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Released in 2021, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (or, more simply, just The Conjuring 3) is an undeniably controversial film. As the eighth movie in the cinematic universe based around Ed and Lorraine Warren, it did incredibly well at the box office despite relatively lukewarm reviews. Many felt that the film presented a watered-down version of what was seen in the first Conjuring movie. Rather than being the high point of the series, it has gained a reputation for being a symbol of The Conjuring’s current tepid status.

More controversial than its quality, though, is the movie’s source material. Just like anything else that involves the Warrens, skeptics have jumped at the opportunity to prove that it’s totally fake. But is that true? What’s the deal with this movie, anyway?

Whether you love The Conjuring 3 or not, it’s hard to deny that the context surrounding the film isn’t incredibly interesting. The movie revived a story that lit America on fire back in the 80s, and the tale remains as incendiary as ever. Here’s The Conjuring 3 explained.

The Conjuring 3 Summary

Before we get into the movie’s remarkable origins, let’s give a quick summary. The film starts with resident ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine attending an exorcism for a little kid in Connecticut. The entire family is there, including Arne Johnson, the boyfriend of the possessed child’s sister. Hoping to relieve the family of their pain, Arne does what any self-respecting young man would do: he allows the demon to enter his own soul in exchange for the child’s freedom. Yeah… big mistake, buddy.

Conjuring 3 Explained

At first, things seem like they’re going okay. Arne is living a great, early 80s lifestyle with his girl, but things start to go south when he decides to stab his landlord 22 times. We’ve all had the urge before, but Arne actually went through with it! Of course, as the police arrive, Arne is left with almost no defense for his actions. Saying “the devil made me do it” wouldn’t really work.

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Or would it?

As you might have guessed, this is where the Warrens come in. Knowing that the boy is most likely possessed by the very same demon they watched get exorcized recently, they set to work establishing a legal defense based upon proving that there’s a demon inside this poor kid. With the help of a suspiciously knowledgeable priest, they discover a cult that seems to be orchestrating the whole thing via totems. When they hear of a similar stabbing crime in Massachusetts, they race to the scene to try and find clues that will point them towards the cult.

Once they get to Massachusetts, Lorraine is able to find some evidence by touching the hand of this new murder victim. Doing so creates a mental link between her and the occultist that seems to be in charge of this whole fiasco. Bingo!

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With some ideas about how to find the occultist and save Arne, Lorraine heads back to that priest from before to get some more help. Oh, but guess what? Turns out that guy’s daughter is the occultist! Who could’ve seen that coming?! Anyway, Lorraine gets lured into the tunnels beneath the priest’s house, but Ed is able to bravely save her right before the occultist g
ets to her. Ed destroys the witch’s altar, breaking the curse, and that evil nogoodnik dies.

At this point, it seems like everything went perfectly. But wait… what about Arne?! Well, it turns out that the whole “I blame the devil” angle didn’t work too well. He ended up serving five years in prison (which isn’t too bad, all things considered). What is good, though, is that Ed and Lorraine’s odyssey really did break the curse, and he gets to live the rest of his days as a regular guy that isn’t possessed by a demon. It’s not the happiest ending, but we’ll take it.

The True Story of The Conjuring 3 Explained

Whether The Conjuring 3 is a great movie or not is up to you. But it’s a fact that the film has a pretty crazy premise. Ed and Lorraine Warren trying to help some kid in New England literally get away with murder by arguing in a court toom that he was demonically possessed just sounds too crazy to be true. But, weirdly enough, it actually is.

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The majority of the events in the universe of The Conjuring are loosely-based in reality, and that’s definitely the case here. Arne Johnson did indeed face murder charges in 1981, and his defense actually tried to argue that he was innocent due to demonic possession. It was a landmark case in the United States, and it received an unholy amount of media coverage.

For the most part, the true events of Arne Johnson’s supposed possession line up with what we see in the movie. According to him, his girlfriend, and the Warrens, he did indeed start to feel differently after inviting a demon into his body during a period where his girlfriend’s younger sibling was thought to be possessed. Not long after this, he stabbed and killed his 40-year-old landlord.

Conjuring 3 Explained

Arne was defended by an attorney named Martin Minnella, and their official plea was “not guilty by reason of demonic possession.” To his lawyer, the idea was novel but not exactly crazy. He was quoted as saying, ““The courts have dealt with the existence of God. Now they’re going to have to deal with the existence of the Devil.”

Naturally, the entire thing turned into a spectacle, with most people falling on the skeptical side of things. But with plans to bring in the Warrens as well as the priests who helped with the exorcism, Arne hoped that things would work out in his favor. Sadly, the whole shebang fell apart when the judge decided to reject the plea, stating that its unscientific nature ensured that it would never truly be proven. And that was that.

In the end, Arne was forced to plead self-defense, and he was convicted of manslaughter. His sentence was for 10 to 20 years, but he only ended up serving five.

So… Was He Actually Possessed?

If you are going to go with the version of events that The Conjuring 3 explained, you’re forced to believe that Arne was indeed possessed. The movie makes him seem completely innocent – a victim of demonic foul play, even. But was the guy actually possessed, or was he just a murderer looking to win his freedom with a creative defense backed by the questionable work of the Warrens? Are the Warrens frauds?

It’s hard to say. For what it’s worth, Arne never went on a murder spree after being freed from prison. He went on to lead a peaceful life, lending credence to the idea that his violence was the momentary spasms of a demon inside of him. (Either that or it’s proof of the efficacy of the American justice system’s ability to rehabilitate criminals, and I’m not too keen on that theory.) He never changed his story after the fact, either.

But that only means so much. If a killer managed to save his reputation by relying on the idea of demonic possession, it makes sense that he wouldn’t resort to killing or recant his version of events later on. What is compelling, though, is the lawsuit from Carl Glatzel.

The brother of David Glatzel, the kid who was supposed to have been possessed in the first place, Carl sued both Lorraine Warren and the author of the book on the possession. In his words, the two worked together and “concocted a phony story about demons in an attempt to get rich and famous at [his family’s] expense.” In his eyes, the whole possession story was fake – his brother was simply mentally ill. If we’re to believe Carl, we definitely can’t believe Arne. The Glatzel father, for his part, maintains that he never specifically said that demons were possessing his son.

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Of course, Arne and his wife (the Glatzel child who he was dating before the murder) say that the lawsuit and any other dissenting opinions are just the results of bitter family members trying to win some money. Sure, that could be true… but with so many other instances of doubt being thrown towards the Warrens, it’s hard to know what to think.

Whether Arne was possessed or not isn’t something that is going to be answered. There is compelling anecdotal evidence on both sides, so you’ll just have to choose whichever theory you prefer. What is important to note, though, is that Arne’s version of the events didn’t hold up in a court of law. Make what you will of that.

Last Updated on June 30, 2022.

Ben Mangelsdorf
Ben Mangelsdorf is a writer living in Boulder, Colorado. He enjoys horror films, writing poetry, and the Beach Boys.

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