THE WARRENS TIMELINE
1926 (September 7): Edward (Ed) Warren Miney was born.
1927 (January 31): Lorraine Rita Warren (née Moran) was born.
1944: Ed and Lorraine first met. They married the following year.
1945: Ed enlisted in the Navy.
1950 (July 6): Judith Spera (née Warren) was born.
1952: The Warrens founded the New England Society for Psychic Research.
1952: The Warrens began collecting artifacts for their Occult Museum
1970: The Warrens reportedly began investigating reports of a reportedly haunted Raggedy Anne doll named Annabelle. The Warrens took possession of the doll and stored it in their Occult Museum.
1972-1977: The Warrens investigated stories of a haunting at West Point Military Academy, the Lutz family home in Amityville, New York, and the Perron family.
1980: Gerald Brittle published The Demonologist, a biography of the Warrens.
1979: Judith Warren met Tony Spera.
1980-1986: The Warrens investigated a series of cases which eventually became the subjects of books: the reportedly demonic possessions of David Glatzel and Maurice Theriault, the claims of Bill Ramsey to be a Werewolf, and demonic activity in the homes of Allen and Carmen Snedeker and Jack and Janet Smurl.
1989: The Warrens and Robert David Chase published Ghost Hunters: True Stories From the World’s Most Famous Demonologists, another biography about the Warrens and their cases.
1992-1993: The Warrens and Robert David Chase published Graveyard: True Hauntings from an Old New England Cemetery, which described reports about the haunted Union Cemetery in Connecticut, and Werewolf: A True Story of Demonic Possession, which reported on the Bill Ramsey case.
1998-1999: Tony Spera, the Warrens’ son-in-law conducted interviews with the Warrens about their cases for a local cable access television show called Seekers of the Supernatural
2004: Cheryl Wicks published Ghost Tracks, a third biography of the Warrens and their work.
2006 (August 23): Ed Warren died in Connecticut.
2013: Warner Brothers released The Conjuring, a film based on the experience of the Perron family that featured the Warrens as central characters. The success of the film launched the The Conjuring franchise.
2013: Judith Penney came forward with details about her longstanding intimate relationship with Ed Warren.
2014-2021: Warner Brothers released a series of films related to the Warrens’ work: Annabelle, which was inspired by the supposedly demon possessed doll in the Warren’s museum; The Conjuring 2, which was based on the famous Enfield Haunting case in England; Annabelle: Creation, which was a fictional account of the Annabelle doll; The Nun, a fictional account about the demon Valak, the antagonist in The Conjuring 2; The Curse of La Llorona, based on a well-known Latin American folktale; Annabelle Comes Home, a successor film on Annabelle; and The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, a film loosely based on the case of David Glatzel and Arne Johnson.
2019 (April 18): Lorraine Warren died in Connecticut
2021 (October 30): Tony Spera held the first Seekers of the Supernatural Paracon in Waterbury, Connecticut
2022 (October 21): Netflix released the first episode of 28 Days Haunted, a paranormal reality show based on the theories of the Warrens, which features Tony Spera.
2022 (October 29): The Seekers of the Supernatural Paracon returned for a second year.
Ed and Lorraine Warren [Image at right] were a well-known demon hunting team, active from the late 1940s through the 1990s. The two claimed to have investigated over 3,000 cases of supernatural occurrences, primarily those concerning hauntings and demon possession. Over the course of their investigations, the Warrens claimed to have conducted over 7,000 interviews and witnessed 700 exorcisms (Wicks 2004:10). Ed and Lorraine founded the New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR), and over the years accumulated a large collection of supposedly haunted items that they displayed in their personal museum, the most famous of which is a purportedly demon-possessed Raggedy Anne doll named Annabelle. The Warrens and their cases serve as the inspiration for the immensely popular Conjuring series of films.
