Ed and Lorraine Warren are two real-life paranormal investigators who are also the inspiration behind the wildly popular Conjuring franchise. Ed Warren was a self-described “demonologist,” and Lorraine Warren was a medium. The Conjuring movies are now the second highest-grossing horror franchise of all time, behind only Godzilla. They include three Conjuring movies, three Annabelle movies, and then The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona. The Conjuring universe is a bit loosely organized, as The Curse of La Llorona is included although it only connects to the rest of the movies because one priest character also appears in an Annabelle movie. However, The Conjuring 1-3 are directly based on investigations conducted by the Warrens.
The Warrens pioneered the field of paranormal investigation. Whatever you think about the couple, so much of modern horror culture has its roots in things the Warrens did. The New England Society for Psychic Research (NESPR), created by the Warrens, is the oldest ghost-hunting group in New England. Their investigations paved the way for the success of TV shows such as Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and even Haunted, which has episodes on a number of cases the Warrens worked on. One of those episodes was turned into a feature film.
Some of the Warrens’ case files that have made their way into popular culture include the Amityville haunting, the haunted Annabelle doll, the Enfield poltergeist, Arne Cheyenne Johnson’s “the devil made me do it” case, and the Snedecker and Smurl hauntings.
Still, for all this work making the paranormal mainstream, the couple seemed to be more motivated by fame and money than by a sincere search for truth. The Warrens have been outed many times as frauds. Here’s an example of the “evidence” the Warrens collected over the years that was only released to the public by their son-in-law after their deaths. It’s clearly faked, although Ed Warren acted convinced that this was his smoking gun.
There’s also the fact that when Lorraine Warren signed on to consult on the Conjuring movies, she had Warner Brothers sign a contract that the couple would never be portrayed negatively, and they would especially never talk about Ed Warren in connection with any sex crimes. That’s a weird thing to specify in a contract, unless…
The Conjuring Universe
The first Conjuring movie was many people’s first introduction to Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are portrayed as a loving Catholic couple called to help people affected by hauntings and demonic interference. The story is based on the haunting of the Perron family in Harrisville, Rhode Island, and the family actually visited the set during filming. Eight generations of families occupied the house before the Perrons moved in, and the oldest daughter, Andrea Perron, speculates that some of the spirits of the previous inhabitants had never left. Andrea also has said, “Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position.”
The haunted-doll horror-movie genre seemed dead before Annabelle. The Boy (2016) was panned even though it’s actually a pretty good twist ending movie. However, the story of the haunted Annabelle doll was captivating enough that there are now three Annabelle movies.
The doll’s origin story is that she was a doll that a 25-year-old nurse was given by her mother. The nurse and her roommate began to notice that the doll seemed to move on her own, so they called a psychic. The psychic told them that the doll was being moved by the ghost of a little girl, Annabelle Higgins, who died in their apartment complex. The ghost asked if she could “move into” the doll, and the girls felt bad for the little girl ghost, so they said yes.
According to the Warrens, this was a huge mistake. The Warrens said that no little girl ghost ever existed but that the roommates were tricked by a demonic entity into allowing the entity to possess the doll. The Annabelle doll became violent after this, scratching one of the girls’ boyfriends deeply. The Warrens arranged for a priest to give an exorcism, and they took the Annabelle doll and kept her locked in their occult museum until their deaths.
This movie is a theatrical version of that story with “Annabelle Higgins” becoming a deranged young woman who murders her parents in the name of Satan. She dies while holding the “Annabelle” doll, and that’s how the doll becomes attached to an evil spirit in the movie. The young nurses in the real story are replaced by a couple who had been the neighbors of Annabelle Higgins’s parents.
In real life, the whole Annabelle story may have been dreamed up by either the Warrens or the nurses after seeing an episode of The Twilight Zone which aired almost a decade before the doll was ever purchased by the girl’s mother:
The second Conjuring film is based on one of the most famous hauntings of all time, the Enfield poltergeist which affected a family living in a council house in Enfield, England in the late 70s. The idea of a haunting happening in a house you can’t really leave because you can’t afford to or aren’t allowed to adds another level of fear.
