Historical Accuracy (Q&A):
How did 11-year-old David Glatzel allegedly become possessed?
According to The Conjuring 3 true story, in early July 1980, 11-year-old David Glatzel had been helping his older sister Debbie Glatzel and her boyfriend, Arne Cheyenne Johnson, clean up a Connecticut rental property they were preparing to move into. While at the property, David claimed to have encountered a "burnt and black-looking" old man who pushed him into a waterbed and said he would bring harm to them if they moved into the home. The movie's version of the encounter finds David being grabbed by a hand that bursts through from inside the waterbed, which is a fictionalized version of the actual account.
After returning to his parents' home, David claimed that the old man continued to appear before him and talk to him. He described the man as having a white beard and wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. He said that the man's skin looked charred black as if he had been burned in a fire. David also saw the man in night terrors and had obtained unexplained bruises and scratches on his body. He would wake up screaming and describe the man as having large sunken black eyes and animal-like features, including horns, hoofs, pointy ears, and jagged teeth. Aside from its dark eyes, The Conjuring 3 demon doesn't closely resemble what David described.
The Conjuring 3
monster bursting through from inside the waterbed is an exaggeration of David's actual account.
When did the true story behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It take place?The real-life events surrounding the Devil Made Me Do It case, including the David Glatzel possession and his subsequent exorcisms, along with Arne Johnson's possession and murder trial, unfolded in 1980 and 1981.
Were there any other signs of paranormal activity in the Glatzel home?
Yes. The family claimed to hear unexplained noises coming from the attic. Demonologist Ed Warren said that banging and growling sounds were heard coming from the basement and he saw a rocking chair move on its own. During an interview with paranormal researcher Tony Spera, Ed also claimed that David's plastic toy dinosaur started to walk on its own toward the family. A deep voice could then be heard emanating from it, telling them, "Beware, you're all going to die."
Did a priest come and bless the house?
In the movie, Father Gordon (Steve Coulter) arrives to bless the home. Despite his name being changed for the film, according to the family, they did bring in a Roman Catholic priest to bless the house. Several priests were involved in the exorcism of the boy, David Glatzel, with the most prominent being Reverend Francis E. Virgulak.
Did the Glatzel family really contact demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren?
Yes. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It true story reveals that the family did indeed contact husband and wife paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Ed was a demonologist and Lorraine claimed to be a clairvoyant. Like most of the previous movies in The Conjuring series, including The Enfield Poltergeist and Annabelle, the story was inspired by the Warren's case files. Both Ed and Lorraine are no longer living.
Did Lorraine Warren observe the demon?This is what Lorraine Warren claimed, and it was the Warrens who introduced the theory of demonic possession (Newsweek). Lorraine said that while her husband Ed was interviewing the possessed boy, David Glatzel, she saw a black mist materialize next to him, indicating that the demon was present. David's mother, Judy, had previously wondered if a ghost, not a demon, was the culprit, but the Warrens rejected the idea.
Lorraine also claimed that she saw David being choked by invisible hands, and he remarked that "he had the feeling he was being hit." She said that red marks could be seen on his neck afterward (People). Lorraine said that she witnessed David growl and hiss. She heard him speak in unrecognizable voices and said that he would recite passages from the Bible and John Milton's Paradise Lost. David's sister, Debbie Glatzel, said that he would also spit, bite, kick, and swear "terrible words." She described powerful forces flopping him "head-to-toe like a ragdoll." -Daily Mirror
Debbie said that she saw the demon once during one of her brother David's nighttime episodes. "He manifested. Just a face on the wall. High cheekbones. A narrow chin. A thin nose. Big black eyes hidden in dark holes. He showed his teeth." She said it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. Her description differs somewhat from The Conjuring 3 demon depicted in The Devil Made Me Do It movie. -Chippewa Herald-Telegram
David's mother Judy and sister Debbie said they observed David's body flopping head-to-toe like a ragdoll, similar to what is seen in The Conjuring 3
"Right away, I knew there was something to this. I felt like a good fisherman when he knows there's something on the line," Ed Warren said in a 1981 Washington Post article. Ed claimed that the boy had 43 demons inside of him and that he had spoken their names. During an interview with paranormal researcher Tony Spera, Ed also said that the boy would exhibit extreme strength and that he once witnessed him levitate.
Did Debbie Glatzel and Arne Johnson decide against renting the home?Yes. The Conjuring 3 true story reveals that they decided against renting the house and instead began renting a small green and brown house next to Debbie's place of employment, the Brookfield Boarding Kennels in Brookfield, Connecticut. Debbie had been working as a dog groomer for the landlord of the house, a short and stocky 40-year-old man by the name of Alan Bono, who was the kennel manager. Bono, who is renamed Bruno Sauls in the movie, lived in an apartment above the kennels that his sister owned. He was a world traveler who had recently been managing a plantation in Australia for about seventeen months until his sister, who was living in Florida, asked him to go to Connecticut to manage the kennels.
Were exorcisms performed on David Glatzel?
