Photo courtesy (c) Norma Sutcliffe
Norma Sutcliffe lives in constant fear and apprehension and it isn't that she fears ghosts or the demons that are said to be living inside her historic farmhouse. In fact, she has had very little, if any paranormal experiences inside her home.
What she fears most is the living.
Norma Sutcliffe is the current owner of the farmhouse written about in the book series House of Darkness, House of Light and the location in the Warner Brother's movie The Conjuring.
Norma claims that since the movie's release she has had several ghost hunters and thrill seekers trespass onto her property. The illegal trespassing and hysteria happened virtually overnight as soon as the movie was marketed.
“We haven’t slept in days,” Sutcliffe says. “Because we wake up at two in the morning there are people with flashlights in our yard.” People call on the phone and ask “is this ‘The Conjuring’ house?” They have received other harassing phone calls as well, she said.
It’s been three years since the release of the film and yet the trespassing continues and Norma is left with damaged property, disturbed sleep and a property with a reputation that, according to her, could be hard to sell.
It’s been such a traumatic experience that she even filed a lawsuit against the movie studio seeking damages and the cost for an extensive security system.
According to Paul McGuire, Corporate Communications for Warner Brothers, they have been served but are offering no comment about the lawsuit.
In addition to Warner Brothers, the lawsuit names as defendants New Line Productions, a theatrical marketing company based in Burbank, Calif.; several co-producers of the film, including Tony DeRosa-Grund (who recently lost a lawsuit against Warner Brothers for breach of contract in regards to The Conjuring) and Director James Wan.
The suit also names three twenty-somethings who were shooed away from the property by police, two East Providence men who allegedly posted a YouTube video of themselves at the house that garnered over 740,000 views; and up to 500 Jane and John Does yet to be identified as trespassers.
Further to the lawsuit, Norma has also pressed on with revealing the truth. Along with former journalist Kent Spottswood, local historians and paranormal enthusiasts, they have been digging into the history of the story presented in both print and on screen, only to come to one conclusion: the backstory of the haunting is pure fantasy.
But where did this story originate from?
According to Norma, her real estate disclosed that the house may be haunted before she had purchased it in 1987. Local rumours and gossip floated around in coffee shops, barber shops and church groups and Norma was interested in learning more about her house as, according to her, nothing extraordinary happened. In 2005, her friend insisted that she should contact a local Rhode Island paranormal group known as TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), who were filming their investigations on location for a reality show called Ghost Hunters. Norma agreed that it would be interesting to see if this group, who was reported to be using only equipment, could capture anything.
During the filming of Season 2, Episode 7 of the reality show, case manager Donna LaCroix reveals that the Warrens were involved in the haunting - to which Jason Hawes, one of the lead investigators, rolls his eyes and says, “The Warrens? Oh God.”
“Supposedly they found a lot of activity,” he says. “But when it comes to matters such as this, you got to take anything Ed and Lorraine say with a grain of salt.”
But that didn't stop them from inviting the Warren's nephew John Zaffis along for the investigation and Norma was interviewed.
“And of course as reality shows go, they made claims that were very strange,” Norma says. “They asked if anything unusual ever happened, so I said years ago the door shook once, and one night we thought we felt vibration in the mattress, and once Gerry [Norma's husband] thought he felt the chair in the study move. Bizarrely they claimed to feel the same the very night they were here, both bed and study. They show a door opening which I had never seen.
“When they were showing me the reveal, I never said anything. They then declared that the house was haunted. So when they asked me to comment at the end, I said ‘I believe an authentic haunting now we have this film to show,’ Basically going along with their claim. But when I saw the actual show I couldn't believe what they tried to claim.
“That the closet door could not have been tampered with because the mattress would not allow anyone to open the door. At that point I told friends: how could they say that, because it was my clothes closet? How did they figure I could access my clothes if the mattress prevented me? Why would I put it there?
“So that just added to the idea that they had faked that scene. Amazing they could claim ‘haunted’ just because of those three things. We never heard from them again.”
