Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ghostbusters: Ed and Lorraine Warren Part I

Ghost hunters like the legendary Harry Price and Most Haunted star Derek Acorah want to capture evidence of the afterlife, and perhaps get famous while they're at it. Ghostbusters, on the other hand, actually try to de-ghostify homes and businesses by finding out what the ghost(s) or demons want, then helping them or banishing them. One of the psychic detectives mentioned in Psychic Detectives: Part IV, Annette Martin, is also a ghostbuster.

Beyond any doubt, the most prolific ghostbusters of the twentieth century were the late Ed Warren of Connecticut and his wife, Lorraine. Together they spent over 40 years getting rid of spirits, demons, and poltergeists with the aid of some assistants and a few traditionalist Catholic exorcists. Their exploits have been featured in numerous sensationalistic horror books and TV documentaries. The recent horror flick The Haunting in Connecticut was inspired by one of their cases, and Lorraine makes regular appearances as Ryan Buell's mentor on the A&E program Paranormal State.

Ed Warren (1926-2006) referred to himself as a religious demonologist. Raised Catholic in what he described as the rough-and-tumble part of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Ed lived in a haunted house as a child. He witnessed ghost lights, heavy breathing, and the spectre of an old woman. His commonsense policeman father always reminded him that there was a logical explanation for everything that occurred, but this never sank in with Ed. He became fascinated by the supernatural.

Lorraine also grew up in Bridgeport. She began to experience psychic phenomena when she was about 9 years old, starting with auras, but kept her powers in check to avoid disapproval from her devout Irish-Catholic family. She knew nothing about hauntings. spirits, demons, or any other supernatural things until she met Ed. They married in 1945, when Ed was serving in the Army. Then, at 20 or 21 years of age, Lorraine stepped into the Ocean Born Mary House in New Hampshire and experienced her first out-of-body experience. We'll examine this incident soon.

Ed attended art school after his stint in the Army. Throughout the '50s, he and Lorraine roamed New England in a Chevrolet Daisy, searching for haunted houses for Ed to paint. This was the extent of their training in psychical research.

In the '60s the Warrens set up a sort of ghost-investigation service, but they discovered that many haunted houses are infested by a far more malign presences than the spirits of the dead.
Typically, this is what the Warrens did when called in on a case: After getting some background from the complainants (usually a family), Lorraine walked through the house to pinpoint the problem. Demons can be detected by the presence of a particular nauseating odor, according to the Warrens. They prefer dark nooks and crannies, so the Warrens always cased out basements, crawlspaces, and closets. After giving the house the sniff test, they turned on an ordinary tape recorder. It sometimes picked up unexplained noises, and the Warrens played these tapes for their demonology students and lecture audiences, to prove that demons walk among us. They also displayed blurry photos that depicted white streaks; Lorraine explained these were round "globules" of spirit energy invisible to the human eye, but not to cameras.

The Warrens believed that people, not just homes, can be possessed by demons. Ed taught his students that demonic possession occurs in an orderly, 5-step process: Encroachment/permission, infestation, oppression/obsession, and possession (actual replacement of the human spirit). If the process isn't interrupted by a knowledgeable demonologist or spiritual leader, he warned, suicide and/or murder is always the final step. The Warrens always determined which stage had been reached when investigating a demon-infested house.

Depending on the severity of the haunting or demonic infestation, Ed would either perform a prayer session or call in assistance. The Warrens then studied the phenomena closely and advised the complainants on what to do and not to do. In the most extreme cases, an exorcist was summoned to perform a "deliverance" (a sort of "exorcism lite", popular with evangelical Protestants and Charismatics).

According to Ed, inhuman/demonic spirits are so unworthy of life they are prevented from taking on physical form, but can manipulate the physical environment in sundry ways, causing enormous damage and destruction. They harbor "immense, eternal hate of both Man and God". He taught that demonic manifestations often result from Satanic rituals, or curses, or occult activity. "Leave the occult alone and your chances of having spirit problems is almost nil." (Brittle, 118)
Part of his investigative process was to identify the occult "entryway" the spirit(s) had used to enter our reality. It could be something as innocuous as a ouija board session conducted for fun by a single member of the household a decade earlier, or something as dastardly as generational curses and pacts with the Devil made by Satanists.

