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  • Writer's pictureIvy Boyd

The Dark Side of the Warrens: A Legacy Built on Exploitation and Satanic Panic

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Ed and Lorraine Warren are arguably two of the most famous names in the paranormal. Lorraine claimed to be clairvoyant and a trance-medium, while Ed was a self-taught and self-professed demonologist. With their wholesome public image as a demon-fighting duo helping those in need (free of charge) it is easy to see why they soared to such a level of fame. They were fighting for the side of good and ridding houses across the nation of demons and malevolent hauntings. But there is more to the history of the Warrens that you won't see on paranormal TV or in The Conjuring movie series. It is a history filled with exploitation, promoting Satanic Panic, and lies.

The Devil Made Me Do It

When arguing my stance against the Warrens and their legacy, a particular story that always comes to mind is the case known as The Devil in Connecticut or The Devil Made Me Do It. This is the story of Arne "Cheyenne" Johnson who was convicted of the murder of his landlord Alan Bono in 1981. In this real-life murder story, Ed and Lorraine Warren intervened and used their experience and expertise to argue in court that Cheyenne was under demonic possession when he committed the murder. This was the first time in the American court system that a defense of demonic possession was used, and it was quickly thrown out. Obvious ethical issues with excusing a murderer by blaming demons aside, the alleged source of said demons raises another issue. The Warrens claimed that these demons had previously possessed an 11 year old boy David Glatzel, the little brother of Debbie Glatzel, Cheyenne's girlfriend at the time. But it wasn't just one demon, or two...according to David himself, and Ed and Lorraine after speaking with him, David had been possessed by 43 demons. An absolutely absurd claim, even for those who believe in such phenomena. Debbie and their mother Judy had been familiar with the Warrens for some time after watching some of their lectures, so when David began to see and hear things that weren't really there, violently act out, and was covered in mysterious bruises and cuts, they were quick to believe that evil paranormal forces were at play and reached out to the Warrens for help.

It is important to note that David had previously been diagnosed with a minor learning disability, and for a formal rite of exorcism to be performed the Church must first give permission after psychological tests and evaluations have been given and mental illness (among other things) have been ruled out. This is a formality that the Warrens gave little-to-no mind to, with the family allegedly stating that they didn't want to pay to have David see a psychiatrist because they were so certain that something paranormal was to blame. The Warrens did claim that the priests who they worked with had indeed asked the Church for permission, but the Church maintained that this did not happen. According to the Warrens, they had video proof of two priests asking for permission and threatened to expose this evidence against the Church, but they never followed through and said video was never seen. (A repeating occurrence in their stories - claiming to have evidence that they never show.)

David was clearly in need of some kind of professional help, but things spiraled as the adults in his life reinforced the idea that he was possessed by demons. For a time, some of Davids family used "they" and "them" pronouns for David, referring to the many demons they believed had control over him. A handful of exorcisms were performed on David, but throughout all of this there was still a member of the family who didn't believe David was possessed...

Carl Glatzel, Debbie and David's brother, states that he saw the situation for what it was: a means of getting Cheyenne off the hook for murder, and exploiting David's learning disability and clear mental illness for a moment of fame and money. According to Carl, the Warrens told the Glatzel family that if they let them publish a book about their story, their family would receive millions. They agreed, but the Glatzel's only saw about $2,000 after the book The Devil in Connecticut was released, written by Gerald Brittle with the help of Lorraine. Carl believed that this book painted him as the villain who denied the existence of demons and blamed him for some of the abusive and criminal acts against his family. Carl believes that this image of him in the book was the reason he had to drop out of school, struggled to make friends, and found it difficult to find jobs in the area. When the book was re-released in 2006, Carl and David Glatzel, who were now adults, decided to sue, stating that they never gave permission for their stories to be used in the book. The brothers also anticipated another spike in their stories popularity and how this might negatively impact them once more, so they decided to come forward with the truth, with Carl claiming that “the Warrens concocted a phoney story about demons in an attempt to get rich and famous at our expense.” Debbie, their sister, believed that Carl was only saying this and suing for the money. When asked about this, Carl responded: "Debbie, my sister, said I'm doing it for the money. I'm doing this for punitive damages and everything they did to us as children. We are not going to go through this again. This is damages that they took away from my schooling and all the things they took away from me all those years.”

To me, this is the ultimate story of what the Warrens were willing to do to maintain their popularity in the media. Although it is true that they did not charge for their services, they did make an incredible wealth off of lectures, which could cost up to $1,000 per person, and the book and movie deals that would followed these cases they were involved with. The Warrens would then leave those that they "helped" in the dust with empty promises while dealing with the hardships that can come with being recognized in their writings. When confronted about statements made by individuals like Carl, Lorraine dodged any real acknowledgement of the harm they may have caused, stating that "This is such an emotional type of strain on me today - It's too upsetting a situation." Ed would also briefly acknowledge the negative impact their work could have, but made it clear that he did not care because this information "needed to be known" and "shouted from the rooftops".

