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The Warren Omission

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Voice: On December 18, 1975, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into a house in Amityville, Long Island. Nineteen days later, they were running for their lives. What happened to them became one of the bestselling books in years and is now a fascinating motion picture, an experience in terror to make you believe in the unbelievable. The Amityville Horror.

Voice: There’s something in this house. Something evil.

Voice: The Haunting in Connecticut.

Voice: He’s here.

Voice: November 1, 1971. I’m sitting here with Carolyn Perron who, with her family, has been experiencing supernatural occurrences.

Ed Warren: You picking up anything here, honey?

Lorraine Warren: There’s something awful happening, Ed.

Ed: What is it?

Blake Smith: What are you guys?

Ed: Well, we’ve been called ghost hunters, paranormal researchers.

Lorraine: But we simply prefer to be known as Ed and Lorraine Warren.

[Intro]

[Voiceover: MonsterTalk!]

Blake: Welcome to MonsterTalk, the science show about monsters. I’m your host, Blake Smith. This episode’s a little different than anything I’ve put together before. I’m a big fan of horror films and thrillers. And like a lot of folks, I used to be terrified to hear those thrilling words, “Based on a true story,” when a supernatural horror film was being advertised.

Even though the so called true stories often turned out to be less convincing than the case behind them, like for example The Exorcist, or a complete fabrication like in the film The Changeling, I still like those movies.

I recently went to see the film The Conjuring which is based on a haunting case investigated by the famous or perhaps infamous couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. I wanted to do an episode about that case, but I decided instead to look at the Warrens themselves.

While I really enjoyed the first third of The Conjuring, the depiction of Ed and Lorraine was as unbelievable to me as the levitating chairs and the flying bed sheets. Now Ed died in 2006, but Lorraine’s still alive and actively promoting her work and her brand of investigation.

For years, I’ve been hearing Lorraine talk about the Amityville case, which I found perplexing because really, the Warrens seem to have nothing to do with that case. Also, I knew that I’d heard some firsthand stories from paranormal investigator Joe Nickell and also from Steve Novella about their encounters with the Warrens.

I thought it might be fun to pull together multiple interviews to give a counterbalance to the way the Warrens are usually depicted, especially to counterbalance the ridiculous, almost saint-like depiction they were given in The Conjuring.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Joe Nickell, a long-time investigator of the paranormal through scientific methodology. He’s written numerous books and is the chief investigator for C.S.I., the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

You’ll also hear from Steve Novella. Steve is a neurologist, a proponent of science-based medicine, and the host of the popular Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast.

We’ll hear from Ray Garton, who did an entire episode with us on his experience with the Warrens during the making of In a Dark Place, which later became the film A Haunting in Connecticut.

I interviewed WPIX New York’s senior reporter Marvin Scott. Unfortunately, I was not able to get audio from that interview, but I did find a clip in which Marvin gives a neat summary of his experiences with the Warrens in Amityville.

Let’s start there. For years, I’ve heard Ed and Lorraine talking about the trauma of their experience at Amityville, but I knew from my own reading and experience that they weren’t part of the original haunting investigation nor are in the book by Jay Anson, so how did they get involved? In this clip, you’ll hear Ed and Lorraine explaining exactly how they got involved with the Amityville case.

[Voiceover: MonsterTalk!]

Tony Spira: Now, Ed, can you tell me how you and Lorraine got involved in the Amityville Horror?

Ed: It was Marvin Scott from Channel 5 News Team. He was the anchorman at the time. He had been involved with a haunting that we had investigated in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and he was impressed by this. He gave us a ring and he said, “We’d like you to come down and see what’s going on in Amityville, Long Island.” Now, this was not the Amityville horror case at that time, you understand? This was just another haunted house, and we didn’t even realize that six people had been murdered in that house, the DeFeo family.

Tony: Okay, Lorraine. I know you went in the house and you experienced that. Can we just go over how you first were called into the house? Who was the gentleman that or people that called you? Was it the Lutzes that called you in?

Lorraine: No, it was not, Tony. It was Marvin Scott who called us in. He told us there had been a tragedy in that home. He didn’t go in detail regarding it. He told us that it was a prominent family. He also told us during that very first conversation that the family that were living there at the present time had fled and left all of their possessions behind. Their viewers were very interested in the history of that house and what exactly what was wrong with the home. That’s how we first became involved.

Blake: A few years ago, I’d seen a documentary about Amityville with Marvin Scott discussing the Amityville Halloween special they had done. I contacted him, and he explained just as he had in this show that there was little to tell. He had taken a film crew and some paranormal investigators into the Amityville home to do a séance near Halloween. It was a big flop. Nothing happened of interest but Lorraine Warren did ask to go to a separate séance upstairs, and while Marvin and his crew left disappointed, Lorraine and Ed left with a legend that would stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Marvin Scott: Whatever it was the Lutzes believed was in that house, it did not manifest itself the night I spent in the house 23 years ago with a group of parapsychologists who conducted a séance. The demonic force was supposedly the strongest in the sewing room, where Lorraine Warren conducted another séance by candlelight. Other than a brief chill, after all it was February, I felt nothing unusual.

Lorraine: But it did to me, Marvin, because I said to you, “Marvin, I hope this is as close to hell as I’ll ever get.”

Marvin: Not I. The only persistent voice I heard that night was that of my crew, wanting to know when we were going to have the sandwiches we had brought along.

Blake: Now, let’s get to Joe Nickell. He just finished up a very thorough investigation into the case behind The Conjuring. The write-up of that will be in an upcoming Skeptical Inquirer magazine. I talked to him about his involvement in this case and with the Warrens. It goes back a while, but I’ll let him tell you all about it.

[Voiceover: MonsterTalk!]

Blake: When did you first become aware of the Warrens and their work?

Joe Nickell: I really got them firsthand back in the days of the Haunting in Connecticut, the first version of that was the Snedekers.

Blake: Yeah.

Joe: The case that made Sally Jessy Raphael and just in time for Halloween. I was on with the Snedekers and with Ed and Lorraine. It left a very bad taste in my mouth. Ed Warren was a bullying type and backstage, a loudmouthed, swearing sailor. Not in my opinion a nice guy. He made veiled threats to me on the Sally show, under his breath. I turned to him at one point and said, “Are you threatening me?” Of course, they cut all that out of the tape.

Sally Jessy Raphael: Joe, you say the investigations the Warrens conducted is baloney. Why?

Joe: I’ve invested haunted houses for some 20 years, and I’m a professional psychologist—

Sally: Is there such a thing?

Joe: Pardon?

Sally: Is there such a thing?

Joe: I’ve not met a house that I thought was haunted. I think the Warrens have never met a house they didn’t think was haunted.