To determine if someone was at the third stage of infestation, bodily possession by a demon, the Warrens relied almost exclusively on eyewitness reports. Ed insisted that he always sought ordinary explanations for strange phenomena before he would even consider a supernatural explanation, but he rarely consulted doctors or psychologists to find out if mental or medical conditions were to blame for his clients' unusual behaviour. This would have disastrous consequences in several cases.

In most cases, the people involved with the Warrens weren't harmed by having their house blessed or by holding prayer vigils. However, over the years the Warrens made a habit of aiding scammers, child molesters, and even murderers by offering supernatural excuses for their bad behaviour. They have blamed people not directly involved with their cases of creating supernatural havoc by practicing Satanism or placing curses on innocent people. They have been accused of exaggeration, sensationalism, exploitation, even outright fabrication. A look at some of their most famous cases will show these patterns clearly.

The Ocean Born Mary House

According to Lorraine, this is where her psychic powers first manifested fully. Ed had painted the haunted house as a dreary and forbidding place, but Lorraine had no reservations about entering it; she didn't believe in ghosts at that time. As soon as she stepped into the house, however, she experienced her first out-of-body experience and felt the overwhelming presence of despair. She soon discovered she was a clairvoyant and a trance medium.

From 1917 to 1965, this house was touted by owner Louis Roy as a haunted home containing hidden treasure. He gave it the name Ocean Born Mary House, after Mary Wallace, and ran it as a tourist attraction. His elderly mother would dress up in a shawl and bonnet and work at an old spinning wheel by the fire, while Roy rented out shovels so visitors could dig for gold in the backyard.

As legend had it, Mary Wallace had been born at sea in 1720, en route from Ireland to America on a ship captained by her father, James Wilson. Somewhere in the Atlantic the Wolf was raided by Spanish pirates under the command of a terrifying buccaneer called Don Pedro. Hearing the newborn baby's cry from below deck, Don Pedro demanded the baby be brought to him. He had intended to slaughter everyone on board, but when he saw this tiny infant cradled in her mother's arms, he softened. He ordered his men back to their vessel, allowing the Wolf to forge on to America. As a parting gift, he gave the captain's wife a length of beautiful green brocade silk.

Twenty-four years later, Mary wed her husband in a gown made from that silk.

Around 1760, the pirate Don Pedro (now retired) learned that the Irish baby he had spared lived in New Hampshire. So he settled in the town of Henniker, built a spacious house, and invited the young widow with three sons to live in it. Mary Wallace agreed. Shortly after moving in, she saw Don Pedro and a swarthy stranger burying a trunk in the backyard in the dead of night. The old pirate refused to tell her what was inside it.

One day Mary came home to find the old pirate slain, run through with a cutlass. She remained in the house until her death in 1814, amid rumours that a fortune in pirate gold was concealed somewhere on the property.

The real story of the Ocean Born Mary House isn't quite as interesting. The house had actually been owned by one of Mary Wallace's sons, and she never lived there; she lived a mile away, with another son. There wasn't a pirate protector, there was no gold. But the legend and the tales spun by Louis Roy gained wide attention with the publication of Hans Holzer's book Yankee Ghosts, and to this day the Ocean Born Mary house - though unremarkable in just about every respect - continues to draw curious tourists.

Whatever residual despair Lorraine Warren felt there didn't come from pirates or secretive widows.

Satan Rock

In August 1979, New York and Connecticut state police contacted the Warrens to help investigate the alleged Satanic doings of a "prominent rock-&-roll singer" living in Ridgefield, Connecticut, on the New York border. Residents had been reporting "profane chants, gunshots, and bizarre music" coming from the singer's property. A policemen had been attacked by a caped and hooded mob.

Poking around the singer's estate, the Warrens found the remains of a "ritualistic bonfire, ceremonial stakes, and signs of animal sacrifice." (Brittle, 103) Later, this singer introduced a new form of music: Satan rock.

The problem with this story is that Satanic rock was around before 1979, and not one of its originators lived in or around Ridgefield.

