The Real Story Behind The Conjuring

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By Scott Meslow

Since it opened July 19, James Wan's paranormal thriller The Conjuring has been scaring both moviegoers and its box-office competition with a hefty $112 million gross. Made on a relatively thrifty budget of $20 million, The Conjuring outgrossed its far more expensive rivals like R.I.P.D. and Turbo on a marketing campaign that can be boiled down to five words: "Based on a true story."

It's a familiar promise to horror fans, who have been inundated with ghost stories making similar claims to veracity. But how much truth can there really be in stories about poltergeists and demonic possessions? Here, we fact-check The Conjuring.

The Movie

A family is beset by a series of wrathful wraiths after they move into a colonial farmhouse. When the ghosts begin to target their young daughters, they hire a pair of paranormal investigators to end the haunting once and for all.

The True Story

The Conjuring's poster boldly proclaims that it's "based on the true case files of the Warrens." So who are the Warrens, anyway? The real-life couple, Ed and Lorraine (played in the film by Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson), were American paranormal investigators that founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952.

The Warrens' 10,000-plus career cases include the alleged haunting depicted in The Conjuring. In 1971, Roger and Carolyn Perron moved into a colonial farmhouse in Harrisville, R.I., with their five daughters, and quickly began experiencing what they described as both haunting and spiritual possessions. They invited the Warrens to the farmhouse to investigate. Over the nine years they lived in the house, the Perrons described spirits, both harmless and angry, that "stunk of rotting flesh" and routinely arrived at 5:15 a.m. to levitate their beds.

So how much of that is true? The real-life Perron family swears by their story, throwing their full weight behind the film and even appearing in some of The Conjuring's marketing materials. "Because I was the youngest and the most vulnerable, I was approached more than anyone, and I actually had a relationship with that [ghostly] boy," said April Perron in a trailer promoting the film.

Of course, there are plenty of people who doubt the story. Steven Novella, the president of the New England Skeptical Society, told USA Today that "there is absolutely no reason to believe there is any legitimacy" to the Warrens' reports on the Perron haunting—or, for that matter, to any of the Warrens' cases.

The Conjuring "is a fair reflection of the chaos and danger we faced at the farm," countered Andrea Perron. "There are liberties taken and a few discrepancies, but overall, it is what it claims to be—based on a true story, believe it or not." Watch Perron describe her experiences in more details here:

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August 10, 2013 - 8:00pm
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