Ed: I think that you’re mistaken. [Crosstalk 00:08:31]

Joe: It’s my turn. You made a statement [Crosstalk 00:08:35] —shouted people down. Just give me my chance to talk

Ed: I am giving you a chance to talk.

Lorraine: You did that to me the last show you were on. [Crosstalk 00:08:41]

Joe: —say a bunch of lies.

Sally: Joe. I’ll give you your chance [Crosstalk 00:08:42]

Joe: You’re a loudmouth, Warren. We all know it, but if you’ll just let me finish.

Ed: When you’re concerned, I’m a loud mouth.

Sally: Go ahead, Joe.

Joe: Try to show a little class. You’re on national T.V.

Sally: Joe, I don’t have a lot of time.

Joe: I’m not showing class to someone sitting here [Crosstalk 00:08:56]

Sally: Ed, let Joe just explain.

Joe: Be careful who you call a liar.

Ed: What are you going to do about it?

Sally: Guys? Joe? Point by point?

Joe: Yes, one thing that the houses that sincere people report that they think are haunted usually follow certain patterns. This is a hodgepodge of the sort of ghost tale, poltergeist, part demon, part this, part that.

Ed: Were you there? Were you there?

Joe: We even saw a similar pattern with the Amityville horror, the case that the Warrens thought was genuine.

Ed: We didn’t think—

Joe: It turned out to be a blatant hoax,

Ed: Nobody ever proved that! Nobody ever proved that!

Joe: … concocted over several bottles of wine. The evidence— Yes, I can prove it. Yes, I can. It’s been proven.

Ed: No. It has never been proven.

Joe: The evidence is very clear in the case of the Amityville horror.

Ed: No, no.

Joe: The whole packaging of this story, the book says it’s for Halloween release. The book was written by a professional fiction writer who writes horror stories.

Sally: Joe, does—

Joe: This whole packaging is a crock.

Sally: Joe. Does the church admit to exorcism?

Lorraine: How would he know?

Joe: According to a newspaper article that I have, the Bridgeport Newspaper, the diocese refuses to confirm that they had any exorcism there.

Lorraine: [Inaudible 00:10:11] Sally, I have a tape of an exorcism—

Joe: If there was an exorcism, I don’t understand why there’s any reason why they can’t come out and say so [Crosstalk 00:10:17]

Sally: We’ve had priests on the show when we talked about exorcism.

Joe: If I can prove that there wasn’t actually exorcism—

Joe: After the show I went outside, and Ed Warren was sitting in the limo to go back to the airport and he had the car door open. I walked right up to him and I said, “You were going to do what to me?” He looked frightened. I leaned in and I said, “You know, Ed, you’re a tough guy. You’re tough around the mouth,” and walked off.

Blake: The whole episode’s available on YouTube right now. I’ll put a link to that in show notes. Okay.

The Haunting in Connecticut case, we’d actually talked about in a previous episode. We got Ray Garton, the author who wrote the novel about that, on. I had to actually run into him on a message board where he had spoken very disparagingly about the whole experience of writing that book. He hated the fact that it had been written in the based-on-a-true-story motif, so I didn’t know if that was really him or not. I tracked him down and got him to come on and talk about it so I’m going to put a little bit of that in this episode as well.

Joe: Yeah. I understand he had trouble because he thought the Snedekers kept changing their story for one thing.

Blake: Yeah, yeah.

Joe: I’m not sure if he was saying that the Warrens were encouraging, but one of the ghost writers was saying that they would encourage him to make up stuff or Ed improvise with scary elements.

Blake: I’m going to clip a little bit of that audio.

Ray Garton: I went to Connecticut and I met with Ed and Lorraine Warren and Al and Carmen Snedeker, the couple who had lived in the former funeral parlor, the house that used to be a funeral parlor, and I recorded our conversations. I have quite a few tapes and I couldn’t get the Snedekers, their stories, the details of their stories weren’t meshing. They weren’t adding up.

I went to Ed Warren and I explained to him that this was happening. I said, “I’m not sure how to go about this.” I had never done any nonfiction before. This was a new experience for me and I was trying, I wanted to have all the information laid out in chronological order in front of me, and it just wasn’t adding up.

I told Ed and he said, “Well, they’re crazy.” He said, “All the people who come to us are crazy. That’s why they come to us.” He said, “You just use what you can and make the rest up.” He said, “That’s why we hired you. You’re a horror writer. You write scary books. We want this to be a good story and we want it to be scary.”

Joe: I think that’s really important to understand that about what the Warrens were up to. It’s one thing to be very, very misguided, which of course they were, but that alone does not make someone odious, perhaps. But when you’re misguided and not honest then it’s hard for me to find redeeming quality.

Blake: Did you have a chance to see The Conjuring?

Joe: Yes. I’ve not only seen The Conjuring but I’ve read both of the available two books of a trilogy by Andrea Perron so I deserve some kind of medal. There were several things. The Warrens did come there and the father, Roger, didn’t know that they were coming. They didn’t invite them. The Warrens just showed up one day. That’s really quite different from the way the movie has them being sought out as this famous duo and so forth that they begged them to come and help them.

No, they just showed up some time before, I think this was again before Halloween. It shows a whole lot I think about what they’re up to. Most of their work was done around Halloween, it looks like. They tried to ingratiate themselves. Then Carolyn Perron, the mother, did buy into the Warrens while her husband kept saying, “These people are charlatans. This whole approach is just nothing better than a kind of fraud and a bunch of silliness.” He wanted no part in it, but she was very intent. She invited them for the famous exorcism which was originally billed as just a cleansing of the house or a séance.

They showed up, so Roger was not happy. He was pretty much at outs with the whole operation. He was not sitting in the circle of the séance. At some point, she scoots back in her chair and falls over. This, of course is in the movie, is made that the chair levitates and turns completely upside down. This is just to compare.

Her husband rushes over to help her. Ed Warren tries to restrain him, whereupon in one of the great moments of skepticism, he decked Warren, hit him right in the nose, bloodied his nose. I thought back to Sally Jessy Raphael when he wrote that, “That could have been me.” You just realize these things that you might have done and someone else did it. Seriously, that’s what happened.

Blake: In the books, since I have not had the opportunity to read … Is that the right word? Anyway, I haven’t read those books.

Joe: Right, right. A thousand pages, about $50 worth of books. The things I do for the cause of skepticism.

Blake: It’s appreciated, I assure you. Do you know—

Joe: Somebody had to read them.

Blake: Yeah. These are self-published. One of the things that really made me not want to read them, besides the Amazon reviews was the fact—

Joe: The trouble is, though, in not wanting to is that they nevertheless are the most … “authoritative” is not the right word.