The Haunting in Connecticut

Carl Glatzel wouldn't be the only person who worked with the Warren's who would speak out against them. In the case of the Snedeker family, famously known as the inspiration behind the 2009 movie The Haunting in Connecticut, supernatural evils were blamed on horrific hauntings in the Snedeker family home. In their usual fashion, the Warrens also believed that one of the family members, Philip, was possessed after he began to see and hear things that weren't there. On top of this, the Warrens claimed to have done research into the home which used to act as a funeral home and that they found evidence of necrophilia between the funeral home staff and the bodies which were brought to them. Ed and Lorraine said they would release their evidence and proof of this claim, but never did and these claims remain unsupported. Imagine someone attacks your own family business, even if it has since closed, by making claims such as this. The Warrens truly paid no mind to how the claims they made could effect peoples wellbeing and memory in the community. Thankfully, most locals were quick to see through this lie and hopped on the defense for the reputation of the former funeral home.

The Warrens would hire a horror author Ray Garton to write a book about this case of the Snedeker family titled In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting which made its debut in 1992. But Garton alleges that details given to him about the Snedeker families experiences weren't adding up and often contradicted each other. When Garton approached Ed with this issue, Ed's response was telling Garton that "Everybody who comes to us is crazy. Otherwise why would they come to us? You've got some of the story - just use what works and make the rest up. And make it scary. You write scary books, right? That's why we hired you." Garton talks about this encounter in an interview for the Horror Bound Magazine, where he also claims that other authors who worked with the Warrens had a similar experience to his. In this interview, Garton also points out that the Warrens only began to spew demonic rhetoric coincidentally after the success of the novel and movie The Exorcist, with their previous investigations always involving the classic ghost or spirit.

When asked why he continued to write the book, Garton explains that a contract had been signed and he had no choice, and he began to speak up about his experience with the Warrens immediately after the books release. Garton also brings up another issue with the son Philip who had been undergoing treatment for Hodgkins disease, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and who later admitted to having a drug addiction and that he was responsible for some of the "vileness" in the home that the Warrens said was paranormal/supernatural in nature. During a brief phone call with Philip and his mother Carmen, Garton said "When the boy began to talk about drugs and told me that he didn’t hear and see strange things in the house once he began taking medication, Carmen ended the conversation." But rather than pursue this and seek other treatment, the Warrens (and Philips own mother) stayed on the demonic carpet rolled out by Ed and Lorraine.

The Amityville Horror

In the famous case of The Amityville Horror, Ronald DeFeo Jr. (who usually went by "Butch") killed his entire family in their home in 1974. It was initially said that an evil presence in the home made Butch commit these crimes and his attorney, William Weber, used a plea of insanity as their defense. This idea of a supernatural presence in the home led to the next family to move into the home, the Lutz family, to work with Weber and also claim that they experienced a violent haunting. The Warrens would later investigate here, with a summary of their investigation stating that “The Warrens believed that the suffering there had left the property with a very negative energy and dark history, and that such a negative history was a magnet for demonic spirits and the preternatural.” But before Butch's death in March 2021, he confessed that nothing supernatural was going on in the home and that he was not possessed when the killings happened. (A plea of insanity is often used to lighten a sentence or avoid the death penalty.)

Weber, a filmmaker, and Daniel Schwarz (a psychiatrist that testified on Butches behalf) planned on releasing the real story of Amityville. Butch himself signed over the rights to his story to them with the stipulation that "... the motion picture or teleplay will be based upon my true story and the true facts, which occurred in November 1974 and will not deal in any manner with the theory of possession or demonism as contained in the book Murder in Amityville.” (Murder in Amityville was written by Hans Holzer as a prequel to The Amityville Horror.) So not only has the killer himself denounced any paranormal, supernatural, or preternatural happenings, but his former defense attorney Weber would also go on to admit to the haunting in the home with the Lutz family being a hoax that they concocted over some bottles of wine. (Weber admitted this after a legal battle over profits broke out between himself and the Lutz's.) Most of the rumored paranormal activity written about in the book The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson, released in 1977, was also quickly debunked by the next family to move into the home, the Cromarty's. For example, in the book they would claim that some windows in the home had been blown out by unexplainable supernatural winds, but the Cromarty's found that those same windows were still the originals and had clearly not been broken or replaced. The same went for other damages to the home and technicalities that just weren't possible. If Ed and Lorraine had performed any sort of real investigation, you would think that these kind of details in the hauntings would actually be investigated. Instead, they quickly made their appearance, confirmed the haunting, had their moment in the spotlight and moved on to the next story. It is clear that any case that has involved or been endorsed by the Warrens needs to be looked into a little deeper, and I have found that most of their famous cases have these similar themes and conclusions.