At the beginning of the film, we see the Warrens at the Amityville house, investigating the Lutz family’s reports of hauntings after they bought the home at a deep discount following the annihilation of the DeFeo family by Ronnie DeFeo, Jr. They then head to London to help a single mother who is overwhelmed by the paranormal activity in the council home she and her children occupied. As in the Enfield haunting, the Warrens discover that at least part of the paranormal activity is being faked by two of the children. However, the girls claim that they did this to get people to believe them and that real poltergeist activity was also happening.
Those involved in the Enfield haunting say that the Warrens were not as involved in the case as the movie makes it seem. Apparently they showed up “uninvited” and left after one day.
This is the first film in what is known as the “Conjuring cinematic universe” not to feature or even mention Ed and Lorraine Warren in any way. This is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, and the basic plot involves a doll-maker and his wife who’ve suffered the tragic loss of their daughter twelve years prior and then invite a nun and a group of girls from a shut-down orphanage into their home. But then they discover to their horror that they have become the targets of a demonically possessed doll.
Shot entirely in Romania, The Nun focuses on a priest with a troubled past and a novitiate who is about to take her final vows. Together they are sent to Romania to cast a demon from a possessed nun (Bonnie Aarons), who also made brief appearances in The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle: Creation. Fast-forward twenty years, and Ed and Lorraine Warren are presenting a lecture about their attempts to exorcise a possessed man named Maurice. Vera Farmiga, who plays Lorraine Warren, is actually the sister of lead Nun actress Taissa Farmiga, who plays Sister Irene. Director Corin Hardy originally did not want to cast Taissa because she was Vera’s sister, but he said, “I watched 100 auditions for this role and she had some kind of presence outside of her own body that is evident, and she’s phenomenal.” The Nun 2 seems like it is definitely happening.
This, the second film in the Conjuring cinematic universe that makes no mention of Ed and Lorraine Warren, is the first Conjuring film to feature a villain who made no appearance in the main series. The “origin” prologue is set in Mexico during the 1600s and tells the actual Mexican folkloric tale of a woman who gets revenge against her cheating husband by drowning their children and then committing suicide, which sends her spirit roaming the earth looking for children to replace the ones she killed.
Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) are only featured in a ten-minute prologue where they explain how the Annabelle doll came into their possession and a two-minute epilogue that wraps up the events. Most of the plot involves their daughter Judy, who is left alone at the Warrens’ “museum” house with a high-school senior named Mary. Both Mary and Judy strictly adhere to the rules about the museum, but everything goes wrong once a curious friend named Daniela drops by and starts to snoop around. Much of the movie was shot in the actual Warren house, along with all of their occultic artifacts. Annabelle Comes Home was dedicated to Lorraine Warren, who died a mere two months before the film’s release.
The third Conjuring movie follows the Warrens’ involvement with the Glatzel family and the subsequent murder of Alan Bono and the infamous “devil made me do it” case.
The Glatzel family was preparing a rental property to be move-in ready. While helping, eight-year-old David Glatzel saw the ghost of an old man. Initially disbelieving him, the family began to pay attention when they moved into the rental property and the paranormal activity around David increased. The Warrens were called, and an exorcism was eventually performed, but not before Debbie Glatzel’s boyfriend, Arne “Cheyenne” Johnson, taunted the spirit and asked it to inhabit his body instead of David’s.
Subsequently, Arne experiences the effects of a demonic presence and eventually murders Debbie Glatzel’s boss/landlord. He becomes the first person in American history to attempt to use “the devil made me do it” as his legal defense for murder. The judge rejected the defense, but Johnson was only convicted of manslaughter and served five years in prison before being freed. He married Debbie Glatzel and the two claim to this day that the Warrens’ version of events is correct. Debbie’s brothers Carl and David, however, say that David was a mentally ill child and their family was preyed on by the Warrens. The boys have sued the Warrens.
