For the past thirty-five years if you’ve ever watched a television show or movie based on actual haunting experiences, odds are you’ve heard the names Ed and Lorraine Warren. They first drew mainstream publicity with their involvement in the Amityville haunting in 1975, and most recently, the 2013 film “The Conjuring” featured events from a case they worked on. But who was Ed Warren and what makes his work with his wife, Lorraine, so fascinating?
Ed Warren was born in Connecticut in 1926. He claimed to have lived in a house shared with some entity, a “psychic cold” he called it. At age sixteen, he met Lorraine Rita Moran during her visits with her mother to the theater where young Ed worked. Not long after, Ed went into the Navy and married Lorraine when he was home on survivor’s leave after his ship sank in WWII. As young parents, Ed’s interest in art and the paranormal coalesced when he began drawing pictures of homes that he’d heard were haunted and Lorraine would give it to the owners, explaining that her husband enjoyed drawing haunted places. Often, the homes’ owners would allow the Warrens to come inside, providing them with their earliest ghost investigations. Between Ed’s interest in the paranormal and Lorraine’s talents as a clairvoyant and trance medium, the Warrens soon began taking on numerous cases.
New England Society for Psychic Research
In 1952, the Warrens formed the New England Society for Psychic Research. Ed’s Catholic faith combined with an interest in scientific investigation, and he would try to help people plagued with spiritual problems in their homes, be it poltergeists, psychic disturbances, or even the demonic. Many of the investigations led to the removal of haunted items which the Warrens took back to their own home, eventually opening the Warrens Occult Museum. Understanding that people would be skeptical of their beliefs and their works, Ed had written that religion was man-made but spirituality wasn’t. His work wasn’t one of religion but one of the spirit.
Over the course of their careers, the Warrens participated in over 10,000 paranormal investigations, and Ed made a name for himself as a self-proclaimed demonologist. He was well-versed in demons and the Catholic ritual of exorcism. He was said to have performed a number of exorcisms with the church’s knowledge, one of the few lay-people sanctioned to do so.
Ed passed away in 2006, but Lorraine continues their work. She has appeared in a number of documentaries on the paranormal. She showed up from time to time on A&E’s “Paranormal State” and Discovery Channel’s “A Haunting,” her dark hair now silver and her dated wardrobe as if she walked off the set of the old “Dark Shadows.” In a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, she’s even spotted in “The Conjuring.”
When I was a child, my mother had given up her musical career to become a reading teacher. So frequently, she’d order books from the Scholastic orders, and between the Poe collections and endless R.L. Stine Fear Street novels were a number of books on true hauntings and unexplained phenomena authored by Ed Warren. I inhaled those books.
In 1977, Jay Anson authored THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, which detailed the frightening account of the Lutz family’s escape after twenty-eight days from a house they claimed was so haunted they feared for their lives. The Warrens were there.
The Smurl haunting in which Jack and Janet Smurl were attacked by apparitions in their home was the basis of the the 1991 television film, “The Haunted.” The Warrens were there.
In 1986, the Snedeker family in Connecticut moved into a a house that was once a funeral home. The family soon began to believe the house was haunted by a number of disturbing entities. The case was featured on an early episode of the Discovery Channel series “A Haunting” and was the basis for the 2009 feature film, “The Haunting in Connecticut.” Again, the Warrens were there.
Whether you believe in the Warrens’ work or that they are frauds, they have left an immeasurable mark in the horror genre and mainstreamed investigations into the paranormal.
Be on the lookout for part two of the Scream Queens’ discussion on the Warrens, coming with a post from Cat Scully next week!