The Warrens: The Truth Behind the Horror Ends Here

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Few modern horror franchises are as popular as The Conjuring. With three Conjuring movies, another in the works, and spin-offs like Annabelle and The Nun, it’s impossible to find a horror fan who hasn’t heard of The Conjuring or The Warrens. 


In this series, we have explored Ed and Lorraine Warren’s real stories beyond the news headlines and glamorous book and movie titles. But we’re not done quite yet. We have two final stories to share: the famous tale (and what really happened) of the Hodgson and Glatzel families. 

Let’s look at the second and third installments in the Conjuring Universe and go behind the curtain to reveal the true stories behind what’s presented on the silver screen.

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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Although the movie opens with a scene about the Amityville Horror, The Conjuring 2 primarily focuses on the story of the Enfield Poltergeist, a case Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated in 1978. 


The Conjuring 2 is the third highest-grossing film in the Conjuring universe and is regarded by many fans as even better than the first—a rarity for most sequels, especially in the horror genre. 

But is the story presented in The Conjuring 2 accurate, or is it another vehicle Ed and Lorraine Warren used to chase fame and fortune at the expense of the Hodgson family? Here’s what we know:

The Famous Story


The Conjuring 2 deviates from the other movies in the franchise by sending Ed and Lorraine Warren to Enfield, a suburb of London, England. 


The 18-month haunting kicked off in August 1977 when police officers were sent to a quaint home in Enfield to investigate strange happenings inside the Hodgson home. Peggy Hodgson, a single mother of four, had heard loud banging noises coming from her daughter’s bedroom. 


When she went to the room, she found the girls huddled together, terrified, as they watched a chest of drawers come closer to the door as if to barricade the girls inside. Horrified, Peggy tried to push the furniture back into place but realized it wouldn’t budge. It was as if some unseen force was catapulting the chest toward the door. 


Peggy sought help from her neighbors, who agreed they heard strange noises inside the home. When the police came, one officer claimed to have seen a chair move across a room, but ultimately, they decided that whatever was happening in the Enfield home was not a matter for the police. 


The police couldn’t help them, but Peggy reasoned that the Daily Mirror might be able to. A reporter from a popular UK publication came to the home and witnessed nothing out of the ordinary until he was about to leave. Out of nowhere, a Lego flew and hit the reporter in the eye, leaving a mark that was still visible days later. 


Maurice Grosse was the next one on the case. Sent from the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), Grosse claimed to have witnessed over 2,000 different supernatural incidents in the Enfield home. Some things were relatively harmless, like cups filling with water on their own. But other things were deeply disturbing. In addition to levitation, spontaneous fires, and furniture flipping over, Grosse reported that a curtain had wound its way around his neck. 


Things got even weirder when 11-year-old Janet became possessed by a poltergeist. The young girl would fall into a trance and assume a deep, scratchy voice. She claimed to be the ghost of Bill Wilkens, who allegedly died in the house years before. Sometimes, these possessions would last for hours at a time. 


It wasn’t before long that Ed and Lorraine Warren were invited to Enfield to investigate the case. The duo quickly confirmed that the home was indeed haunted. Speaking about the Hodgson home, Ed once said, “Those who deal with the supernatural day in and day out know the phenomena are there – there’s no doubt about it.”


The hauntings made the Hodgson family famous and often the subject of ridicule. Janet was placed on the front page of the Daily Star alongside the headline, “Possessed by the Devil.” She was bullied often, with classmates calling her “ghost girl.” Janet’s brother, who was never the direct target of the poltergeist, was also bullied and even spit on by his peers. These stressors weighed down Peggy, who, according to Janet, “had a nervous breakdown in the end.” 


Whether she faked it or not, Janet’s family was concerned about her health. She spent time at the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital in London, but tests showed that her health was normal.

Separating Fact from Fiction


Today, Janet and her living relatives maintain that the story of the Enfield poltergeist is true. One detail is verifiable: Bill Wilkens, the old man who supposedly possessed Janet, was a real person who died of a hemorrhage while sitting in the home’s living room.


But there’s still a considerable amount of doubt hanging over the Enfield story. Janet has admitted that the Hodgson daughters fabricated some stories. Janet told the Daily Mirror, “Once or twice [we faked it] just to see if Mr. Grosse…would catch us. [He] always did.” Researchers from the Society for Psychical Research also caught the children bending spoons, possibly to use them as evidence of a haunting.


Graham Morris, a Daily Mirror photographer who took the famous photos of Janet seemingly levitating over her bed, says that Janet wasn’t actually levitating but rather jumped in the air. However, the photographer did not dare question the “real” investigators on the scene from the Society of Psychical Research, so he kept his opinions to himself.


Interestingly, Morris now denies that he said that Janet jumped for the photos nearly five decades ago. Is it possible that someone has influenced or encouraged him to recant his previous statements? Perhaps someone has convinced him that the story is more profitable if the public believes that Janet was indeed possessed. 


