Ed and Lorraine Warren: Demonologists and Paranormal Investigators

by JoHarrington

This Connecticut couple were the most famous ghost-hunters of the 20th century. Their career has been the subject of many books and films.

Ed Warren died in 2006, but his wife Lorraine - now nearly 90 years old - continues to consult upon supernatural phenomenon. They were the founders of the long-running New England Society for Psychic Research.

The couple investigated some of the most high-profile American hauntings. Their cases included the Amityville Horror, the Perron family haunting and the demonic infestation of the Snedeker home in Connecticut.

Some of the apparently cursed or haunted objects from these cases form the exhibits in an Occult Museum located in their home.

The Haunted Childhoods of Lorraine and Ed Warren

The couple were both born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, though Lorraine and her family moved for a time to Milford. They each encountered the supernatural.

Lorraine Warren (nee Moran) had always been clairvoyant. She habitually viewed auras around living people and strange lights at certain locations.

For years, she believed that this was nothing special, everybody saw them. Then it was mentioned within her family home and her parents quickly disabused her of that assumption.

The nuns at her school warned her that such sightings were demonic.

Across Bridgeport, in Connecticut, the young Edward Warren Miney was raised in a haunted house. Between the ages of five and twelve, he and his twin sister Babette were visited frequently by a malevolent female spirit.

He recounted in later life how he would lie in bed noting how the temperature had suddenly become icy. He waited.

Unexplained footsteps sounded through the house. Doors would open on their own. A huge ball of light would drift from the vicinity of his wardrobe and the woman's face would be inside it. He would hear her breathing.

His police officer father constantly reassured his children that, though the phenomenon was occurring, there would be a rational explanation. Unfortunately, he could never quite articulate one.

Those experiences caused Babette Warren to fear the supernatural for the rest of her life. They prompted her twin brother Ed to become a paranormal investigator.

When Lorraine was just fifteen, her friends introduced her to an athletic, well-groomed teenage usher at the theater. Ed Warren was just sixteen and worked as a life-guard at the local swimming pool by day. She was suitably impressed.

Halfway through the movie, there was an air raid alert. The group of girls, along with Ed, spent some time in the shelter just chatting. Once the all clear came, he walked home alongside them. His house was first, so he said his goodbyes and leaped over the garden fence to reach his front door.

As he did so, Lorraine had a vision of him as a much older man - looking as he would shortly before he died in 2006. She interpreted the premonition as evidence that the two would marry, and spend the rest of their lives together.

When she later divulged this fact to the teenage Ed, he joked that it was 'entrapment'.  But she was right.

The Demonologist: Biography of Ed and Lorraine Warren

How Ed and Lorraine Nearly Died as Teenagers

Had Fate truly intervened, the married couple paranormal investigators would never have wed, let alone become ghost hunters.

Image: Ed and Lorraine WarrenWhen she was seventeen, Lorraine suffered from a ruptured appendix. After her parents were advised that surgery could be dangerous, they refused to allow her to go under the knife.

It was only after the intervention of Lorraine's aunt - a nurse - that they realized no surgery was the real death sentence. Permission was granted at the 11th hour saving Lorraine's life. Nevertheless, she remained in hospital for a long time, with tubes draining poison from her abdomen.

Finally home, she was writing a letter to her boyfriend Ed, when terrible news came over the radio. Now it was his life in jeopardy.

Ed had tried to join the navy when he was sixteen. He'd forged his father's signature in order to enlist, but his father found out and called a halt to proceedings. It wasn't until Ed's seventeenth birthday that he was successfully able to follow his older brother into the forces.

The radio announcement that Lorraine heard that day was breaking news on a disaster. Two American naval vessels had collided in the North Atlantic. The loss of life was immense, and Ed was on one of those ships. Moreover, it was February and those waters were icy.

Fortunately, he had been a lifeguard before entering the navy. He was a very strong swimmer. His friend was not. Ed entered the freezing water close to his friend and immediately grabbed him. The pair stayed alive by Ed swimming in a circle, with his friend clinging to his back.

Eventually rescued, they were flown to Staten Island, New York, where Lorraine - midriff strapped up tightly against her appendix wounds - traveled to visit him.

The couple were married within days.  Their recent experiences had taught them to just grab life and live it to the full!

