Monroe is a small town in the southern part of Connecticut, about an hour and a half from the most famous city in the world: New York. Unlike the cosmopolitan confines of NYC, Monroe looks like many New England towns, with plenty of woods and pastures and a number of strip malls that contain pizza shops, antique stores, and barber shops.
I moved to Monroe in 1978 as a seven year old, and today I live about a mile from the border. One constant in my life over all of these years is the one thing that put the small bucolic town of Monroe on the map: the presence of our very own world-famous ghost hunters, Ed and Lorraine Warren.
My first exposure to Ed and Lorraine was through stories my parents told me about a lecture they attended at the local library. My father wasn’t as convinced as my mother was after the lecture (which consisted of a number of slides and spirit photos, as well the tales that went along with them), but the idea that a couple that actually hunted ghosts was living in my new town was enough to frighten me and also imbue me with my first taste of civic pride. For a town whose only chain restaurant was a Subway (we got our very own McDonald’s in 1993), having the preeminent “Seekers of the Supernatural” around the block made Monroe just a little more interesting.
I first heard the Warren’s speak at Monroe’s only high school (Masuk) in the mid-80’s at the school’s annual celebration of student art and craftsmanship entitled Expo. I’m not sure why Lorraine was there, but I do remember that it was free, and I also remember sleeping with the lights on after seeing some of the slides and hearing the disembodied voice recordings from the Enfield Poltergeist Case (which would later be used as the basis for The Conjuring 2). After the presentation, Lorraine came down off the stage and she was quickly surrounded by many of the middle and high school students in attendance, taking time to answer every question we asked, from the serious to the far-fetched. I remember my younger brother relaying a story to Lorraine about feeling a large slap on his back in the middle of the night, and I don’t remember how the topic got around to the fact that he played Dungeons and Dragons on a regular basis, but Lorraine told him that he might want to stop playing the game (for context, this was the era of the “Satanic Panic”, so her warning wasn’t too far off-base). Neither of us stopped playing D&D, but even at a young age, I was impressed that she took the time to answer all of our questions (especially from the young ones obsessed and terrified by the folklore concerning our town witch, Hannah Cranna, who died in 1859).
From that point, I was hooked on the paranormal and thus began the complicated relationship between interest and fear that many other ghost and horror fans can relate to. All throughout high school and college, I made sure to see Ed and Lorraine’s lectures at least once a year, many taking place at other local high schools, universities, or hotels in the area. The slides and presentations were usually the same, but the question and answer sessions were always filled with information about new cases, along with the sarcastic humor of Ed and warm, caring demeanor of Lorraine. Many a skeptical friend brought to see the Warrens left with a plethora of questions and some stories to make even the biggest non-believer pause before entering their dark apartments and houses long after the presentation was over. I also looked forward to their many appearances on “true haunting” specials every October that predated both the proliferation of cable ghost hunting series and The Conjuring films (and multiple spin-offs).
HNN’s Larry Dwyer also remembers attending these presentations and Dwyer ‘s first experience with the famous couple occurred when he and his friends “… found out that they’d be at the Ramada Inn in Stratford, Connecticut and we all made plans to go. I think it was about 1989 which would have made me 15 years old. For one reason or another, maybe fear, on the day of the show, all of my friends had who planned to go decided to bail so I tucked my paperback copy of The Demonologist into the inside pocket of my trench coat and begged my dad for a ride to Stratford. After sitting through the presentation filled with video and audio recordings, Ed & Lorraine took multiple questions before ending the session. I wanted to have them autograph my copy of their book, so I waited in the front row for them to finish speaking with people; if you’ve even been to one of their shows, you know that when it’s done, TONS of people line up to ask them questions and share stories.”
The entire time, a young Larry Dwyer “sat there and patiently waited, never removing the book from my inside pocket as Ed & Lorraine gave their attention to each and every person who wanted it. Every once in a while, Lorraine would glance over at me while she spoke with someone until finally she excused herself from who she was talking with and walked up to me and whispered, “would you like us to sign that book for you so you can leave?” She smiled and took the book that I had never once removed from my inside pocket and brought it over to Ed to sign before adding her own signature and giving it back with a smile.”
In between these lectures, you would often see Lorraine around town, at the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the doctor’s office. My mother called me at college one day in 1994 and informed me that she spent some time with Lorraine in the waiting room of a physical therapist and they spoke about her pets and recent travels. Although my mother didn’t look forward to the sessions, invariably, she’d see Lorraine there and it helped calm her down before the rehabilitation. Lorraine often had this effect on people and even if you met Lorraine just once, you felt like you knew here and she knew you for a very long time.
Many people in Monroe and surrounding communities share similar recollections about Lorraine, including Horror News Network staffer John Evans’ wife Jenn, whose parents ran a local print shop that the Warrens worked with to publish some of their books and pamphlets. Jenn recalls the couple always asking them how they were and how school was going, and “Lorraine always loved talking about her many pets, especially her rooster. She came in to the store one day with her dog, and every day after that she was happy to talk about her animals.” Jenn Evans also remembers that when her parents would drop off the printing jobs to her house, she would always invite them in to come in and chat about their daughters and to see her animals, never once talking about the content of the books or the investigations she was involved in.
After Ed died in 2006, Lorraine continued to work in the paranormal field and was always there to help a neighbor. John Evans (who also grew up in Monroe, CT along with fellow Horror News Network staff members Christine (Bucci) Caprilozzi and Sean McLaughlin) also distinctly recalls a time when his younger sister, Lauren Hamer, experienced a terrifying negative paranormal experience during her teenage years. Their mother found Lorraine’s number in the local phone book (where it remained listed for many years until her continued fame resulted in not only crank calls, but also calls from disturbed individuals) and Lorraine spent hours on the phone speaking to her about the experience and what she could do to help her daughter. Throughout the conversation, Mrs. Warren appeared to know more than what was even being described to her verbally, and her suggestions were detailed and sympathetic. Luckily, after following her advice, things returned to normal for Lauren. This is only one example of Lorraine’s tireless attempts to help people, spending hours of her free time speaking to both local residents and those around the world about ghostly experiences in their homes and places of work. For all of the skeptics and detractors over the years, it is important to point out that Warren never profited in any way from these phone calls. She only wished to help those in need in any way that she could, paying special attention to those in her home town.
In 2011, John Evans and I (along with our wives, Jen and Julie) had the unique opportunity to tour the Warren’s Paranormal Museum (which was once located at their residence and is now being moved to another location). We arrived early and Lorraine greeted us at the door and brought us into the house, even taking me into her bedroom to show off her domesticated rooster (who was being kept out of the way for the night’s activities). I had met Lorraine before, but we were certainly not on a first name basis, and yet she didn’t hesitate to allow me into her home. To be honest, I was a little more than nervous to tour the museum and I refused to take a picture next to the glass-encased Annabelle doll (unlike my colleagues), but Lorraine’s demeanor and hospitality helped take the edge off and I remember my interactions with her as much as my time spent in the museum.
All of us will miss Lorraine. Fans will miss the stories, lectures, and the personable way that she treated everyone. Paranormal researchers will miss her expertise and depth of knowledge. Friends, family, and neighbors will miss her compassion and loving nature. We thank you for the memories and interactions which made our lives (and my home town) a lot more special.
Headline Photo Credit: Autumn Driscoll