However, I came across a mention of Keith Richards in Maury Terry's book The Ultimate Evil. Richards lived in Connecticut around the time in question, and according to Terry his then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg was practicing weird rituals in his mansion. A "burned-out" area was found on the property, indicating ritual bonfires.

In my humble opinion, bonfires, loud parties, and a freaky girlfriend do not a Satanist make.

Amityville

This was the case that made the Warrens famous. Lorraine still brags about their involvement, and Ed never failed to tell fans that if they wanted to see the most shocking photos taken inside the house, they would have to attend one of the Warrens' lectures.

You probably know the story. In November 1974, 23-year-old Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, Jr. killed his entire family with a rifle as they slept in their home in the village of Amityville, New York. Butch DeFeo was a heroin junkie who was stealing money from the family's car dealership. He had never done an honest day's work in his life, but he seemed to think his family owed him a living. So he shot his parents, his two younger brothers, and his two younger sisters in the hopes of inheriting everything. It's still not known how he was able to shoot each family member without waking the others. All were found in their beds.

After murdering his family, Butch drove to the dealership and pretended nothing had happened. Late that night, after hanging out with friends, he "discovered" the bodies. Faced with evidence that one of his guns had been the murder weapon, he soon confessed. Though he pled insanity and did a passable impression of a lunatic on the witness stand, the jury saw through DeFeo's manipulations and convicted him of second-degree murder.

Over the years, Butch DeFeo made many ludicrous allegations about the murders: In 1986 he declared his mother Louise was the real killer, and in 2000 he said his sister Dawn and her friends carried out the murders in front of him. Afterwards, he shot Dawn. At other times, DeFeo has openly admitted he murdered his family.

Others have come forward with strange, highly suspect stories about what happened that night. An anonymous man claiming to be a DEA agent told researcher Ric Moran that he been surveilling the house when the murders occurred. He saw Dawn leave the house and drive away in one of the family cars.
Gunpowder was allegedly found on Dawn's nightgown, as though she had fired a gun. Some suspect that Dawn really was the killer, or conspired with her brother only to be betrayed by him in the end.

Whatever happened, there is little doubt that the murders were Butch DeFeo's idea and that his motive was financial.

In December 1975 surveyor George Lutz moved into the DeFeo house at 112 Ocean Avenue with his wife Kathy and his three stepchildren, ranging in age from 5 to 9. In February of the following year they held a few press conferences, claiming to have spent just one month in their new home, because they had been tormented by terrifying phenomena that included hundreds of flies materializing in a closed room, disembodied voices, and mysterious fluids leaking from walls and keyholes. Kathy claimed they saw a demonic pig floating outside a window. George said he experienced bursts of rage that were very out of character while living in the house. Both claimed that Kathy spontaneously levitated in her sleep one night, and that her face took on the appearance of an old hag for the next six hours. The youngest child, Missy, had conversations with a ghost. The priest who blessed the house on the day they moved in (Kathy was Catholic) heard a man's voice say "get out" while he was alone in a room, and his car mysteriously broke down that evening.

The Lutzes consulted an eccentric paranormal researcher and "vampire hunter" named Stephen Kaplan to investigate their house. Kaplan, who often referred to himself as a doctor despite his lack of a doctorate, didn't conduct an investigation, but inconsistencies in George Lutz's story led him to conclude the entire haunting was a hoax. Researcher Rick Moran reached the same conclusion.

The Warrens, on the other hand, fully supported the Lutzes' account. Lorraine said she could sense a demonic presence in the house from the moment she entered it, and suggested that Butch DeFeo had been possessed by an evil spirit at the time of the murders. As evidence of possession, she pointed to the time at which the murders began: 3:00 AM. According to the Warrens, 3 AM is the "witching hour" at which people are most vulnerable to demonic attack. The Warrens concluded that the DeFeos were in a state of "phantomania" when Butch shot them, which paralyzed them and prevented them from crying out for help. They attributed the hoax allegations to Stephen Kaplan's 20-year "vendetta" against them, and seemed to delight in the fact that he died from a heart attack one week before his second book on the case, The Amityville Conspiracy, was published.

