It’s no secret that us folks here at PTV are pretty big fans of true crime stories, be it books, podcasts or documentary series. We also love a good haunting or spooky story. So a true crime story that involves demonic possession? Sounds like a perfect match for us.
If you’ve seen the previous movies in The Conjuring series, you’ll be plenty familiar with the names Ed and Lorraine Warren. If this is your first time to the ghost rodeo, the Warrens are world famous paranormal investigators and demonologists, whose more famous cases were the inspiration for The Conjuring movies.
Like the previous movies, the latest instalment in the series, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, is based on the real-life case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who was convicted of stabbing his landlord, Alan Bono, to death.
So how do the Warrens get involved in what seems like a simple murder case? Well, it was believed that Johnson was possessed by a demon at the time. In other words, the devil made him do it.
The first possession
So here’s the thing, Johnson wasn’t the first person to be possessed. In fact, he allegedly became possessed after a demon was exorcised from David Glatzel, the 11-year-old brother of Johnson’s fiancée, Debbie Glatzel.
In an interview with People magazine, it was reported that in July 1980 David began to suffer from nightmares that involved, “a man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns and hoofs.”
Over time, those visions became more and more intense, with this demonic figure now visiting him during the daytime in the form of, “an old man with a white beard, dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans.”
When a Catholic priest failed to alleviate the problem, David’s parents turned to other methods.
Enter Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The exorcism of David Glatzel
At this point, David’s condition had gotten pretty bad. He was now speaking in strange voices, attacking his family, reciting passages from the Bible or John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and would snap into frenzies where he’d jerk around uncontrollably.
While interviewing David, Lorraine saw a black, misty form hanging around the young boy. David also began claiming that he could feel invisible hands choking and hitting him.
As it turns out David wasn’t possessed by one demon, he was possessed by 43.
Three lesser exorcisms later and the severity of David’s possession had subsided. However, this wasn’t the last time the Warrens would encounter this demon.
The possession of Cheyenne Johnson
Johnson had moved in with Debbie and her family during the height of David’s possession. During the exorcisms he’d apparently taunt whatever demons lived in his fiancée’s younger brother and frequently ask it to leave David and possess him instead.
According to the Warrens, this is absolutely the worst possible move you could make when dealing with demonic possession. “It’s just one of those things you never do,” Ed Warren explained in a later interview.
Cheyenne and Debbie would later move out into an apartment that was adjacent to Debbie’s new job at Alan Bono’s dog grooming salon.
It’s around this time that Johnson began to exhibit strange behaviours. He would enter trances that he wouldn’t remember later and growl like a feral animal – things David had also done.
At one point, Debbie found Cheyenne intensely staring out a window while saying, “There he is. The Beast, there he is.”
The devil made him do it
In February 1981, after entering an argument with Bono, Johnson reportedly fell into one of these trances and proceeded to fatally stab his landlord to death. Johnson was found, and arrested, just over 3km away from the murder scene.
The day after Johnson had killed Bono, David told his sister of a vision he’d suffered. He saw “The Beast” enter her fiancée’s body and it was the demon that had committed the murder.
The Warrens had also sensed that the demon that plagued David wasn’t finished either. Almost four months before Johnson killed Bono, the paranormal investigators had contacted the local police to warn them on a coming tragedy.
When asked to rank the severity of this case, Lorraine Warren gave it a 9.5 out of 10.
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is in cinemas from 3 June.