But Norma gives them credit for not revealing her address or providing any more info about the house. In fact, she claims the episode went largely unnoticed.
A few local ghost hunters asked to investigate the home and came up with no or very little tangible evidence of a haunting.
In fact, the whole idea of the haunting has only one source, the Perron family, who claims to have been tormented by the ghosts residing in the house.
The Kenyon family, who had owned the property for over a 150 years, claims that the property has no history of a haunting whatsoever, and the local historical society states that only one death ever occurred on the property – a Jarvis Smith who died in a shed down along the road. He was drunk, fell asleep and died of exposure.
Norma was introduced to Andrea Perron, the author of House of Darkness House of Light, by sheer coincidence. Andrea had moved back to Rhode Island and was introduced to the new homeowner and relayed some of her experiences in the home.
Norma says Andrea and her mother Carolyn told her that they experienced sounds in the house and some odd events. Andrea's two sisters said that they thought at one time their beds were moving and that they felt as if they were “in a bubble”. There was nothing extremely terrifying or extraordinary about the events said to have been witnessed. Andrea concluded the conversation with an offer to purchase the house if it ever becomes available.
Norma then was visited by Lorraine Warren who had, along with her husband Ed, been involved with the Perron family's alleged haunting in the 1970s.
Norma says she knew who the Warrens were, as she had seen them on TV. She found out later that The Warren's son-in-law had written about the haunting in local newspapers.
“I asked Lorraine why only the Perrons has [sic] issues and no one else,” she says. “Her comment was telling. She said because the Perrons were a very dysfunctional family and they probably caused the haunting and when they left it would have stopped. Suspicious. Lorraine insisted she could feel how much love was in the house since we had owned it and a perfect setting for my childcare program.”
Interesting to note that 14 years previous Lorraine claimed this house to be full of demonic witches who possess the living.
Norma then asked what proof Lorraine had of the haunting, to which Lorraine is said to have described a séance in which many things were revealed. Lorraine claims the séance and the full investigation was not recorded on video tape or by camera because no cameras would function. In addition, all documents about the case were “misfiled” or “missing”.
Lorraine claims that the name Bathsheba came to her in a psychic vision and here is where things get really muddied. At first, it was claimed that the ghost haunting the house was that of Laura Sherman, a local urban legend found in a private and secluded Rhode Island cemetery.
Laura Sherman's ghost was said to appear if you walk around her tombstone three times.
According to Norma, she believes that Carolyn Perron switched the name to Bathsheba because of Lorraine Warren's psychic vision of a demonic female and it better fit the story.
But because of the local historians we know the full and accurate history of the farm house and its previous occupants.
“We know Bathsheba’s real history now.” says Norma. “There is no history- not even an urban legend, until Carolyn Perron made up the story. Andrea claimed Bathsheba was an Arnold in her book. She was not.
“There has [sic] never been any suicides by hanging or poison, no murders or drownings at our house. What Carolyn did was to take any Arnold name she found in the Black Book [local historical record] and claimed they happen here and even claimed which rooms they happened in including the claim of [a] hanging in the barn.
“In Andrea’s book she claims Prudence Arnold was murdered in our pantry, Johnny Arnold committed suicide in the attic etc. etc.," says Norma.
Whatever death record they could find, they attributed it to the house and when it was discovered that Bathsheba died of a stroke and had a Christian burial the story changed again. They claim that the ghosts told them this new information, Norma adds.
Norma agreed to speak to Andrea about the farmhouse when she learned Andrea was writing a book about her experiences there and that Andrea said she would protect her privacy. These conversations were taped and subsequently released on YouTube as promotion for the upcoming book. In the video Norma describes several instances of unusual happenings of phantom footsteps and mysterious voices to Andrea and the two talk openly about the house and the haunting.
“Andrea had told me she had nothing to do with a movie that may be made called The Warren Files, [that] supposedly a B movie producer was trying to get funding for.”
