I’ve held onto this story for quite some time, waiting for just the right moment to share it. With The Conjuring 2 in cinemas, revealing another case from the files of the famous ghost hunting Warrens, I thought it the perfect time to share with you my own journey into their haunted home, including a face-to-face with the dreaded Annabelle.
Many years ago, I was sent an invite (I no longer remember the source) to see Ed and Lorraine Warren speak at a college somewhere in the New England area. The two of them were touring and giving lectures about some of their most famous cases, Annabelle, Amityville, etc. around Halloween time. I wasn’t able to go that year, but for a long time I planned on taking the trip out, hoping to get a glimpse into these fascinating cases, which have been the basis for many a horror film since. However, Ed Warren passed away in 2006 and I thought the opportunity would never come again.
In the following years however, The Warren home was again opened up to visitors, and I was able to secure time as part of a small group to meet Lorraine Warren, speak with her over dinner, and enter the Occult Museum that is kept under her modest home in Monroe, Connecticut. I went during a chilly spring weekend in March of 2015.
Some have asked since why I would want to go into a place even allegedly so full of haunted artifacts. I have to say I was excited by the prospect. Though I’m skeptical of haunting accounts, I still have been on many ghost hunts and have done much research into different aspects of the occult, psychic phenomena, cryptids, etc. in the hopes of finding something interesting, something fantastic in the mundane world. Even if I didn’t find proof of haunting in this home, I at least was excited to find interesting artifacts from the legendary couple who shared my own fascination with the supernatural, and who had claimed to touch it. It wasn’t quite what I expected.
The Warren home is a simple house at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. Cars were lined up in the circle drive, with a few small groups of curious fans waiting to be received as the sitting room was being prepared. After a short time, we were invited in, and found the living room supplied with a few tightly packed rows of seats, which were quickly taken. The room was humming with tense excitement as we awaited our hostess for the evening, no one knowing quite what to expect. There were lots of jumps and nervous laughs as glass suddenly shattered somewhere behind the crowd, and everyone turned to find Mrs. Warren’s cat staring us down, angrily pushing tchotchkes off of the cabinets. Other cats came out seeking attention from the room of strangers over time. Somewhere in the background, a chicken freely roamed the house.
At last we were greeted officially by Mrs. Warren, who came out and took a seat in her favorite armchair joined by Tony Spera, her son-in-law and Director of the New England Society for Paranormal Research. Standing in the back was family friend and archivist Reverend James Anzianno. Mrs. Warren shared some first hand accounts of how she claims her psychic powers manifested themselves in her early childhood, and then of a few of her cases with her late husband Ed. There were many interjections by Spera, who seemed to really like to punch up details for dramatic effect. A Q&A session followed, including the typical questions about Amityville and Annabelle and some of the more famous cases people know from media. This living room session was concluded by the showing of a video from the Warrens’s archives of what they claim to be an exorcism.
From this point, I’ll admit, the part of me that was engaged solely with the joy and chills of ghost stories went away, and my bullshit detector came out to do inspections. When you start tossing things out like ‘video evidence of demonic possession’, I can’t help but go into analytical mode. The video showed a Hispanic man presumably bound to a chair, the video framed tightly on his face, as the Warrens spoke to him and tried to drive out the supposed demon with their sermonizing. The man growled, his eyes rolled back, the rest of the audience shuddered in terror. “Now look here and you can see,” added Spero, “where the man is bleeding from his mouth, but as it hits his shirt, the blood simply vanishes.” Everyone ooh’d and ahh’d as what seemed to clearly be saliva, not blood, hit the man’s white T-shirt. As clearly as could be perceived from a 30 year-old VHS tape, anyway.
Nonplussed as I was by this video evidence, I was happy to finally move past story time, and down into the Occult Museum beneath the house. This was, after all, the real reason we were all here. Father Jim stood first and said a prayer over us and blessed the house and the spirits within, to contain any demons that might be lurking about. The lights were dimmed, and we lined up single file to descend into the cool basement to meet our destiny. Godzilla roared… GODZILLA!? Down the stairs and through the hallways lined with paintings and Halloween decorations is the museum’s entryway, complete with a Godzilla roar motion sensor on the door. It went off 30 times or so as we crowded into the museum, taking much of the ambiance with it. Nevertheless, we were finally here.