Jay Anson's nonfiction book The Amityville Horror and the movies of the same name contained numerous exaggerated elements:


  • The house was not situated on a site where local Native Americans abandoned their insane and dying, and there is no evidence for Hans Holzer's claim that an Indian chief was buried at the site.
  • There is no evidence to support Jay Anson's claim that Amityville settler John Ketcham lived "within 500 feet" of the house, or that he was a devil worshipper, or that he was driven out of the area for practicing witchcraft.

  • The "secret red room" in the basement was an ordinary storage area, clearly marked on floorplans.

  • The priest who blessed the house, Father Pecoraro, gave conflicting accounts of what he experienced there. At first he told researchers he didn't experience anything unsual at all, though in the fictionalized account he was ordered to "Get out!" by a throaty, disembodied voice, and later broke out in boils. Later he admitted he heard the voice and experienced some car trouble, but didn't attribute these things to the supernatural.

  • Subsequent owners found no evidence that the doors and windows had been damaged by mysterious gale-force winds that came of out nowhere, as described by George Lutz.

  • The Lutzes resided in the house for several months, not just one.

  • Most damning of all, Butch DeFeo's defense attorney, William Weber, had commissioned Anson's book and met with the Lutzes to discuss its contents. He told People in 1979 that he and George Lutz had concocted the whole story in the hopes of selling the rights to it. He hoped to gain an appeal for his client by presenting evidence that the house contained some force, natural or otherwise, that drove some of its inhabitants to insanity. He won the protracted legal battle that resulted from his collaboration with Anson and the Lutzes, but his client remains in prison.

  • In 2003 Kathleen Lutz's middle child, Christopher, declared the haunting was a hoax. He later partially retracted his accusation, saying that while some of the incidents were fabricated, the haunting really did occur.
The Warrens in no way contributed to resolving the case, aside from bolstering William Weber's argument that his client was insane or under some mysterious influence, rather than being criminally liable for the carefully orchestrated murder of his entire family. And even in that regard, the Warrens were less than helpful: Butch DeFeo remains in prison. Currently, he denies that any external influence drove him to kill his parents and siblings.

The Warrens were paid consultants to the first Amityville movie sequel.

George and Kathy Lutz insisted until their deaths (in 2006 and 2004, respectively) that the haunting was real.



Sources:

- Anson, Jay. The Amityville Horror: A True Story. Prentice Hall, 1977.

- Brittle, Gerald. The Devil in Connecticut. iUniverse, 2006.

- Lynott, Douglas B. "The Real Life Amityville Horror: The Murder of the DeFeo Family". TruTV Crime Library website.

- Nickell, Joe. "Amityville: The Horror of it All". Skeptical Inquirer, Jan./Feb. 2003.

- Osuna, Ric. The Night the DeFeos Died. Imprint, 2006.

- History's Mysteries: Amityville - Horror or Hoax? documentary
(History Channel, 2000)

- Wikipedia entry for "The Amityville Horror"

28 comments:

TK said...

Awesome! Can't wait for part two.
Personally, I find Lorraine Warren and her late husband pretty loathsome, but at the same time, fascinating.

The best book I've ever read on the Defeo killings is High Hopes, by the prosecuting attorney, Gerard Sullivan. Not all of Defeo’s family were asleep when they died. The idea that they were is put forward as evidence of the supernatural (how could they all sleep through such loud gunshots?)and repeated in most accounts of the killings. In fact, as Gerard Sullivan explains in his book, Defeo's youngest sister Allison was awake and looking at her killer, and his mother had raised herself and turned to look towards Defeo as she was shot. My guess is that the other victims did wake up, but that they stayed in bed out of fear - not sleep.

Defeo seems to have understood that the murder of the children is the most heinous of his actions, and so tries to shift their murder on to others, especially in the run up to parole hearings.

SME said...

Now that you mention it, I vaguely remember reading somewhere (not recently) that one of the DeFeo girls was awake and spoke to her brother or something.
Osuna hinted that the family knew what was going on but feigned sleep before they were shot (by Dawn). I think that's entirely possible - except for the Dawn part.

