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Everything The Conjuring Doesn't Tell You About The True Story

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James Wan's 2013's film "The Conjuring" broke open the case files of, perhaps, the most well-known paranormal investigators in American history. Adapted from the recollections of Ed and Lorraine Warren and their time with the family of Roger and Carolyn Perron in Rhode Island in the early '70s, the original film brings to vivid life the paranormal horrors they claim to have experienced. 

The film paved the way for an entire franchise based on the efforts of the Warrens, including the Enfield poltergeist (in "The Conjuring 2") and Annabelle the haunted doll. While the "Conjuring" films aren't the first, and likely won't be the last, to detail their investigations (consider how many "Amityville" movies there are), it's hard to imagine how future interpretations could make these tales any scarier.

As much as fans enjoy these films, what made it to screen doesn't tell the entire story of what the Perrons experienced. Much of their story was modified to fit the medium, but through interviews, books and other reports, additional details emerge. So, turn your lights down low and get ready to scare yourself; here's the real story behind the horror.

The House

"The Conjuring" changes the history of the house a bit. In the film, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) states that the home was built in 1863 by Judson Sherman, but that isn't the real story. "This was a house that was completed as it stands now in 1736," Andrea Perron, author and eldest daughter of the Perron family, told Paranormal Living TV in 2020 (at the 34:38-35:12 mark). "It was built by the Richardsons." Some real estate listings have the build date as 1836. 

Thanks to movie magic, the production used a house far away (and significantly different looking) from the original home. The real house (on the left in the comparison above) is a two-story home located in Burrillville, Rhode Island, often referred to as the Old Arnold Estate. The house's owner since 1987 had been named Norma Sutcliffe, but when "The Conjuring" came out in 2013 she was reportedly inundated with fans — so much so that she and co-owner Gerald R. Helrich sued Warner Bros. in 2015, claiming the movie had caused "extreme physical, mental and emotional harm and significant damage to their property interest."

It was purchased in June 2019 for $431,000 by the Heinzen family, paranormal investigators who took a very different approach towards horror fans looking to make a pilgrimage. Their daughter was known to film spooky TikTok videos in the house, and they opened it up for overnight stays and private events. The Heinzens listed the house for sale in September 2021.

In May of 2022, the house made headlines again, selling for around $1.525 million (about 27 percent higher than its asking price) to Jacqueline Nunez. The sale was carefully curated by the Heinzen family, who avoided prospective buyers that preferred to remain anonymous or had plans to demolish the home. Appropriately enough for such a high-profile property, the sale was announced on Facebook Live, from the "seance room" where Ed and Lorraine Warren reportedly faced down evil in October 1973.

"I'm a deeply spiritual person. It's a very important part of me," Nuñez, who has pledged to continue the paranormal investigations, tours and livestreaming efforts started by the Heinzens, told the Boston Globe. "I believe we are conscious beings having a human experience, and that our consciousness continues on, we are here to learn things in lifetime and help our species evolve morally and culturally. ... This house is an opportunity to connect with people who've moved on and died, that's the interactivity here and the engagement with the people who have passed."

The Heinzens had it stipulated as a condition of the sale that the new owner not live in the house year-round. "Because the energy is so powerful," Nuñez said. "They put it in there as protection for the buyer."

Meanwhile, the "fake" home you see in "The Conjuring" (located on the right) is located in North Carolina. After reading Andrea Perron's books, James Wan chose not to film in the house's home state. The Keith House, just a half-hour drive from Wilmington, was used instead for exterior scenes. 

How Long the Perrons Lived There

The Perrons closed on the home in December 1970 and moved in during January 1971. In real life, they spent nearly ten years in the home. In the film, it appears to be just a few short weeks. This accelerated timeline is likely to help move the film along and speed up what would otherwise be a long wait for the outcome.

While the film makes it seem as though the Warrens were called to the home by Carolyn (Lili Taylor) within a few weeks of the family moving in, they actually lived there for about three years before the Warrens began their investigation. The Warrens first came to the home in 1973, meaning the Perron family lived with the spirits and their antics for quite a while before any sort of paranormal investigation took place. In total, the paranormal investigators visited the family six times.

The Warrens only put an end to their investigation when Roger asked them to not come back. During their final welcomed visit, something happened that caused Roger to be worried for Carolyn's safety and well-being, and he put an end to the demonologists' research. The family continued to live in the home afterward, simply because they could not afford to leave — although the film depicts them leaving immediately after the exorcism.

"Do I think there was some kind of cosmic convergence of events? Absolutely," Perron told Rue Morgue in 2021. "We were supposed to live there and tell the story."

The Family Dog

Dog lovers may recall what happens to the Perron family dog, Sadie, in the film. In real life the family did have a dog, but her death was not nearly as sinister. In fact, Perron believes their dog — and the name her mother Carolyn chose for the canine — were signs that they were always meant to end up at the Old Arnold Estate. 

