprise, it's positioned directly under the guest room.

We then learn that this particular totem is often used by master Satanists to inflict a curse on an individual with three fatal phases: a demon is summoned, the possessed individual takes a life, and the demon departs. All of this explains why Arne was able to read from the Bible without exhibiting any demonic reactions, but it also raises the crucial question of who made and placed all these totems.

It was Isla all along

The Warrens receive a tip about a priest who's an expert on the occult and Satanic rituals. His name is Father Kastner (John Noble), and much like the Warrens, he has a chamber of demonic relics of his own. After seeing a photo of the totem discovered under the Glatzel residence, he knows exactly who the Warrens are up against. The totem is commonly used by a cult known as the Disciples of the Ram — a fun nod that "Conjuring" universe enthusiasts will recognize as the name of the same cult from the "Annabelle" movies. Kastner warns that these sophisticated master Satanists aren't adversaries to be taken lightly and alerts the Warrens of the extreme peril they're up against. As we discover later in the film, the mystery occultist pulling all the strings is indeed the gaunt-faced woman we saw earlier — and she also happens to be Kastner's very own estranged daughter, who he raised and kept in secret from the priesthood. At a young age, Isla (Eugenie Bondurant) took up some of her father's interests and developed a dark obsession for witchcraft and the occult. She's been operating within the tunnels beneath his farmhouse the entire time. 

When the Warrens first question Kastner about the Satanists' rituals and ask why they'd target a little boy earlier in the movie, he shrugs it off, explaining, "why is irrelevant." There is no reason — they are simply organizers of chaos who worship the Devil and offer him random blood sacrifices. As we come to find later, he was simply referring to his daughter and purposely concealing her identity. Let's just say his fatherly instincts convinced him that his little girl might come back to him one day. But during the third act, when he finally confesses to Lorraine that his daughter has been the mastermind behind these curses, we discover her ultimate grand scheme.

Purity, love, and faith

Drew (Shannon Kook), the trusty sidekick of the Warrens, discovers a Latin language passage within the pages of an ancient book of witchcraft. In case you didn't quite catch the name the first time, it's known as the Stregheria. The scripture talks of a curse that says the inflicted must commit a murder, followed by his or her own suicide. Once the curse is started, it must be completed at all costs — Isla's soul depends on it. Since Drew's Latin is a bit rusty, Lorraine opts to take the book to Kastner for a full translation. As Kastner deciphers the Latin passages of the Stregheria, it is discovered that three sacrifices are required for Isla to complete the ritual: the child (purity), the lover (love), and finally the man of God (faith), which explains the three totems that are in play. 

The first is the one found under the Glatzel house, which ultimately inflicted Arne (the lover). The second was discovered by detectives in Danvers, Massachusetts who stumbled upon the totem while piecing together the murder of Katie Lincoln and the missing prime suspect, her own best friend Jessica Louise Strong (the child). And as you may have already guessed, the holy man is indeed Ed Warren, who starts seeing visions of a grotesque reanimated corpse and nearly attacks Lorraine during an intense hallucination within the confines of their home. The third totem that inflicted Ed was the one found in a vase of wilted flowers that was sent to the Warrens' house after Ed's heart attack. But was he the originally intended third target all along?

The connection works both ways

Earlier in the movie, you may recall that Lorraine had brief psychic glimpses of what Isla was up to whenever she laid hands on a cursed individual. It happened when she touched David and Arne, but linking with the corpse of Jessica Strong gives her the biggest clues of all.

After Lorraine uses her psychic abilities to relive the tragic death of Katie by visiting the murder site, she not only discovers that Katie did indeed perish at the hands of her friend Jessica, but that Jessica threw herself over a nearby cliff following the murder. This confirms that Arne isn't exactly in the clear, which is why he continues to be plagued by the demon in prison — it wants to drive him to suicide in order to complete the task it was summonsed for. 

There's also moment when Lorraine theorizes that these demons aren't acting of their own free will and suggests that touching the corpse of the curse-afflicted Jessica Strong may once again give her a glimpse into Isla's lair with the mysterious altar. Her theory proves to be correct, but that glimpse comes with a price. The connection works both ways, you see — so when Lorraine uses her clairvoyant abilities to touch Jessica's corpse and see what Isla is up to, Isla also senses Lorraine's psychic presence and can see what she sees. Think of it as a two-way crystal ball. This possibly explains why Isla sent flowers to the Warren household. While it's never exactly clear as to how long she's been aware of the Warrens' meddling, one can assume that inflicting Ed with the curse was a sort of payback, and he just so happened to conveniently fit the bill for her third required sacrifice, the holy man.