Their Legacy and Satanic Panic

Satanic Panic is a term used to describe a wave of fear over rampant Satanic rituals that many people believed were happening across the United States. This, of course, benefitted the Warrens greatly and was something they could cater towards. The Warrens pushed their belief that demons were responsible for the evil going on in peoples homes, with Lorraine in particular believing that a lack of religion or housing non-Christian imagery and deities in ones home makes them more susceptible to a demonic attachment.

The Warrens built a career on coming across as a loving and wholesome couple who were selflessly helping others, when in reality they were denying or ignoring instances of mental illness or drug abuse and using demons as an exciting scapegoat for their next big story. They would hire authors to write their most famous books while (allegedly) telling them to make stuff up, sign movie deals, and reap all of the benefits while those that were involved were left to suffer the consequences, living or dead. In the story that inspired the movie The Conjuring we saw the Warrens push anti-witch statements as they accused a previous tenant of the home, Bathsheba Sherman, of being a witch who killed at least one infant in the name of Satan. (Witches killing babies as sacrifices to Satan is an extremely old, false, and out-dated stereotype.) Although Bathsheba has been dead for quite some time, the Warrens reporting on her as a witch and baby killer, with no evidence or solid records to back it up, has led to a likely innocent Bathsheba's grave being a constant victim of vandalism. Her headstone now sits broken, and a small fence had been put around her final resting place in an attempt to deter further destruction. This goes to show the lasting effect that the false stories told by the Warrens can have, regardless of whether someone is alive or deceased.

The popularity of demonic hauntings perpetuated by the Warrens has also had a lasting impact on many ghost hunters today who continue to idolize a romanticized version of the Warrens that they see in the movies. Ghost hunters and paranormal investigators are still pushing content that promotes the idea that demons are lurking in the shadows of every haunted location; these content creators are seemingly unaware of the impact that Satanic Panic can have on society. As mentioned earlier, Satanic Panic swept the US throughout the 1980's and 1990's as households everywhere were being fed stories of demonic rituals on nearly every television and news station. Satanic narratives were suddenly being woven into every crime, one famous example being that of Damien Echols who was found guilty (along with two other teenagers) in 1994 for the murder of three young boys in 1993. Echols was a victim of prejudice and stereotypes as the media and courts jumped to Satanic conclusions on the basis that he wore dark clothing, had an interest in Wicca, and listened to heavy metal music. Echols was sentenced to death, but was released in 2011 on an Alford plea and has gone on to write about is experience in autobiographies and has released other works on spiritualism. However, some victims of Satanic Panic who were accused of devil worship in other crimes are still wrongfully imprisoned to this day...

We saw what merely being associated with stories of demonic possession can have, with the after effects told by Carl Glatzel. We see instances of mental illness and drug abuse issues being swept under the rug as demons are blamed instead, neglecting what needs to actually be addressed. It is time that the darker, exploitive side of the Warrens is talked about more in the public eye so that some of these damages can be repaired, and the promotion of Satanic Panic on paranormal TV and social media can subside. I am hopeful this will happen, and that the world of investigating the paranormal will have a brighter and more positive future, with less of a negative impact on those involved in the stories we tell.

Disclaimer - Some statements made in this post are alleged or hearsay, and belief in the paranormal and supernatural is up to oneself. I have formed my own opinion on Ed and Lorraine Warren and what I believe their true motives to be based on statements and allegations made by those who worked closely with them, or in proximity with people involved in their cases. I have also based this off of the words spoken by Ed and Lorraine Warren themselves and my personal disagreement with their actions and methods.

For more information on these stories and topics, you can check out these sources below which I used for this blog post:

The Devil Made Me Do It:

Let's Go To Court Podcast - Episode 178

Ray Garton and The Haunting in Connecticut:

Lorraine Warren quote:

The Amityville Horror: (This is a good source for anyone interested in more details and theories on the crime itself.)

Let's Go To Court Podcast - Episode 40

Bathsheba Sherman/The Conjuring:

Damien Echols/West Memphis Three:

If you would like to learn more about Satanic Panic and the impact it can have on innocent people, I highly recommend this video on the Esoterica YouTube Channel:

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Dec 06, 2022

Good stuff (as in you did a good job, not the Warrens lol) - nicely researched and informational!!

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