In the film, Sadie refuses to enter the house, then is found deceased after the family's first night; in reality, the family dog died before they ever stepped foot on the property. 

"I was out walking my dog," Perron recalled in 2021. "And she pulled away from me, ran into traffic and was killed." The incident took a toll on the family, and was one of the reasons the Perrons moved in the first place.

The Perron daughter told Paranormal Living TV in 2020 (at the 7:16-7:52 mark) the story of the dog's name, which might just make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Keep in mind, the dog was given its name three years before Carolyn saw the advertisement for the house in the paper.

"My mother swept [the dog] up into her arms ... she closed her eyes ... she opened her eyes and she said Bathsheba," Perron recalled, referencing the family's supposed haunting spirit, a suspected witch named Bathsheba Sherman. "We immediately abbreviated it to Sheba ... we didn't know the significance of that name." 

How the Perrons Met the Warrens

The film doesn't accurately portray how the Perrons and the Warrens came into each other's lives. In the film, the Warrens are giving a lecture at Massachusetts Western University, a fictional university, when Carolyn approaches their vehicle with the help of their assistant Drew Thomas (Shannon Kook). She pleads for them to come to her home, and they agree. 

In real life, the haunted family had no clue who Ed and Lorraine were, not even when the paranormal investigators showed up on their doorstep; The Perrons never reached out to them. 

"Somebody else had told them that we were having a problem at our house," Andrea Perron told Rue Morgue in 2021. "They showed up the night before Halloween in 1973." 

A friend of the family, Keith Johnson, had contacted the Warrens, saying the family needed help, and gave the demonologist and clairvoyant their address. The couple came the night before Halloween because they felt the veil between the physical world and spirit world would be at its thinnest point, giving them the ideal opportunity to communicate with spirits in the area.

Who Researched the Home?

Like all films, "The Conjuring" takes some liberties with its source material. In this case, it changed who researched the home and discovered the supposed identity of the malevolent spirit.

According to a Warner Bros.-produced video about the true-life events of the series, Carolyn did historical research on the property herself, not only to figure out the identity of the spirits, but also to better understand the house itself. The only spirit to identify themselves was April's friend, the young boy Oliver Richardson. 

In the film, Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) researches the property after visiting it with her husband. While the information she shares with the audience is not completely factual, this shift in authority seemingly gives the Warrens more credibility in the case. "The Conjuring" franchise is designed to share their case files with the world, not tell the individual stories of the families involved with the cases, so it makes sense that Lorraine would research the property — even if, in real life, that's not how it went down. 

Who was Bathsheba?

The film claims Bathsheba Sherman (Joseph Bishara) was married to Judson and that she was related to Mary Towne Eastey, one of the women hanged during the Salem Witch Trials. Lorraine says Bathsheba had one child that she sacrificed to Satan before hanging herself. The Warrens believe she is the spirit tormenting the family and trying to possess Carolyn.

The actual Bathsheba doesn't have nearly as convenient a history. While it's true that she was married to Judson Sherman, her life wasn't plagued the way Lorraine describes it. 

"Bathsheba Sherman never lived in the house," Andrea Perron told 757 Paranormal in 2016 (at the 23:53 mark). Calling "The Conjuring" "about 95 per cent fiction and about five per cent hard truth," she participated in the 2021 documentary "Bathsheba: Search For Evil," which provided additional details. 

"Bathsheba ... died in 1885 from paralysis due to a stroke," Perron told the Global News in 2021. In a separate interview, she added: "She was accused of an infant dying in her care at the farm, and she was absolved of that ... She lost three of her four children before the age of four ... It was a sad state of affairs in terms of just getting through a harsh winter up there in Rhode Island."

Mrs. John Arnold

The Perron family never believed Bathsheba to be responsible for what they went through, though the famous clairvoyant was convinced. Through Carolyn's research, they believe a spirit by the name of Mrs. John Arnold was the negative entity tormenting them, but they do hold the belief that Bathsheba was one of the many spirits they encountered. 

While the film depicts Bathsheba as the woman who hanged herself, it was actually Mrs. Arnold that did. 

"The entity haunting and taunting my mother had a broken neck and was likely Mrs. Arnold," Perron told Global News in 2021. "[She was] found hanging in the barn in 1797 at the age of 93." 

This woman, whose first name has been lost to time, died nearly 100 years before Bathsheba's passing. "The spirit that came to my mom ... used Archaic English," Perron explained to the Ocean State Paracon in 2016 (5:59-6:10 in the video), citing another clue. "That was already out of favor and use when Bathsheba was born."

The Perrons' Religious Views

"The Conjuring" depicts the entire Perron family as non-religious. When Ed (Patrick Wilson) inquires, Roger (Ron Livingston) says they never had their daughters baptized and don't go to church. 

"They represented us somehow as godless heathens," Andrea Perron said in 2016. "That's not true."