When I first came across the Warrens I couldn't decide if they were delusional, gullible, or just hucksters. I'm still not entirely sure, tho the killer Raggedy Ann doll story indicated total insanity...

TK said...

The Warrens bought into the idea that the family were asleep and diagnosed 'phantomania,'a supernatural slumber of some description.

"When I first came across the Warrens I couldn't decide if they were delusional, gullible, or just hucksters. I'm still not entirely sure, tho the killer Raggedy Ann doll story indicated total insanity..."I know what you mean. Over the years I've ultimately come down on the side of probably hucksters, with a healthy dollop of insanity/fantasists thrown in.

The other day I watched Discovery Channel's 'A haunting -The Apartment.' I wasn't surprised to see Lorraine crop up (it was one of those accounts that sound like a Christian morality tale against Wiccans). But she still has the capacity to shock me with her behaviour. She diagnosed a woman's flat mate as possessed by a demon. Over the phone. Having never met him, or been in the apartment. It was about as plausible as all of these accounts, but her behaviour still seemed grotesquely irresponsible.

SME said...

OMG. That's kind of horrifying. Not the haunting - the phone "diagnosis". But I guess I shouldn't be surprised; the Warrens were willing to pin the Johnson/Glatzel haunting on a "Satanic" family they'd never met, based purely on the fact that the Glatzels sometimes fell ill or were injured after visiting that family.

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TrodoMcCracken said...

Seriously, it was the boathouse that did this all. I watched the movie! The boathouse flapped it's stupid doors every time before something stupid happened.

Anonymous said...

Lorraine warren was a trance medium-that's when you voluntarily let spirits possess you,but she is against ouiji boards?isn't one just as bad as the other?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting such a balanced finding on the Amityville Horror. I'm 42 and attended a Warren lecture back in 1999 or so, when Ed Warren was still alive. The Warrens were interesting, but their lecture was something you'd expect from carnival barkers telling you scary stories. Ed Warren, for instance, said that Ouija boards are made in Salem, Mass., where the witch trials took place. (Um, scientists seem to say that wet springtimes grew ergotamine poison on the wheat, leading to nightmarish hallucinations and preceded witch trials in the U.S. and Europe.) The Warrens did not take questions, although "Amityville" was mentioned in their press release, and they hurried out afterwards. I caught up to them as I was a reporter for the local paper, and asked them if the A.H. was true. Lorraine Warren said it was, saying what an awful effect it had had had on her, etc., adding about the Lutzes, "We know them." If you've read as many nonfiction bks on the A.H. as I have, you'll know that the Lutzes' story, while very entertaining, falls apart on analysis.

Glenn Allen

john said...

I love how everyone has something terrible to say about the Warren's. They didn't charge a cent for their work and were only helping people. As far as the supernatural, i'm sure you're all experts!!

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Ranmini said...

Yeah, it's not like the Warrens encourage these hauntings, they always try to look for a logical explanation before they go to the supernatural.... They're good people and they don't charge a cent for their investigations they're only trying to help. Besides not everything in the world can be given a scientific explanation...one day when scientists actually do find out that spirits really do exists,it might be a little too late.

Sherri Daines Buxton said...

I grew up with a beliefe in the supernatural. I loved the idea of ghosts, spirits and what-not. As a 30 something adult I still love watching Paranormal state, A Haunting and whatever the TV wants to air regarding ghosts. The only problem now is that I'm a HUGE skeptic. I would love to believe that some of this stuff is real. But it's unfortunate that as I watched Paranormal state, all I could see were B.S. artists like Lorraine Warren and Chip Coffee. And as for 'A Haunting' it's over dramatized and silly. But it's fun to watch and show my teenager that this is all garbage and everything is over dramatized and some of their experiences are caused by stress, and mental illness, and of course an over-active imagination. Whether these people are paid or not they are doing an injustice to people by making fools out of others. I'm sure they get paid a nice price. But have you noticed in a lot of these 'cases' that even a family that has a priest, bishop or spiritual outlett, the only thing to ever help is another medium or catholic priest that the original psychic knows? Come on. I'm glad to be a skeptic and would love to see a case that can't be overturned by simple common sense.

t_indo_merel said...

