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‘Beyond the grave’ — the Warrens’ paranormal legacy

April 28, 2019 GMT

MONROE — Ed and Lorraine Warren weren’t the first people interested in or aware of supernatural events such as hauntings and possessions.

But the Monroe couple were among the first people to speak openly about these occurrences, said Roxie Zwicker, owner and founder New England Curiosities, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based business that offers ghost tours, and other haunted events.

“For a long time, people wouldn’t talk about ghosts and the paranormal in an open way,” for fear of being doubted or laughed at, said Zwicker, an author and radio host. “(But the Warrens) were willing to talk about it, and talk to the media about it, and work with the police” on cases with a supernatural bent.


In other words, the Warrens, for lack of a better phrase, helped bring paranormal activity out of the closet and into the mainstream. In the days following the April 19 death of Lorraine Warren at age 92, other enthusiasts for the supernatural said this will be a huge part of her legacy.

“People are much more open-minded about the paranormal now,” said paranormal investigator Nick Grossman, of the Norwalk-based Ghost Storm.

Creepy beginnings

The Warrens established the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952, a time when open-mindedness was not at its zenith, Grossman said. “Back then, people would think you were crazy if you said you had spirits in your house,” he said.

According to the society’s website, the couple’s work was inspired by Ed Warren’s childhood living in a Connecticut home he believed to be haunted. He reported waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a closet door opening, and would look inside to see the image of a face slowly forming in a ball of light.

The Warrens met when they were both 16 and Ed (who died in 2006) worked as an usher at the now-closed Colonial Theatre in Bridgeport. Lorraine used to come to the theater with her mother.

When they started the Society for Psychic Research, it was originally with the intent of simply investigating hauntings. But, eventually, they wanted to help — both the people being haunted and the spirits doing the haunting.

They enlisted clergy, scientists and others in their research, according to their site. Along the way, they encountered skeptics who said the Warrens were only out for money or publicity. But for true believers like Zwicker, their work was trailblazing and valuable.

“Whether people choose to believe in these experiences or not is immaterial,” she said. “The fact is, there are so many people who have these experiences.”


Famous cases

Like many people, Zwicker learned of the Warrens through their work investigating the Amityville Horror.

In 1975, the Warrens were called to a home in Amityville, N.Y., that had been the site of a gruesome murder in which six members of the DeFeo family were murdered. The surviving member, Ronald DeFeo, was arrested and convicted of the crime, though he claimed he wasn’t home at the time of the murders.

The Warrens were summoned to the house by a news reporter, and both Ed and Lorraine reported the presence of spirits, and ended up linking the creepy happenings to events deep in the property’s history. The story was the inspiration for “The Amityville Horror” series of films.

Other key cases researched by the Warrens include experiences by the Perron family, who reported spooky happenings at their Rhode Island farmhouse. That case was the inspiration for the movie “The Conjuring,” starring Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as the Warrens.

That movie spawned a sequel, with another one in the works. It also inspired spinoffs, including the “Annabelle” series of films, about a haunted doll.

The movies are something of a “double-edged sword,” said Barry Pirro, of, who has been studying and investigating the paranormal for more than a decade.

“On the one hand, (“The Conjuring” and the other films) make people realize that real, ordinary people actually seek the help of paranormal investigators when they have no one else to turn to,” Pirro said in an email. “On the other hand, the ‘Conjuring’ movies are way over the top. Nothing that dramatic ever happens during real paranormal investigations. And even if these things did happen while the Warrens were there, I’m sure that movies’ special effects have helped to hype the scare factor quite a bit.”

For many decades, the Warrens ran The Occult Museum out of their Monroe home. According to the Society for Psychic Research web site, the museum housed “items used in extremely dangerous occult activities and diabolical practices around the world. To touch one of these items would be the opposite of touching something holy, something blessed.”

The alleged cursed items included the original Annabelle doll, an organ that played by itself, a shrunken head and other frightening artifacts. The museum recently closed due to zoning issues, but a new home was being sought.

What’s next?

Now that both Warrens have died, other paranormal experts said their legacy of being open about the occult will continue. Because Connecticut is so old, Grossman said it’s the site of multiple paranormal presences.

Even Stepney Cemetery, where the Warrens are buried, has allegedly been visited by spirits.

“Connecticut is probably one of the most haunted places there is,” he said. “It’s generally a pretty boring place, but if you like the paranormal, it’s an amusement park.”

Zwicker, meanwhile, wondered whether this is the last we’ll hear of the Warrens.

“What people are going to wonder is, are there going to be messages from Lorraine from beyond the grave?” she said.