Thursday, October 13, 2022

HGB Ep. 456 - The Conjuring House

Moment in Oddity - Dinosaur Prints Found in Chinese Restaurant

Typically when someone decides to go out for a meal at their favorite restaurant, they expect to enjoy some good eats and nice conversation. Well, that wasn't the case for a restaurant's patron in the province of Sichuan, China. While the diner was seated in the outdoor courtyard, they glanced down at the stone floor and noticed something unusual. It appeared to be a dinosaur footprint. Expert paleontologists were called in to examine the prints. It was determined that the prints were 100 million years old and there were two sets of prints identified. A 3D printer was used to analyze and discover which dinosaurs were responsible for the ancient prints. It turned out that sauropods were the mysterious producers of the footprints. Fossils are not commonly found in Sichuan. These prints were in exceptional condition due to what was located on the property prior to the restaurant. As it turns out, a chicken farm was originally here and during that time, the area was covered with dirt and sand for the hens to lay eggs on. The soil material created padding for the additional preservation of the dinosaur footprints. When the restaurant owners purchased the land they removed the loose soil and upon discovering the natural stone, they liked the look and decided to keep the courtyard in it's natural state. Finding any type of fossil is always exciting, but having chickens aide in any fossils pristine preservation, certainly, is odd.

This Month in History - The Jazz Singer Premiered

In the month of October, on the 6th, in 1927, the first feature length talkie film was premiered. This was The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson and May McAvoy. The musical drama was the first to showcase a synchronized recorded musical score, as well as lip-synchronous singing and speech. The film's storyline features a young boy who loves jazz and ragtime and wants to become a performer. The boys father is a cantor and does not approve, kicking his son out after discovering the boy was performing anyway. The Jazz Singer is a romance that has the lead fall in love with another performer, find success as a performer, and ultimately ends with the father forgiving his son prior to passing away. The film was produced by Warner Brothers using the Vitaphone sound-on-disc method which began the end of the silent film era. Although the film was not the first to feature talking and sound, prior releases were only 'short films'. The movie was based on a play by the same title written by Samson Raphaelson and the plot was based on his short story, "The Day of Atonement". The Jazz Singer won several awards and in 1996 it was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry of "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" motion pictures. This film is also ranked at number ninety by the American Film Institute as one of the best American films of all time.

Conjuring House 

The Farmhouse on Round Top Road. Sounds like a quaint little place to visit. This farmhouse is anything but quaint. This is the location that inspired the movie The Conjuring. The legend of haunting activity at this farmhouse is nearly unbelievable. There are literally hundreds of people who claim to have had strange experiences here. For decades, the home was closed from the public, but since 2019 it has been open to investigations. People who visit claim that it does not disappoint. Join us as we try to unravel the truth behind the history and hauntings of the Conjuring House!

Most people have either seen The Conjuring movie or at least heard of the Conjuring House. This is a case that gained notoriety when Ed and Lorraine Warren got involved and The Conjuring movie features that moment in time when they investigated the property in October of 1973 and the Perron family was living in the farmhouse. Now you all know, when we hear that the Warrens are involved with a case, our fraud hackled go up. But this haunting seems to have enough evidence that it actually might be true that something supernatural is going on at this location. We doubt it has anything to do with demons, but it does seem some spirits have called this home. 

Before diving into this, let's first talk about our thoughts on demon possession and demons.

Let's circle back through the history and see what we can find. First, the house is located in a city that it is made up of villages. The city is Burrillville and the village is Harrisville. Burrillville is named for James Burrill who was born in Providence on April 25, 1772.  He eventually became Attorney General of Rhode Island from 1797 to 1814 and was a member of the State House of Representatives from 1813 to 1816. Burrill was also chief justice of the state supreme court and a US Senator for the state of Rhode Island from 1817 until his death in 1820. He was so important to the state that the town that had originally been called Glocester, decided to change their name to Burrillville to honor the man.