Blake: The closest to a primary source.

Joe: The closest to a primary source, that’s right. Even at that, it’s pretty pathetic, because she’s writing 30 some years after the fact. That’s not recorded. Now, there were allegedly some notes from other made and some sketches and so forth but she gave those to Lorraine Warren with the understanding that … There were a couple of understandings. One was that they were talking to them confidentially. Secondly, that she was lending these notes, at least that’s the way it’s presented in the books. Of course, she didn’t understand the Warrens. Of course, she never to the day has anyone gotten them back if the Warrens even, if Lorraine— Ed’s dead but, if Lorraine even knows where they are. As to the confidentiality of course, the first thing they know is that people are coming to their house, like happened at Amityville, people are coming to their house wanting to see the ghost.

Carolyn Perron was wondering, “Where are these people coming from, and how do they know about our rural isolated farm house?” The Warrens were giving public lectures and telling people right where they were, and so they were—

Blake: I should interject here that if anyone listening to this show is interested in looking at the house, please don’t, because the current owners are already suffering from a tremendous amount of harassment because of publicity from this film.

Joe: I’m not surprised. To mention another house the Warrens were connected with and there were several. The [Smurl’s 00:19:21] house in West Pittston and Amityville and others.

The Amityville house, I knew Barbara Cromarty who lived in the house with her husband after the famous brouhaha created by the Lutzes and the book and movie. Eventually, the Cromarty’s sued on the grounds that they bought the house in good faith. It turned out that it was all these false stories as it turned out, matter really of judicial record in the trials that were held, the lawsuits that were heard. There was no truth to the Amityville story. It was all made up as the attorney William Webber, who was the attorney for—

Blake: Was it Ronny DeFeo?

Joe: —Ronald DeFeo, who’s known as Butch. Butch had Webber as his defense attorney. Webber was trying to think of some angle to get him a new trial because he had murdered his entire family, siblings and parents in that house.

Webber thought that if people believed he was driven to this by demon possession or something, he might get a new look at the case. Webber has publicly confessed that that story was made up with him and George and Kathy Lutz in his law office over, as he put it, several bottles of wine that George was drinking.

That’s another case. The point there is that people would be knocking on the Cromarty’s door wanting to come in and look around and see the ghost, people milling about in the yard. As I say, I got to know her. We had had some interesting conversations and a T.V. show wanted to get in there and film. She explained to me very nice to me, she said, “Look, Joe. I can’t let anybody in because if I do, then will undermine our lawsuit. You can’t complain that people are bothering you coming to the door and wanting to come in and at the same time, let a T.V. crew in. It’s sort of contradictory.” I understood that.

Blake: After the book there were a lot of … The Amityville book, I mean, there were a lot of really important inconsistencies that were just, physically obvious things that could not have been true.

Joe: That’s exactly right. I went over some of those with Barbara Cromarty. For example, they mentioned in the book that there were devil’s tracks in the snow at a certain point. Pretty simple research showed that there was no snow on the ground at that time.

Blake: It was a demon snow! (laughs)

Joe: You could do a book. There’s a chapter right there and explain these otherwise perplexing paranormal mysteries but that was one example but Barbara was concerned … The book claimed that a door was ripped off its hinges and windows were ripped open and so forth.

In fact, as she assured me and then later a T.V. after the dust had settled and everything, she was willing to let a T.V. crew in. I didn’t get to go but they picked my brains so I put them in touch with her and she took them around the house and showed them a number of the inconsistencies, how things were exaggerated. One of them was that the doors and windows all had the original old hardware and the old varnish all in evidence. They got close up shots of that and everything. Nothing had been replaced. No locksmith had ever been called to the house. In fact, the police hadn’t been called to the house. Really, it was just a travesty the Amityville case which is really the Amityville hoax.

Blake: It seems to be a pattern with the Warrens that their most popular or well-known cases are plagued with these … What would you call them? Reality-based inconsistencies? Is that a polite way of putting it?

Joe: Right. The Warrens didn’t have as much really to do with Amityville as they might have liked to because they didn’t do one of their famous books. That went to somebody else and they were not famous enough at the time or something but they did. They had been involved at Amityville and they went on, as I mentioned, to some of these other houses.

There’s the pattern. I’ve written about this. The Warrens’ modus operandi, as I can call it, is this. You have to understand that the Warrens are this couple of, I think of as medieval-minded Catholics, unlike modern and often very enlightened Catholics, they believe literally in demons. Ed fancies himself, had a business card that said, “Ed Warren, demonologist.” Lorraine was an acclaimed clairvoyant but wasn’t clairvoyant at all as far as I can tell.

They had this medieval notion of demons and they had gotten into ghost hunting. Ed was an amateur artist. He would make paintings of haunted houses and then use those to get in with the people, in the house and begin his career.

What they did was to eventually, the cases that ended up as books, they would show up and try to convince the people that they were experts. They knew all about everything. They had some ghost hunting equipment like cameras and an ultraviolet light and some holy water and a crucifix, just what you need if you’re going to investigate ghosts. They would go in and take a case that for all intents and purposes had thus far been in the news as pretty much a ghost case or maybe a poltergeist case, something like that, not too much about demonic forces.

The next thing you know, the Warrens have convinced everybody that there were demons involved. Lorraine would go into one of her light trances, which would mean she would just close her eyes and haul off and say something. She would sense some demonic presence. The two of them would talk a good talk about this. You see these poor unsuspecting people who first of all don’t know anything about the paranormal and not aware that there are no haunted places, only haunted people, as Robert Baker used to say.

When you have someone who’s an expert explaining to them that there are these different kinds of spirits and this and that and the other, they don’t know any better. They think maybe these people know what they’re talking about.

It’s interesting that in every case of this, these were Catholic families. Ed and Lorraine would show up and convince them that it was really demonic and that they really needed to use their Catholic powers of exorcism and holy water and so forth. They were converted into a demonic book and then they would get a ghost writer. All of the shenanigans would be restyled and exaggerated and spooky elements thrown in.

Blake: They would punch it up, as we say.

Joe: Punch it up, that’s right. They would punch it up. This is for the books and then of course, by the time Hollywood got it, we’re talking really punched up, when a chair scooted backwards ends up turning upside down and hanging in the air upside down. It’s pretty punched up.

Blake: As a skeptical paranormal investigator, how excited would you be to see a levitation or something like that happens in the films?

Joe: I would love to—

Blake: I know!

Joe: There’s nothing that would thrill me more. I remember once talking to a young lady many, many years ago who had been taken in by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi group, the T.M.ers, the transcendental meditation people.