Ed Warren Miney was born September 7, 1926. According to a biography of the Warrens published in 1980 called The Demonologist, Ed had his first supernatural experience as early as five years-old, reportedly seeing the ghost of a recently deceased landlady materialize from a small dot of light. This incident, while downplayed by his family, opened Ed up to the possibility of the supernatural. After his father told Ed to keep it to himself, Ed recalled, “Well, I never told anyone, but I never forgot what I saw” (Brittle 1980:22). Ed also recounted visions of a nun that would speak to him in dreams (Brittle 1980:23).
Lorraine Rita Warren (née Moran) was born a year later in 1927. Lorraine claimed an even closer connection to the supernatural, identifying herself as a clairvoyant and light trance medium. She claimed this ability allowed her to see into the supernatural world, as well as backwards or forwards in time. Lorraine said this ability was something she had from a very early age: “I didn’t know I had an additional sense ability, I simply thought everyone had the same God-given senses, you know – all six of them!” (Brittle 1980:23). Lorraine, like Ed, was chastised for seeing what she shouldn’t have been able to see. After participating in the Arbor Day planting of a seedling on the grounds of her Catholic girls’ school, Lorraine recalls being able to see the fully grown tree. When asked by a nun “Are you seeing into the future?” Lorraine replied in the affirmative. She faced immediate discipline, being sent away to a “retreat home” for a weekend of isolation and intense prayer. “That taught me. After that, when it came to things involving clairvoyance, I kept my mouth shut” (Brittle 1980:24).
The Warrens met at a movie theater where Ed worked as an usher in 1944 (Wicks 2004:5). Shortly thereafter, Ed enlisted in the Navy, and in 1945 his ship was attacked in the North Sea. Ed survived, and while on leave that year he married Lorraine (Wicks 2004:6). In 1950, their daughter Judith was born. After his daughter’s birth, Ed enrolled in art school, but did not finish. By 1952, the Warrens had begun touring New England, painting supposedly haunted houses, and offering the residents of those homes the paintings in return for stories of hauntings. In the same year, the Warrens founded the New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR) (Spera 2022).
The Warrens continued to investigate paranormal phenomena around New England, and Ed continued painting, but the Warrens remained largely out of the public eye until 1968. According to an article by Bill Hayden, written for The News Journal in Wilmington Delaware in 1974, the Warrens had an art show of Ed’s paintings in 1968 that drew many curious people eager to share their own stories of the supernatural with Ed and Lorraine (Hayden 1974).
After this art show, the Warrens saw a marked increase in interest in their ghost and demon hunting services. They gained notoriety in and around New England, becoming local celebrities. They began working with a talent agency that booked lectures at colleges across the country.
In 1973, J.F. Sawyer published Deliver Us From Evil, [Image at right] the first of many books about the life and career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. In 1976, they were invited to investigate the Lutz home in Amityville. The success of the book The Amityville Horror, and subsequent movie, further raised the Warrens’ profile, provided them with national attention, and jumpstarted their publishing and film careers. The Warrens continued to work with various authors throughout the 1980s and 1990s to publish books about their cases, as well as making numerous television appearances on both the local and national level.
Throughout their investigations the Warrens collected tapes, photos, and supposedly possessed or haunted objects, which they housed in their Occult Museum. The Museum remained open until 2018, when it was closed due to zoning issues, and permanently closed in 2019 after the death of Lorraine Warren (Atlas Obscura 2016).
The Warren’s popularity waned during the 1990s, but they still made television appearances during this time. In 1991, they were the subject of the made-for-TV film The Haunted, based on their investigation of the Smurl household. In 1998-1999, the Warrens had a cable access television show called Seekers of the Supernatural, hosted by their son-in-law Tony Spera.