Before this though, the Nipmuc people were here. This was a tribe that spoke an Algonquian language. They helped keep starving European settlers alive and in return, contracted smallpox. As settlers continued to encroach on their land. they joined the King Philip's War and lost and found many of their numbers sold into slavery in the West Indies, so by the late 1670s, the Nipmuc were no longer here. In 1731, the Town of Glocester was incorporated and when Burrillville was founded, its location gave access to many lakes and rivers. That meant this whole area would become mill towns. There was also a lot of farming. Villages were created around the original mill complexes and this is how villages identified themselves. The Nipmuck River was directly north of Harrisville and borders it as it joins the Clear River on its way down to the Blackstone. It was in this village that the Richardson family was deeded land in 1680 and it was surveyed by THE John Smith. This property was more than a thousand acres and was eventually sold off in parcels to other families. The Arnold Family owned this particular parcel and built a large wooden farmhouse here in 1736 that now covers 3,109-square-feet.

The house stayed in the same family for eight generations, but under different names because the women of the family couldn't inherit the property. So from the Arnold Family, the property passed to the Butterworth Family and then to the Kenyon Family. The Perron Family would break the generational ownership when they bought the property in December of 1970. This was Carolyn, Roger and their five daughters: Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy and April. They stayed for a decade and then the Schwartz Family purchased the property in 1980. Norma Sutcliffe became the new owner in 1987 and she was the one who had to endure all the looky lous coming by the property after the Conjuring franchise of movies came out. She had enough by 2019 and sold to Cory and Jen Heinzen who opened up the property to tours and investigations. In May of 2022, Jacqueline Nuñez purchased the property for $1.5 million and she expanded the paranormal and historical business and has a team of tour guides helping with investigations. Nunez, has had a connection to the spiritual side of things her whole life and has had many experiences throughout her life. The Heinzens' daughter Madison is a caretaker of the property. 

The stories of haunting activity began with the Perron Family and the supernatural connection to them seemed to call to Carolyn, the matriarch. She discovered the farm by accident in June of 1970, according to daughter Andrea Perron. Andrea wrote the trilogy "House of Darkness: House of Light" that detailed the experiences her family had during the decade they owned the Conjuring House. Andrea has always struck us as an honest woman. And while the Warrens got involved in this case, which might make some people think that the claims are dubious, Roger - Andrea's father - threw Ed Warren out of his house. That for us, makes the Perron's story more real. We can't explain how the Perrons managed to stay for 10 years or how Norma Sutcliffe managed over 30 years in the house, but based on experiences people have had since the home opened to the public, there can be no doubt that something paranormal is going on at this house.

Let's look at some of the things that the Perrons claimed to experience. Carolyn seemed to get the brunt of any malevolent energy and Andrea said of this, "Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position." The haunting activity began the day they moved in. There were objects that inexplicably launched across rooms and smashed into walls. Many objects also moved from place to place. Carolyn would notice that a broom she had placed in a specific spot would be missing or moved to another spot. Doors open and slammed on their own. Books fell off the shelves in the library. Disembodied spirits were seen by the five Perron daughters, but they seemed to be harmless. Then the energy shifted into a darker space. 

Horrendous smells like decaying flesh were smelled in the house. The girls beds would shake every morning at 5:15 a.m. Andrea said her youngest sister crawled into bed with her the first night they slept in the house and she told Andrea that she was hearing voices around her bed and that they were saying there were seven soldiers buried in the wall. This could be referring to stone walls on the property. Andrea shared an experience Christine had many times, "She’d glance at a window, only to see the woman standing behind her own reflection in the glass. The spirit was always the same. So much taller than the youngster, she stood out in the crowd...No optical illusions involved, no mistaking it for something else beyond the glass, this was an entity. As if standing at the mirror, there she was, right behind the kid, gazing at the glass with her...just watching Christine watching her." Roger felt a cold presence down in the basement whenever he went down there. 

