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The Real Story Behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

by Kevin Hall
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The True Story Behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

When the third Conjuring film announced it was going to be tackling the real-life case of the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, it raised a few eyebrows, especially with the not very-scary-sounding-at-all title The Devil Made Me Do It. Out of the three main Conjuring films, it’s definitely the weakest in this author’s opinion.

What did stand out about The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It is the great performances.  We have the return of Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren, a great performance from Ruairi O’Connor as Arne, and a chilling role for John Noble.  The film definitely has a few stand-out moments, especially in the trial itself.

It’s based on Ed and Lorraine Warren’s case of young Arne, who on the 24th of November 1981, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter of his landlord, Alan Bono, in Brookfield, Connecticut. 11-year-old David Glatzel had apparently been possessed by a demon, and after contacting the Warrens and numerous priests to perform an exorcism, it left the child’s body and entered Arne’s.

The defense lawyer tried to convince the Judge that Arne had been possessed while killing the landlord, but the defense couldn’t be proven and was infeasible in a court of law.

A book by Gerald Brittle called The Devil in Connecticut goes into more detail and is a fascinating look at the trial and media frenzy surrounding the case at the time.

Arne only served five years of his twenty-five-year sentence, and to this day, David and Debbie Glatzel support the Warren’s case absolutely, even though some of the family even deny it ever happened. Some even say that the Warrens were con artists, hoping to make a book, movie, and TV series at the time about it.

Whatever happened, the number of witnesses – one even saw the demon a number of times – is hard to dismiss.

Judy Glatzel even said David even bit, kicked and swore a lot of the time, and even did things that was not natural for a boy of his age to do. Even Arne would say or do things that were unnatural and unnerving, even back then.

There are subtle differences between the film and the real stories. The ending is typical Conjuring – but the witch totem was added so there would be another item to add to the Warren’s collection.  Some liberties were made in the movie for more impactful dialogue and jump scares, but mostly it stays true to the main case.  The courtroom drama scenes are the most compelling.

Whatever the case, the Warrens clearly supported Arne’s innocence, and it’s a fascinating look at what happens when real life and the horror spectacle gets mixed in.