The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, is one of the best horror films of the 21st century. It looks amazing, it plays on the audience’s worst fears, and it is based on a true story. But how true is it? There are a lot of films that say they are based on a true story just to get in an extra scare, but those claims rarely add up to anything more than a disclaimer on a movie poster.
Throughout the ’70s, the Perron family claimed to have lived The Conjuring. The family members were thrown out of their beds, ghosts kissed them in the middle of the night, and they were preyed upon by the spirit of a witch named Bathsheba Thayer.
Was The Conjuring a true story? The Perron family certainly believes that they were haunted by something while they lived in a farmhouse in Rhode Island. They even got in touch with Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators who helped turn the Amityville Haunting into a household name.
Regardless of whether the haunting occurred the way that it was portrayed in the film, something very real seems to have happened to the Perron family, and like the photos that inspired The Exorcism of Emily Rose, their terror went on to help craft one of the scariest movies of the 2000s.
Before They Moved In, The Perrons Were Given A Piece Of Advice: “Leave Your Lights On At Night”
When the Perrons moved into their new house, the most curious thing that happened to them didn’t have anything to do with ghosts; rather, it was a piece of advice given to them by their neighbors: “For the sake of your family, leave the lights on at night!”
It wasn’t long after receiving that fateful piece of advice that the Perrons encountered their first paranormal entity. As with all hauntings and long-term paranormal experiences, the terrifying events of the real-life Conjuring began as strange occurrences that barely registered as paranormal activity. Things moved, there were weird noises; it was nothing out of the ordinary for an old house.
In an interview, Cynthia Perron said that there were a lot of small things happening that no one talked about until it was too late.
[Things] would either be moved all around in a different position than how I left them or they would all be shoved up underneath the bed. And I would go to my sisters – of course, you’d go to your sisters – and ask, ‘Hey, what’d you do to my toys?’ And they’d say, ‘Nothing. Why would I mess with your toys, Cindy?’ That’s how it first started.
Unfortunately, the serenity of a banal haunting wouldn’t last long.
At First, Benevolent Ghosts Tucked The Children In And Kissed Their Foreheads
After moving into their “dream home,” the Perrons almost immediately realized that they were living with what they believe to have been an entire set of ghost roommates. At the onset of the haunting, the Perron children felt that most of the entities that walked their halls were benevolent, if not benign.
The five Perron children even claim that the initial entities acted as baby sitters on some nights. The ghosts tucked them in and kissed their foreheads. The way they describe the halcyon days of friendly ghosts gives the story an air of Leave it to Beaver meets The Munsters.
Both Cynthia and Andrea Perron remember the ghost who tucked them in – they even remember the way she smelled. Cynthia said, “When we first moved into the house, for the first two months, there was a woman that came and kissed me every night on the forehead that I thought was my mother.” Andrea finished her sister’s statement. “Mom smelled like Ivory soap and this spirit smelled like flowers and fruit.”
The Family Claims Malevolent Ghosts Began Replacing The Benevolent Ones
After learning to live with their friendly ghosts, the Perron family made a go of it on their new farm. However, it didn’t take long for more malevolent forces to begin creeping into their little slice of heaven.
The Perron girls claim that they were attacked in the barn by unseen entities and that one night, a series of voices began to speak to them about the bodies in their walls. Andrea claims that her sister Cindy climbed into bed with her one night to tell her about the harrowing news a disembodied voice had delivered.
She’d say, ‘Annie, I keep hearing these voices; it’s one voice, but it’s a lot of voices, but they’re all saying the same thing at once.’ And I’d say, ‘Honey, what are they saying?’ And she’d say, ‘There are seven dead soldiers buried in the wall.’
While the girls were dealing with something reaching out to them from beyond the grave, a different series of events began that foreshadowed the terror to come. They claim that at 5:15 in the morning, the smell of “rotting flesh” would waft through the house, tossing everyone out of bed one by one. Andrea claims, that around this time, the girls were visited by a male ghost that tortured them so badly that she refuses to give any concrete details. “Let’s just say there was a very bad male spirit in the home – with five little girls.”
A Spirit Threatened The Family With “Death And Gloom”
While the entire Perron family had paranormal encounters throughout their time living in the house, Carolyn Perron – the matriarch of the family – seems to have been the most sensitive to the spirits inhabiting the home. In an interview with The Providence Journal, she claims that she knew something was wrong when a woman in grey appeared next to her bed moaning, “Get out. Get out. I’ll drive you out with death and gloom.”
The woman in the grey dress could have been Bathsheba Thayer, the witch believed to have done most of the haunting in this case. Although, she could have been a poltergeist created as a portent of things to come, or one of the many ghosts who dwelled within the home.
Andrea Perron, the eldest daughter later said, “Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position.”
The Family Alleges Bathsheba Thayer Wreaked Havoc On The Perron Family And Inhabited Carolyn’s Body
The Perrons allege that Bathsheba Thayer’s attacks began as harmless poltergeist activity. They were pinched, poked, and prodded by a seemingly invisible force – but then things escalated.
The Perrons believe Thayer wanted them to leave, and the only way she knew how to do that was by torturing Carolyn. When physically assaulting Carolyn didn’t work, the Perrons claimed that Thayer inhabited Carolyn’s body to better horrify them. Possessing Carolyn gave Thayer the power to cause the mother and her family intense bodily harm, and it left Carolyn feeling weak and emotionally drained.
The Warrens Were Contacted By A Family Friend
One of the strangest parts of this story isn’t the gray witch that haunted the family, or the “broom ghost” that was known to sweep up the kitchen whenever no one was around; it’s how the Warrens even came to the Perron family in the first place.
