By John-Michael Occhipinti
Founder of Lackawanna County Paranormal
(Reprinted with permission from LCP. Original article can be found here.)
Recently I had the chance to do an interview with Andrea Perron. Many may recognize her from the well known "The Conjuring" case held by Ed and Lorraine Warren back in 1973-74. With the third installment of her book "House of Darkness House of Light" on the way, Perron took some time to answer a few questions.
When did you first develop an interest in the paranormal field?
I didn’t…apparently it developed an interest in me at a very young age. I was 12 years old when I witnessed my first full-body apparition and it changed everything about the way I think and perceive the world around me.
What were some of your first paranormal experiences?
The day we moved into the house four of the five of us (the children) saw a man standing in the corner of the dining room, watching Mr. Kenyon pack the last of his belongings. He seemed so solid, I mistook him for a mortal soul and greeted him with a sweet “good morning” but he did not respond. A few minutes later my sister Nancy saw him disappear. That night my sister Cindy crawled into bed with me and told me she was hearing voices in her room, telling her “There are seven dead soldiers buried in the wall.” A rude awakening for the youngster, she spent the night with me. Thus began the strangest interlude of our lives. We soon realized we were sharing the house with those who still considered it their own.
How did your family become aware and acquainted with The Warrens?
Keith Johnson and his group from Rhode Island College had come to the house and based on his extreme encounter with something displeased with his presence, he divulged our predicament to the Warrens when he saw them at a seminar not long afterward.
Has anything happened in the house after Ed and Lorraine Warren held the investigation?
The house was incredibly active for the entire 10 years we lived there. The Warrens only came to the house a handful of times and many things occurred that they never even knew about because our affiliation with them ended in 1974.
Have you ever had any recent experiences since then?
Many – in fact, I acknowledge the spirits in the book because I don’t think I could have gotten this trilogy written without their kind assistance. I don’t know precisely who I am thanking when I do so, as I seem to be surrounded by so many of them but then, ALL of us (humans) are loved and supported by someone who has passed. It is simply a matter of being open to it. As I have always maintained, once you’re touched by spirit it is a gift you can never return. You can either accept it and receive the messages or turn your back and ignore the interaction but, no matter the decision you make, it becomes a permanent part of life.
What year did this happen because it's floating around people are saying 71, 73, 74.
The Warrens arrived on our doorstep the evening before Halloween in 1973 and they were involved with the investigation until the horrible night of the séance in the summer of 1974. My father threw them and their team out of the house after the incident. For the purposes of clarity, it should be stated that the Warrens were only a small part of our experiences at the farm. We lived there for 10 years and it required 1500 pages and 3 books to tell the whole true story.
Out of all of your siblings, is there any one in particular that experienced the worst activity?
Cindy had the most difficult time. She was approached innumerable times and brought some of her sorrows on herself by dabbling in the dark arts, trying to dispel the spirits on her own. BIG mistake! She learned her lessons the hard way, discovering it was nothing she could take on.
Can you tell us how the activity first began after moving into your home?
As we were offloading the truck we encountered our first spirit but the thing I find most bizarre and interesting of all is the fact that we kids could see him but my father was standing in the room at one point talking to Mr. Kenyon and he couldn’t see the man standing in the corner. Of course children are more aware of and susceptible to spiritual activity which is what makes them so vulnerable to negative entities.
Were there any signs that made it clear that something ominous was taking place?
The most compelling thing we first witnessed was my mother being beaten with a wooden coat hanger suspended in midair and then there were the bloody scratches covering my father’s back on two separate occasions. The night of the séance it was made obvious to all involved; the evil entity attacking my mother could have claimed her life had it chosen. It was not of this world.
Did you believe that the presence in your home would be that of a human or inhuman haunting?
We didn’t think any of the spirits were inhuman until the medium who accompanied the Warrens into our home decided to throw the spiritual door wide open during her incantation for gathering the spirits and what arrived was so horrific it subdued the spirits for months afterwards. I think they were as terrified by it as we were that fateful night.
