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Husband-and-wife duo Ed and Lorraine Warren founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952 and went on to author numerous books about spirit activity, often speaking to packed crowds at universities and lecture halls. Many of the hauntings they claim to have witnessed are ghost story classics: the Warrens were some of the first investigators at the Amityville haunting and also visited the Perron family, whose story later became the plot for the Conjuring films by Warner Bros. And that’s where things got a little messy.
If you’re ghost-obsessed like we are, you’ve read Gerald Brittle’s 1980 book The Demonologist. It’s the definitive Ed and Lorraine biography — definitive in part because prior to the book’s publication, the Warrens signed a contract giving away the rights to their life story. According to the Hollywood Reporter, who obtained a copy of the most recent lawsuit, “The couple agreed to a no ‘competing work’ provision that is still in effect.” Brittle’s first lawsuit was filed 3 years ago in 2014, when he attempted to block future films in the franchise. The debacle generated a terrific amount of punny headlines involving being “haunted by lawsuits” but was ultimately dismissed because — get this — Warner Bros. claimed that the Conjuring films were based on “historical facts” and not The Demonologist. In retrospect, that may not have been the best thing to say about your spooky demon movies.
Brittle’s current strategy goes something like, well, demons don’t exist and so the movies can’t possibly be based on fact. “This is a pattern of deceit that is part of a scheme that the Warrens have perpetuated for years,” reads a letter from Brittle’s lawyer quoted by io9. “There are no historical facts of a witch ever existing at the Perron farmhouse, a witch hanging herself, possession, Satanic worship or child sacrifice.” Andrea Perron, a victim of the farmhouse haunting that formed the plot of the Conjuring, has also joined the fray — on her own Facebook. “Admittedly, I have not yet read The Demonologist but I am told elements of our story are included in that book,” Perron wrote. “I think this ghostly writer is grabbing at straws. Perhaps this is some sort of misguided retirement plan. Either way, I’m staying out of it.”
“It is very hard to believe that a large conglomerate such as Warner Brothers, with their army of lawyers and who specializes in intellectual property rights deals, would not have found The Demonologist book or the deals related to it, or Brittle for that matter,” continues Brittle’s lawyer. He may have a point here — below is a 2011 tweet from Conjuring director James Wan, discovered by the A.V. Club.
I watch/read a lot of scary stories. But fuck, THE DEMONOLOGIST, true life account of Ed & Lorraine Warren, is the scariest book I’ve read.
— James Wan (@creepypuppet) November 30, 2011