Most texts on the subject claim that the family “reached out” to the Warrens, but according to Andrea Perron, a family friend went to see the Warrens while they were giving a talk in Putnam, Connecticut. Cynthia Perron backs up this claim in the same interview. “Barbara is the one that went to the lecture and told them about us. And they were like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to go over there.’”
The Warrens Didn’t Actually Fix Anything
After Carolyn allegedly became possessed with the spirit of Thayer, the Perrons got in touch with Ed and Lorraine Warren – the couple who had worked on the Amityville Haunting. Lorraine claims that she sensed a dark presence in the house from moment one, but it doesn’t take a seasoned paranormal investigator to surmise that the Perron family was freaked out by the time they called the Warrens.
According to the Perrons, the Warrens “cleansed” the home and conducted a seance with Carolyn in the family’s basement. Unfortunately, the seance didn’t go as planned and made things much worse.
The Warrens visited the Perron family intermittently over the course of the next decade, but they were never able to “fix” anything. Lorraine has never publicly discussed what happened during the seance, but she does claim what happened in the basement disturbed her to the core. “The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening. It still affects me to talk about it today.”
Andrea Perron corroborates Lorraine’s story. She claims that she snuck into the basement to see the seance first hand and was never able to look at her mother the same way again. “My mother began to speak a language not of this world in a voice not her own. Her chair levitated and she was thrown across the room.”
Hide And Seek Was Just As Scary In Real Life As It Was In The Movie
If you remember The Conjuring, there’s a series of escalating games of “hide and clap” where one person is blindfolded while the rest of the girls playing run off to hide. In these scenes, the mother is consistently taunted by a pair of ghostly clapping hands belonging to Bathsheba Thayer.
The hide and clap scenes are super spooky, but it turns out that the real story is much more harrowing. Cynthia Perron claims that one day while the girls were playing hide and seek on the farm, she hid in a pine box without any kind of lock, latch, or ventilation.
After no one came to find her, Cynthia decided to find a new hiding place. She told an interviewer:
I shoved up to get out of the woodbox. It wouldn’t open. And I’m pushing and pushing and then I started to really get scared and panic. I’m kicking and pushing and screaming, and nobody can hear me. And finally, after like 20 minutes of this, I basically gave up.
Luckily her sister Nancy came along and simply opened the box for her.
The Economy Forced The Perrons To Live Through The Haunting
One of the biggest questions most people have about the haunting of the Perron family is: why wouldn’t they just leave? The family lived in their rural Rhode Island farmhouse for nine years – from 1971 to 1980 – and throughout that time, they were set upon by ghosts, both good and evil.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t financially possible for the family to leave. The haunting was happening during the end of the Nixon administration all the way through the Carter administration. The economy was in the toilet, and no matter how good your friends are, no one has room to house five teenage girls and their mother and father.
Aside from that, Andrea Perron notes that the property value on their 200-acre farm “was devaluing by the day. [The family] would have been destitute if we had just walked away from that house.” In 1980, the Perron family was finally able to sell the house, and as soon as the paperwork was signed, they made a beeline for Georgia and never looked back.
The Perrons Claim That Bathsheba’s Curse Continues To Haunt Them
According to the Perron family, they’re still being haunted by Bathsheba Thayer. During the filming of The Conjuring, the entire family was invited to the set. Initially, they were all going to go, but at the last minute, Carolyn got cold feet and changed her mind. She claimed that she didn’t want to make the trip, but there also had to be some trepidation on her part to dig up the past.
Andrea Perron claims that while the family was being interviewed, a “rogue wind” swept over the family – knocking down cameras, lights, and anything that surrounded them. They all agreed it was “Bathsheba’s curse.”
It wasn’t until they returned to their hotels that evening that they heard about their mother falling and breaking her hip at the exact time that the wind swept over them. When the family made it to their mother’s hospital room, they claim that she sat up and said, “Bathsheba’s curse. She does not want to be exposed.”
Andrea Perron Claims “Everyone Who Has Lived In The House” Has Experienced Paranormal Disturbances
There are a lot of haunted house tales that seem to be unique to the person the story. The haunting that inspired The Changeling comes to mind. In that case, a guy who was renting a giant house lived through an insane haunting, but after he moved out the ghosts mostly stopped bothering people. However, that wasn’t the case with the Rhode Island farmhouse owned by the Perron family for nine years.
According to Andrea Perron:
Everyone who has lived in the house that we know of has experienced this. Some have left screaming and running for their lives. The man who moved in to begin the restoration on the house when we sold it left screaming without his car, without his tools, without his clothing. He never went back to the house and consequently the people who owned it, the adjacent landowners, never moved in and it sat vacant for years.
However, according to the current owner, Norma Sutcliffe, the house isn’t as haunted as you might have heard. Sutcliffe only claims to have seen/heard people talking in other rooms, footsteps when no one is home, and a strange blue light shooting around a room.
After The Conjuring was released, Sutcliffe became unhappy with all the attention surrounding her home and started attempting to disprove the Perron family story.
By All Accounts, Bathsheba Thayer Was Actually A Normal Woman Who Passed Away From A Stroke
The demonic antagonist of The Conjuring is a witch named Bathsheba Thayer, born Bathsheba Sherman. The Perron family claims the spirit of this woman haunted them for nearly a decade, possessed their mother, and even followed them onto the set of the film.
But, was Thayer really a witch, or is she just the victim of bad press? The film posits that Thayer sacrificed her baby to Satan before hanging herself in order to become a malevolent spirit within the Rhode Island farmhouse.
However, it turns out that Bathsheba was just a normal woman who was married and had four children. Three of them died at a young age, but this was the 19th century. In 1885 Bathsheba passed away from a stroke and was buried next to her first husband and three children.