Fact or Fearmongering? Dissecting the Warrens’ Novels

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Ed and Lorraine Warren, the famed paranormal investigators, have become synonymous with poltergeists and possessions. Their cases have spawned countless books and Hollywood films, each promising a glimpse into the chilling world of hauntings and demonic forces. But what exactly lies within the pages of these Warren-crafted narratives? 


Join us as we dive into the Warrens’ bibliography, dissecting the content of some of their most popular books. We’ll explore a few of the cases they documented, the entities they encountered, and the methods they used to investigate the paranormal. 


We’ll also venture beyond the sensational headlines to uncover the real stories behind these supposed hauntings. Were the Warrens truly uncovering evidence of the supernatural, or was something more at play? Keep reading to separate fact from fiction in the world of the Warrens.

In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting (1992)

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In 1992, author Ray Garton collaborated with Ed and Lorraine Warren to publish In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting, which introduced the world to the experiences of the Snedeker family.


The Snedekers moved to Southington, Connecticut in 1986. Occupying a former funeral home, the family relocated to be closer to medical care for their son, who had cancer. Before long, the son began to tell his family that the devil wanted him to do bad things. For a while, the family blamed these strange outbursts and troubling personality shifts on his illness. 


Shortly after, the family reportedly experienced wild, fully unexplained phenomena. This included physical groping in the dead of night. Upon learning that the former owners of the funeral home were improperly handling the corpses before burial, the Snedekers assumed that there were angry spirits in their home. They needed them to leave. 


Who better to kick out the living dead than Ed and Lorraine Warren? The duo, along with their nephew John Zaffis, were soon on the case, with Lorraine saying that the former owners had “infused the home with a deep evil.” 


To eliminate these spirits, the Warrens called for a priest to perform an exorcism. On September 6, 1988, a priest successfully exorcized the home, and miraculously, the paranormal activity disappeared altogether. Driven out by the hauntings, the Snedeker family abandoned the house by year’s end.

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In addition to the book, the story of the Snedeker family would also go on to inspire a documentary titled A Haunting in Connecticut (2002) and a feature-length horror movie titled The Haunting in Connecticut (2009). Both movies and the book are presented as fact. 


The Warrens and John Zaffis have always maintained that the story is true. Even still, Zaffis has failed to produce any evidence of his findings. 


Ray Garton, the primary author of In a Dark Place, says that “the actual truth is that the whole thing was concocted to cash in on a book and a possible movie.” He has also described the difficulties he faced when working with the Snedeker family: 


“The family involved, which was going through some serious problems like alcoholism and drug addiction, could not keep their story straight, and I became very frustrated; it’s hard writing a non-fiction book when all the people involved are telling you different stories.”


Additionally, Garton never saw any evidence relating to the case. When he pressed Ed about his lack of resources necessary for writing, Ed encouraged the author to fill in any holes in the story as he saw fit: 


“When I went to Ed, he said…Use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? That’s why we hired you. So just use what you can, make the rest up, and make it scary.”


Garton says he pressed on with the book because he had already signed the contract and could not afford to get out of the contract. But these days, Garton has distanced himself from the project, considering the mostly fabricated story to be a stain on his writing career, no matter its commercial success.


Ultimately, it is the Snedeker boy himself who is responsible for unraveling this case. According to Garton’s research, the boy suffered from schizophrenia and had drug problems in addition to his other health issues. He also relayed to Garton during one phone call that his demonic thoughts and hallucinations went away once he was properly medicated. 


As for the strange, paranormal groping that the young girls in the house reported, the Snedeker son was behind that, too. He confessed to police that he fondled the Snedeker nieces while they slept in the house. As it turns out, there wasn’t anything to fear in the Snedeker house aside from the Snedeker boy himself.

The Haunted: One Family's Nightmare (1988)

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In 1974, Jack and Janet Smurl moved into a new home in West Pittston, Pennsylvania. The terrifying events that followed eventually became a book, The Haunted: One Family’s Nightmare, by Robert Curran. The Warrens and the Smurls also co-authored the book. 


The Smurl story begins like so many others. A simple move to a new home in 1974 meant new neighbors and new opportunities for the Smurl family, which consisted of parents Janet and Jack Smurl, their daughters, and Jack’s parents. The family established themselves within the old duplex, which they restored while they resided there. 


The supernatural phenomena started off innocently enough, with a few tools going missing now and then. Soon, things escalated, with strange smells appearing and then quickly disappearing and unplugged appliances catching fire. 


Before long, unexplained voices started confusing the family members, and unseen spirits began sexually assaulting Jack and Janet. Even when no one was home, neighbors heard screams coming from inside the house. The Smurls also allege that the spirit threw their family dog into a wall. 


Confused and scared, the Smurl family solicited the help of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Lorraine Warren claimed the house held four spirits: a harmless elderly woman, a young girl (possibly violent), a deceased resident, and a malevolent entity manipulating the others. Ed Warren told the press later that the dark spirits in the house told him to “get out.” 


The Smurls’ last line of defense was the Catholic Church. Several priests came to the home to bless the property in hopes that it would clear up any supernatural activity. Each time a priest came to the haunted duplex, they reported no strange occurrences. In 1986, a priest visited and spent two nights in the house, reporting that “nothing unusual happened” while he was there.



The Smurl haunting, often presented as a terrifying case of demonic possession, raises serious doubts about its authenticity. While the Warrens painted a picture of a family under siege by malevolent spirits, a closer look reveals inconsistencies that cast a shadow over the entire story.


Professor Paul Kurtz, a renowned skeptic, questioned the involvement of the Warrens, highlighting their lack of objectivity and declaring that their couple’s claims were “a hoax, a charade, a ghost story.” He even suggested that the family had mental problems that contributed to the sensationalist nature of this story.