Other Horror Movies Based On The Warrens
The Amityville Horror Series
All of the Amityville Horror movies were made because of Ed and Lorraine Warren. The popularity of Jay Anson’s “based on a true story” novel The Amityville Haunting created a ghost story people cannot get enough of. Here are all the movies in the prolific Amityville Haunting universe:
- The Amityville Horror (1979) the original horror thriller based on the alleged haunting of a Long Island house where Ronnie DeFeo, Jr. slaughtered the rest of his family over the course of one night.
- Amityville II: The Possession (1982) is a prequel to the 1979 Amityville Horror that weaves incest and satanic elements into the plot.
- Amityville 3-D (1983) refusing to believe stories that the house is haunted, a writer and his wife purchase the notorious Amityville house, only to realize that it is indeed haunted.
- Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989) the demons from the Amityville house inhabit a lamp and then are transported to a California mansion, which they begin haunting upon arrival.
- The Amityville Curse (1990) five people spend the night in an abandoned haunted house in Amityville, NY, only to be tormented by spirits and poisonous insects.
- Amityville: It’s About Time (1992) a widowed father brings an antique clock into his home, unaware that it was created by a French necromancer from the 1400s and used to occupy the haunted house in Amityville, NY.
- Amityville: A New Generation (1993) a photographer buys a framed mirror from a homeless person, not realizing that demons inhabit it.
- Amityville: Dollhouse (1996) a little girl receives a present that’s a tiny replica of the haunted house in Amityville. Chaos soon follows. As the advertising tagline describes it, “The house might be miniature, but the evil is full sized!”
- The Amityville Horror (2005 remake) this remake of the 1979 classic stars Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George and Philip Baker Hall and took in box-office receipts of $108 million on a budget of only $19 million.
- The Amityville Haunting (2011) the Benson family moves into the infamous Amityville house in the year 2008; after the predictable chaos ensues, a family member who controls the estate releases videotapes of what happened.
- The Amityville Asylum (2013) thirty years after the DeFeo murders, the Amityville house is razed to the ground and replaced with a psychiatric hospital, but the demons still remain.
- Amityville Death House (2015) a young girl and her friends visit Amityville to check up on her ailing grandmother, only to experience the ill effects of a 300-year-old curse.
- The Amityville Playhouse (2015) after a girl’s parents die in Amityville, NY, she inherits an abandoned playhouse, only to realize that the demons inhabiting it refuse to play along.
- Amityville: No Escape (2016) college students find an old VHS tape detailing the haunting of the house in Amityville and decide to camp out behind the house. They soon regret this decision.
- Amityville: Vanishing Point (2016) after a girl mysteriously vanishes in Amityville, a dubious “detective” comes to investigate, and it turns out that the girl may not have vanished at all.
- The Amityville Terror (2016) a family moves into an old house in Amityville and soon are besieged by demons inside the house and malevolent locals.
- Amityville Prison (2017) friends break into an abandoned prison in Amityville and begin missing one at at time.
- Amityville: The Awakening (2017) a single mom and her three kids move into the infamous haunted house, obvious to the fact that it’s haunted.
- The Amityville Murders (2018) is an examination of the infamous slayings of his own family by Ronnie DeFeo, Jr. that led to the Amityville legend.
- The Amityville Harvest (2020) a video team arrives at the haunted house to interrogate its sinister owner, only to fall prey to his machinations.
Other Movies Connected To Ed And Lorraine Warren
In this Steven Spielberg classic about a hopelessly haunted house in the super-bland Southern California suburbs, the “parapsychologist” character, Dr. Lesh, is rumored to be based on Lorraine Warren.
In what is known as “The Lost Conjuring Movie,” this made-for-TV film is about the Warrens’ investigation into the 1974 haunting experienced by the Smurl family in West Pittston, PA. Stephen Markle stars as Ed Warren, and Diane Baker portrays Lorraine Warren. The Warrens show up about halfway through the film and only take up about ten minutes of screen time. Critics have noted that Stephen Markle actually resembles Ed Warren far more than Patrick Wilson does.
The plot is based around the haunting of the Snedecker family in Southington, Connecticut in 1986, which the Warrens investigated. According to the Warrens, the Snedecker house used to be a mortuary where someone practiced dark magic, attempting to summon or communicate with the dead. The Snedecker family’s story was told in the paranormal reality shows A Haunting, Paranormal Witness and Mysteries at the Museum, which was then made into A Haunting in Connecticut (2009).