Having watched The Conjuring, I was familiar with the image of the room, laden with statues, tomes and artifacts from the various cases of The Warrens, Annabelle herself locked in a glass case in the back. However the film’s version does vary somewhat from the real thing. The actual museum was kept dimly lit with red bulbs during our visit, and while we were given free reign to explore, a creepy Halloween FX tape played in the background. The room itself was full of fake cobwebs, and had rubber bats and spooky ghosts strung from the ceiling throughout. In fact, the whole place was full of simple rubber masks, toys, and other oddities which could be gotten from pretty much any Halloween store.
Spero warned us that, despite the ordinary appearance of the items in the room, all of the things here had been used in some dark way in the past and any of them could potentially kill us if we touched them or mocked them. Father Jim’s blessing would help with that, but it would still be bad for us to get too close. As we wandered through the room and pointed at different items, Spero would give us the tales behind them. A toy T-Rex with its head removed once belonged to a boy, and if the head were attached it would speak vile things to us. Halloween masks were supposed to have been used by cultists to make their faces alter into the same monstrous form. A mirror on the wall has a demon trapped within it, and perhaps if we took a picture, we would see it in the developed photo.
Perhaps my favorite and the most puzzling selection in the room was the selection of occult books on the shelf. While I am vaguely familiar with several famous grimoires in the world, I recognized very few of the tomes presented here, with the exception of Simon’s Necronomicon (available from Amazon books), and an impressive selection of Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition handbooks. On the shelf, and indeed scattered liberally through the room, were posters and soundtracks for The Conjuring, now a major motion picture. Lorraine Warren was present during this time as well, though she was more interested in showing off the paintings that Ed left behind, as he was an avid creator of ghostly portraits and pictures of old Victorian homes.
During this time, right about when I bumped full on into a crudely crafted demon statue, which they claimed was the second most dangerous item in the room after Annabelle, did I realize how little this Occult Museum matched my particular expectations. To a degree, I can excuse the Halloween kookiness in the room, as I’ve found since then that Ed was a very avid Halloween collector in his day. But between that, the ads for The Conjuring movie, and the lines of people bumping into supposedly haunted artifacts as we crowded around for pictures with Annabelle, I was struck by the incredible lack of reverence for anything in the room. What was in the museum looked like a collection of thrift store junk, and frankly it was treated as such. In a room where anything that we touched could result in demonic possession or an untimely death, there was nothing to stop anyone from touching something, taking something, or falling accidentally into a demon statue. I couldn’t help but liken it to decorating the contents of a missile silo with Easter pastels in full disregard for the lethal payload on display, or letting a school tour group of children run unhindered through a dangerous factory. Why would you not take something like that more seriously? This was either incredibly fake, or I was being led around by the most irresponsible group of demonologists I was ever likely to meet.
When our museum tour concluded, we all went together to the nearby cemetery to say a prayer over the grave of Ed Warren, and then went to dinner further down the road at an Italian restaurant. To any who take future tours of the museum, I recommend the eggplant parmesan.
During dinner I nursed a Jack & Coke and ruminated bitterly over the Warrens’s collection. Most of the rest of the audience seemed to be distinctly pleased, discussing how they could feel energy in the room, or how they though they felt something playing with their hair. Others looked through copies of the Warren casefile book, The Demonologist, and wondered how the world remained unconvinced at the proof of hauntings, when the photos in the book so clearly showed a bottle knocked on its side “by a ghost”, or a chair hovering in the air, mysteriously half out of frame. I suppose in the end I’m not sure what I expected to find. Proof of haunting? Kindred spirits? A real sense of wonder and amazement at the idea of the supernatural? I suppose that last one was definitely present, if only in my fellow audience members.
Still, as I spoke briefly with Mrs. Warren at the end of the night and thanked her for letting us into her home, I couldn’t help but think that she was a very polite and sweet lady, one who very genuinely missed her late husband. Whenever she spoke of Ed her voice became quite soft, and there was a definite admiration in her tone, as well as a good deal of loneliness. She also seemed quite earnest in her assessments of her haunting cases, even if those around her were avid about making a profit from the experience. There’s a strange disconnect between the aspects of Lorraine Warren, a very sweet New England lady, a self-proclaimed psychic and demonologist, and one of the controversial masterminds behind dozens of money-making haunting cases that many have described as elaborate frauds.
To those still on the fence, take the trip out to explore the Warren home. Appointments can be made through the NESPR group via Warrens.net. Though if you’re looking for concrete proof of ghosts and demons, the trip might fall short; rather you may find something more akin to a walk through a Halloween fun house. Regardless, what you’ll really find on display is the way in which humans so easily see what they want to see when looking into the unknown.