Interestingly, Jack Smurl mentioned having brain surgery in 1983 to address memory loss stemming from a past case of meningitis. This adds weight to Kurtz’s suggestion, offering a possible medical explanation for the family’s claims. Psychologist Robert Gordon further supports this idea, suggesting people often turn to concepts like demon possession to explain difficult family dynamics and personal struggles.


Further casting doubt on the case is the Smurls’ seemingly opportunistic behavior. Despite claiming exhaustion from media attention, they quickly co-authored a book about their experience, further fueling the media frenzy. Reviewers criticized the book for its one-sided narrative and lack of evidence, suggesting the Smurls may have been more interested in fame than seeking solutions.


Adding to the skepticism is the complete absence of verifiable evidence. Debra Owens, who resided in the house after the Smurls, reported no paranormal activity whatsoever. This lack of objective confirmation weakens the case considerably.


It’s rumored that the Smurl haunting will be the basis of the upcoming Conjuring 4 movie, set to be released sometime in 2025. It remains to be seen if the movie will acknowledge the controversies surrounding the Smurl case, but based on past trends, it seems unlikely.

Satan’s Harvest (1990)

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Maurice “Frenchy” Theriault was living an honest life as a hardworking Massachusetts farmer when he began experiencing terrifying things. His accounts created the Warren novel Satan’s Harvest. Details of the case were also mentioned in the movies The Conjuring and The Nun.


Before becoming the center of a Warren novel, Theriault was raised on a farm by his father and mother. Sadly, Theriault did not have a happy upbringing. His father was very emotionally and physically abusive toward Maurice and his mother and subjected him to backbreaking labor on the farm. Many years later, his father would murder his mother before killing himself.


Maurice relied on his devout Catholic faith to get him through the hard days on the farm. One day, instead of praying to God to relieve him of his suffering, the boy pleaded for help from the devil to place a curse on his abusive, hateful father. Some say that Maurice was cursed from the moment he cried out to Satan. 


When he was older, Maurice found his way out of the farm. He married a couple of times and kept busy with work. His life was very normal by all accounts, with one exception: in 1976, Maurice would be found guilty of rape of a minor. Despite the heinous crime, he was only sentenced to 5 years probation. His wife divorced him shortly after. 


In 1984, Maurice Theriault married Nancy and became stepfather to her seven children. Soon after moving to their Connecticut farm, strange events began. Fires erupted inexplicably, and Maurice’s behavior shifted dramatically. He’d experience trances with no memory lapses, and rumors spread of him exhibiting superhuman strength.


Eventually, the Theriault family was so concerned for Maurice’s health that they contacted the Warrens in hopes that they could arrange an exorcism. On May 2, 1985, Maurice was exorcized in his farmhouse. Of the exorcism, Ed Warren said: 


“Maurice Theriault would bleed from his eyes. During the exorcism, his head split open and we have that on film. Boil eruptions appeared on his skin, and crosses appeared all over his body.”


Despite feeling lighter after the exorcism, Maurice’s demons returned. The family soon discovered he’d been abusing the children, leading Nancy to flee with a restraining order. Devastated, Maurice’s path took a tragic turn.


On November 3, 1992, Maurice broke into Nancy’s home, chased her out into the street, and shot her. She sustained multiple gunshots to her back and chest and lost one of her arms in the scuffle, yet miraculously, she survived. Then, Maurice dragged his estranged wife back inside the house, raised the gun to his mouth, and pulled the trigger. 


That night, the demons got the best of Maurice Theriault. But was it actually Satan who drove “Frenchy” to do such bad things, or was there another explanation for his twisted behavior?

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Many who follow the Warrens’ career say that the story of Maurice Theriault is one of the most harrowing and haunting. Some may believe that because the story was originally reported in the Boston Herald, there is some validity to it. However, while the shooting and all of the legal entanglements are factual, the circumstances that led to Maurice’s untimely demise are hotly contested. 


Maurice’s sister, Danna Daviau, went on record to say that her brother was absolutely not possessed. “Maurice was not possessed; Maurice was an actor,” she has said. In addition to his flair for the dramatic, she said that he had a long-standing interest in the occult. It’s likely he knew exactly what to say in order to appear possessed. Nancy Theriault has also agreed that Maurice used the possession to scare and intimidate others. 


Of course, Ed Warren maintains that the events are all true. He has talked at length about having the strange bleeding and scarring on tape from the exorcism. Yet, nothing credible has ever been produced. There is also no evidence validating the existence of the superhuman strength that Maurice supposedly exhibited while he was under Satan’s influence. 


Some skeptics believe Maurice’s possession claims were a cynical ploy to avoid responsibility for his crimes. They argue that by feigning insanity, Maurice hoped to receive a lighter sentence than if convicted of deliberate sex crimes and abuse.

The Warrens' Go Hollywood

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Other times? Not so much. 


While the Warrens’ books undoubtedly deliver chills and keep you turning pages, it’s important to remember they may not be the whole story. For the novels mentioned here, the gripping narratives are likely just an example of extra creative writing at play. 


We’ve only just scratched the surface of the Warrens’ world. Now that we’ve peeled back the layers of their written accounts, we’ll set our sights on the silver screen. 


Get ready to revisit some of the most iconic horror films inspired by the Warrens, like The Conjuring and The Amityville Horror. We’ll dissect the stories, the scares, and most importantly, the truth behind the Hollywood treatments. 


Stay tuned as we continue our exploration into the chilling world of Ed and Lorraine Warren, separating fact from fiction, one haunting narrative at a time.