July 17, 2013: Andrea Perron, author of The House of Darkness, at the Jesse Smith Memorial Library, Harrisville, for a book signing. The haunted house she grew up in has been made into a movie, "The Conjuring" which opens nationally this Friday.
Shortly after Roger and Carolyn Perron moved their family into an 18th-century farmhouse in Burrillville in 1971, they said, demonic spirits began to haunt them.
“Mrs. Perron said she awoke before dawn one morning to find an apparition by her bed: the head of an old woman hanging off to one side over an old gray dress,” reads an August 1977 story in The Providence Journal. “There was a voice reverberating, ‘Get out. Get out. I’ll drive you out with death and gloom.’ ”
An orange oozed blood. Doors slammed shut or would not shut. A young voice cried, “Mama. Maaama.”
And that was just the start of a series of incidents that culminated in an investigation by ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren — an episode that inspired the new movie “The Conjuring,” which opens in Rhode Island on Friday.
There are still things that Andrea Perron, who grew up in the house, will not talk about.
“Let’s just say, there was a very bad male spirit and five little girls,” she said by phone from her home outside Atlanta, where she lives with her mother and one sister.
“Oh boy, that was something else, that Harrisville case,” Lorraine Warren, now 86, said this week from Los Angeles, where she attended the movie’s national premiere. “It was a very, very negative case. There were small children in that house.”
The Perron family moved into the 14-room farmhouse in Burrillville’s Harrisville section with their five daughters in 1971. Andrea, the eldest, was 12 at the time.
She said the haunting started as soon as the family moved in and seemed to be particularly focused on her mother.
“The most difficult thing was that we did not understand it,” said Carolyn Perron, 74, from Atlanta.
“Some elements of the film are very accurate and some are fiction,” said Andrea Perron, noting both she and Mrs. Warren had handed over all their files and writings.
In the movie, Carolyn seeks the help of the Warrens. But Andrea said the Warrens were brought in by a paranormal group in Rhode Island and one day just arrived at the front door.
“Mrs. Warren came into the house knowing nothing,” Andrea said, But, she added, “She stepped into the kitchen and said, ‘I feel a dark presence, and her name is Bathsheba.’ ”
The Warrens later concluded the Harrisville house was haunted by Bathsheba Sherman, who had lived there in the early 19th century. She had been a practicing Satanist, according to the Warrens’ account in The Journal, “who had murdered her young daughter as a sacrifice to Lucifer. So that she might remain on the premises to haunt the house for ever more, the woman followed established black rituals and took her own life. She hanged herself — hence her apparition to Mrs. Perron, according to the Warrens.”
She had also cursed anyone who subsequently lived on the property. The Warrens told The Journal there had been many tragedies over the years, including suicides, accidents and drownings.
The Warrens were to subsequently gain fame for their investigation of the Amityville Horror. That case — the subject of a 1977 book and a film two years later that starred James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger — involved the haunting of a house on Long Island where six members of one family were shot to death in late 1974.
Mrs. Warren said last week that one of her biggest concerns about the Harrisville haunting was the family’s lack of religious faith. “At that particular time, the people did not have religion,” she said. “It was very dangerous.”
She said that at one point she looked into a corner and saw “the most grotesque thing I have ever seen in my life.” She said she had called out for it to “go away in the name of God.”
“It was awful, honey,” she said. “You only have your faith as your protection. I always had my faith. God protecting me allowed me to do this.”
The haunting culminated in a terrifying night during which Carolyn Perron was possessed by Bathsheba.
“We were not prepared for what happened that night,” said Andrea Perron, noting that the Warrens had arrived for an intercession with “a caravan” of people, including “a priest, a medium and technical people.”
She said it was “not technically an exorcism,” but that she and her sister Cindy were hiding and “saw everything that happened, the power of evil in this life.”
“The only time I was truly terrified in that house was the night I thought I saw my mother die,” she said. “She spoke in a voice we had never heard before,” and “a power not of this world threw her 20 feet into another room.”
Carolyn Perron described the events that night as “dreadful,” and added that “the Warrens tried to help, but we essentially found things got worse around them.” Andrea Perron said her father was so upset by the events of that night that he asked the Warrens to leave.
“She was possessed,” Roger Perron, now 77, recalled Wednesday by phone. “… Her entire body was distorted. … And it lasted several hours, until they de-demonized her.
“And then I threw them out.”
Although the movie portrays the events of that night as ending the haunting, the Perrons recall several more years of learning to live with as many as nine spirits.
“Eventually,” Mrs. Perron said, “the family accepted the fact that we were not living there alone.”
Ed Warren died in 2006, but his widow said she is still active investigating paranormal cases. She also runs the private Occult Museum in the back of her house in Monroe, Conn., with the help of her son-in-law, Tony Spera.
Now 54, Andrea has since self-published two volumes of a trilogy about the hauntings, “House of Darkness, House of Light.”
And now there is the movie. “The Conjuring,” a Warner Bros. film shot in North Carolina, stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, and Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor as Roger and Carolyn Perron. Andrea Perron is played by Shanley Caswell.
“The cast is perfect,” said Andrea Perron. “The children resemble us as children and have our personalities as children,” she said, adding that that while Lili Taylor does not look like her mother, Taylor’s acting skills captured her mother’s personality.
And, she said, director James Wan captured “the essence of what we went through.”
The publicity surrounding the movie makes it “a very exciting, nerve-wracking experience,” said Andrea Perron.
The movie is rated R, she noted, but “there’s nothing gratuitous, no violence, no sex, no bad language.