But Andrea Perron was directly involved with a much larger movie production and the subsequent marketing.
“I told her how angry I was that she had lied to me about having nothing to do with [the] movie. That she better take the video down not because of the content but that she put my name on it linking directly my name to her,” says Norma.
The video was taken down for five months until Norma responded to all the attention at her farmhouse with research and documentation and an online battle of words began.
The movie The Conjuring ends with the Warrens as the heroes, saving the family from the onslaught of demonic forces.
“...the Warrens did not end the Perrons’ problems,” says Norma. “[The] Warrens were thrown out of the home the night they were there. [The] Warrens also took paperwork compiled by [the] Perrons and refused to give [it] back along with other items. I want everyone who wishes, to research the Warrens’ history. To me they have no credibility.”
The Warrens appeared at the doorstep of the Perron farmhouse and were invited in. Lorraine Warren, a self-proclaimed psychic-medium, returned at a later time to give details of her impressions. She came up with several stories, images, and impressions – all of which seemed accurate and realistic to Carolyn Perron.
And it would have been because, according to the book House of Darkness House of Light, Lorraine Warren took Carolyn's journal about her experiences, read them over, and then relayed this information back to Carolyn and the family as validation. The journal has never been returned.
And, as with every haunted house the Warrens encountered, the story changed dramatically. No longer was it a merely a haunting – it was inhabited by the spirits of the damned, demons, witches, vampires, werewolves – you name it, as long as it had a hook and fit the agenda.
The Perrons believed they were sharing their story to a couple who had genuine interest in their case and perhaps could lend help. What they found is that the Warrens were using this new case as a sideshow in their lecture circuit. Ghost hunters and curiosity seekers started appearing at the farmhouse and when Carolyn found out the Warrens were showcasing her home and her family, giving out the address, and describing her family's issues she felt “utterly betrayed.”
But the Warrens, however, convinced Carolyn to hold a séance and to exorcise the demons residing in her house once and for all. Desperate for answers and an end to the experiences, Carolyn agreed and an entourage of ghost hunters appeared alongside Ed and Lorraine Warren. Video cameras were set up and photographers were at the ready in case anything paranormal should occur. An audio recorder was set up to capture the entire cleansing ritual.
To some witnesses, Carolyn's chair levitated and she fell backwards. To others, she simply pushed her chair back and fell over. Ed Warren rushed to her and pushed Roger Perron, who also went to help his wife up off the ground. Roger was so furious at Ed that he whipped around and punched him right in the face.
Roger then ordered everyone out of his house and systematically all the ghost hunters left. The video camera evidence is said to have been “destroyed” by the demonic forces. No photographs ever turned up in the Warren's evidence and the audio files of the entire event have “been misplaced”.
After slamming the door on the Warren circus, Roger Perron said what he thought to his wife and according to Andrea: “He bitterly resented the intrusion, the theatrical farce of a pseudo-intellectual endeavor, ritualistic nonsense. Fake. Roger considered their little sideshow a charade.” “Don’t you realize when you’re being played?” and accused them of being “a pair of two-bit charlatans” claiming “They’ll only use you for notoriety, for their own purposes.”
“I’m not in dispute with Mrs. Sutcliffe about Bathsheba,” Andrea Perron says. “That was the story line of a made-up movie … it was a movie designed to highlight the career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. It was their version of events turned into a Hollywood feature film.”
Perron expresses mixed feelings about the movie. In one interview Andrea Perron glorifies the movie and the Warrens in an over-the-top dramatic speech and then in another interview she places doubts about the movie's truthfulness and accuracy, and the credibility of the Warrens.
“It was so distant [from the truth] that it might as well be two stories, with the characters sharing the same names,” she explains.
And that is why, perhaps, Andrea is now seeking a multimillion-dollar movie deal to bring her self-published anthology to the big screen.
As wildly successful as The Conjuring was, Perron believes that with total creative control, her movies will have an even greater impact, not just monetarily, but in connecting with others who are truly intrigued about the paranormal.
