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Meet the real ghostbusters



'Based on a true story' – what self-respecting horror film isn't? They all claim to be; some a bit more 'loosely' than others. But if there is even a shred of truth behind new film 'The Conjuring', well, let's just say it could change how you perceive a lot things.

One woman who insists the story is true is Lorraine Warren. She and her husband, Ed, were at one time among the most prominent paranormal investigators in the world.

According to the opening crawl of 'The Conjuring', it was one of the most malevolent cases they ever witnessed – which says a lot coming from the couple who first investigated the Amityville horror, also made into a film.

'The Conjuring' tells the story of Roger and Carolyn Perron, who in 1971 moved with their five daughters into a house in Rhode Island, oblivious to its very dark past.

When unexplainable incidents start to occur, they turn to Ed and Lorraine – played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga – for help. The film depicts some rather disturbing things going on at the address and, according to Lorraine Warren herself, the film is "pretty accurate".

So what happened there?

"What didn't happen, you mean," the now 86-year-old tells me. "Let's do it this way: why did it happen in that house?

"When we were called there, we didn't realise there were so many small children in that house, with no religion. None of those kids were baptised, they had no religion whatsoever. There was no protection for them. And that was the most frightening aspect of this."

According to Lorraine, the reason the Perron family was targeted was because they never chose a faith – no matter which one.

"When there's no religion, it is absolutely terrifying. That is your protection. God is your protection. It doesn't matter what your religion is," she explains.

Opting out of the protection of faith against such malevolent beings is apparently a dangerous practice – which Lorraine says in this case may have resulted in Carolyn Perron becoming possessed and attempting to kill her own daughter.

"That is up in the air for me," she says. "I can't really tell you how much time we put in there. But I never thought for sure that she could have murdered her child, but she could have. There was so much going on. You don't know how much was going on at one time.

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"It's not just one incident – kids are screaming, everybody is screaming, you're seeing things happen, you're seeing things move, you're seeing things levitate. It's just terrible."

Throughout their career, Ed and Lorraine claimed to have investigated more than 10,000 hauntings. They never charged for their services, instead making their living from giving talks and lectures.

Most of the time, there was a rational and earthly explanation for the odd occurrences. But some – as with the Perron case – were different. And if the film is anything to go by, they were terrifying ordeals.

"Yes, I was scared," she says. "But you cannot admit to that. I would just keep saying, 'In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave. In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave'."

She insists that as soon as you show you are scared, "you are showing you are vulnerable".

There are, she tells me, many different kinds of ghosts, and not all are evil. There are harmless spirits of deceased people who simply haven't accepted that they have died. But there are also those that are 'demonic', which have never walked the Earth in human form.

These are responsible for possessing people – which is what supposedly happened in another of the famous cases the Warrens were involved in: the 'Demon Murder Trial'.

During it, the couple were called to testify in what was the first case in which a lawyer pleaded his client was innocent of murder on the basis he was possessed.

So what was the normal procedure for paranormal investigators?

"Ed would sit down with the family and talk, and I would ask permission if I could walk throughout their house," Lorraine explains.

"The way I would get what I needed would be to sit on their beds. That is the easiest way, to sit on the edge of the bed. You know when you go to bed at night, how all these things go through your mind? That's all recorded. You think these things out. What you have experienced, you go to bed and it is played out for you again. The moment between waking and sleep."

In a particularly unsettling moment in the film, Ed tells Roger Perron about how a little piece of his wife is 'taken away' every time she has one of these encounters. And there is another moment when Lorraine sees something that took a bigger part of her than normal.

Ed claims he never asked Lorraine what she saw – and when I do, her voice noticeably changes tone.

"No, it wasn't just part of the film," she says, her voice higher. "It was ugly. It was absolutely ugly. Like an ugly monster. And I remember I couldn't move. That's always very, very scary, when you can't move. I could look down at my fingers and I tried to make the sign of the cross with one of my fingers, and tell it in the name of Jesus Christ to leave and go back to where it came from. I even heard roars.

"This was right here in my bedroom. Something very dark. Just very, very dark. And ugly. And smelly."

Although they travelled extensively to investigate reports of unnatural phenomena, the couple didn't have to look far for evil spirits; sometimes the fight came to them.

"They see my husband and I as a threat," she claims, recalling how she was once thrown in the air on her own front porch, while the sight of something crawling beneath her canopy bed left her normally unfazed husband screaming for her to "get the hell out of the house".

Ed and Lorraine opened a museum on their property in Connecticut, which houses hundreds of 'tainted' objects which were involved in paranormal incidents, including a doll called Annabelle which makes a prominent appearance in the film.

The prop used may just be the scariest ever made. Although the real Annabelle is actually a much less offensive-looking Raggedy Ann doll, its sinister and supposedly true back-story about it killing its owners is just as chilling.

To keep the artefacts in check, Lorraine has a Catholic priest who lives in an apartment in her house bless it every day.

Obviously someone of very strong Christian faith, why does she believe God allows such entities free rein?

"He doesn't allow it – we do," she replies.

But surely God has the power to vanquish it?

"If you have faith, you can say 'In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave and go back to where you came from'. Say that. You don't have to be clergy to say that. But you have to be in a state of grace."

Although Ed passed away in 2006, Lorraine still curates the museum and assists in the odd investigation.

In the film, whenever Patrick Wilson's Ed is on screen, he has a very comforting effect for audience members of nervous disposition. I ask her if the real Ed was like this.

"That's the real Ed," she smiles. "Very calm, very collected."

And as for the sceptics?

"That doesn't bother me at all," she says. "That's people who don't understand what can go on. And thank God they haven't experienced it."

'The Conjuring' is in cinemas now

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