Bathsheba Sherman was a real woman who died in Rhode Island in 1885 — so how did she end up being depicted as the baby-killing witch featured in The Conjuring?
Believe it or not, Bathsheba Sherman, the fearsome demon that terrorized the Perron family in The Conjuring, was not an entirely fictional creation. Some believed she was a witch who worshipped Satan and was related to Mary Eastey, a woman who was hanged in the Salem Witch Trials. Others believe Sherman murdered children in 19th-century Connecticut.
As for the actual historical records, they confirm that a Bathsheba Thayer was born in 1812 and would later marry a farmer named Judson Sherman in Connecticut before birthing a boy named Herbert. The legends, meanwhile, claim that she was later caught sacrificing her son to Satan with a sewing needle. Cursing all who would dare live on her land, she supposedly climbed a tree and hanged herself.
According to paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, Bathsheba Sherman promised to haunt anyone who would go on to occupy the land where her home once sat. The couple was contacted by the Perron family who had moved onto the property in 1971. Household items had begun to vanish — and their children were supposedly visited nightly by a malevolent female spirit.
Their eldest daughter, Andrea Perron, has since chronicled her traumatizing childhood in House of Darkness: House of Light. While skeptics say that the Warrens are mere profiteers of the unexplained, Perron has yet to waver from her story. But to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the true story of The Conjuring, one must return to the life of of the real Bathsheba Sherman.
The Legend Of Bathsheba Sherman
By all accounts, Bathsheba Thayer had a relatively contented childhood. She would grow into an envied beauty and tie the knot at 32 years old in 1844. Her husband ran a profitable produce business from his 200-acre farm in Harrisville, Rhode Island. But the community would soon see the newlywed wife as a threat.
Bathsheba Sherman had been babysitting her neighbor’s son when the young boy mysteriously died. Local doctors established that the child’s skull had been impaled with a small albeit fatal tool. Despite the fact that Sherman was the last to tend to the boy, the case never went to court — and local women were enraged.
According to legend, Bathsheba Sherman’s son would never celebrate his first birthday — as his mother stabbed him to death a week after he was born. Her confounded husband is said to have caught her in the act and witnessed her vowing allegiance to the Devil before climbing the tree she would hang from in 1849.
While some claimed they had three other children, no census records of this exist. Some remain convinced, however, and that none of these siblings lived past seven. Ultimately, Bathsheba Sherman’s story remains largely unsourced, while records confirm Judson Sherman died in 1881.
With Bathsheba Sherman’s tombstone in downtown Harrisville revealing her date of death as May 25, 1885, her alleged suicide in 1849 appears utterly fabricated. Today, Andrea Perron is unconvinced that it was Sherman who terrorized her as a child, at all — but the neighboring Arnold Estate matriarch who hanged herself in the barn in 1797, instead.
The Perron Family Haunting And The True Story Of The Conjuring
A financially-strapped truck driver, Roger Perron was overjoyed to close on the modestly-priced 14-bedroom farmhouse in 1970. The family moved in the following January. His wife Carolyn and their five daughters had transitioned into the new house well, until odd noises started emanating from empty rooms and items went missing.
The children began to speak of spirits visiting them in the night. One was a boy named Oliver Richardson, who befriended Andrea’s sister, April. Cindy saw them too and reminded a saddened April that these spirits couldn’t leave the house to play — and were trapped indoors.
“My father just wanted them to go away, to pretend none of it was real, just a figment of our imaginations,” said Andrea. “But it started happening to him, too, and he really couldn’t deny it anymore.”
Carolyn Perron was finding neatly-piled dirt in the middle of rooms she had just finished cleaning, with no one at home. Meanwhile, Andrea was being tormented nightly by a malevolent female spirit with a bent neck she believed had been hanged. Andrea believed it wanted to possess her mother to kill her and her siblings.
“Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be the mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position,” said Andrea Perron.
When Carolyn Perron heard of this, she contacted a local historian who told her of Bathsheba Sherman and that she enjoyed starving and beating her farmhands. The records showed the Sherman Farm had been in the same family for eight centuries and that many who lived there died oddly: drowning, hanging, murder.
Convinced Bathsheba Sherman was haunting them, the Perrons contacted the Warrens. A self-taught demonologist and self-described clairvoyant, Ed and Lorraine, respectively, agreed with that assessment. The couple conducted a seance in 1974, during which Carolyn Perron allegedly got possessed and nearly died.
From Bathsheba Sherman To The Perrons, Is The Conjuring Based On A True Story?
According to Andrea Perron, her mother’s body contorted into a ball. Her mother’s scream led Andrea to believe she had died. She claimed that her mother was possessed for several minutes, and was slammed against the floor with her head. Her mother was temporarily unconscious before returning to her former self.
“I thought I was going to pass out,” said Andrea. “My mother began to speak a language not of this world in a voice not her own. Her chair levitated and she was thrown across the room.”
As chronicled in her book and the Bathsheba: Search for Evil documentary, Andrea Perron’s father kicked the Warrens out for good after that. They returned only one more time to ensure Carolyn Perron had survived the seance. The Perron family was forced to live in the house until 1980 due to financial reasons.
Ultimately, the presence of Ed and Lorraine Warren has become fodder for skeptics who may have good reason to dismiss them as frauds. The story in general has become streamlined and exaggerated in The Conjuring. The true story of The Conjuring remains unknowable, while Andrea Perron claims to remember every terrifying detail.
“The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening,” she said. “It still affects me to talk about it today…Both my mother and I would just as soon swallow our tongue than tell a lie. People are free to believe whatever they want to believe. But I know what we experienced.”
She claims the film took liberties, like adding blood or replacing the seance with an exorcism. Ultimately, it’s likely most would have never heard of Bathsheba Sherman without The Conjuring. Legend has it that she turned into stone when she died. Others blamed a rare type of paralysis, which, like most aspects of Sherman’s story, appears more likely than the supernatural.