Sadly, my good friend, Doug Henning, the magician, a very talented young magician who died young. He was taken into this and Doug was well known as a T.M.er and he would go on T.V. and levitate people. James Randi chastised him because obviously Doug was doing his magic trick version of this on stage. He wasn’t deliberately trying to be deceptive but a lot of people didn’t understand. Here’s a guy who believes in T.M. and they teach levitation and here he is on T.V. levitating someone. If you don’t really make clear that this is a trick and so on.

But I remember telling this young lady that I doubted that anyone could levitate, that there was this thing called the law of gravity. She began to berate me about how close minded I was and how pitiful science was and science didn’t know everything and the usual claptrap, all very emotionally presented.

I said, “Well, no. Wait a minute, stop.” I said, “Let me tell you how really open minded I am. I am really,” because she was telling me she knew this guy, this guru that could levitate. I said, “Have you seen him?” “No but he wouldn’t lie to me,” she said.

Blake: Wow!

Joe: “Okay, so let me tell you how really open minded I am. I will go any place and meet any reasonable conditions for him to show me this.” Of course, immediately, the barriers went up. “Well, nobody has to prove anything to you,” and I said, “Well, but wait. I’m not at this point just anybody. I’m somebody who’s written on this and made a lot of T.V. shows and I’m someone that I could tell you, a lot of people would pay attention to if I said, ‘Okay, I’ve really seen this.’”

Andrea Perron thinks that her mother’s chair lifted up or something but as best I can tell, if you subtract 30-some years of exaggeration and brouhaha and power of suggestion and so forth, basically her chair slid back and snagged on something or whatever, certain physical laws come to mind here and tipped backward. Basically, you know how when you go to a Pentecostal service or one of the televangelist services where they demonstrate going under power. The evangelist is there and people are getting ready to go under power. You can watch some of them getting into the role. Then, they’re pointed at or touched or something and they fall back. There’s usually a catcher.

Blake: Yeah, I would actually encourage listeners to seek out the documentary Marjoe, M-a-r-j-o-e.

Joe: Yes, Marjoe which won a standing ovation at Cannes way back in the ’70s. Excellent, excellent movies and he shows that. He shows how to give them a push if you need to, which happened to me. I was at one service that curiously enough at a Catholic church which doesn’t usually do that but they had a visiting charismatic Catholic who did that.

I talked to the guy and he invited me to the service, had no idea who I was of course. I decided to just stand there pretty rigid. It was kind of funny. He’s so determined that I was going to go. He gave me a real push on the forehead. At some point, it’s hard not to go down or step back and the catcher caught me. My wife caught it on film. It’s a blurred picture but it’s priceless.

I think that the same psychology of that which is very much like [Statchen 00:33:51] and those people you find will be compliant. If you ask him to do something and tell them they can’t do this or whatever, they will probably go along with you but you may lead them into a dissociative state but they’re basically doing what’s expected of them. Certainly these people that fall into the power, they know they’re supposed to fall down. No two do it the same way because there’s no set way you have to do it. Some will stiffen and fall straight back. Some will slump, some will fall down and twitch and so on. Kind of like when you were a kid and someone said, “Bang, bang! You’re dead.” There were several ways to act.

Blake: Something just become quite dramatic based on your information.

Joe: We each had our own style. We could pitch forward or fall backwards or twitch or our eyes would be falling, our eyes open.

Blake: I don’t want to sound like a cynic but I suspect the same things going on with Bob Larson’s demonology courses.

Joe: Exactly. I think it’s what I’m getting to is that’s at the root of all of this stuff. I think that’s what happened with Mrs. Perron in the books that her daughter has written. One can read my analysis but I go into pretty much all of the phenomena. My assessment is a little less supernatural.

Blake: Right. I would suspect that most listeners would probably think that that kind of … Let’s call it staged possession is relatively harmless but I think what I’ve seen is maybe not because a lot of people and I say a lot but enough that it’s troubling throughout the world are conducting exorcisms against unwilling victims and that’s where it really seems to be quite dangerous and people get hurt or die from the experience of the exorcism.

Joe: Exactly and even the most … When you tell people that they’re possessed or you put them through some supernatural business, you’re changing their lives in all kinds of ways. For example, you’re telling them that there’s this invisible supernatural realm that is controlling things. Science can’t find this realm. Those of us, I’ve done this work, paranormal investigative work now for over 40 years. I increasingly am convinced that we live in a real natural world. I’ve found no evidence at all for anything supernatural but if I did, it would obviously be life changing, life transforming.

That’s what happens to people, they get caught up cults and fringe groups and so forth in which they become increasingly seduced by invisible forces, demons and so forth and it’s not healthy.

Blake: No, I agree.

Joe: It’s not harmless. The people who think, “Oh, well, but if the person’s a chronic drinker and you convince him that it’s devils that are making him do it and you exorcise the devils and maybe you can trick him into quitting drinking,” I just don’t think that’s okay. I think that takes paternalism to a kind of fascistic degree. I don’t like that idea that it’s okay to fool the little people. I personally don’t know any little people, being an equalitarian, I think people are people and they don’t need to be treated like, “Well, we’ll humor them and convince them that some demon did this and their guardian angel is going to do that,” and so forth. No, I don’t think that’s helpful or healthy to do.

Blake: Yeah. I want to say that if you’re in the position where you feel like you’re experiencing a supernatural event, it would be really helpful to go to someone who’s not in, I guess someone who’s in the out group, someone who’s not experiencing these things because I think you can get into a reinforcement loop where, like ghost hunters I think had this problem. If you go ghost hunting and you only talk to ghost hunters, you never talk to anybody who has a different opinion, then you’re only going to get reinforcing feedback.

Joe: Right. There are ghost hunters who would not even talk to a guy like me.

Blake: I’ve had that problem, too. If fact, that’s the point, because I’m very interested. What could be more excited than evidence of life after death or continued existence after death? I think it would be wonderful.

Joe: Oh, absolutely. This is the thing we’ve talked about this before but the paranormal offers all these great promises that if ghost are real then we don’t really die and if flying saucers are real, then we are not alone in the universe and so on. If psychics are real, we might get a glimpse of something in our future that we could avoid.

Of course if we were voting, we’d probably all vote for these things but we in science, we are not voting. That’s not how we decide. Why do people think that skeptics somehow just don’t want to believe in all kinds of things? No, most skeptics as well would vote. It’s just that they’ve wised up and they’ve learned a thing or two, for example, that professional wrestling is fake.

Blake: What?! (laughing)

Joe: I hate to bring that up in front of your audience who I’m sure is a bunch of innocents.

Blake: You’re supposed to say, “Spoiler alert,” Joe. Say, “Spoiler alert!”

