In 1980 a Connecticut family, the Glatzels, went to clean up a rental unit they had just purchased. There, 11-year-old David Glatzel saw the spirit of an angry old man, and the spirit physically pushed him. When David’s parents became angry with him, saying he made up the old man to get out of his chores, David informed his family that the spirit told him if the Glatzel family ever moved into the property, the spirit vowed to hurt them.
The family moved into the rental property anyway.
David Glatzel continued seeing the old man, sometimes as a demonic beast who spoke Latin. The Glatzel family soon observed David acting strangely. The 11-year-old would began to have seizures, experience bizarre injuries, growl and hiss, and talk about passages from the Bible and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. The family matriarch, Judy Glatzel, described her son’s tormentor as “a man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns and hoofs.” The family called the Catholic Church and asked for an exorcism to be performed on the boy. The Catholic Church declined to intervene, and the Glatzel family’s next call was to a couple of real-life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, who also lived in Connecticut.
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Ed and Lorraine Warren
The Warrens say they observed David Glatzel levitating, beaten by “unseen hands,” and that he began to be able to tell the future. Ed Warren said that not only was the boy demonically possessed, a total of 43 demonic spirits were attached to him. The Warrens agreed with the Glatzel family that an exorcism needed to be performed, so they found a Catholic priest willing to do an exorcism. (There’s some debate about how this was done, since most news sources don’t seem to understand the process. The Warrens would not have done an exorcism if the Catholic Church didn’t allow it, but we know that the Glatzel family reached out on their own before contacting the Warrens and were denied.) In the end, three exorcisms were performed.
At one point, one of the Glatzel children, Debbie Glatzel, felt so unsafe she asked her 19-year-old boyfriend, Arne Cheyenne Johnson, to move into the family home. Johnson was present at one of the exorcisms, and in an attempt to protect the little boy, Johnson encouraged the demons to enter his body instead. The Warrens said they warned Arne not to taunt the demon. The self-proclaimed “demonologist” Ed Warren said, “It’s just one of those things you never do…not if you know anything about this sort of thing.”
Debbie Glatzel and Arne Cheyenne Johnson moved out of the Glatzel home to protect themselves, but it was too late. Johnson began to experience many of the same symptoms as David. As Debbie Glatzel later testified, “Cheyenne would go into a trance. He would growl and say he saw the beast. Later he would have no memory of it. It was just like David.”
It was around this time that Lorraine Warren called the police and told them there was a danger in the Glatzel family.
Debbie Glatzel worked as a groomer at a boarding kennel for dogs. The kennel was managed by the owner’s brother, a 40-year-old man named Alan Bono, an Australian who was new to Connecticut. On February 16, 1981, Debbie’s boyfriend, Arne Cheyenne Johnson, called in sick to work and tagged along with Debbie to her job. Debbie’s sisters Wanda, 15, and Janice, 13, also came to the kennel that day along with their cousin Mary, who was nine. Alan bought them all lunch and started drinking heavily. Debbie got concerned and started to leave with her family when Alan held onto her nine-year-old cousin Mary.
It was then that Arne Cheyenne Johnson started growling. Out of nowhere, he stabbed Bono five times, killing him. Afterwards, Johnson simply walked off into the woods in a catatonic state. Johnson says he has “no memory” of the murder.
The ‘Devil Made Me Do It’ Case
While telling The Washington Post the story of her son’s demonic possession and the subsequent murder of her daughter’s boss by the girl’s fiancé, Judy Glatzel said, “This world is being controlled by the Devil—look at the drugs, the prostitution, the gambling and the violence. The Devil is in charge of it all.” Keep in mind this is the 80s in America, the height of Satanic Panic.
The Warrens also claimed that Arne Cheyenne Johnson was “possessed by the Devil” after he taunted demons at David Glatzel’s exorcism. Eventually this became his defense for murder. This is the first case in U.S. history where demonic possession was used as a defense tactic. Historically, it’s known as “The Devil Made Me Do It” case. The judge was not having it, however, and the defense strategy was not allowed due to lack of evidence.
On November 24, 1981, Arne Cheyenne Johnson was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for killing Alan Bono. He served five years in prison and was released. While in prison he was recognized as a model prisoner and earned his high-school diploma. Ed and Lorraine Warren say he is no longer demon-possessed.
Arne Cheyenne Johnson was released from prison in 1986. He and Debbie Glatzel married.
The case was featured in an episode of A Haunting called Where Demons Dwell.
In 2007, David Glatzel and Carl Glatzel Jr. sued the Warrens for continuing to profit from the story. Carl says his brother David Glatzel was mentally ill at the time the Warrens say he was demonically possessed. Furthermore, he accused the Warrens of inventing the demonic-possession story for money and fame. He claims the Warrens told his parents they could be “millionaires” and describes his childhood as “a living hell.”
Arne Cheyenne Johnson and Debbie Glatzel say Carl Glatzel Jr’s claims are false, the Warrens’ claims are true, and that David and Carl are “just trying to make money.”
Recently, this case became the foundation for Ed and Lorraine Warren’s characters in The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It, released June 4, 2021.
Now, Netflix will release a documentary, The Devil on Trial, directed by Christopher Holt that uses reenactments and home video to retell this dark story. It will be released on the streaming service on October 17, 2023.