The eldest daughter recalls that her father went to a private Catholic school and was an altar boy, even meant to become a priest. Her mother converted to Catholicism when she married him. All five of their daughters were baptized and confirmed through the Catholic church. 

"To say that we were ... people who had ... no spiritual attachment was a gross inaccuracy," she added. "We were ... profoundly attached to God ... when we had moments of crisis in that house ... it was only imploring God's intervention that stopped it."

It seems possible that this change was made in the film to add conflict, as the church wasn't initially willing to help the family because they weren't baptized. This is partly what leads Ed in the film to conduct the exorcism, rather than a priest.

The Activity Experienced

When the Warrens first arrive at the Perrons' home in the film, Carolyn lets them know the clocks always stop at 3:07 in the morning and that they all smell a stench like rotting meat. This is rooted in the real experience the family had in the home. 

According to USA Today, the real-life spirits "stunk of rotting flesh and would arrive at 5:15 most mornings to lift beds." The film's given time of 3:07 am was explained as when Bathsheba died. 

Other activity they experienced was also utilized in the film to a similar degree. The film shows the family having an issue with birds around the home; Perron says it was actually bats. The film depicts them hearing children laughing; they usually heard children crying or wailing

One element of the story that the film did not invent, however, was that Carolyn's voice wouldn't record on tape. "Very often recordings [of Carolyn] would come back blank," Perron told 757 Paranormal in 2016 (8:40-8:49). Supposedly, Lorraine's theory was that Carolyn's voice didn't record because it wasn't really her talking; it was the spirit attached to her.

Carolyn's Physical Attacks

Carolyn seemed to bear the brunt of the physical attacks and manifestations of the malevolent spirit in the film, sporting several bruises and even being dragged back into the house. While the real-life Carolyn was impacted physically during the Perrons' time in the home, it wasn't to the same extent. 

Rather than sporting bruises, she received a puncture wound that Lorraine thought was from a sewing needle. This fed into the Warrens' narrative that the spirit was Bathsheba, as she had supposedly taken the life of an infant with a knitting needle. Lorraine thought she had taken the needle with her to the afterlife.

While Perron was quick to point out during a 2013 interview that the infamous seance "was not what happened," she added: "It was scarier. It was the most terrifying night of my life."

According to her daughter, this seance did involve Carolyn being thrown. "It drained my mother's energy so severely she would sleep in bed for like, two years," she said later. "It caused her so much depression."

Andrea believes the impact gave her mother a concussion and contributed to the decline in her physical state after that night. This is different than how Carolyn was thrown in the film, almost being pulled back into the house as the group tried to leave it to see the priest.

In real life, Perron says the event resulted in Carolyn hardly eating, subsisting instead on cigarettes and coffee, causing her to grow thin; this caused Andrea to act as a stand-in maternal figure for her sisters. While this element is not reflected in the film,  the bruising perhaps alludes to it.

Who Received the Spirit's Message?

April (Kyla Deaver), the youngest daughter, seems to be the one that received the most contact in the film due to her spirit friend Rory, but that wasn't the case. Cindy (the second-youngest) had the most encounters, though Christine (the middle sister) was the most traumatized by what she experienced in the home. This may be why the filmmakers changed the story, so Christine received an important message from the spirit.

"I woke to the smell of smoke in my bedroom, and then there was Bathsheba," recalled Carolyn Buchanan Perron in a 2021 Warner Bros. documentary. "This is when she put the curse on me. What she said ... 'next time we meet, ye too be dead.'"

In the film, the message is conveyed to Christine (Joey King). After her screams cause Roger and Carolyn to come running, she tells them she saw someone who told her "it wants my family dead." Later on, a spirit appears above Carolyn, entering her body through the mouth. This seems to represent what Carolyn experienced in real life, but gives Christine the verbal interaction.

Exorcism vs. Séance

One of the most emotional, impactful scenes in the film is the exorcism Ed conducts on Carolyn in the cellar. After the exorcism, all seems right in the home again — for a moment. In truth, this wasn't at all what the Perron family actually experienced.

Ed and Lorraine conducted a séance, not an exorcism, on Carolyn during their fifth visit to the home. 

"They foisted a séance on my family ... that my father strenuously objected to," recalled Andrea Perron in 2020. "My father threw the Warrens out of the house that night after he punched Ed Warren in the face."

While the Warrens believed it necessary to perform the séance to protect Carolyn, who they believed was being "oppressed" by a spirit with the intention of possessing her, this seemed to have the opposite effect

"[The Warrens] were devout Roman Catholics ... [Ed] would never ever have taken it upon himself to conduct an exorcism alone ... he had too much respect and reverence for the church," Perron told Paranormal Living TV in 2020 (53:47-54:15). 

Nevertheless, the film depicts a desperate Ed holding an exorcism on his own. As the demonologist struggles with the decision when the time comes, these real-life beliefs are hinted at. But in real life, the haunting of the Perrons was not nearly as straightforward.