Joe: But pretty soon you realize, gee, wouldn’t it be nice as Carl Sagan, I remember once, I remember Carl Sagan saying this, I was there when he said it that he wished he could talk to his dead parents even as he put it, “Just once a year to tell them how the grandkids are doing.” That kind of feeling.

Those feelings are powerful. I’ve felt them in myself, wishing. I remember when my grandmother died and how much I did not want that to be the case. I think most of us have some feelings and experiences like that where, no, we wouldn’t be against communicating with our dead loved ones. Not an idea we’re innately hostile to. In fact, we’ve had to protect ourselves from the tendency to be seduced by charlatans on these fronts.

Blake: Yes. I think going back to The Conjuring case, the Perron family. When you read the books, did you see anything in the books that lead you to believe there might be something that could be investigated at this point or is the whole case primarily just anecdotal at this point?

Joe: I’ve treated the account as here’s an account that one can respond to and I’ve done that. I don’t want to say too much about my approach but one could look at it. It’s pretty much what you can do with a cold case.

People are at this stage dead. Some of them, the principals are, if you could have gotten to them 30 years ago, you might have been able to do something but now the physicians they take are entrenched and they’ve got maybe exaggerated views of things that happened. I think it’s still possible to suggest, based on things they say, some things that you can explain are pretty much on their own terms but—

Blake: I would say that in the film, they did a lot of the kind of things that I really … I’ll say, disdain about a lot of ghost investigations, which is they felt like paranormal things were going on so they apparently went and looked to see who had died there.

Joe: Oh, yeah. Just straight out of the formula of the idea that, you’re almost expecting them to try to prove that the house was built on an Indian burial ground. There are certain stock motifs and you know what they are so you go looking for them. You’re engaging in confirmation bias, big time, that way.

Blake: Exactly.

Joe: You get some paranormal things going and then you jump to try to confirm it. “You know, people died here.” Right. They die everywhere.

Blake: They do. I’ve noticed that. (laughs)

Joe: Up and down every street and suburban homes and so forth.

[Voiceover: MonsterTalk!]

Blake: Steve Novella and his group, the New England Skeptics Society, also met and investigated the Warrens. There interaction wasn’t as hostile as Joe Nickell’s but it’s just as interesting.

How did you hear about the Warrens for the first time? Do you remember when you first heard about them and their work?

Steve Novella: No, I didn’t remember when I first heard about them because they were already locally famous before we started the event to Connecticut Skeptical Society, to very quickly transformed into the New England Skeptical Society. They were locally famous people. I always knew about the Warrens, you know what I mean? I don’t remember the moment I became aware of them.

Blake: Wow. They’d already been operating for a while.

Steve: Forty years before we got involved, yes.

Blake: Wow!

Steve: Right in Connecticut, right in literally down the road from us, a couple towns over. Yeah, we absolutely knew who they were.

Blake: Let’s talk about the [nest. 00:44:57] You had a group of friends who formed the Connecticut Skeptics Society, you said?

Steve: That was first and then we realized there were no other ones in New England so we decided to be the New England Skeptical Society.

Blake: Could you talk about that because I think you mentioned that a long time ago in your podcast when you talked about looking in the back of the magazines.

Steve: That was Perry. Perry always liked to take credit for that. We became friends and then both realized that we were both skeptics and we both read the Skeptical Inquirer. Perry was over in my house one day, shows me the back of the Skeptical Inquirer, all the local groups are. It’s like, “You notice anything? No group in Connecticut. We should do that. You and I should form the Connecticut Skeptical Society.”

As soon as he said that, I knew it was the perfect idea. “Of course! Of course we should do that,” so we did. We got my brother Bob involved, our mutual friend Evan who now of course run the podcast with us. Jay wasn’t involved in those early days, he got involved a little bit later. We started doing the things that local skeptical groups do, doing local investigations, writing a newsletter, holding local lectures, trying to be plugged into the big national group which at the time basically was [Psycop, 00:46;10] That was really the only game in town. It was a lot of fun. We really cut our teeth on a lot of really interesting local investigations.

Blake: I’m trying to picture this. How old were you, college?

Steve: Oh, no. This was 1996. I was just finishing my residency.

Blake: Oh, wow! Wow! Okay. I didn’t realized that was this recent. Okay. How did you decide, how did you pick your investigations there locally? Steve: Whatever came our way. We weren’t that discriminating. Once we got a little bit of credibility and got our name out then some started coming to us, which was always nice, but the Warrens was interesting because for us, they were the big fish, right? They were the most famous paranormal proponents in our region. They were a little intimidating to us. We really thought, “Oh, we’ve really got to make sure we’re prepared and really get some experience and know what we talking about before we take them on because they know what they’re doing. They’re going to be difficult to really do a good job.” We totally over-estimated them.

Blake: Before we get into that, what were they famous for or what did they do?

Steve: They spawned many, many ghost investigating groups. Probably their biggest claim to fame was the Amityville horror case. They had already by that time been the subject of movies. Any local ghost story had their name attached to it. They’ve investigated thousands of cases so they pretty much had their hands in any local ghost hunting, ghost story situation.

Blake: You decide to investigate the Warrens. How did you reach out to them and make arrangements to do that?

Steve: I don’t remember the details. I think we just called them up. Perry used to do stuff like that up a lot. Just call them up, say, “Hey, you know. This is who we are. We want to see what you’ve got.” I remember the first meeting very well. I don’t know if you just wanted to run into that.

Blake: Yeah, let’s talk.

Steve: First meeting, what we went over to their house which apparently they’ve often had people over. They had a museum in their basement so they would frequently invite people into their house, bring them down to their basement, show them all the artifacts that they have collected over the years.

Blake: I just saw a documentary about that called, The Conjuring. It was very scary down there.

Steve: (laughing) We had a blast doing it. There we are. Just imagine this old couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, by this time, they were already in their 70s. They were or maybe they were at that time, they were in their 60s. They were clueless. We had built them up in our heads because you watched a movie about the Warrens. They’re presented as serious researchers who actually know what they’re doing. Then you meet them and, “Oh, my god.” Ed is just a gavone. The guy had no idea what he was doing, didn’t know the first thing about anything relevant to paranormal investigation or ghost phenomenon or had just totally unprepared for any question that we had to ask him.

He desperately, desperately wanted the validation of scientific investigation. He wanted us to validate his claims and his evidence which was interesting. We quickly picked up on that. Said, “Wow. This guys actually desperate for our validation.”

Lorraine who’s still around, is a self-proclaimed clairvoyant so she’s much more … What’s the word? She was just way out there.

Both of them extremely, extremely religious. Of course, both of us are atheists. Right away, “Do you guys believe in God? They want to know that right off the bat.” So many inside jokes came from that.