Carolyn started to be physically attacked. Her leg was cut with a what seemed to be a large needle one night. The energy got so bad in the house, that the Perrons sought help and Ed and Lorraine Warren would answer the call. The Warrens were the ones who concluded that the spirit haunting the house was Bathsheba Sherman. They referenced the wound Carolyn got that may have come from a sewing needle as proof. Lorraine conducted a seance and as this went on, Andrea watched from a hiding place. She described what she saw as best she could. The 200 pound table seemed to lift from the floor. It seemed as though her mother became possessed and started speaking in a language she didn't recognize. Then she watched her mother rise out of her chair. Andrea wrote, "I thought I was going to pass out. My mother began to speak a language not of this world, in a voice not her own. Her chair levitated and she was thrown across the room." The seance was stopped and Carolyn went back to being herself. Roger was enraged at what had happened and he ordered the Warrens out of his house. He apparently had knocked out one of Ed's teeth when he punched him before they left.

We have no idea if the Schwartz family or Norma Sutcliffe experienced anything paranormal, but the Heinzens said activity started for them the moment they got ownership of the house. Keep in mind that they were actively seeking activity. They heard disembodied footsteps, heard weird knocking and Cory told the New York Post, "And when I say lights flashing in rooms, it’s rooms that don’t have light in there to begin with." Cory and his family spent the first four months in the house, mostly hanging out in one room, so the spirits could get used to them. That didn't keep a shadow figure from visiting them and Cory said in a Wall Street Journal article, "Once we realized we were both awake and both seeing it, it was gone."

There definitely seems to be spirits in this home, but let's debunk the main one that the movie focused upon. The movie claims that a witch named Bathsheba Sherman caused the malevolent activity. Basically, she was said to be a devil worshipper who had killed two children and hanged herself on the Arnold property. The truth about Bathsheba is that she was born in Rhode Island in 1812. She married a farmer named Judson Sherman in 1844. The Shermans lived on a farm that neighbored the Arnolds and there are stories that a baby died in Bathsheba's care. Stories claim that it appeared that a sewing needle had been thrust into the base of the baby's skull, but a court didn't find her guilty of any wrong doing. There is no court record and no record of the baby's death. The Shermans had four children, only one of whom - a son - made it into adulthood. She never hanged herself. Bathsheba died of old age on May 25, 1885, four years after her husband Judson had passed. There were claims that she was buried on the Arnold property, but her grave is located in the historic cemetery across the street from the fire station and rotary in downtown Harrisville off of Harrisville Main Street and Callahan School Street. So the movie's claims and the Warrens' claims about Bathsheba are untrue. Historians do claim however, that Bathsheba had a bad reputation with the help they had on their farm. She was mean to the staff and might have even beaten or starved them.

So why does there seem to be unexplained activity here? What could be causing this? Other claims that have been made about the house include three suicides - two by hanging, one by poison - two drownings, four men who froze to death and the murder of eleven-year-old Prudence Arnold by farmhand William E. Knowlton. From what we could find, several of the people involved were members of the Arnold family, but the incidents happened at other properties. That doesn't mean that the generational property isn't calling their souls here, but we need to be factual about actual events on the property. Jarvis Smith did die of exposure on the farm.

The website for the Conjuring House claims that there are two spirits in the house for whom they know the identity. The first is a ghost named Abigail Cook Arnold who was the daughter of Martha Hopkins and Sylvanus Cook. She came to live on the Arnold property after marrying farmer John Arnold. They had 14 children together and Abigail lived to the ripe old age of 93 and she was buried in Burrillville. She must have loved the farmhouse because she has stayed and protects it. She warns investigators when a malevolent spirit is around and will either tell those living to "get out" for safety, or perhaps she is telling the mean spirits to leave. The other ghost has been named Mathew K. Through various investigations, the house has pieced together what they can about this individual. Mathew never lived at the house. He ended up here when he was trying to make his way to the light, which makes some investigators think that the property has a portal. Mathew claims to have died in 1888 when he was 27 years old and he was apparently married at the time of his death. Comments he has made through EVP and Spirit Box sessions indicate that he is fun-loving, wonders why women wear pants and that modern music is strange. He once referred to a smart phone as "witchcraft."

