Growing up I was fascinated by the paranormal. My Italian family was full of strange stories of spirits and ghosts and visitations from the other side - doorbells that mysteriously rung after someone died across the country, cabinets that opened up to signal a visit from a dead relative, a chilling tale of a patch of dead grass in the shape of a coffin. I read every book about the unexplained, about ghosts, about demons, that I could get my hands on. There was a point where I really wanted to become a parapsychologist, to actively investigate the unexplained and the bizarre. Then I realized you make no money and, to do it right, you had to be good at math and science, not just ghost stories.
During this period I became very familiar with the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren. They were the pre-eminent paranormal investigators of the late 20th century, and most famously are the people who first looked into the Amityville Horror case. But the Warren casefiles are much deeper than just that highly questionable incident. They've investigated ghosts, possessions, even a werewolf. Ed is gone, but Lorraine is still with us, an ethereal old lady whose wrists are weighed down with a dozen tinkling bracelets.
There have been many movies about Ed and Lorraine, but The Conjuring, opening this weekend, is far and away the best. When Warner Bros invited me to the junket for the film there was one person I wanted to talk with - not James Wan, the director, or Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine in the film. I wanted to talk to the real Lorraine. And I didn't want to talk about making a movie. I wanted to talk about ghosts and demons and the way she and her husband fought them.
Whether you believe in these things or not, Lorraine does. Very much so. I have no question that everything she told me is genuine. Whether any of this stuff happened - whether she has psychic abilities, whether she can communicate with the dead, whether she has ever exorcised a family - she firmly believes it did. She is not a faker, she is not a phony. She is not running a scam. That is the spirit with which I approached this interview.
But the first thing I had to do was get myself a free psychic reading. I hoped she didn't sense anything malicious hovering around me - my luck the last few weeks indicated that could be the case.
A quick note: Lorraine was joined by Tony Spera, director of the New England Society for Psychic Research, the organization the Warrens founded.
I was told I had to open up by asking what you saw in my aura.
OK, let me see. I have to look at you a while. There’s something blue around you, but I don’t know what that really means. [stares intently] Decision? Do have a decision-making thing?
I’m at a crossroads.
There. That’s what the blue is. You have to really weigh. Don’t move too fast. Don’t move too fast at all. You have to give it a lot of thought, pros and cons, before you make the decision. Because the decision is going to be maybe lasting... if you do the right one.
Thank you! That’s very helpful, actually. When I was growing up I was interested in becoming a parapsychologist. That was an early career I wanted to pursue. That makes me interested in the nitty gritty realities of what you’ve been doing your whole life, how these entities interact with us. Starting with the entity in this case, what drew it to the family?
You don’t really know for sure what they’re attracted to. That family attraction... there was nothing else there, there was no religion. No godliness. It allows them to come in.
When you’re dealing with a nonhuman spirit like this, is it important to discover the entity’s name?
No. I don’t do that at all. I don’t find it necessary to do it. There are so many, they’re like mosquitos. There are a lot of them around. I can’t do it that way. But I know how to follow something. In other words, when I say follow something, when somebody talks to me and asks certain questions, I’ll say just lead in with what you want. I don’t like to go around the bush. That’s how I investigate.
There are so many and they’re like mosquitos, but whenever you hear about someone having a demonic experience the entity is always claiming to be really important, a big player in Hell.
They like to play that role. Most cases you’re not dealing with demons.
You’re dealing with...?
Spirit activity. Not demons.
Do you deal with a lot of demons in general?
My husband was a demonologist, so we had a lot. But there are more human spirits. There are far more human spirits.
Someone with your sensitivity - when you’re walking down the street does it get in the way? Can you turn it off?
I don’t... you know, sometimes when you’re in a bad situation and you’re alone and you’re walking in an area that isn’t comfortable? I try to put on blinders, so I don’t have to see or experience.
The work you and Ed did, did that gain you a level of notoriety? When you walk into a room, do they know who you are?
I hope they don’t know who I am!
Tony Spera: But they knew who Ed was a few times.
LW: Yes, they did.
TS: One of the spirits in Enfield, England, Ed asked a spirit that was coming out of thin air, ‘Do you know who I am?’ and the spirit said, ‘Ed. Ed.’ Twice like that.
LW: It freaked him out.
TS: They know what Ed and Lorraine are trying to do. They’re trying to get rid of them. That was a weird case in Enfield, England.
LW: It was a girl that was really taken over by inhuman spirits. She had a twin sister. They levitated, criss crossed in the air, landed in each others’ beds.
TS: One of them dematerialized for 17 and a half minutes.
TS: Vanished. They were looking for her, and she reappeared in a cabinet she could never have fit in on her own. It was like she was double jointed. It was like this electrical box where they keep the meters. She was stuffed in there, and after they got her out they tried to get her back in there, and there was no humanly way possible she could have fit in there.
Was she in there the whole 17 minutes, or did she go someplace... else?
LW: We don’t know where she went. I want to tell you: you would not want to be in her presence. If you moved near her... [pulls back like she’s shocked]
You could feel it?