The couple that owns the Snedecker house sued Warner Brothers because of the frequency with which people were trespassing and leaving satanic objects at their home. They say they have never experienced anything paranormal since moving into the home.
Future films based on the Warrens as of 2022
As the second highest-grossing horror franchise of all time, they aren’t going to stop making Conjuring movies anytime soon. Here’s what people involved in production have said is coming down the pipeline:
- The Conjuring 4: There’s no info about this movie since the third movie just came out, but with its success it seems there will definitely be at least one more movie made that centers the characters of Ed and Lorraine.
- The Crooked Man: A kind of spinoff of The Conjuring 2 about the creepy children’s nursery rhyme. Scripts have been written, but nothing has started production.
- The Nun 2: The project has a screenwriter, producers, and even the actor playing Valak the Demon Nun ready to reprise her role.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which movies from The conjuring series are true?
- The Conjuring (2013) – Based on the Warrens’ investigation of the Perron family haunting.
- Annabelle (2014) – The story seen in the film fictional, but the Annabelle doll itself is based on a real doll investigated by the Warrens.
- The Conjuring 2 (2016) – Based on the Warrens’ investigation of the Enfield poltergeist. Also contains a brief sequence about the Amityville murders.
- Annabelle: Creation (2017) – Like the first Annabelle movie, the story of this sequel is all fiction unless you count the doll itself being based on an actual doll.
- The Nun (2018) – The story of The Nun is fiction, but the character of the Nun is inspired by a few real sources (see the next question below).
- The Curse of La Llorona (2019) – This film is inspired by the Latin-American folk tale of La Llorona, but it is not based on any investigation by the Warrens.
- Annabelle Comes Home (2019) – The story is fiction, but a few of the items seen in the Warrens’ home are based on real items housed in the real Warrens’ (now closed) Occult Museum.
- The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021) – Based on the Warrens’ involvement in the murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson.
Is The Nun based on Ed and Lorraine Warren?
First, Valak is the name demon that takes the form of the Nun (and the Crooked Man). The influential grimoire The Lesser Key of Solomon describes a demon named Valak (or Valac), and, according to the Warrens’ son-in-law Tony Spera, the look of Valak in the Conjuring Universe is taken from a conversation James Wan had with Lorraine Warren. Spera says Lorraine told Wan that one night she felt a presence and saw a “whirlwind of black mass” enter her room. Wan concluded that the presence haunting Lorraine in the movies should be specific to her character, something that attacks her faith, and decided on a nun.
Also, the image of the evil Nun may be partially inspired by a series of investigations Ed and Lorraine Warren had in the 1970s. When visiting Borley Church in England, Lorraine Warren says she encountered the presence of a nun and even claims to have had a photo taken of the nun. The legitimacy of the hauntings of Borley Church and the now-demolished Borley Rectory are subject to dispute, but the idea of a ghostly nun may have been an inspiration for the Nun character in the Conjuring movies.
Which Conjuring Universe movie is the scariest?
How is The Curse of La Llorona connected to The Conjuring?
Is The Nun connected to Annabelle?
It’s also possible that The Nun, or rather the demon Valak which sometimes takes the form of The Nun, has a direct hand in some of the supernatural events in Annabelle: Creation, but that is not confirmed in the films.
Are the Warrens in Annabelle, Annabelle: Creation, The Curse of La Llorona, etc?
Are Irene and Lorraine Warren the same person?
There is speculation the two characters may later be revealed to be the same person. The theory is that, since The Nun takes place in the early 50s and Irene is in her early twenties, and Lorraine is around forty in the early 1970s, the two characters could be the same age. Also, both characters are religious and share an ability to see supernatural visions. However, officially there is no reason to believe Irene and Lorraine are the same person.
Are the Insidious movies and The Conjuring universe connected?
Another connection between the Insidious and Conjuring universes is, of course, Patrick Wilson who stars in both franchises.