Are Ed and Lorraine Warren frauds? That’s a question that any hardcore fan of The Conjuring has asked themselves. The landmark horror film franchise – which has quickly become the most successful ever – presents the married couple as the only true experts of the supernatural. Each movie finds the Warrens exhibiting a remarkable command over the occult, something that feels like it could only exist in the realm of fiction.
But, as you likely know, Ed and Lorraine Warren are as real as it gets… at least in terms of actually existing. The Conjuring’s famous ghostbusters were both actual investigators that lived, worked, and died in New England. But did they actually solve any hauntings? Did Ed and Lorraine’s respective claims of being a demonologist and a medium have any basis in fact?
As is often the case with the paranormal, there isn’t a clear-cut answer. The Warrens’ storied careers drummed up immense controversy back in the day, and skeptics grow even more critical to this day. To understand what’s really going on, let’s examine the different viewpoints regarding whether Ed and Lorraine Warren were frauds.
Ed and Lorraine Warren in The Conjuring
One of the reasons why the media series centered around The Conjuring is so popular is because the films are said to be based on true stories. Unlike other movies that make the same claim, though, The Conjuring really is based in reality. For instance, Annabelle, the terrifying doll, is indeed real. It should be noted, though, that Annabelle’s status as a haunted doll is highly debated, a theme that will pop up again and again in the story of the Warrens.
Still, I’ll give credit where credit is due: James Wan and the rest of the team did a solid job of sticking to the facts as presented by the Warrens. The first movie in the series finds Ed and Lorraine heading to Rhode Island to assist in a brutal haunting that ends in an exorcism. The story tracks with the facts presented by Ed and Lorraine in addition to what was shared by the Perrons, the poor family who were subjected to the spiteful spirits.
Statements made by the Perron children seem to confirm that the events of The Conjuring really did happen in a way that is similar to what you see in the movie. One of the children, Andrea, recalled seeing a seance happening, saying, “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.”
The haunting of the Perron household isn’t the only real event chronicled in the series. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It finds the Warrens helping a man charged with manslaughter by offering the legal defense of, uh, possession. It sounds totally unbelievable, but this case actually happened. Local law enforcement was less than enthused by the whole “demonic possession” angle, with one officer being quoted as saying, “We couldn’t have a simple uncomplicated murder, oh no. Instead, everyone in the whole world converges on Brookfield.”
Do The Conjuring films get everything right when it comes to the Warrens? Definitely not. (Certainly not Conjuring 3.) They embellish certain events for the screen, but that’s par for the course in the film industry. But they are close enough. If you watch one of the movies, you can consider yourself up to speed on the Warrens’ own interpretations of real events that transpired.
But here’s the thing: not everyone shares those interpretations.
Were Ed and Lorraine Warren Frauds?
When talking about the Warrens, the best place to start is the book that helped popularize the couple: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. It propelled the two into stardom and showed that there was a whole lot of marketability behind their stories. But a close look at the actual contents of the book brings into question many of the events that are presented as facts.
Let’s check out the Snopes article on the haunting. The fact-checking site boldly proclaims the entire thing as “false,” but why? Their argument is hinged upon a few of the haunting’s key facts being outright untrue. The book reports extensive interior damage inside the home, but none of this was ever found. Conflicting opinions on whether the police ever showed up are cited as well. And, perhaps most intriguingly, a demonic hoofprint found in the snow could never have existed: there was no snow at the time.
Of course, it would be easy to argue against these claims if you were so inclined. Maybe the interior of the house got repaired. Maybe some people never noticed that the police came. And maybe (just maybe!) some details were embellished to make a true story a bit more exciting. In other words, there are enough holes in that argument to defend the Warrens if that was your goal.
But the mountain of evidence isn’t exactly in favor of the Warrens. The owner of the “haunted” house documented in the first Conjuring movie made an impressively-detailed video essay deriding the entire event as pure fiction. A 1986 haunting investigation by the Warrens has faced a ton of skepticism from investigators like Benjamin Radford and Joe Nickell. Oh, and then there’s the time that they claimed to have exorcized a werewolf… without ever providing any evidence of having done so.
In fact, a lack of evidence is a main theme that arises from skeptics of the Warrens’ claims. The New England Skeptical Society was allowed direct contact with them in addition to access to their occult museum. According to them, the Warrens only had “ghost stories and low-grade ambiguous evidence.” And although the paranormal couple was adamant that the stories were true, that doesn’t mean a whole lot… at least to skeptics. “Stories are not evidence,” as they noted in a blog post.
He Said, She Said
Let’s recap: a whole lot of people don’t believe the Warrens. The Warrens, as well some people that were supposedly there for the real events, maintain that they are completely legit. The skeptics are biased towards not believing the Warrens, and the Warrens have a very real monetary desire to keep up their image as the only real ghost hunters out there. So where does that leave us?
Well, it isn’t really possible to come to a conclusion. Yeah, the Warrens don’t have video evidence of these hauntings, and the evidence seems to point towards them at least faking a thing or two throughout their careers. Whether that means they faked everything is up to you, though. Like all great ghost stories or conspiracy theories, these hauntings will never be truly proven real or fake. We’ll always be able to debate them.
And that’s really what lies at the core of this whole situation. The Warrens gave us stories that were built for virality long before the Internet was around. “The things that tend to spread are things that are remarkable,” noted a professor at Syracuse University, Jeff Hemsley. Of course, believing in potentially fake stories is something to be concerned about: “If it turns out that the lie is sexier than the truth, then we’re in danger of undermining our very democracy,” he added.
But really, who cares if Ed and Lorraine Warren were frauds? At the end of the day, these are just ghost stories – and really excellent ones at that. Sometimes leaving a thin veil of believability just makes life a bit more fun.
Last Updated on June 30, 2022.