The Disturbing True Story Of Ed And Lorraine Warren, The Paranormal Investigators From ‘The Conjuring’

Published September 4, 2022
Updated March 12, 2024

The founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research, Ed And Lorraine Warren investigated America's most infamous cases of haunting and demonic possession.

Before Hollywood turned their ghost stories into blockbuster movies, Ed and Lorraine Warren made a name for themselves by investigating cases of paranormal hauntings and happenings.

In 1952, the married couple founded the New England Society for Psychic Research. And in the basement of their research center, they created their very own Occult Museum, horrifyingly adorned with satanic objects and demonic artifacts.

Ed And Lorraine Warren

Getty ImagesEd and Lorraine Warren are paranormal investigators whose cases have inspired movies such as The Conjuring, The Amityville Horror, and Annabelle.

But the center’s primary purpose was to serve as the base of operations for the couple. According to Ed and Lorraine Warren, they investigated over 10,000 cases over the course of their careers with doctors, nurses, researchers, and police at their assistance. And both Warrens claimed to be uniquely qualified to investigate strange and unusual phenomena.

Lorraine Warren said that she could see auras around people ever since she was seven or eight years old. She was scared if she told her parents they’d think she was crazy, so she kept her powers to herself.

But when she met her husband Ed Warren when she was 16, he knew there was something different about her. Ed himself said he grew up in a haunted house and was a self-taught demonologist as a result.

So, Lorraine and Ed Warren pooled their talents together and set out to investigate the paranormal. What they found is enough to keep you up all night.

The Annabelle Doll Case

Annabelle Doll

YouTubeThe Annabelle doll in her case at the Warrens’ Occult Museum.

In a locked glass box in the Occult Museum, there’s a Raggedy Ann doll named Annabelle with a “positively do not open” warning sign on it. The doll may not look menacing, but of all the items in the Occult Museum, “that doll is what I’d be most frightened of,” said Tony Spera, the Warrens’ son-in-law.

According to the Warrens’ report, a 28-year-old nurse who received the doll as a gift in 1968 noticed that it started to change positions. Then she and her roommate started finding parchment paper with written messages saying things like, “Help me, help us.”

As if that wasn’t strange enough, the girls claimed that they didn’t even have parchment paper in their house.

Next, the doll started showing up in different rooms and leaking blood. Unsure of what to do, the two women turned to a medium, who said the doll was being occupied by the spirit of a young girl named Annabelle Higgins.

That’s when Ed and Lorraine Warren took an interest in the case and contacted the women. After evaluating the doll, they “came to the immediate conclusion that the doll itself was not in fact possessed but manipulated by an inhuman presence.”

A 2014 interview with Lorraine Warren that includes a look at the real Annabelle doll.

The Warrens’ evaluation was that the spirit in the doll was looking to possess a human host. So they took it from the women to keep them safe.

While they were driving away with the doll, the brakes in their car failed several times. They pulled over and doused the doll in holy water, and they say that after that their car trouble stopped.

According to Ed and Lorraine Warren, Annabelle the doll continued to move around their house on her own too. So, they locked her in her glass case and sealed it with a binding prayer.

But even now, visitors to the Warrens’ museum say that Annabelle continues to cause mischief, and may even take revenge on skeptics. One couple of nonbelievers reportedly got into a motorcycle accident soon after visiting the museum, with the survivor saying they had been laughing about Annabelle just before the crash.

The Warrens Investigate The Perron Family Case

The Perron Family

YouTubeThe Perron family in January of 1971, shortly after they moved in to their haunted house.

After Annabelle, it didn’t take Ed and Lorraine Warren long to land more high-profile cases. While the Perron Family served as the inspiration behind the the film The Conjuring, the Warrens saw it as a very real and terrifying situation.

In January 1971, the Perron Family — Carolyn and Roger, and their five daughters — moved to a large Farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. The family noticed strange occurrences happening right away that only got worse over time. It started with a missing broom, but it escalated into full-fledged angry spirits.

In researching the home, Carolyn claimed to discover that the same family had owned it for eight generations, during which time many died by drowning, murder, or hanging.

When the Warrens were brought in, they claimed the home was haunted by a spirit named Bathsheba. In fact, a woman named Bathsheba Sherman had lived on the property in the 1800s. She was a Satanist suspected of involvement in the murder of a neighbor’s child.

“Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position,” said Andrea Perron.

Lorraine Warren made a brief cameo in the 2013 movie The Conjuring which starred Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as the Warrens.

According to Andrea Perron, the family encountered several other spirits in the house that made their beds levitate and smelled like rotting flesh. The family avoided going into the basement because of a “cold, stinking presence.”

“The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening,” Lorraine recalled. The Warrens made frequent trips to the house over the years that the Perron family lived there.