Blake: I was going to say, Lorraine, even now, at least in the interviews, we start off with, “If you don’t believe in God, you are really in a hopeless situation in the paranormal.”

Steve: Yeah. At one point she asked us, “So, what was it? Why are you atheists? What went wrong? Was it the science thing?” (laughs) Yeah, Lorraine. It’s the science thing. That’s what drove us from God.

Otherwise, they were just like your grandparents. They were the regular old couple. This is what they did for a living. They went around giving lectures at colleges. They had classes where they told ghost stories. That was it.

Blake: It doesn’t seem like a very steady income.

Steve: No! They did good for themselves. They were on the college circuit. They got—

Blake: Thousands of dollars?

Steve: Oh, yeah! They talked probably at every college and university in New England, in the area. Yeah, they absolutely made a steady income doing that, no problem.

Our approach was we did not confront them on their belief system. That wasn’t our purpose there. Our purpose was to investigate their evidence. This we told Ed, “We just want to know what you’ve been doing this for 40 years. You must have accumulated some evidence after at that time, he claimed had to have investigated 8,000 cases so we’re like, “Hit us. Give us your best evidence. Show us, convince us. We’re open minded. We will believe it. You just show us what the most compelling evidence you have is.” He was very squirrely about the whole thing. I think he was afraid that we weren’t going to validate his evidence.

He showed us a lot of ghost photos where if you’ve ever just gone on the web and look up ghost photos, you’ve seen them. It’s all the same thing. Basically, the three, four most common photographic artifacts. You get some flashbacks and camera cord reflect, occasional double exposure, all very unimpressive, just blobs of light on film.

When we wrote about our experience with that, we had a section of the photographic artifacts so that is 99% of their evidence is ghost photos. They made absolutely no attempt to rule out artifacts, to understand the nature of the evidence. Here’s an example of the level of sophistication that we were dealing with. On our website, they had a section where they described how to take a ghost photograph. They claim that the ghostly images get on the film psychically, the ghost psychically project the images onto the film but they were surprised to find that that happened more often when you used a flash and the brighter the flash, the better. Yet, it didn’t occur to them that the flash was producing the effect, that was producing the light on the film. They still thought it was a psychic effects from the ghost or at least that’s what they professed to believe.

That’s who we were dealing with. We pointed it out from them and they just quietly took that off their web site without ever acknowledging our correction but that’s basically who we were dealing with.

Blake: Wow! (laughs) Other than that, they seemed like nice people?

Steve: They did. It was fun hanging out with them. They were nice people. At least at that stage. Once we wrote our article and Ed no longer had any delusion of convincing us about anything, he did get a little nasty on a couple of occasions.

Perry and I were on a local T.V. show with Ed Warren and somebody who’s working with him at the time. He was a jerk on that show. He did a typical thing where he dropped new evidence on us that we had never seen before. Say, “Explain that, skeptics!” “Ed, we’ve been asking you for evidence, now it had been for a couple of years. We’d been asking you for evidence a couple of years. We’ve never seen that before. We’d be happy to take a look at it. If you’re willing to give us the evidence now to evaluate,” because he would never put evidence in our hands to investigate. He would only show it to us.

We wrote about the two big pieces of evidence. Ed claimed that his best single piece of evidence was a video of the white lady at Union Cemetery. As we described it, it was at that perfect distance and resolution that it was suggestive of a ghostly figure but you couldn’t really see it well enough to know it was Lorraine in a bed sheet, you know what I mean? Right? It wasn’t close up, it wasn’t in focus enough, just the quality was not there. It was like, if you were trying to fake a ghost video, that’s exactly what it would have looked like.

The other piece of evidence which was, actually Ed did not own. It was owned by somebody who was investigating with him and that’s how we got our hands on it. Ed never gave us a single piece of evidence to actually investigate but somebody who went on an investigation with him did and this was now, the infamous video of the kid that disappeared.

Blake: You mean teleports?

Steve: Yeah, teleported. He dematerialized is the term that—

Blake: Right, okay.

Steve: Yes. Yeah, but so we’re investigating a haunted house, a lot of students with them. They didn’t notice anything unusual during the investigation but the next day, when they’re looking at the … Now, this is like a VHS tape, right, that we’re talking about. At one point, one of the students was standing at the doorway and he puts his head on his head and looks up, something had jumped on top of his head and then he disappears. He’s gone from the tape. Now, a three-year-old looking at this would say, “The tape stopped and was restarted later when the kid wasn’t there.” That’s the obvious hypothesis.

Blake: I would posit that it might take a six-year-old but I’m with you.

Steve: A six-year-old? No, I think your three-year-old.

Blake: Your three-year-old is exceptional. My six-year-old is amazed by that.

Steve: In persistence thing. When do kids figure that out?

Blake: I don’t know. I’m just kidding.

Steve: I know. Okay, so fine, all right. I said, “Are you sure that the camera wasn’t stopped? That’s the first thing that occurs to me when we look at that.” “We are absolutely sure nobody was anywhere near that camera. It didn’t stop. That kid disappeared.” That was Ed’s famous line.

“Okay, can we look at the tape?” Yes. He gave us the tape, we didn’t touch it. We handed it over to a technician, someone from HB Group, they have video equipment and do this sort of thing. They had an editing deck. Now, with the old VHS tapes, once you know the technology, you can make sense of the investigation so first of all, the editing deck, you can view information around the edge of the picture that you wouldn’t see on your T.V. When you look at the tape on an editing deck, you could see that there was someone standing right next to the camera, despite the fact that they insisted there was nobody anywhere near it so that was flat out proven factually wrong. Next, you can pretty much prove that the tape was stopped and restarted. That’s because the way these tapes worked is the images where scanned line by line across each frame from top to bottom, right?

Blake: Uh-huh.

Steve: Because of the spinning head and it’s just scanning lines very, very quickly, however many lines there were per second. If someone disappeared, actually disappeared, that would have happened in the middle of that scanning process. It wouldn’t have happened at the end of the last swipe on one frame and prior to the first swipe on the next frame. Does that make sense?

Blake: I think so.

Steve: The chances of that happening would be minuscule that it happened at that perfect moment that it was right … It almost certainly would have occurred while one frame was being swiped and it didn’t. The kid was completely there on one image and completely gone on the next. Really, the only way to make that happen it to stop the tape and restart it.

But then further, this is by total overkill, there were multiple discontinuities right at the same moment, audio and video discontinuities like footfalls with echoes that abruptly stop right at that frame and also a flickering candle that shifts right at that frame. Multiple independent lines of evidence showed that there was a discontinuity right at when the kid vanished from the film and it was completely in between two images not while when image is being rendered. There we go. The analysis pretty conclusively filled that the tape was stopped and restarted.