Ed Warren died in his home in Monroe, Connecticut, on August 23, 2006. The work of the Warrens continued to inspire films. In 2009, a film called The Haunting in Connecticut was released, loosely based on Ray Garton’s book In a Dark Place, about the Warrens’ investigation of the Snedeker family. In 2013, the first film in The Conjuring series was released, which featured Ed and Lorraine as the main characters, and told the story of their experience with the Perron family. Lorraine served as a consultant on both The Conjuring (2013), and The Conjuring II (2016) (IMDB 2022)
Lorraine Warren died on April 18, 2019, in her home in Monroe, Connecticut. The Warrens’ legacy has been carried on by their son-in-law, Tony Spera, and their daughter, Judith, who has continued to operate NESPR. Tony Spera has also served as curator of the permanently closed Warren Occult Museum. As of this writing, The Conjuring franchise includes three films that bear The Conjuring name, three films based on Annabelle the haunted doll, and two “extended universe” sequels (Data Thistle 2022). The franchise is slated to continue, with production for a fourth Conjuring film currently underway.
In October 2022, Netflix released a paranormal reality show based on the theories of the Warrens called 28 Days Haunted. Three teams of paranormal investigators were sequestered in allegedly haunted locations for twenty-eight days. According to the show, the Warrens theorized that a twenty-eight day “cycle” was often necessary to resolve a haunting. (The authors are unaware of the Warrens ever espousing such a theory and many of their investigations were concluded in a single day. Twenty-eight days appears to be a reference to the story of the Lutz family described in The Amityville Horror. According to that story, the Lutz’s moved into a haunted house and fled after twenty-eight days, never to return.) The show features Tony Spera and paranormal journalist Aaron Sagers watching the teams on monitors and discussing their progress.
Ed and Lorraine Warren were devout Roman Catholics, often observing and even assisting in exorcisms by members of the Clergy. Ed considered himself a “demonologist,” although he had no formal theological training. Despite his lack of formal education, Ed Warren formulated his own possession taxonomy which outlined five stages of demon possession (Brittle 1983:118 ). Lorraine claimed to be a clairvoyant and a light trance medium, which allowed her access to the spiritual and demonic worlds, and the ability to see and interact with the supernatural in ways that normal people cannot. As their authorized biographer Gerald Brittle (980:23) put it, “Lorraine was born with the gift of clairvoyance – the ability to see beyond physical time and space.”
The Warrens did not restrict themselves to helping only those of Catholic faith, however. Ed Warren spoke about their willingness to engage with religions outside of Catholicism: “We work with any clergy of any religion that teaches love of God and love of your fellow man. We work with all people of all faiths” (Brittle 1980:19).
The Warrens held the belief that demons were physically real, and could possess the living, requiring an exorcism. They believed demons are “invited” to possess people who dabble in anything that may be considered “occult,” such as playing with a Ouija board, going to a psychic, having a Tarot card reading, etc. Paradoxically, the Warrens also expressed belief in ideas that are not traditionally part of Catholicism, including psychic abilities, reincarnation, and the existence of Bigfoot. In the early 1970s, Ed Warren expressed a sympathetic interest in Wicca, which he regarded as the world’s oldest religion and a source of psychic abilities (Sawyer 1973:17-18).
The Warrens also believed that objects could be possessed by demons, creating dangerous haunted artifacts. Many such objects reside in the Warrens’ Occult Museum.[Image at right]
In an effort to legally prove the existence of demons and demon possession, the Warrens encouraged Arne Johnson’s lawyer to attempt a plea of not guilty by reason of demonic possession (Clendinen 1981). The trial judge did not allow a possession defense to move forward (Brittle 1983:266).
The Warrens conducted investigations into supposed ghostly or demonic activity. When investigating haunted locations, Lorraine would often describe psychic visions or impressions she was receiving, which Ed would then interpret to diagnose the cause of the disturbance.
In some instances, Lorraine would lead séances to contact any spirits involved in a particular case. Ed Warren often employed a practice he called “provocation” in which he would place Christian symbols and artifacts, such as crosses, holy water, etc. in a reportedly demon possessed home. This was done to provoke an observable response from the demonic entity, due to their hatred of Christ and all things Christian (Brittle 1980:15). The Warrens alleged that they witnessed over 700 exorcisms, although Ed maintained that, as a lay Catholic, he cannot perform the ritual of exorcism himself and has never attempted to do so. However, the Warrens would work with members of splinter Catholic groups such as Bishop Robert McKenna of the Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement, when they were unable to obtain a Catholic priest for an exorcism.