In fact, Isla's plans may have gone down in an entirely different way had the Warrens never intervened in the first place. Once can assume that David Glatzel was originally intended to be the child of purity sacrifice, followed by Arne, the lover. But when Arne pleaded for the demon to take him, Isla had to improvise and sought out a fresh new virgin victim with Jessica Strong. It's also quite possible that Father Gordon or even her own estranged daddy, Father Kastner, could've easily been the originally intended holy man, but when those meddling Warrens spoiled her plans, she chose to inflict Ed, who is certainly a man of faith. Either way, Isla had options, and she's clearly the puppet master controlling the demon's every move, and she can strike any cursed individual at any time — as long as she's at her infernal altar, that is.  

Love conquers all

Moments before his slasher-style murder at the hands of Isla, Father Kastner reveals that the altar is the source of Isla's power. Destroying it will break the curse and vanquish the demon's grasp over Ed and Arne. Armed with a sledgehammer, Ed narrowly pulls this off as Isla makes one last attempt to use her diabolical mind tricks to fool him into eliminating his own wife. But the love and bond between the Warrens proves to be too strong, and after Lorraine pleads, "She thinks our love is a weakness, but it's not — it's our strength," Ed breaks free from the demon's grasp and strikes down the altar instead of his wife. Naturally, the demon isn't too pleased with Isla either, seeing as how she failed at her task of delivering the final two cursed souls, so instead, her soul will have to do. In order to settle the score, the demon mangles her body on the spot — ding dong, the witch is dead. 

Once again, it's a happy ending for the Warrens. We see Ed place the goblet that Isla used to summon and control her demon placed on a shelf near the Annabelle doll in the Warrens' ever-growing collection of supernatural artifacts. As the movie closes, we get a final shot of them with a freshly built gazebo in their backyard, which is a callback to an earlier story that Lorraine tells Father Gordon while they're in the hospital after Ed's heart attack. Thirty years ago, Ed and Lorraine first met in a movie theater when she was 17 years old. They went out for ice cream and it started to rain, so Ed took her to a nearby gazebo where they shared their first kiss. It was the moment that marked the beginning of their undying love, which is without a doubt the heart and soul of "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" — and the core "Conjuring" franchise in general.

As for Arne Johnson, while there were a bulk of creative liberties taken regarding his supernatural exploits behind bars, his true ending was explained exactly how it went down in real life. Arne was ultimately charged with first-degree manslaughter and was slammed with a 10-to-20-year prison sentence, but he was released after only serving five. He married his wife while he was in prison and they are still married to this day. While their ending might not be as bright and cheery as the Warrens', one could argue that their love ultimately endured, even after such a traumatic ordeal.

What's next for the Warrens?

But things won't be so happy for Ed and Lorraine Warren for long, and they may soon find themselves at odds with the forces of hell yet again. Everyone knows that the real-life Warrens made a career out of investigating dozens of paranormal activity cases for over two decades, so it's very likely we'll see their silver screen counterparts back in theaters in the very near future — assuming the third entry delivers at the box office and Farmiga and Wilson are along for the ride. While "The Conjuring" and "The Conjuring 2" took place in the 1970s, "The Devil Made Me Do It" jumps to the early 1980s, leaving a few possible options for a sequel. When sifting through the real-life case files of the Warrens during that era, next up could be the Snedeker house incident, which has already been adapted twice: once in the form of a 2002 Discovery Channel series and again as a theatrical movie with 2009's poorly received "A Haunting in Connecticut" starring Virginia Madsen. It's quite possible the creators behind "The Conjuring" universe might want to put their own stamp on this, especially since the 2009 film doesn't acknowledge or feature the Warrens.

Another possibility is the Smurl haunting of West Pittson, Pennsylvania, which was the subject of the 1991 made-for-TV movie "The Haunted." This could prove to be a daring and more adult-themed entry should the producers attempt to tackle it for a mainstream audience. In their particular case, the Smurls claimed their house was haunted by a succubus-like demon that not only physically assaulted members of the household including the family dog, it also sexually violated Jack and Janet Smurl on numerous occasions. The Warrens came to the aid of the Smurls in 1986, which would fit right into the film franchise's chronological timeline.

"The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" is currently in theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max.