Books about Cases Undertaken by the Warrens

The Art of Entering Haunted Houses

In addition to his other talents, it turns out that Ed Warren was a dab hand with a sketch-pad and paintbrush too!

After leaving the US Navy, following the end of World War II, Ed Warren attended art college in New Haven.

His interest in the supernatural hadn't left him though. He would often take Lorraine (and their new baby daughter Judy) on road trips to see spooky locations throughout New England.

Of particular fascination were haunted houses. Ed wanted to know if the families living in them were experiencing phenomena similar to that in his childhood home. However, it quickly became apparent that the average American family didn't take kindly to strangers knocking the door, and demanding to hear their strange stories. 

Some ingenuity was clearly required.

The Warrens would park up close to haunted homes. Ed would set up an easel in full view of the house, and begin painting. Soon enough, the occupants would notice and come to investigate. Lorraine would meet them and explain that her husband was an artist. She would explain his interest, stemming from his own childhood experiences.

Ed would present the family with a picture (on canvas, or painted plate, or sketch) free of charge. They would invariably then be invited in for refreshments, which allowed them to achieve their objective of touring the haunted house!

As time went on, it would also involve them advising the families involved, based on their own experiences and having heard similar stories. This was the beginning of the couple's career as paranormal investigators.

True Stories from the Files of Ed and Lorraine Warren

The couple never charged for their investigations. But they did monetize those true ghost stories in the form of books, lectures and movie deals.

The New England Society for Psychic Research

By 1952, the Warren family made their hobby official by founding the New England Society for Psychic Research.

Ed Warren had learned very well from his police officer father. He arrived at each new property with a view to checking out the rational explanations first. 

(Some biographies state that Ed himself was also a police officer, but I've found no evidence of this. As far as I can ascertain, he made his living as an artist.)

He realized that he didn't have the necessary skills and knowledge to fully investigate possible natural causes. To answer the deficit, the society included many professionals.

Scientists, law enforcement officers, forensic students, psychiatrists, architects and builders were amongst the members.

Paranormal activity was only considered, if they'd all otherwise drawn a blank.

A passionate hobby was pretty much all that the New England Society for Psychic Research represented. They were merely collecting information about the supernatural. Creating files, while having fun.

Conversations With Ed and Lorraine Warren

Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the original ghost hunters, sit down with fellow demonologist Tony Spera to discuss their most famous cases...

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Amityville Part 1 with Ed and Lorraine Warren (Conversations with Ed and Lorraine Warren)

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Pets Who Survive the Grave (Conversations with the Ed and Lorraine Warren)

This conversation is dedicated to the beloved and the faithful pet. The conversation welcomes a special guest, Tony Ogilino who...

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True Haunting of Jack and Janet Smurl (Conversations with the Ed and Lorraine Warren)

To most people, being considered the “chosen ones” would be a positive thing, full of special and possibly religious connotations. However, in the case of the Smurl family, bein...

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An Encounter with the Child Ghost Cynthia

The young girl made it all not so much a laugh any more. The outlook of the Warrens was about to shift from mere fascination.

Imag: Amadeo ModiglianiIn 1965, the couple were invited into just another home with a reputation for strange phenomena. Only this one was to change everything.

So much exposure to haunted locations had pushed Lorraine Warren's natural psychic ability into overdrive. Though she was never to be able to control her visions - nor summon them at will - she was seeing much more than ever before. Plus she had developed the ability to act as a medium.

As soon as Lorraine entered this house, she could feel the spirit within it trying to communicate.  After the requisite level of polite greeting, she settled down to enter a light trance.  The ghost came through immediately, desperate for so long to be heard.

It was a little girl named Cynthia.  For decades, she had been panicking, looking for her parents. Any child in distress will spur the adults around them into action. But what could they do here? Cynthia's parents no longer lived in this home.

Ed improvised in his conversation with her.  He used his Catholic beliefs to prompt her to look for a way into Heaven.  Perhaps she had died long enough ago that her parents would be waiting for her there.

There was a perceptible change in the atmosphere.  Lorraine snapped out of the trance, feeling emotionally drained. She'd experienced the child's desperation, as if it was happening to herself. But Cynthia had gone.