Blake: Did they ever find that child, Steve?

Steve: The guy knew nothing. The thing investigates they didn’t. The kid said nothing unusual happened. He didn’t disappear and he remembers nothing unusual from that whole evening. Again, nobody did, it was only noticed when they viewed the tape which is a red flag for a photographic artifact. Nothing happened, nothing happened. It was just something that appeared on the video. It was something that has to do something with the video.

Anyway, the total overkill proved that that’s what happened, that the most simple thing is in fact, what all the evidence points to. They never accepted it. They never accepted that conclusion. They insisted that that kid dematerialized, just immune to evidence and reason. They knew what they were looking for.

Blake: Yeah, I think that’s one of the big challenges that most people don’t know the details of the real investigations. They’re only familiar with the fictionalized versions.

I had a lot of issues with this when I became more just openly a skeptic. When I was younger, I would go, “Is that story true. Is that story true?” I would investigate, see what I could find out. A lot of things converged to get me where I’m at right now but the Amityville Horror in particular was one that used to scare me a lot and now I don’t find it frightening at all.

I wonder, I understand that The Conjuring is doing quite well but I don’t think there’s been any really great takedowns of the back story, not that they’re necessarily a takedown per se but it’s heavily fictionalized, even compared to what the actual people reported.

Steve: The Perron family.

Blake: Yeah. Did you see the film?

Steve: Not yet. I will go out to see it. We’re probably going to probably review it on our show, too, but we didn’t have a chance to see it. We just got done filming our web series. That’s kept us busy. Yeah, like the Amityville Horror, you have an absolutely fictionalized version of events.

Although in this case, the Amityville Horror, there was an admission that it was all made up. In this case, the family claims that, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened. We were haunted,” but in the movie, it’s over very short period of time. In real life, they were in that house for nine years?

Blake: That’s a long time.

Steve: That’s a long time. When asked, for example, why did you stay in the house if there were apparitions or rotting flesh walking around. The answer was very unsatisfying. The daughter who was the youngest person at the time said, “I guess it’s just our destiny to tell this story to the world.” That doesn’t really answer the question, does it?

I’ve read some interviews with her. “I know what we experienced,” and of course, no, you don’t. You really don’t know what you experienced. You have a constructive perception leading to a constructed memory and reconstructed memory over and over again, whatever’s going on in your head right now of events that happened 30-plus years ago, 40 years ago is a complete confabulation and fiction without any relation to reality but in her mind, that story really happened.

Blake: I know, but to really enjoy the film, I have to suspend my materialist dogma and have some popcorn and a soda.

Steve: Oh, yeah! Listen, I love a good ghost story. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the movie as a good horror film. I love being creeped out.

Blake: I’ll tell you this. The first third of it is the most effective horror film I’ve seen in a long time. If you know anything about the Warrens, which you do, having actually met them, you’ll find that the onscreen portrayal of them is almost too goody two-shoes, they’re too good at what they do, without any question at all and so you they’re going to succeed in what they do so.

Steve: Probably hard not to vomit watching the trailer.

Blake: But the first third of the movie is rocking good. It’s really good.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that’s the thing, you can say with other movies, at least one other movies where the Warrens were depicted and the historic contrast to reality is jarring. The scene where someone is telling them about their experiences. “Yeah, they’re not quite sure what’s going on yet, the person being haunted.” These strange things are going on in my house. Ed and Lorraine give each other a knowing look, like, “Oh, yeah, we are familiar with this phenomenon.” Oh, please! That’s nothing like them at all. They really were very unsophisticated individuals.

I have lots of second hand stories about Ed because once you start investigating the Warrens, that investigation took us to a lot of people who used to work with the Warrens and then broke off. Again, the Warrens over the previous decades must have spun off dozens and dozens of independent ghost hunting groups because this is the cycle. You see Ed and Lorraine talking to college, you give a college lecture, you go up afterwards and they would tell you, “Oh, you should come to our classes.” They used to give classes at the Carousel restaurant down the road.

You’d go to the class. They would go through a process of serial selection until you get the people that were really into it. Then, they would take people on investigations and then they would figure out a couple of things. One, Ed wasn’t the most honest person in the world and two, that what he did took absolutely no special skill or knowledge. They figured, “Hey we can do this and we’ll do it right and we’ll do it better and we’ll do it honestly,” They would just break off and do it on their own, so there was this a never-ending cycle of new people coming in and then just very quickly leaving and going off to form their own groups.

When we talked to them, so we talked to many people, disillusioned former colleagues, former students of Ed and Lorraine. They had a lot of nasty stories to tell about them which I feel a little uncomfortable talking about because it’s all second hand so it’s essentially hearsay but I’ll just say, if we were told firsthand stories from the people who we’re investigating with Ed and Lorraine involving pretty nasty shenanigans.

Blake: So many people mentioned having worked with Ed and Lorraine and even the Paranormal State show worked with her for a while, it astonishes me she still has this much cache at her age with her alleged levels of competency.

I don’t know. On the other hand, it seems on the other hand she’s a really nice lady. (laughing) I think the thing is there’s two parts to that. I tend to like people in general but at the same time, I think they have an undue influence in the paranormal world based on fiction, right?

Steve: Yeah. We tried desperately to have Ed and Lorraine take us on one of their actual investigations but at the last minute, Ed was talked out of it by some of the people who was working with him. Then, he made the excuse that, “Well, because we were atheists, he couldn’t protect us from the entities.” We were like, “Ed. Listen. We’ll take our chances. We know what we’re getting into. It’s not your responsibility. We’ll be fine. Don’t worry about us.”

But I remember I had that final phone conversation with Ed before we were going to write our article. He was really worried that because he was bailing on us that we were going to do a hit job on him. Warren was worried we were going to write a very critical article on him. What he said was, he finds we can’t do it. The other guys won’t let you come on an investigation with us because you’re atheist. I said, “Ed. This is very disappointing. We’re going to have to go with our article without that and we have to explain that you didn’t do that.” You can hear how crestfallen Ed was, because he’s desperate for his approval at that point.

He said, “You’re going to make me look like a chump, aren’t you?” “I’m going to tell the truth, Ed. I’m going to write it as I see it.” He said, “that’s being part of that,” him was afraid that we were going to be critical of him and he really wanted to please us but he made the decision but of course, if we had gone on the investigation with him, we’d just have more material. It really wouldn’t have changed the tone of our article.

Blake: Or you would have disappeared and never be seen again. (laughs)

Steve: Yeah, right. We did go on investigation with people who worked with the Warrens, through just not with Ed and Lorraine Warren themselves. Same thing, lots of ghosts. It’s all just people with ghost stories.