But before a deal could be struck, Warner Brothers had already scheduled the release date for The Conjuring 2, a sequel that showcases the Warren's files of the Enfield Poltergeist Case in England. Lorraine Warren, despite the public’s increasing doubt as to the Warrens’ legitimacy, continues to make much of their questionable careers as ghost hunting demonologists and inserts her husband and herself into the well-known Enfield Poltergeist case.
However, according to those involved with The Enfield Case, the Warrens had very little, if anything, to do with it, except perhaps, to convince those involved that they could become rich and famous if they just follow Ed Warren's advice.
Guy Lyon Playfair, member of the Society for Psychical Research and one of the chief investigators of the Enfield Poltergeist, states Ed and Lorraine Warren stayed for only a day, and alleges that they manufactured their own paranormal evidence simply “to make money out of it.”
The family involved and many other witnesses do not even recall speaking to the Warrens about anything.
“They did turn up once, I think, at Enfield, and all I can remember is Ed Warren telling me that he could make a lot of money for me out of it,” says Playfair. “So I thought, “well that’s all I need to know from you” and I got myself out of his way as soon as I could. I said was not impressed. He didn’t spend… I don’t think he went there more than once. And I did read somewhere a transcript of a lengthy interview which he’s alleged to have with one of the girls – which they couldn’t remember giving him – and it was describing all sorts of marvelous wonders which I don’t think ever happened. I think he was a complete…um… well… (laughs)… fill in whatever word…
“It was quite brief... I remember one day he did turn up. I think Lorraine was there as well – I’d also met them in Brazil. They sort of pop up all over the place. And it was just no big deal at all. I mean, I had a brief conversation with Ed at Enfield, and as I say, he was telling me how much money he’d help me make, and I politely declined his help, and I strained that that’s not what we exist for in the SPR, and that was the last time I saw him.”
For a more in depth look into The Warrens and the Enfield Poltergeist case, one needs to turn to Tom Ruffles of the SPR where he systematically details the Warrens involvement and their motive of gaining fame and fortune from the event.
Read more on The Warrens here:
Norma Sutcliffe has experienced the very worst sort of exploitation that can happen as a result of putting one’s public life in the hands of self-professed experts and cinematic bigwigs. We only have to look to the Amityville Horror, which occurred in the 1970’s, again at the hands and masterminds of the Warrens, to see what sort of lasting damage can occur. To this day, people flock to the home in Amityville to see the site where Ronald DeFoe murdered his entire family in their sleep and to hopefully see or experience some sort of lasting ghostly or demonic imprint that the Warrens have attributed to the house. Despite the fact that the house has been vastly renovated to conceal its prominent design, and despite the fact that the events that the Warrens allege have been widely refuted, the damage has been done and the stigma still remains, 40 years later.
It can be just as bad when a not-so-famous ghost hunting group displays one’s home on their website. For some reason, some thrill-seekers and ghost enthusiasts are willing to break laws and inconvenience others for the sake of obtaining true ghost photos that will in turn, gain them the notoriety or fame that they desire. The result can have a lasting effect on families as they try to repair their privacy and sometimes, damage to their home and property.
Norma once had an open mind to the possibility of otherworldly beings residing in her home. Now with a wiser, and perhaps more cynical view on how certain ghost hunters operate, she wonders the validity of paranormal research as a whole. This is probably a wise outlook as, although there are a great many respectable researchers, the paranormal field and its many subgenres, is wrought with charlatans and self-serving wannabes who wouldn’t hesitate to make your private life a living hell.
Andrea Perron Reviews the Conjuring
Norma Suttcliffe's Response to the Movie The Conjuring including research and documentation:
TAPS Ghost Hunter Episode:
• An Urgent Message from Andrea Perron - The Haunted Farmhouse is Besieged!
Andrea Perron interviews Norma Suttcliffe
News Story on Lawsuit