The Conjuring is one of those films that is allegedly based on actual events. This is a considerably broad statement. Disney’s Pocahontas is based on actual events, but I somehow doubt that the actual woman frolicked with raccoons whilst diving from waterfalls. That being said, I started reading The Demonologist the same day that I watched The Conjuring. Brittle’s book claims to chronicle some of the most famous cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren. In case you don’t know, the Warrens traveled the country (and sometimes beyond) to help resolve cases of possession, hauntings, etc. Ed Warren was the only person to not be a priest that the Catholic Church allowed to perform exorcisms (in case you’re not Catholic, this is kindof a big deal). Lorraine is a clairvoyant, and she has used this skill in conjunction with Ed’s to determine the nature of the entity responsible for the haunting. The Demonologist is nonfiction. The Warrens are real people (Ed passed away in 2006). Published in 1980, Brittle’s book reads like a history and involves no skepticism – it treats hauntings and possession as accepted scientific facts, and proceeds to chronicle some of the most startling incidents that the Warrens encountered during their vast and terrifying career. You don’t have to believe in this sort of thing to enjoy The Demonologist, although it builds a pretty compelling case.
I have been interested in the Warrens since college, when Lorraine Warren actually came to my university to speak around Halloween one year. Unfortunately, she was over an hour late, and I actually left the auditorium because I decided I’d rather eat some ice cream with a friend than wait any longer for some demonologist lady. In retrospect, I immensely regret that decision. Although, it is very hard to pass up PSU creamery ice cream.
The Warrens are perhaps best known for their role in the events that The Amityville Horror is based upon; they were called in as some of the only investigators permitted to do research on the premises. Through interviews with the Warrens, Brittle explains the difference between human and nonhuman spirits, demons, and the like. The writing is incredibly straightforward, treating the subject matter as fact. I was expecting a book that questioned the nature of the couple’s work, but Brittle handles the spirit realm as nothing short of reality. As a reader, this acceptance eventually seeps into your brain, whether you are a believer or not; this is the point in which The Demonologist becomes pretty damned scary. According to the Warrens, some people are more susceptible to inviting evil into their homes. Tarot cards, Ouija boards, or even books on the occult can serve as an open invitation to ill-meaning entities. Many of the cases outlined in the book started off merely as innocent forays into occult practices.
I don’t know that The Demonologist turned me into a believer; usually I’m pretty ambivalent when it comes to things that go bump in the night. I will say that I was going to buy my sister a set of American Horror Story tarot cards for Christmas, but Brittle left me feeling that I was better off not to risk it.