TS: Some of the scientists thought she was a ventriloquist. Voices would come out of thin air. All of a sudden you’d hear ‘Ed!’ or growling sounds, and the scientists thought the girls were doing it. Scientists studied it and they said the girls didn’t know how to be ventriloquists, they weren’t doing it and it was coming out of thin air. They couldn’t tell what it was, but Ed said they were demons, coming in the guise of dead humans from a local graveyard.
They were pretending to be human spirits?
LW: They were pretending, yes.
TS: Ed asked, ‘What are you?’ They told him their names, one said he was Fred. Ed said, ‘You’re Fred?’ And the other one said, ‘NO! I’m Tommy!’
LW: They were fighting back and forth.
TS: So Ed says, ‘What were you. Were you guys Christians?’ And they said -
TS: So Ed said, ‘What were you?’ And they said, [growling] ‘Soldier. Soldier.’ So Ed said, ‘Aren’t soldiers Christian?’ And they went ‘RRRRAAAAAAAHHHHHH!’, growling like that. Crazy. It was a crazy case.
LW: In this house, this one time, you get scared. You really get scared, and you wonder what am I going to use for protection? You can’t have a gun. So I got an idea: I put an overhear light on, and I got under it.
TS: The reason she did that, Devin, is that an evil spirit finds it very difficult to manifest in either God’s light or even in artificial light. A lot of times you won’t see a ghost when you have the lights on in your house, but when you shut off the lights things materialize. It has happened, where people see things in the day time, seen ghosts, but it’s a lot more rare. They don’t like anything that’s do with God, like light.
Every time there’s a case that gets a lot of attention there’s always an argument about whether it’s fake, if it’s a hoax, if the people are crazy. Do you think this sort of stuff can ever be scientifically proven, one way or another?
LW: That is very, very hard to answer. Why hasn’t it been answered before? We’re going through a time where people are brilliant. There’s a lot of help out there. But we’re not going to have any answers.
TS: Have you heard the expression you can’t prove a negative? When someone says they’ve seen a ghost, we say you can’t prove they didn’t. James Randi has offered one million to prove that the supernatural exists. Ed said, ‘You know what, I’ll give him two million to prove it doesn’t.’ People who don’t believe in the supernatural don’t believe in God. Ed would ask skeptics if they believed in God and the answer would either be no or ‘That has nothing to do with it.’ And that has everything to do with it. If you don’t believe in a supernatural being how can you believe in things God created?
Bouncing off of that, with these spirits and the work you do, how vital is it that it’s the Christian god? Can someone who believes in a different god also do battle with these spirits?
LW: Yes. Through their own faith. Your own particular faith is what protects you.
TS: Ed used to say that any religion that preaches love of God and fellow man is a good religion. We may look in the sky and call it a different name, but it’s the same belief.
LW: The Jewish religion is very strong. Very, very strong. I don’t know what your religion is...
TS:All religions are good that preach love of the fellow man.
Has there been a change in recent years? More cases, fewer? More spirits coming over?
LW: You have to realize there are different areas, hon. There are some areas you rarely get called in on. But there are some areas -
TS: Old areas. Like New England.
LW: Old. Old.
TS: England overseas.
LW: We spent a lot of time in England and Scotland. That’s a paradise for them.
TS: The older a place is the more tragedies occur, and that leads to more ghost activity. Tragedies lead to the ghost syndrome. You get 45 murders in one area and some souls will be earthbound.
When you deal with human spirits are most of them conscious spirits or are most of them just repeating activity? Are they just walking down the same hallway again and again, or are they aware and hurting?
LW: Some have a great deal of awareness. Others are flipping back and forth and not making sense. Not making sense at all. It’s amazing the questions that you can get, and try to give them an answer.
When you’re dealing with a human spirit how important is it to know who they are, to find out their story, so you can give them peace?
LW: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to let me know are you human?’ If you don’t get an answer, it’s inhuman. If you call it in his name...
But if it’s human, do you need to know if they died young, or why they’re trapped...?
LW: Oh, no.
TS: I think what Lorraine does is she tries to psychically communicate with them to go towards the light.
With inhuman spirits, just the invocation of Jesus is enough. They can’t even fake it. If you say to them, ‘In the name of Lord Jesus Christ,’ they can’t just play cool and ignore it?
LW: Oh no. Oh no. They melt down. That’s how I put it.
TS: God’s power is more powerful than a demonic power.
Let’s say a non-believer goes into a home with nonhuman activity, they see it happening and they believe it. If they say to the spirit, ‘The power of Christ compels you’ - because they’ve seen that in the movies - would they still be able to carry weight, or does it have to have the faith?
LW: You have to have the faith behind you. Otherwise it’s just words.
This movie ends with the door open to explore other stories from your case files. Are there other investigations that would make a good movie?
TS: Probably the one we just talked about.
LW: Enfield. Middlesex. The Raggedy Ann doll. The Satanic idol in the woods. The Shadow Doll.
When there’s a horrible tragedy in the world, when someone does something truly evil, do you ever wonder if there’s a demonic entity behind it? Or is it just what people do?
TS: Your mind does go to ‘That’s what evil is.’ Something possessed this guy’s thoughts. Where did the thought come to do that?
LW: Why would a mother teach her son to fire a gun?