The Warrens would take pictures, record audio, and sometimes even record films of the supernatural activity that they would then show in their lectures. Among their most notable images are the “ghost boy” picture [Image at right] from the Amityville case, which depicts an unknown child, and the video footage of an alleged ghost called “the White Lady” in Union Cemetery in Easton, Connecticut. The lectures the Warrens delivered were not framed as performances or exhibitions, but as scientific presentations of their discoveries while researching the supernatural. However, their media undoubtedly had entertainment value, especially for college students who attended their lectures out of curiosity.
The Warrens pioneered contemporary ghost hunting by combining traditional Catholicism, scientific-sounding terminology, and elements borrowed from folk magic and Eastern religion. Most ghost hunting groups today use a similar mix of practices in their attempts to discover supernatural entities.
The Warrens founded the New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR), [Image at right] and headed a team of investigators, most notably the Warrens’ nephew, John Zaffis, and their son-in-law, Tony Spera. The Warrens were seminal figures in the development of contemporary ghost hunting, and many of the beliefs and terms that they popularized, such as the stages of possession, are still used by ghost hunters and self-educated demonologists today.
NESPR has remained in operation, currently headed by Tony and Judy Spera (née Warren). [Image at right] Tony Spera is a former Bloomfield, Connecticut, police officer, and began work for the Warrens in the mid-1980s. Spera assisted with investigations and eventually served as the host for a local Connecticut cable access interview show called Seekers of the Supernatural. Spera also served as curator of the Warrens permanently closed museum of haunted artifacts. In 2021 Tony Spera organized the first “Seekers of the Supernatural Paracon,” a convention with guest-speakers on ghost-hunting and related topics, as well as exhibits of artifiacts from the Warrens’ occult museum. The second Paracon in 2022 drew an estimated 5,000 attendees (Harrelson and Laycock 2022).
Although Judy Spera is listed as a Co-Director of NESPR on their website, she has expressed little desire to continue her parents’ legacy, which is why Tony Spera has taken the lead with NESPR, the Occult Museum, and Warren related events and media. [Image at right] Judy explained, “I know my husband will take it from here, and he inherited the museum because I certainly didn’t want it. He’d better stay around longer than me, and take care of that place!” (Sagers 2020).
The Warrens faced harsh criticism throughout their career, including many accusations of fraud. Following are some notable examples.
The haunting of the Lutz family, which provided the source material for the book and later film entitled The Amityville Horror, is widely known as a hoax. The claims of the Lutz family, on which the Warrens based their investigation, have been largely disproven in the forty-plus years since the case first garnered the spotlight. Skeptics Joe Nickell and Robert E. Bartholomew point out numerous glaring factual errors that undermine the supernatural tale (Bartholomew and Nickell 2016). Among them is the claim that the Amityville Historical Society indicates that a local Indigenous Tribe, the Shinnecock, used the site of the home as a “location of great suffering” and that it was “infested by demons.” Nickell and Bartholomew spoke to the Society and were told this claim is pure fiction (Bartholomew and Nickell 2016). Similarly, the Lutzes allege there was confirmation by police who were called to the home and witnessed phenomena, but o police record of a call being answered at the home exists (Bartholomew and Nickell 2016).