Funny ... I met Lorraine Warren on several occasions. I never found her to be anything but credible and a lovely and gracious lady. Also, a number of the comments I have read on this site are wrong or insinuate the Warrens were at fault when they never were.

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Anonymous said...

I worked with these charlatans first hand and had their trust. If with them, you could have such as thing. I am a believer/ skeptic and have conducted my own professional investigations. I am stating, clearly and for the masses, this couple and their minions are deceitful, despicably souls and their followers are putrid. I take no joy in stating this but it is true and out of respect for all the good people who have trusted them I believe I must speak out given the opportunity. If you want specifics or more info contact me at ccbv@comcast.net. I 'll be happy to discuss with you. I' sick of people being betrayed and made to look foolish as a result of this couple's arrogance. Chris cbv@comcast.net

Caverta said...

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S.M. Elliott said...

OK, for those of you who felt a need to point out that the Warrens are "nice" or "helpful", I'm sure that's true in a sense. They seem like perfectly nice folks, and I'm sure that if I lived next door to Lorraine without knowing anything about her line of work, we would get along fine.

BUT. This couple told the world (via mass market paperback) that molesting your kin is not really your fault IF YOU WERE POSSESSED BY A WEREWOLF INCUBUS DEMON AT THE TIME. For the love of all creation, people, how can this possibly be acceptable to you?!

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Anonymous said...

I see dead people. No really I do, I have for over 20 years, and as a Medium, I know there is a life after this one and some of you are in for a huge surprise! As for the Warrens and Chip Coffey, yah I'm skeptical too, If I wasn't a medium myself I wouldn't give them the time of day. However, instead of shutting the door isn't it better to keep an open mind? I don't agree with a lot of the BS Lorraine says. I just stick to my business.

Van Bane said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Knight said...

You're missing something Mr. Hoax Researcher: A video

Was this not mentioned on purpose, or is it already mentioned in Part II somewhere?

A journal

Anonymous said...

First of all I would love to point out to the people reading this article that the author seems to have everything about it being a hoax. By this I mean that this article is 100% bias as I checked out his "Sources" and they all are about how these two people are fake. Secondly if I was going to write a well researched article I would not write in my own opinions since this is supposed to be an exposition not an opinion paper. The world of he paranormal is a complex one and we cannot all have the answers to it for the simple fact that no matter how much we believe we know about our own world we know perhaps a fraction or less of what we should. Don't hope to know anything for sure because no matter how hard you try you still dont know everything so next time you wish to accuse someone of being a FRAUD OR SAY THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE that ghost and the supernatural exist why dont you try and find out how many animals are ou their that we dont know about yet. Get to know your world better before dismissing the next.

Anonymous said...

'The priest who blessed the house, Father Pecoraro, gave conflicting accounts of what he experienced there. At first he told researchers he didn't experience anything unsual at all, though in the fictionalized account he was ordered to "Get out!" by a throaty, disembodied voice, and later broke out in boils. Later he admitted he heard the voice and experienced some car trouble, but didn't attribute these things to the supernatural.'

Simply not true, tough it keeps getting repeated. He never changed his story, he did get sick at the rectory, he did say he was smacked in the face by an invisible hand, he did say he heard the voice right behind him in an empty room. This case essentially destroyed Father Ray's life and although he actively avoide the spotlight (his one interview was in silouhette) he never changed his story. You can find his appearnce on In Search Of on youtube

S.M. Elliott said...

As the years pass, more and more details of the Amityville "haunting" are turning out to be bogus. For instance, just this year it was learned that a photo of a "boy" in a plaid shirt with weirdly glowing eyes (a ghost, supposedly) was actually a photo of one of the investigators, a grown man wearing the same shirt.

S.M. Elliott said...

Also, it should be noted that this series on ghostbusters is not intended to be a refutation of all ghost stories, hauntings, or paranormal phenomena. The posts on Ed and Lorraine Warren deal exclusively with cases investigated by the Warrens.
And again, I'm going to point out to the people who adore the Warrens: They think molesting your kin is not really your fault IF YOU WERE POSSESSED BY A WEREWOLF INCUBUS DEMON AT THE TIME.