She was never to return.  It was assumed that she'd indeed passed onto another plane, where it was hoped that her parents were waiting.

Image: Ed and Lorraine Warren
Image: Ed and Lorraine Warren

Ed and Lorraine Warren: Paranormal Social Workers

The majority of hauntings have a heart-breaking story at their core. Who helps the victims once they've passed on?

Image: Ed WarrenFollowing the Cynthia incident, Ed and Lorraine Warren were shaken into re-evaluating what they were doing here. Fascination and information building were honorable pursuits, but not when people could be hurt.

That was the thing - until now ghosts had been something other. They weren't thinking, feeling individuals. A major point had been missed, which was these were actually human beings. They'd just shifted form.  They had consciously survived their own death.

The Warrens, and the New England Society for Psychic Research, had been acting like tourists in other people's tragedies. They'd been ignoring cries for help, because they hadn't recognized them as such.

Ed began a frenzy of meetings and telephone calls. He started from the viewpoint of 'who could I call for help in these situations?' Then went for it.

Hours of conversations with priests and theologians ensued, alongside discussions with those who may have aided these people, if they were alive.  Psychologists, social workers, police officers, all the emergency back-up for those in distress.

Armed with reams of knowledge and advice, the Warrens now shifted their focus. They were there to help, not as voyeurs, but as a kind of paranormal social service. 

Moreover, Ed had been warned by Catholic priests that not every haunting was the benign remnant of a human in distress. Some of them were much worse. They were demonic in origin, either due to occult activities taking place on the site or a direct approach by some Hellish force.

As the decades passed, and the couple's experience grew, they were to encounter cases like this. Ed Warren trained as a demonologist, in order to deal with them, though the couple always deferred to the Church in perceived worst case scenarios.

One criticism of the Warrens is that they became quicker to reach conclusions involving a demonic entity over a bog-standard haunting. It was thought that their own strict Catholicism meant that they lost objectivity here.

Or it could have been lots of demons in modern day America.

The Conjuring: The Real Lorraine Warren

Part of the Warren's strategy was to remove any items which were seen as cursed or haunted, then neutralize them by locking them into a museum in their home.

Some of Ed and Lorraine Warren's Most Famous Cases

Ed and Lorraine Warren: Famous American Ghost-Hunters

The couple's fame came when some of their case-files were turned into movies.

In between the lectures, the books and the actual paranormal investigations, word about the Warrens quickly got around. They were often the first port of call for families or individuals fearing that their homes were haunted.

As a result, the cases became bigger and grew to encompass some of the most legendary hauntings of the late 20th century. Some might say that the fame of those cases was a result of the involvement of Ed and Lorraine Warren.

With publicity and high profile cases came television appearances, and Hollywood knocking on the door. Many recent 'based on a true story' ghost movies were inspired by something from the Warren case-files.

Movie-makers were most keen to look at the demonic possession stories, as they were all keen to replicate the success of The Exorcist (1973). Hence the silver screen versions of Ed and Lorraine Warren generally focused on their role as demonologists, rather than mere paranormal investigators.

You'll spot the theme, as we run through them.

The Amityville Horror

The Warrens weren't the only ghost-hunters to answer the SOS sounded by the Lutz family.  They were just two of nine different investigators who visited the house in Amityville, Long Island, New York.

Such is the fame of this case, it's become the most requested lecture topic for the Warrens.

Twenty days after the Lutz family fled, the Warrens began their investigation. They experienced much of the phenomena for themselves, which Ed identified as demonic in origin.

Despite throwing their whole arsenal of spiritual cleansing at the place, the Warrens were ultimately unable to help. They had to leave for fear of their own lives and sanity. Lorraine Warren later said she would never return.

The Haunted (1991)

This made for television movie chronicled the Smurl family case, in Pennsylvania, USA. It is no longer available in stores.

Janet and Jack Smurl brought in the Warrens after experiencing supernatural phenomena in their home in West Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Ed Warren proclaimed the disturbances to be caused by a powerful demon. It attacked the family and moved items around. When he played religious music and involved the family with intense prayer sessions, a 'black mass' formed and the whole house shook.

Afterwards, the entity appeared to have left the premises.

The Haunting in Connecticut (Movie)

Based on a chilling true story, this movie charts one family's terrifying, real-life encounter with the dark forces of the supernatural. When the Ca...