Zak Bagans and Ghost Adventures investigated the house for Halloween in 2019. They were joined by Andrea Perron. Zak interviewed a friend of the Heinzens' named Bill Brock. He witnessed a black mist in the house that came together and moved forward and terrified him. He has experienced many things in the house that he can't explain. The Heinzens' son Kyler had an experience that had him leaving the house for two weeks. He told Zak what happened. The thing he saw was a black shadow around midnight and it was moving in the corners of the house. Kyler had been asleep and something had awakened him and he was petrified when he saw the shadow. Zak then had Andrea take the crew into the house and give them a tour. Before entering, she told Zak that Lorraine brought a medium with her that Andrea believed unleashed something in the house that nearly killed her mother. She also feels that Bathsheba is involved in the activity, but I think that has been clearly debunked. The EMF spiked high on the staircase that led to the girls' bedrooms. Later, cell phone footage revealed a light in this room, flashing brightly and then dimming. The crew felt unwell while sitting in the dining room and they felt like they could see dark figures out of the corner of the eyes and they all felt shaky. This clearly could all just be a result of anxiety. 

Keith and Carl Johnson were investigators that came to the Perron house before the Warrens. Carolyn saw their ad in a paper and called them to come help. They joined the crew for the investigation and told Zak that they immediately felt foreboding feelings the minute they got out of the car. The Johnsons heard something shuffling around in the empty bedrooms overhead. Carl later saw something dark and shapeless coming down from the bedrooms towards him. Keith used the name Jesus and an open window came slamming down closed and shook the house. This was a window that had been stuck open from the August heat. They brought some older equipment to use during the investigation, which included Polaroids and old tape recorders. Carl and Zak felt a cold air mass in a bedroom and there was that electric pins and needle feel and the hair on Carl's arm was sticking up. The whole group heard a growl after Keith said a protective blessing and the camera caught it. The SLS Camera mapped out two figures in the doorway of a room near where Zak was sitting. A Polaroid seemed to show a black mass, but it really could have been a human shadow too. Carl saw this black mass move in a room and then hover over him and then he almost seemd to be taken over by something. Of course, none of this could be proven with any devices, so we have to just believe that it wasn't all an act.

Julie Jordan wrote for People Magazine in October 2021, "Around 11 p.m., we started our investigation in the library and turned off all the lights. Within minutes a nearby motion detector was triggered repeatedly for no apparent reason. There were also loud creaks in the living room as if someone was walking by.  Upstairs we sat down in the bedroom where the attacks took place. Again a motion detector went off and we saw a ball of light in a corner where there was no obvious source. Shadows seemed to be closing in on us and our terror prompted us to all pile in the bed. What can I say? There's just something about four grown women snuggling together that can clearly make things feel a lot less scary. Downstairs in the basement was a lesson in just how hard it is to navigate in the dark. All of your senses become heightened and every little noise causes a jump scare. And don't get us started on how many snake skins dangle from the foundation, left exactly where their former occupants discarded them. As we were standing in a room next to an old well, a table somehow shifted into Liz's leg even though no one was next to it."  

Joe Nickell wrote an article for the Skeptical Inquirer after visiting the house in 2016 when Norma Sutcliffe opened the house. He felt that he was able to debunk many of the claims that Andrea Perron made in her book. Doors that opened on their own were most likely due to being warped from time and weather and having antique latches that didn't hold properly. Norma said that she and her husband Gerry had to fix some of them when they moved in. Apparitions Carolyn saw in her room were blamed on sleep paralysis. Fly infestations in Winter were blamed on cluster flies. The University of New Hampshire describes them in this way, "The large sluggish flies known as cluster or “attic" flies (Pollenia rudis and relatives) often invade New Hampshire homes in fall and turn into wintertime pests. They are particularly noticeable on warm winter days when they become active and find their way into living quarters. Just when you think you have them under control, more appear the next day, creating the impression they are breeding inside the house. In reality, they are only using your home as a place to spend winter and do not cause damage to the buildings, furniture, or occupants." Nickell doesn't believe that anything paranormal happened to the Perrons. But how about you all?

The Conjuring House certainly has a big reputation when it comes to claims of paranormal activity. One has to wonder if its the people that cause the haunting or is the property itself actually haunted? Is there even a haunting going on here? That is for you to decide!

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