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Who Are The Warrens? The Real Life Story Behind 'The Conjuring' Movies And 'The Nun'

How real are the stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators who sought out true crimes that inspired "The Conjuring" series of films?

By Eric Shorey

It's a few weeks away from October and the gothic horror film "The Nun" is already scaring up huge numbers at box offices. Following the story of a convent under dark influence, the film is the fifth released in the fictional "Conjuring Universe," a series of movies spun off from the 2013 film of the same name. Although focusing heavily on the supernatural, the series is — in fact — based on the real life investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren. These paranormal experts were considered highly knowledgeable of occult happenings and often explored true crime scenes in the hopes of rooting out the malevolent spirits that haunted them.

"The Conjuring" introduced director James Wan's fictional versions of Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. In that movie, the Warrens are depicted as spiritual advisors and mystic detectives. In their home, the Warrens keep a room filled with supposedly cursed objects, confiscated from their investigations so as to prevent further infestations from dark spirits. Amongst their belongings is the grotesque and malicious doll named Annabelle, who would later serve as inspiration for her own series of connected horror films. At the conclusion of the first "Conjuring" film, the Warrens receive a call about a new potential case — a haunted house in Long Island.

Although fantastical, the stories of Ed and Lorraine are largely true.

In reality, The Warrens rose to prominence in the 1950s after founding the New England Society for Psychic Research, a group of doctors, researchers, police officers, nurses, college students, clergy members who sought truths about the afterlife. Ed, a Navy veteran and former police officer, worked closely with his wife Lorraine, who claimed to possess clairvoyant abilities and who worked as a psychic medium. Throughout their careers, the two said they had investigated over 10,000 paranormal cases and published several books on demonology. They duo claimed to have encountered vampires, werewolves, ghosts, demons, and even Bigfoot.

One of their biggest claims to fame was their early investigation of the so-called Amityville Horror house, alluded to at the conclusion of "The Conjuring." The story of the Lutz family, who claimed to have been driven out of their newly-purchased home by demonic presences, would also inspire several films in the following decades. A book by parapsychologists Stephen and Roxanne Kaplan concluded that the stories invented by the Lutz family amounted to a hoax, according to The New York Times, but The Warrens maintained that evil forces were at work.

As per "The Conjuring," the Warrens did amass quite a collection of unholy objects throughout their journeys. They began housing and exhibiting the bedeviled artifacts at The Warrens Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut. The museum remained open until recently and is currently in the process of moving to a new location, according to the facility's website.

Housed at the museum is the real life Annabelle doll, which is certainly less aesthetically repulsive than its cinematic counterpart. The Occult Museum website claims that the doll began exhibiting abilities and writing messages to its owner pleading for help.

"It's not the doll ... It's what surrounds the doll and what's in the doll. It's the vibrations that were put into it through many evil things that were done with it — seances, occult practices, and so forth," Warren told "CBS This Morning" host Harry Smith in 1994, according to The New York Sun. "But this doll here was responsible for the death of a young man, we believe; also the near death of a Catholic priest and a homicide detective — so that the doll is just the opposite of what, say, you would find in a church, something holy, something blessed. This is the unblessed of evil."

Indeed, this latest addition to the "Conjuring" universe is also based on an account from The Warrens. The eponymous nun, inhabited by a demon named Valak, was thought of by Lorraine as “a spectral entity that has haunted her in her house," she told "Conjuring" director James Wan, according to The Wrap. Wan extrapolated many details about the demon's history from his conversation with Lorraine.

"It was always sort of laid out in the script, and I wanted to make sure that we honored the mythologies and the other movies in the Conjuring world," said "The Nun" director Corin Hardy to Gamespot. "There's some subtle connections and some visual connections...and there's some significant ones. It's obviously a movie that takes place 20 years before the first 'Conjuring,' so a lot can happen between then."

Although yet to be turned into movies, The Warrens investigated a handful of high profile true crimes including the killing of Alan Bono by Arne Cheyenne Johnson in 1981, who at the time claimed he was possessed by the devil, according to The New York Times.

Ed Warren died in August of 2006 after suffering a stroke and losing his speech five years earlier, according to The New York Sun. Lorraine currently resides in Connecticut.

Although critics and skeptics have casted doubts on the stories The Warrens have told, their tales have continue to fascinate moviegoers. "The Nun" has a total worldwide gross of $173.8 million, against a production budget of $22 million, according to Box Office Mojo. In the wake of this massive success, It seems likely that we'll hear more about The Warrens other investigations in the future.

[Photo: Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga at "The Conjuring" Debut by Kevin Winter / Getty Images]