'The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It' True Story of Demonic Murder Continues Warrens' Unreliable Tradition

A full title has been announced for The Conjuring 3, which now bears the moniker The Devil Made Me Do It. After their fictionalized defeat of the Enfield poltergeist in The Conjuring 2, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) will return to America for The Devil Made Me Do It, which is based on a real-life court case in which a murder suspect claimed demonic possession was to blame.

The true story behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It took place in the small town of Brookfield, Connecticut, which, according to People magazine, suffered its very first recorded homicide in February of 1981, when Arne Cheyenne Johnson stabbed his landlord to death. Johnson was a 19-year-old tree arborist, who, after a heated argument with his landlord, Alan Bono, killed the man with a pocketknife, thrusting the five-inch blade into Bono's chest multiple times. Johnson was arrested two miles from the scene of the homicide.

Eight months later, Johnson plead not guilty to murder, claiming the devil made him do it. Johnson's defense rested on the claim that his fiancée, Debbie Glatzel—who had been present at the killing of Bono—had a younger brother who was possessed by demons. After an attempted exorcism, Johnson claimed to have invited the demons into his own body, sparing Debbie's brother.

The fictional Ed and Lorraine Warren in 2013's "The Conjuring." Warner Bros. Pictures

Debbie's mother, Judy Glatzel, backed up the story, claiming that her youngest son David had been tormented by "a man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns and hoofs," since the middle of the previous summer. David's spectral tormentor continued to appear, sometimes in the form of a man with a white beard, dressed in flannel and jeans.

Debbie asked Johnson to move into the Glatzel household to help the family deal with their troubled son. After the clergy of the local Catholic Church proved unable to dispel the evil spirits with a blessing, the Glatzels contacted Ed and Lorraine Warren, self-styled demonologists—now both dead—most famous for their participation in the Amityville Horror hoax. It was the Warrens who introduced the idea of demonic possession, rejecting Judy's theory that a ghost was to blame.

Ed and Lorraine Warren arriving at Danbury Superior Court on March 19, 1981, for the grandy jury indictment of Arne Cheyenne Johnson. Bettmann / Getty Images

"Right away, I knew there was something to this," Ed Warren told The Washington Post in 1981. "I felt like a good fisherman when he knows there's something on the line."

Lorraine, who also claimed psychic powers, backed up the possession story, while her husband Ed claimed the boy had a total of 43 demons inside of him. Ed would go on to say that they attempted three "lesser" exorcisms in the presence of local priests, but the local diocese denied an exorcism was ever sanctioned by the Catholic Church, since the Glatzel family had not undergone the psychological tests the church required.

"They just want to stick needles in my kid," Judy Glatzel said in response, telling The Washington Post it was up to church officials to arrange for further psychological testing after a local psychiatrist charged her $75 an hour for a session.

"If people honestly believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, they have to believe in the devil," Glatzel added. "This world is being controlled by the devil—look at the drugs, the prostitution, the gambling and the violence. The devil is in charge of it all."

After reportedly taunting the demons to enter him, Johnson and Debbie moved out of the Glatzel household. But the demon followed, according to Debbie, who told the courtroom, "Cheyenne would go into a trance. He would growl and say he saw the beast. Later he would have no memory of it. It was just like David."

Johnson's defense cited two previous court cases in Great Britain, though neither had been presented before a jury.

"I'm going to show the guy isn't insane and that it's not a delusion," Johnson's attorney Martin Minnella told People in 1981. "The courts have dealt with the existence of God, and now they'll be asked to deal with the existence of the demonic spirit."

But the presiding judge disagreed, rejecting the demonic possession defense. Johnson's lawyers pivoted to claim Bono was killed in self-defense and Johnson was subsequently convicted of manslaughter, for which he served five years.

In 2007, a now-adult David and his brother, Carl Glatzel, sued Lorraine, claiming the entire demonic possession story was a hoax invented by the Warrens to exploit David's mental illness. According to Carl, the Warrens told the family that the possession story would make them millionaires. Despite the rest of the Glatzel family, including the purported possession victim, disclaiming the Warrens' version of events, Johnson and Debbie continue to maintain demonic possession caused Bono's death.

Despite movie marketing for The Conjuring series relying heavily on the "true story" legitimacy of its "real-life paranormal investigators," it wasn't the first or the last time the Warrens would be accused of exaggerating their involvement in, or outright hoaxing, supernatural events.

Their most famous case, the Amityville horror, was declared fiction by a U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, with evidence pointing to the Lutz family inventing the story in collaboration with the defense lawyer of the murderer who purportedly haunted the house (the lawyer later admitted it was a hoax).

In a 2016 interview with Darkness Radio, Guy Lyon Playfair, a member of the Society for Psychical Research who investigated the Enfield poltergeist—the subject of The Conjuring 2—described the Warrens' limited involvement in that particular case.

"They did turn up once, I think, at Enfield, and all I can remember is Ed Warren telling me that he could make a lot of money for me out of it," Playfair said. "So I thought, 'Well, that's all I need to know from you' and I got myself out of his way as soon as I could."

In another Warren "case," which became the basis for the movie The Haunting in Connecticut, the Warrens' own ghostwriter later denied there was any truth to the alleged haunting.

"When I found that the Snedekers couldn't keep their individual stories straight, I went to Ed Warren and explained the problem. 'They're crazy,' he said. 'All the people who come to us are crazy, that's why they come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up,'" Ray Garton, the Warrens' In a Dark Place co-author, told Damned Connecticut in 2009. "I've talked to other writers who have been hired to write books for the Warrens ... and their experiences with the Warrens have been almost identical to my own."

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It may be just as exciting as the two movies that came before, but it will also be just as dubious as a true story. The Conjuring 3 will be released in theaters on September 11, 2020.