From what you have experienced in the house, has that kept you fearful in pursuing the truth of the things going on?
Quite the contrary, I have lived my life fearlessly precisely because of what I witnessed in my childhood home. From the age of 12 I have KNOWN there is something beyond mortal existence and it gave me a sense of being a part of something sacred. I was comforted by the knowledge & nothing else could have created the solace. I know life is bigger than we realize; that death is not the end but instead, a new beginning. I learned we are all essentially immortal souls, spiritual beings having a human experience. For me, living at the farm was an experience I cherish, even though there were some difficult moments to endure, especially for my mother.
Growing up in a house with the experiences you have had, was there ever a moment where these experiences took a toll on you?
Always. Every day a toll taken on someone in the family. If there wasn’t an actual manifestation of some kind then there was the lingering suspicion that something wicked was about to happen. It was the dread which most affected all of us, that sick sense of being watched, and the question: “What next?” It was a psychologically demanding environment. No one ever completely relaxed. There were countless moments of anxiety, wondering if those footsteps on the stairs might be our mother, the light of our lives, coming to get us for dinner -- or something much darker, indeed.
What were some of the things you have personally experienced aside from first experiences?
Honestly, the encounters are too numerous to include in this type of interview. I’d literally have to transpose the books into the text, which is why it required 1500 pages to tell this voluminous story encompassing 10 years. Read the books if you dare, with fair warning that they aren’t for everyone, certainly not the faint of heart. Though the story isn’t written to be terrifying, there are inescapable moments which will capture you, grab you by the heart. There are images you will never forget.“House of Darkness House of Light” is essentially a love story about a family & the bonds that never break. It is a spiritual journey from start to finish. Some folks don’t get it. Some are afraid to delve too deeply and some are looking for a series of scary stories, ending up with far more than they bargained for, much to their dismay. This story has its own wave length, a different frequency. We invite anyone with the courage to ride the wave to join us on a journey with no end, the quest for spiritual enlightenment. If WE don’t have the answers, no one does, so we search together for what fascinates most mortal souls: the meaning of life.
When have you reached the point where this subject came natural for you to talk about after living through these experiences?
I’ve always been comfortable discussing our time at the farm. I consider it, in spite of the trials & tribulations, the best decade of my life. Because of what I learned, all I was exposed to, I came to meaningful conclusions rather early by most standards. Since the 7th grade I have been an ardent student of metaphysics and earned a degree in philosophy in 1980. Curiosity comes naturally to me. A natural assumption of being a part of something bigger than we can imagine is part of my equation. Living at the farm instilled a faith in me I may not have discovered otherwise.
As a child living in a house with these things happening, was it very hard to adapt to things being said in the community if any?
We learned quickly not to talk about what was happening in our house. Chatter in the village began within a few months, as we shared with new friends. It was a taboo subject, not a topic for proper conversation. It was a different time 40 years ago. The world has come a long way since in terms of acceptance and belief in a supernatural realm; we live in a multidimensional universe brimming with discoveries yet to be made. There is no veil. We created the veil to willingly relegate ourselves to a more comfortable three-dimensional life but it isn’t the truth of our complicated existence. I suppose I think globally regarding most issues. The world is a much more enlightened place in recent years. The paranormal community has burgeoned to millions. It is an exciting time to be alive.
After one goes through these experiences, how does one like yourself cope with what was witnessed?
Hour by hour, day by day. It takes time to assimilate an experience of this nature…many years. We told our story honestly, hoping the world was ready for the truth. However, three decades after we left the farm, we were finally ready to divulge the details. It isn’t as if we all processed these events simultaneously or in any specific way. It had to sink in individually, often silently. In fact, we barely spoke about it within the family and shared nothing with anyone beyond our circle of seven. About10 years ago we began opening up with one another. Cindy finally told her husband and he stayed up all night praying over his family Bible. She doesn’t share much with him anymore. Telling the story has been cathartic and burdensome in equal measure. It tore the bandage off a wound or two. Nancy never forgave our mother for selling the farm. Much has bubbled to the surface. After 5 years, since the inception of this project, I can finally say that peace reigns supreme and all is well with our family.
