The Conjuring opened this summer to rave reviews and was so popular among viewers that New Line Cinema immediately made plans for a sequel. Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor, The Conjuring is based on one family’s real experience with a terrifying presence in their Rhode Island farmhouse and the paranormal investigators who try to help. In July, I wrote about paranormal activity surrounding The Conjuring. Here’s the story behind the people and house depicted onscreen.
The Perron Family
In the film, Roger Perron and wife Carolyn purchase a large farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island and move in with their five daughters: Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, and April. It doesn’t take long for the Perrons to discover that something is wrong, and for Carolyn to enlist the help of famed investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The Perrons are real people who insist the haunting was real as well. The family lived in the isolated farmhouse for approximately 10 years – from early 1970 to the summer of 1980 – and encountered several spirits during their residence. Andrea, who was 11 when she moved into the home, even published two books about the experience: House of Darkness House of Light: The True Story, Volume One
and Volume Two. In promotional footage for The Conjuring (below), the Perrons discuss their fear of the cellar and how the home was full of spirits the family could see, smell, and touch.
The Bathsheba Legend
In the film, the spirit of an evil witch named Bathsheba torments Carolyn and drives her to violence. According to the movie, Bathsheba murdered her infant and then committed suicide by hanging herself from a tree. While Bathsheba was a real person – the curious can even view her grave in downtown Harrisville – accounts of her life are steeped more in legend than fact.
According to local legend, Bathsheba was accused of witchcraft after a baby mysteriously died in her care. It seems the infant died after someone shoved a knitting needle into the base of its skull. Though there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Bathsheba of witchcraft or murder, many townspeople believed she’d killed the infant to honor Satan.
While the film Bathsheba hangs herself from a large tree, the real Bathsheba died of natural causes at the age of 73. There are rumors her body turned to stone immediately after death, but there is of course no evidence to back up the claims. Some people also claim Bathsheba had several children who all died at a young age, but census records only indicate a son, Herbert, who lived well into adulthood.
History of the House
The house shown in The Conjuring is a set constructed on a North Carolina soundstage, not the home where the Perrons spent countless sleepless nights. The real home still stands in Harrisville, Rhode Island, though it looks significantly different than it did in the 1970s thanks to extensive repairs and renovations.
According to Andrea, eight generations of one family lived and died in the farmhouse prior to the Perrons arrival and several gruesome deaths occurred on the property. The tally includes two hangings, one poisoning, two drownings, and four cases of men freezing to death. Citing a local public record book, Andrea also claims an eleven-year-old girl was raped and murdered on the property, but official records indicate the girl died in a different state. The accuracy of the other deaths is unclear.
As for residents after the Perrons, Andrea told the Tallapoosa-Journal that everyone has experienced something in the home. The man who purchased the property from her parents allegedly fled screaming one night, never to return.
The Farmhouse Now
The Perron’s former farmhouse still stands, and there are conflicting reports about whether current owners Norma and Gerry Sutcliffe have experienced anything strange themselves. History Vs. Hollywood reports, presumably based on Andrea’s claims, that the Sutcliffes have heard voices in empty rooms, doors banging on vacant floors, and footsteps on the stairs. Rumor has it a mysterious blue light also manifests from time to time. However, Norma told The Wrap she hasn’t seen or heard anything strange in her 25 years at the home and that the movie was “so ironically ridiculous.” Since the release of The Conjuring, the Sutcliffes have been troubled by sightseers and trespassers and long for a return of peace and quiet.
The Conjuring on DVD and Blu-Ray
Whether one believes the Perron’s tale or not, The Conjuring is still a creepy film worth checking out. I enjoyed the movie and liked that they told the film from the Warren’s perspective. Say what you will about the Warrens, they know how to tell a good ghost story…
If you missed The Conjuring in theaters (like I did), it’s coming to Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow (Tuesday, October 22). What did everyone else think of the film?
“Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Based on the true life story, The Conjuring tells the tale of how world-renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most horrifying case of their lives.”