However, unlike the movie, they didn’t perform an exorcism. Instead, they performed a seance that had Carolyn Perron speaking in tongues before she was allegedly thrown across the room by spirits. Shaken by the seance and concerned for his wife’s mental health, Roger Perron asked the Warrens to leave and stop investigating the house.

According to Andrea Perron’s account, the family finally saved up enough to move out of the house in 1980 and the hauntings stopped.

Ed And Lorraine Warren And The Amityville Horror Case

Amityville Murder House

Getty ImagesThe Amityville House

Though their other investigations remain intriguing, the Amityville Horror case was Ed and Lorraine Warren’s claim to fame.

In November 1974, 23-year-old Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr., the eldest child of the DeFeo family, murdered his entire family in their beds with a .35 caliber rifle. The infamous case became the catalyst for the claim that spirits haunted the Amityville house.

In 1976, George and Kathy Lutz and their two sons moved into the Long Island house and soon believed a demonic spirit was residing there with them. George said he witnessed his wife transforming into a 90-year-old woman and levitating above the bed.

They claimed to see slime seeping out of the walls and a pig-like creature that menaced them. Even more unsettling, knives flew off the counters, pointing right at members of the family.

The family walked around with a crucifix reciting the Lord’s Prayer but to no avail.

Lorraine Warren Sensing Spirits

Russell McPhedran/Fairfax Media via Getty ImagesOne of Lorraine Warren’s favorite investigative techniques was to lay back on the beds in a house, which she claimed allowed her to detect and absorb the psychic energy in a home.

One night, their final night there, they say banging “as loud as a marching band emanated throughout the house.” After 28 days, they couldn’t take it anymore and fled the home.

Ed and Lorraine Warren visited the home 20 days after the Lutzs left. According to the Warrens, Ed was physically pushed to the floor and Lorraine felt an overwhelming sense of a demonic presence. Along with their research team, they claimed to capture a picture of a spirit in the form of a little boy on the stairway.

The story became so high-profile, it launched its own conspiracy theories, books, and films, including the 1979 classic The Amityville Horror.

Though some skeptics believe the Lutzs fabricated their story, the couple passed a lie detector test with flying colors. And their son, Daniel, admits that he still has nightmares about the horrifying things he experienced in the Amityville house.

The Enfield Haunting

The Enfield Haunting

YouTubeOne of the Hodgson girls caught on camera being flung from her bed.

In August 1977, the Hodgson family reported strange things happening in their house in Enfield, England. Knocking came from all over the house, causing the Hodgsons to think perhaps burglars were prowling around the residence. They called the police to investigate and the officer who arrived is said to have witnessed a chair rising and moving on its own.

At other times, Legos and marbles flew across the room and were hot to the touch afterward. Folded clothes leapt off of tabletops to fly around the room. Lights flickered, furniture spun, and the sound of barking dogs emanated from empty rooms.

Then, inexplicably, a fireplace ripped itself out of the wall, attracting the attention of paranormal investigators from around the world — including Ed and Lorraine Warren.

BBC footage inside the Enfield haunted house.

The Warrens, who visited Enfield in 1978, were convinced that it was a real “poltergeist” case. “Those who deal with the supernatural day in and day out know the phenomena are there — there’s no doubt about it,” Ed Warren is quoted as saying.

Then, two years after they started, the mysterious activity known as the Enfield haunting abruptly stopped. However, the family maintains that they didn’t do anything to stop it.

Ed And Lorraine Warren Close Their Case Book

Ed and Lorraine Warren founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952 and devoted the rest of their lives to investigating paranormal phenomena.

Through the years, the Warrens performed all of their paranormal investigations free of charge, making their livelihood from selling books, movie rights, lectures, and tours of their museum.

Ed Warren died from complications following a stroke on August 23, 2006. Lorraine Warren retired from active investigations shortly after. However, she remained as a consultant to the NESPR until her death in 2019.

According to the Warrens’ official website, the couple’s son-in-law Tony Spera has taken over as director of NESPR and head curator of the Warren’s Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut.

Many skeptics have criticized Ed and Lorraine Warren over the years, saying they’re good at telling ghost stories, but lack any real evidence. However, Ed and Lorraine Warren always maintained that their experiences with demons and ghosts absolutely took place as they described.

Whether or not their stories are true, it’s clear that these the Warrens made their mark on the paranormal world. Their legacy is solidified by the dozens of films and television series that have been created based on their many eerie cases.

After learning about the real Ed and Lorraine Warren cases that inspired The Conjuring movies, read about Robert the Doll, another haunted doll the Warrens might be interested in. Then read about Valak, the fearsome demon from The Nun.

Katie Serena
A former staff writer at All That's Interesting, Katie Serena has also published work in Salon.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Serena, Katie. "The Disturbing True Story Of Ed And Lorraine Warren, The Paranormal Investigators From ‘The Conjuring’.", September 4, 2022, Accessed June 14, 2024.