William Weber was the attorney for Ronald DeFeo, who murdered six people in the Amityville house before the Lutzes purchased the property. According to Weber, George and Kathy Lutz approached him with their claims of supernatural activity in the house. Weber felt that reports of a haunting might persuade some jurors that DeFeo had been the victim of demonic manipulation. But he was more interested in how the story would help him sell a book about the DeFeo case. According to Weber, the Lutzes’ entire story was a fabrication. The foul odor, the flies, the mysterious slime, and the mysterious early morning marching band reported by the Lutzes were all carefully crafted to make the story more credible. By working with Weber, the Lutzes were able to weave details from the DeFeo case into their hoax. “We created this horror story over many bottles of wine that George was drinking,” Weber stated, “We were really playing with each other. We were creating something the public would want to hear about” (Associated Press 1979). Weber alleges he told Kathy that the murders occurred at 3am and she incorporated this fact into her story. “‘Well that’s good,’ Kathy said. ‘I can say I’m awakened by noises at that hour of the day and I could say I had dreams that hour of the day about the DeFeo family’” (Associated Press 1979). Weber had proposed a book deal in which the Lutz family would have received twelve percent of the profits. Instead, the Lutzes struck a deal with author Jay Anson for fifty percent of the profits and cutting Weber out. After Anson’s book The Amityville Horror became a financial success, Weber filed a lawsuit against the Lutzes, alleging breach of contract and fraud (Associated Press 1979). These revelations became problematic for the Warrens who continued to stake their reputation on the Amityville story.
There is also suspicion about the origins of Annabelle [Image at right], the most popular artifact from the Warrens’ Occult Museum. There is no source of the famous Annabelle story outside of the Warrens themselves. The names of the participants and the details of the story change in different accounts, and no interviews with the actual people who supposedly experienced the possessed doll exist. Although the Annabelle story supposedly happened around 1970, there is no mention of Annabelle in Deliver Us From Evil (1973), the first book published about the Warrens. Although likely the most famous artifact, Annabelle, is not unique in this regard. There is little corroboration for many of the supposedly haunted and possessed items in the Warren’s collection.
Many people who worked with the Warrens on books or on various cases have claimed the Warrens were only interested in a good story and the money that would accompany a hit book or movie. Horror author Ray Garton was commissioned to write the book In A Dark Place about the Warrens’s investigation of a haunting experienced by the Snedecker family. But when Garton interviewed the Warrens and Snedeckers, he found their stories were inconsistent. He related the following anecdote about trying to discuss the inconsistencies with Ed: “[Ed] said (and this is very close to a quote because I can still hear him saying it in my head), ‘These people are crazy. All the people who come to us are crazy, otherwise they wouldn’t come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? That’s why we hired you. Just make it a good, scary story and it’ll be fine’” (Garton 2022).
There is no record of Lorraine Warren having had her psychic abilities tested by Thelma Moss at UCLA. The account of the testing comes only from the Warrens themselves, and changes with further telling. The Demonologist (1980) states Lorraine was tested at UCLA. Ghost Hunters (1989) says Lorraine was tested at UCLA by one “Dr. Viola Barron.” Ghost Tracks (2004) claims Lorraine was tested by Thelma Moss. Moss was a parapsychologist at UCLA and one of her cases was adapted into the film The Entity (1982). However, Barry Taff, who worked closely with Moss, stated that he never met the Warrens and considers them “nuts” and “religious fanatics” (ParaPeculiar podcast 2022).
In 2013, shortly after the release of the first Conjuring film, allegations surfaced from Judith Penney, who claimed that she had a relationship with Ed Warren that began when she was fifteen and Ed was in his late thirties. Penney alleged that in 1963 she began living with Ed and Lorraine and had a sexual relationship with Ed for the next forty years, the nature of which was known to Lorraine (Masters and Cullins 2017). Penney’s story only became known due to a lawsuit filed by Tony DeRosa-Grund, a producer on the first Conjuring film who claims he was shut out of profits from the sequels and spinoffs. DeRosa-Grund also filed a lawsuit with Gerald Brittle, author of The Demonologist, over ownership rights of the Warrens’ life and stories (Masters and Cullins 2017). Brittle knew that Penney lived with the Warrens and she is described in The Demonologist as “a young woman who works as a liaison when Ed and Lorraine are out of town” (Brittle 1980: 186). It seems DeRosa-Grund sought to use Penney’s story as leverage to get a favorable settlement from Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers has since settled the suits, although DeRosa-Grund still maintains the studio sought to cover up the improper relationship as it would damage the reputation of the Warrens, and possibly harm the profitability of the franchise (Cullins 2017).