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A Haunting in Connecticut (Documentary)

As seen on the Discovery Channel. The day Karen and Ed Parker move into their dream home, ominous clues of its chilling funeral parlor past greet them: crucifixes on doors, toe...

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The Haunting in Connecticut

The Snedeker family needed to move from New York to Connecticut, in order to be closer to the hospital specializing in their son's cancer treatment.

Their new home was a former funeral parlor, in which necromancy had apparently taken place. It had left an indelible supernatural stain.

The Warrens spent nine weeks in the house, investigating the ensuing phenomena. They stated that the property was infested with demons and arranged exorcisms.

The Conjuring: Perron Family Case

Not a demon, but a century old witch cursing the property was seemingly to blame for the supernatural activity occurring in the Perron farmhouse, in Harrisville, Rhode Island.

The couple and their five daughters lived with several ghosts for over twelve years, only a handful of which made it into the dramatization by James Wan.

Ed and Lorraine Warren did visit frequently, in 1974, but they never actually performed an exorcism. Unfortunately they did initiate a seance, which sent the hauntings into over-drive!

Ed and Lorraine Warren were famous paranormal investigators from New England, USA. 'The Conjuring' chronicles the terrifying case of an entity in the Perron home.

The Warren Family's Next Generation of Ghost-Hunters

Ed Warren passed on in 2006, but Lorraine still acts as a consultant in many paranormal investigations.

Most of the ghost-hunting mantle has fallen to other family members now.  Their daughter Judy married Tony Spera, who now spear-heads the New England Society for Psychic Research. 

Also on board is the couple's nephew, John Zaffis. He is the son of Babette Warren Zaffis, Ed's twin sister, who was so frightened by their ghostly experiences in childhood. Apparently her son didn't inherit her qualms.

In fact, both Ed and John claimed to have been visited by Babette, after her own demise. She didn't appear so scared approaching communication from the other side.

Books by Ed and Lorraine's Nephew John Zaffis

Wizzley Articles about Ghost-Hunting

It's all well and good visiting a haunted location, but for evidence you're going to need more than a story. Check out what you can take to capture proof of ghosts.
A poltergeist seemed intent upon burning down the MacDonald Farm in Caledonia Mills, Nova Scotia. The scientific community sought urgent explanations.
It took a personal tragedy to shift Gary Galka's attention towards the paranormal. Now he's using his engineering skills to speak with his deceased daughter.
Pareidolia is one of the great banes of paranormal research. It rears its ugly head most often in ghostly images, but can also strike during the investigation.
Updated: 09/12/2014, JoHarrington
 
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JoHarrington on 11/14/2013

Hear, hear!

That's the problem here. Scientific methodology is just left at the door, in the name of dismissing something as not scientific. I much prefer Bryan Sykes's approach to the Bigfoot stories. He actually tested the DNA on hair samples and gave us hard evidence. Ok, that evidence didn't prove Bigfoot, but it was hard evidence.

frankbeswick on 11/14/2013

The problem is that the paranormal is something of a dustbin category, into which the intellectual establshment throws any phenomenon that it cannot explain. But the opposite side of this dismissal is that you cannot dismiss the whole category by dismissing one kind of phenomenon. Even more significant is that despite what the conventional thinkers say, the paranormal is part of many people's experience, and so it cannot be wished, sneered or talked away.

JoHarrington on 11/13/2013

Yep, though there are plenty of people who say that the Lutz family made it up, or were mad, or were... *insert any other alternative leveled by people who couldn't countenance the possibility of real paranormal activity*

Ember on 11/13/2013

This was really interesting. I wasn't aware the Amityville horrors were based on a true story.

JoHarrington on 11/13/2013

Thank you very much, Frank.

Thank you too for your defense of my mental faculties. I've deleted the original comment, from Talhareman, because it didn't look like an argument to me. Just spam for the psychiatrist.

If that was unfair, Talhareman, then please do respond more fully. I would be happy to debate this issue with you.

frankbeswick on 11/13/2013

This was yet another interesting article, Jo. Informative indeed.

Talhareman, why did you suggest that Jo gets a healthy mind? She and I have communicated over the last few months and, from our communications, I am convinced that she is intelligent, well educated and totally sane.

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