In movies a lot of things are often embellished, but with the recent release of "The Conjuring," how much of that was spot on in what you have witnessed/experienced?
The film got it right in terms of painting the picture in broad strokes. The fine lines of history are written in the books. Keep in mind, the screenplay is fictional, the telling of a story from an alternate perspective (based on the case files of Ed & Lorraine Warren) and is no reflection on my mother at all. She would never have done anything to harm her children. There was nothing like an exorcism. Instead, it was a séance and it happened in the dining room, not the cellar. We were all born and raised Catholic, baptized and confirmed into the church, not a pack of godless heathens as portrayed in the film. There are many discrepancies yet they had no choice but to do what they did to compress a decade into two hours. James Wan did an excellent job with some very difficult material, as well as the cast and crew, the producers, everyone involved in the making of this movie. They all made an emotional investment in the project.
How much of the past history of the home is true to the accounts in the film?
None. Bathsheba Sherman got a raw deal. Nowhere in the historical record does it indicate that she was a practicing witch. They have her killing her own baby in 1863 when she was already an old woman, well beyond child-bearing years. The little boy spirit was fond of my sister but he was from another time entirely. No hide & clap, no witch hanging from a tree, no possession, no exorcism. What actually happened was too intense to include in the film. Read the books!
What has happened to the homestead? Is it still in the family? New occupants?
An elderly couple has lived there for the past 28 years.
What was your reaction when someone took on the role of directing a movie based on your family's situation?
I was upset when I heard James Wan would be the director. I had misjudged him and have since made amends for my prejudice based on his previous films. He is a genuine, mature and sensitive man, a highly intelligent man. I have enormous respect for him and credit him with the ultimate vision which produced a finely-crafted film that I consider beautiful. I don’t think of it as horror but instead as a psychological thriller.
Did you work with people on the film to get the facts right?
Mrs. Warren provided her case files as reference material for the screenwriters and I gave all the producers ample information, in the hope this film would be an authentic portrayal of our story.
Could you clarify fact from fiction in which the film depicts?
The story as portrayed in the film, scene by scene, is predominately fictional, inspired by a true story. The whole truth, the details of what occurred at the farm, one will find in the books. But, what they got right they got really right, including the flawless casting and sensitive, honest portrayal of the love our family shared. Love conquers fear and good defeats evil.
When did you feel the need to write the trilogy "House of Darkness House of Light?"
It was as if a bell went off in my head, an alarm clock declaring: “It’s time”. It was in August of 2007. By March of 2008 I’d left my job, my theater company, all my friends in R.I. and moved to Georgia to be with the family whose story I would tell. I had to be with them to do it justice and it was a decision I will never regret. This is exactly what was supposed to happen. There’s a sense of destiny around all of it and I have found my calling. Yes. I have been blessed by the spirits, I’ve lived a remarkable life and my heart swells with perpetual gratitude.
In writing this trilogy, has it been easier to get the story across with your personal experiences or has it been sort of like a biography "aftermath?"
AP: The third volume is a continuation of the story, culminating in our eventual move to Georgia. It is an emotional journey of extrication, though we later understood that, though we left the farm it would never leave any of us. The trilogy of books is what I often refer to as a collective memoir, a personal and intimate portrayal of our family, what we experienced, what we endured, what we abandoned and what returned to us…for life. The manuscript was originally one book but it was simply too big to print!
JMO: Thank you very much for your time and I can’t wait for the release of your third book! For those interested in further reading you can purchase Andrea's books here: "House of Darkness House of Light"
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