Judith Penny maintains that the relationship with Ed was real, and according to an article in The Hollywood Reporter by Kim Masters and Ashley Cullins, she has not received any payment or settlement from Warner Brothers, the Warrens, or anything connected to The Conjuring franchise.
Image #1: Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Image #2: The cover of Deliver Us from Evil.
Image #3: Warrens’ Occult Museum.
Image #4: Ghost Boy.
Image #5: Logo of the New England Society for Psychic Research.
Image #6: Tony Spera, Judith Warren, and Ed Warren.
Image #7: The Annabelle doll from The Amityville Horror film.
Associated Press. 1979. “Amityville Horror Amplified Over Bottles of Wine––Lawyer.” Lakeland Ledger July 27. Accessed from https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=U-hMAAAAIBAJ&pg=5288,3763517&dq=william+weber+amityville on 7 December 2022.
Atlas Obscura. 2016. “The Warren’s Occult Museum Monroe, Connecticut.” Accessed from https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-warrens-occult-museum-monroe-connecticut on 28 December 2022.
Bartholomew, Robert E., Nickell, Joe. 2016. “The Amityville Hoax at 40: Why the Myth Endures.” Skeptic 21, Accessed from https://go.gale.com/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=txshracd2487&id=GALE|A477640965&v=2.1&it=r&sid=googleScholar&asid=af072b37 on 6 December 2022.
Brittle, Gerald. 1983. The Devil in Connecticut. New York: Bantam Books.
Brittle, Gerald. 1980. The Demonologist. Los Angeles and New York: Greymalkin Media
Clendinen, Dudley, 1981. “Defendant in a Murder Puts The Devil on Trial.” New York Times, March 23, 1981, B1, B6.
Cullins, Ashley, 2017 “Warner Bros. Settles $900M Lawsuit Over The Conjuring.” The Hollywood Reporter, December 13. Accessed from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/warner-bros-settles-900m-lawsuit-conjuring-1067445/ on 7 February 2023
Data Thistle. 2022 “Films: The Conjuring Universe.” Accessed from https://film.datathistle.com/listings/the-conjuring-universe/ on 29 December 2022.
Garton, Ray. 2022. Electronic Interview with the authors, April 13.
Harrelson, Eric and Joseph Laycock. “Paranormal Vodka, Exorcists and a Demonic Doll: Welcome to Paracon, Based on the Work of the Demon-Hunters Who Inspired The ‘Conjuring’ Series,” Religion Dispatches, November 7, 2022. Accessed from https://religiondispatches.org/paranormal-vodka-exorcists-and-a-demonic-doll-welcome-to-paracon-based-on-the-work-of-the-demon-hunters-who-inspired-the-conjuring-series/ on 8 February 2022.
Internet Movie Database. 2022 “Lorraine Warren” Accessed from https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0912933/?ref_=tt_cl_t_15 on 29 December 2022
Masters, Kim., Cullins, Ashley. 2017. “War Over ‘The Conjuring’: The Disturbing Claims Behind a Billion-Dollar Franchise” Hollywood Reporter. Accessed from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/tv/tv-features/war-conjuring-disturbing-claims-behind-a-billion-dollar-franchise-1064364/ on 6 December 2022
ParaPeculiar Podcast, “Episode 25: Dr. Barry Taff” (December 2022).
Sagers, Aaron. 2020. “Devil’s Road: Judy Spera Details Life Growing Up As A Warren” Den of Geek. Accessed from https://www.denofgeek.com/culture/devils-road-judy-spera-warren/ on 28 December 2022.
Spera, Tony. 2022. “Timeline.” Accessed from https://tonyspera.com/about/ on 28 December 2022.
Wicks, Cheryl. 2004. Ghost Tracks. Los Angeles, New York: Greymalkin Media.
19 January 2023