At the end of the day, it’s just like watching the ghost hunting shows today, just people scaring each other with ghost stories without a shred of credible evidence and without the slightest idea how to do an actual scientific investigation, the difference between a hypothesis and a theory, about an anomaly hunting, hypothesis testing. They had no clue, they really are pseudo scientists. They just simply have no idea about how to do an actual scientific investigation.

In fact, I gave a lecture for Ed’s ghost hunting class where I explained to them what a scientific investigation is and the kind of evidence it would take to convince us that ghost are real. They just didn’t get it and didn’t want to get it. They were just having fun, most of it, this was their fantasy. It really wasn’t about …

I often say, that’s fine. We all need to do stuff for fun. If this is your fantasy, if this is for fun, have a good time. Just stop saying you’re doing science, okay? Just stop that. Stop it, because you’re not. You’re not doing science. That’s really the only beef that we have with them is that they claim that they were gathering scientific evidence when they were making a mockery of the scientific method.

Blake: You think it was a form of larping?

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. We often would say that. We would say, “These people need to play table top or need to go LARPing. They need to have some kind of fantasy-based escape that they know is fantasy. This problem is this is their escape but they were confusing it with reality. We used to say that all the time. “If the people just went LARPing, they wouldn’t have to deal with this.”

Blake: Funny. I don’t want to spoil the findings of your investigation. We will put a link to that in the show notes.

Steve: Sure.

Blake: But I did notice the list of incredibly dangerous arcane tomes in Ed’s library included an [Earth Organa. 01:11:41]

Steve: Yeah. That museum was hilarious. I don’t know where they got all that stuff.

Blake: Here’s a good example of the kind of research Ed did for his occult museum. In this clip, he’s walking an interviewer through his museum of cursed and demonic artifacts. As an FYI, this interview here is his son-in-law Tony Spira who continues to help Lorraine out to this day and was also the fellow conducting the interview at the start of this episode.

Tony points out a copy of a dark covered book with a post-it note on it which says, “Book of Shadows,” and above that, printed on the cover are the dread words, “The Necronomicon.”

Tony: We head over this way, while we’re heading this way right here, I see this book here? This book it says, “Book of Shadows, Necronomicon.” Can you tell me what that is?

Ed: That’s one of the original Books of Shadows, which was written in the medieval days. This one here is translated into English. Just the reading of that book has had terrible results for many people. This is not a book that anyone should ever buy, a book of shadows. It goes into incantations and devils and demons and rituals.

Blake: Just a modicum of research and Ed would have learned that the Book of Shadows he’s holding is first of all, not a book of shadows and second of all, not the Necronomicon. This is a copy of the hoax Necronomicon, released by the writer known as Simon. It’s a famous literary hoax. It’s full of incantations and spells that are supposed to be from ancient Sumeria, which are in fact not. Also, it’s not a book of shadows. Books of shadows are spell books for modern paganism, not ancient medieval scrolls or spells or rituals. His museum of demonic, possessed items was full of off-the-shelf Halloween junk, dolls and toys, books you could buy at any bookstore and in this case, one which wasn’t even close to being what he was representing it to be.

Steve: It was stuff that they thought was demonic or scary or whatever. Put a lot of this into context, Ed and Lorraine were very devout Catholics, and that was their mythology. Ed called himself a demonologist; that was his approach. These weren’t just ghosts, they were demons.

His most haunted artifact, according to Ed, was a Raggedy Ann doll, which he kept in a glass case. Again, we’re still not sure why he did this but when he led us down to the basement, then he disappeared for 10 minutes and then came back. Have no idea what he was doing. I think he was just spying on us, but he warned us, “Don’t go anywhere near the Raggedy Ann doll, don’t touch it, try not to brush up against anything, because then you might get possessed because these things are all so evil.” Of course we’re standing around there touching everything, having a good time and mocking the Raggedy Ann doll. He told us a story, “Oh, the last person who mocked the Raggedy Ann doll died an hour later in a motorcycle accident.” We’re all still around, no problems.

He said, “If you do touch anything, let me know because I’ll cleanse your aura by visualizing you in a Christ light,” and he’ll be able to cleanse us in that way, but we never fessed up to having touched anything.

Blake: The curse is still with you, you’re saying?

Steve: I guess we’re all still cursed, yeah.

Blake: Okay. What cracks me up about this to no end is the … I had heard you tell that story about the doll and you always called it a Raggedy Ann doll. I always assumed you were saying that like it was a Xerox or like that it was a generic term. When I went to see the movie, they have this doll Annabelle as part of this story in the beginning, as part of the intro. It’s super creepy, it’s awesome but then I thought, “What does the real Annabelle look like?” Because I’d heard Steve talk about seeing it. I went and looked. It’s like, “Oh, my god.” No, seriously. It’s a Raggedy Ann doll.

Steve: It’s a literal Raggedy Ann doll. Yeah.

Blake: I was talking to my friends about why they changed it and obviously the copyright issues or obviously a Raggedy Ann doll is not as scary as this creepy thing they used. “No guys, don’t you see. The doll had to be able to pick up stuff and Raggedy Ann doesn’t have fingers.”

Steve: Right.

Blake: That was great, so I’m going to put a picture of that in the show notes, too, about the real Annabelle and the one from the film.

[Voiceover: MonsterTalk!]

Blake: Well, that’s a lot of information about the Warrens.

In my research also found some interesting articles and videos and links to those are in the show notes. Be on the lookout for Joe Nickell’s research on the Perron family haunting as depicted in The Conjuring. It’ll be in an upcoming issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Also in the show notes is a write up of the New England Skeptics Society investigation of the Warrens by Steve Novella and the late Perry DeAngelis. It’s a great read. Be sure to check it out.

MonsterTalk is an official podcast of Skeptic Magazine. I’m Blake Smith and you’ve just been listening to our special episode, The Warren Omission. You’ve heard interviews with Joe Nickell, Steve Novella, Ray Garton and Marvin Scott and additional audio from Ed and Lorraine Warren and their son-in-law Tony Spira.

If you want to help out MonsterTalk, please share this with your friends and enemies alike or frenemies or enemends. The opinions expressed on this show are not necessarily those of the Skeptic Society or Skeptic Magazine. MonsterTalk theme music is by Peach Stealing Monkeys. Thanks again for listening.

Announcer: Hungry for more skepticism? Want to learn the truth about the scientific controversies of our time? Then subscribe to Skeptic, the quarterly magazine Stephen Jay Gould called, “The best journal in the field.” To subscribe, visit skeptic.com today.

Voice: No! No! No!

Audio to text transcription by rev.com

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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall, M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods. The lectures each range from 32 to 45 minutes.

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Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

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The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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