It is possible that we will never know what happened in the Hodgson household. We may need to accept there are more questions than answers in this story.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

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The Glatzel family’s story, immortalized in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, is a wild tale of possible demonic possession that continues to spark debate to this day. Despite the fact that many involved in the case swear that the details are true, mounting evidence points to something more sinister: lies and manipulation for monetary gain.

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The Famous Story


David Glatzel was an ordinary boy whose life changed forever at age 11 when unexplained events began to plague the family home. David had strange visions, felt a coldness that seeped into his bones, and even claimed a devilish figure taunted him with threats.


Desperate for answers, the Glatzel family turned to Ed and Lorraine Warren, who by now had a flourishing reputation as wholesome, helpful paranormal investigators. The Warrens, convinced David was entangled with a demonic entity far more sinister than any childhood fear, believed an exorcism was the only solution. 


The ritual is a central plot point of The Conjuring 3. According to the famous story, David exhibited disturbing behavior, his body contorting in unnatural ways and his voice morphing into a guttural growl as the Warrens battled the unseen force. During the exorcism, Arne Johnson, David’s sister’s fiancé, reportedly tried to coax the devil out of David. Johnson has said: 


“I yelled at this thing to the top of my lungs,” he says in the Netflix documentary The Devil on Trial. “I said, ‘Leave this little kid alone. Take me on. I’m here. Take me on.’ I felt this coldness come over me, ice cold. Lorraine said, ‘Oh my God, what did you do?’”


The exorcism did little to minimize the paranormal experiences. In fact, Lorraine herself had a vision that something terrible involving a knife would soon come to fruition. Indeed, tragedy struck the Glatzel family five months after the exorcism. Arne, who had just challenged David’s poltergeist months earlier, was accused of murdering their landlord, Alan Bono, in a brutal knife attack. 


Arne’s defense team, in a bold and unprecedented move, attempted to use the demonic possession as a defense. When asked why he killed Bono, he stated simply, “The devil made me do it.” He and his legal team claimed the evil entity that plagued David had somehow jumped to Arne during the exorcism, a concept the Warrens referred to as “transmigration.” This theory, fueled by the couple’s belief in the demonic realm, sent shockwaves through the legal system.


The court, however, refused to entertain the demonic possession claim, leaving Arne to face a manslaughter conviction. He was released in 1986 after serving five years and has been keeping a low profile since then.

Separating Fact from Fiction


If you examine the events surrounding this case more closely, you’ll find a story far more intricate than the film’s portrayal of a clear-cut demonic possession. 


David’s older brother Carl has been a vocal skeptic of the case. He suggests their mother may have exaggerated the events to garner attention and also believes that his family was financially exploited by the Warrens. 


When the Warrens told Judy Glatzel, David’s mother, about a future book deal, Judy made arrangements to hire an attorney to review work related to the book deal. The Warrens discouraged her from further pursuing the attorney, a move that certainly raises eyebrows. Is it possible that the Warrens wanted to keep Judy in the dark about her rights to the story and all the money that could come with it?


It certainly seems like that could be the case. All told, the Glatzel family received $4,500 for their story, which later became a popular novel and a multi-million dollar movie. 


David himself claims he was promised financial rewards that he never received. “Lorraine told me I was going to be a rich little boy from having this book deal,” David says. “And that was a lie. The Warrens made a lot of money off of us. If they can profit off you, they will.”


Whether or not David was actually possessed remains a topic of debate. David maintains his experience was demonic possession, but Carl believes the ordeal stemmed from internal family problems and potential manipulation by the Warrens. 


Perhaps the most shocking detail of this case is the fact that David’s mother, Judy, may have orchestrated the entire thing. Following her death, Carl Glatzel discovered that Judy had been adding Sominex, a sleeping aid, to the family’s food. He believes that she used the drugs to control and manipulate them easily. He also believes that David’s “possession” could have been nothing more than hallucinations as a result of taking the drug.

Ultimately, while The Conjuring 3 offers a compelling story that makes for a fantastic horror film, the real story is far more complex, riddled with conflicting perspectives and lingering questions about what truly went down behind the Glatzel household’s closed doors.

The Verdict is In (But Not Really)

Ed and Lorraine Warren remain captivating figures in the paranormal world. Their cases, like the Enfield Poltergeist, the Arne Johnson trial, and all of the other Conjuring Universe stories, have become ingrained in horror movie lore. But as we’ve seen, the lines between reality and embellishment can get blurry.


Did the Warrens truly uncover undeniable proof of the supernatural? Or were they masterful storytellers who capitalized on human fascination with the unknown?


Unfortunately, the answer might be both. Perhaps some of their cases involved genuine oddities, while others were embellished for dramatic effect. The lack of concrete evidence and the Warrens’ own financial motivations make it difficult to know for sure.


Ultimately, the choice to believe is yours.  This series has aimed to shed light on the real stories behind the horror films, but the question of the Warrens’ legitimacy remains open for debate.  Were they valiant paranormal investigators or clever opportunists?  What do you believe?