So, I just watched the trailer for The Conjuring 2 in which crack self-righteous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren investigate the Enfield poltergeist case in the U.K. It begins by stating the story is based on the “true case files” of the Warrens. Yeah, no. Nothing about this is “true” in the conventional sense of the word.
Hollywood distorts things to make entertainment. That’s their job. And apparently the job of “demonologists” is to ramp up a story to make it outrageous and frightening. Along the way, what really happened gets lost.
I would like to believe that out there, in the audience, people give dutiful consideration as to whether to judge a movie as fact or fiction and accept it accordingly. That is NOT the case. Movies will have an affect on us whether they are true or not. We see it and we can’t help but become acclimatized to whatever is presented. It may be fear of shark attacks, the threat of UFO invasion, or the coolness of adopting the Jedi religion. For some, fiction can become what some believe as FACT. This is concerning. We should know better. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are some people who REALLY consider what they see in movies and TV as fact (just ask a ghost hunter). The promotion machine reinforces this concept. It is impossible for a percentage of the population to think critically about these things especially if they want them to be true. Consider the effect The Exorcist had on public opinions about demonic possession. That film totally strained the definition of “based on a true story”. It was ridiculously fictionalized. Good story but NOT REAL. I get frustrated that people can’t discern the difference between fact and fantasy.
Guy Lyon Playfair wrote the book on the Enfield poltergeist called This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist. Playfair and Maurice Grosse, both of the Society for Psychical Research, were the main investigators and gained the trust of the family in order to spend so much time there. A recent dramatic television depiction of Playfair’s account was broadcast in the U.K. It didn’t mention the Warrens involved in the investigation.
The Warrens loved publicity. They pushed their noses into any hot paranormal story and played it up. In the book The Demonologist, about the Warrens, Ed says they were deeply involved in the Enfield case. But why did Playfair’s account contains no mention of the Warrens being involved? The only mention of inviting a medium is that of “Annie Shaw” and her husband “George” for a brief visit in which Annie connects with a “dark” and nasty spirit named “Gozer” (yes, same name as in Ghost Busters). I’m unclear who the Shaws were. But they appear not to be the Warrens.
Playfair was interviewed about the role the Warrens played at Enfield and he maintains that they had very little to do with the case. There were a great many people coming and going at the location. From his memory, they showed up, uninvited, to the Enfield house. Playfair recalls talking to them and Ed commenting on how this story could generate a lot of money. Playfair says that was all he needed to hear and wanted nothing more to do with them. He also mentions that he recalled seeing a transcript of an interview Ed did with the affected girls but the girls do not remember ever giving him an interview.
What’s the truth? It’s impossible to tell unless actual records are produced. Memories are too messy. (See update below.)
I’m not inclined to believe either account is very accurate but I’m far less inclined to believe anything Ed Warren says. He has zero credibility and according to various accounts was a total jerk.
Nevertheless, the movie trailer and the movie itself will portray the Warrens as playing a major role. It might make a good horror experience as there is a creepy nun and scary old guy that appear just like the witch in the first The Conjuring (which was also highly fictionalized). Janet, the main affected child in the Enfield case (above in red), is still alive though she, understandably, isn’t too keen to discuss the case. In the past, she has admitted she and her sister faked some of the events. The consensus is that the entire situation was a hoax and misinterpretation from people who got very wrapped up in the events. Playfair’s book oversells the story but even so does not lead to a very impressive account. His conclusions were highly criticized. The Conjuring 2 takes the story to a sky high level of untruth. What really happened won’t be known but audiences will now think of the Warrens as some sort of superhero demon-fighters. What a bunch of bullshit! I’m all for a good movie but this kind of taint turns me right off. I won’t be seeing this film.
UPDATE: The SPR pointed me to this post: Tom Ruffles looks into Maurice’s files and finds WAY more info on this. Seems the Warrens did meet with the family and interview them and they played a bigger role than Playfair admitted. They were “uninvited” but it was known they were interested in coming as Lorraine had corresponded with Grosse. According to letters from Grosse’s files, they MAY have spent at most 4 days there. However, it seems some professional competition was at play. It appears they tried to usurp the role of the SPR investigators (who spent considerably more time) and called this a demonic case while the SPR assured them there was no reason to think that.
This does not change the conclusion that the movie does not resemble a “true” story (along with every story the Warrens told) but it does give us some records as to the Warrens’ involvement. As typical, they seem to consider everything demonic and attempt to bank on that. Actually, the records show them, and the author of The Demonologist, as opportunists trying to shoehorn in on a dramatic story that got widespread media attention. It figures.