Monster match: Meet the Warrens

A blessed union

“I’ve been investigating haunted houses and cults since 1980,” said Tony Spera, who identified himself as a psychic investigator at the beginning of the show. “But 20 years is not a long time when you consider the amount of time that Ed and Lorraine Warren have spent investigating the supernatural world.” Married for 54 years and investigating for nearly as long, the Warrens seemed destined to follow their spirited vocation from early in their childhoods. Lorraine, who describes herself as a psychic/clairvoyant/light transmedium, said that she has been able to read people’s auras since the age of nine, when she was in a private Catholic school. She had her first out-of-body experience at a house in New Hampshire during her first investigation, she added. “I wish everybody could have an experience like that,” she said.

Ed is a religious demonologist (someone who studies the devil, demons, and Satanic cults) who grew up in Fairfield, Conn. with an alcoholic mother and an ex-prize fighter father in a haunted house, according to his wife.

Ed was absent from the presentation, which was conducted by Spera (the Warrens’ son-in-law) and Lorraine, because he has been suffering from a serious heart arrhythmia since February and has had several near-death experiences in the process.

Lorraine devoted over 20 minutes of the talk to describing her husband and asking for prayerful assistance. “Prayer is why he is where he is so far,” she said. “Please, please pray for my husband. I cannot plead for you to do that enough.”

Psychic activity

The majority of the presentation consisted of enlightening lecturing from Lorraine and Spera, as well as clips from videos and a slide show. The first two videos-segments from specials aired on Fox and CBS-showed pieces of interviews with the Warrens and reviewed some of the highlights of their career. The Fox piece, for instance, mentioned their involvement in the real-life inspirations for “The Exorcist” and “The Amityville Horror”; the CBS piece displayed footage from an investigation performed by the Warrens at an allegedly haunted house in Tennessee.

During the slide show, Spera and Lorraine commented on various photographs taken by people not only in the profession of psychic investigation, but also by curious laypersons. A significant portion of the photos are from Union Graveyard in Easton, Connecticut, which is reputedly haunted by the ghost of the “White Woman.” Many of these pictures revealed images of ghostly, human-shaped figures at the cemetery; some showed pictures of long, white “ghost veils,” which are made from round globules of energy, according to Spera and Lorraine.

The most compelling photograph from the slide show was what Spera called “the ultimate in psychic photographs”; it is an image of a woman’s face, in the presence of incandescent spikes and globules, that is as three-dimensional and recognizable as the face of someone sitting across a table.

The lecturers also dispelled what they considered to be rumors about the supernatural world, and clarified some misused ghost terminology. Consider these terms, for example. Apparition: a ghost which is unrecognizable (a spirit is a being which can be identified); Doppelganger: the image of a person appearing at one location while the person is simultaneously seen at another location; Astrobody: the spirit which leaves during an out-of-body experience.

God commands thee

Perhaps the most intriguing and remarkable part of the lecture was a home movie from 1985 of an exorcism. The subject was Maurice Theriault, a poor Massachusetts farmer with a third-grade education, who Lorraine said had been possessed since his father practiced Satanism on him as a child. The exorcism was the second of three performed on him, of which only the third was successful, according to Lorraine.

In the video, Theriault is first interviewed, where he appears to be a normal, elderly man. Then the exorcism begins. When a priest begins to speak to Theriault in Latin, the skin on his arms bubbles up, a split forms in his forehead and his saliva turns to blood as it drips from his mouth. At the priest’s command, he blinks three times, after which a film covers his eyes which remain open for three minutes. Finally, the priest asks him a question to which he responds backwards-in Latin.

When asked about the possibility of becoming possessed, Lorraine said that most people are not inherently at risk. “If you’re a person of faith, you won’t put yourself in harm’s way,” she said. “Possession is very rare, but it occurs with people who open doors to the occult world by experimenting with Satanism, black witchcraft, Ouija boards and Tarot cards.”