Yes. According to the Warrens, they oversaw three "lesser exorcisms" that David was subjected to. Lorraine Warren claimed that David levitated, ceased breathing, and even foreshadowed the murder that was going to happen. The local diocese said that the Catholic Church never sanctioned a formal exorcism, stating that the Glatzel family had not taken part in the psychological tests that the church required. David Glatzel's mom, Judy Glatzel, responded by telling The Washington Post that she paid $75 an hour for a session with a local psychiatrist, but it was up to church officials to set up and pay for further psychological testing. -Newsweek
A frightened David Glatzel holds onto his mother during one of the exorcisms. Photo: Official Ed and Lorraine Warren Channel (YouTube)
Did Arne Cheyenne Johnson challenge the demon to possess him instead of the boy, David Glatzel?According to The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It true story, this is allegedly correct. One of the demons supposedly went from the body of the boy, David Glatzel, into the body of his older sister's boyfriend, Arne Cheyenne Johnson, after Arne egged on the demon to leave David's body and possess him instead. According to demonologist Ed Warren, Arne yelled, "Take me on, leave my little buddy alone!"
After a few days, David's condition improved but Arne began to show signs that the demon had taken hold of him. The Haunting TV series episode "Where Demons Dwell" states that the demon took control of his car and forced it into a tree, leaving him startled but uninjured. The demon was also blamed for Arne's fall from a tree while working as a tree trimmer. Debbie claimed that he would hallucinate and growl. Arne said that his final lucid encounter with the demon was at the rental home when he was examining an old well, which supposedly housed the demon. According to Arne, he truly had become possessed when he made eye contact with the demon at the well.
What were the circumstances surrounding Arne Johnson's murder of his landlord, Alan Bono?
On February 16, 1981, 19-year-old Arne Cheyenne Johnson called in sick to the Wright Tree Service where he was employed. He met his girlfriend Debbie, 26, at the Brookfield Boarding Kennels where she worked as a dog groomer. They were joined by Debbie's 9-year-old cousin Mary, 9, and Arne's sisters, Wanda, 15, and Janice, 13. The three girls had come to visit Debbie at work and see the dogs. Debbie's boss, Alan Bono, 40, who was also Debbie and Arne's landlord, invited them out to lunch at a local pizza parlor. By this point, Arne had supposedly been exhibiting strange behavior that was similar to what Debbie's younger brother David had experienced when he was allegedly possessed. At least, that's what Arne's attorney tried to argue at his murder trial.
While they were at the restaurant for lunch, Arne Cheyenne Johnson and Alan Bono began to drink heavily. By the time they returned to the kennel, Alan was intoxicated. He grabbed hold of Debbie's 9-year-old cousin Mary and refused to let go. Arne ordered Alan to release Mary. When he finally did, the two men continued to argue in the driveway of the kennel. Debbie attempted to stand between them and Arne's sister Wanda tried to pull her brother away. According to what was stated at the trial, Arne then began to growl like an animal and pull out a 5-inch pocket knife (tree surgeon's knife), stabbing Alan Bono repeatedly. Alan suffered "four or five tremendous wounds," mainly to his chest. He died at the hospital several hours later. Arne was taken into custody two miles from the scene by police. He claimed that he couldn't remember anything that had happened. The stabbing is believed to be the first murder in Brookfield, Connecticut's 193-year history, and certainly the first in the 30 years since the town had police records.
The following day paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren told the police that it was her belief that Arne Cheyenne Johnson was possessed when he killed Alan Bono.
Alan Bono was murdered by Arne Johnson in the driveway of the Brookfield Boarding Kennels. The kennel (pictured above) still exists today but under a different name. Photo: Google Street View
Did Arne Johnson stab Alan Bono because Arne was a jealous lover?Debbie Glatzel claimed that her boyfriend, Arne Johnson, had come to Alan Bono's residence to repair a stereo for him. She said that Alan had been drinking red wine heavily and the two men got into an argument about payment for the stereo repair. She said that Arne appeared to be in some kind of trance when he stabbed Alan.
However, according to reports, during the three months that Debbie Glatzel and Arne Johnson lived next to the kennel that Alan Bono lived above, the three became very friendly. Debbie's mother, Judy, once said of the short and stocky Alan, "There should be more men like him." The Brookfield police believed that Debbie and Alan's relationship may have been more than just employer-employee, but Debbie said that Alan was an alcoholic and that "he could make friends with anybody." She denied there was anything between them. The police said that Arne and Alan were arguing over Debbie, not a stereo repair. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It leaves out the idea of Alan (renamed Bruno Saul in the movie) being a jealous lover but does show him grabbing Debbie. The notion of the jealous lover was depicted in the 1983 TV movie The Demon Murder Case starring Kevin Bacon. -Pensacola News Journal
Did Arne Johnson's trial mark the first time that demonic possession had been used as a defense in U.S. courts?
Yes. Eight months after the homicide, Arne Johnson's lawyer, Martin Minnella, attempted to enter a plea of "not guilty" due to demonic possession. Minnella argued that Arne Johnson killed Alan Bono while under the Devil's spell, stating that his client "was possessed by a demon, and it was a demon who actually manipulated his body." It was the first known court case in United States history where the defense had sought to prove innocence based on a claim of demonic possession. As word of the unusual defense spread to the media, the trial became known as the Devil Made Me Do It case. It made headlines around the world and paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who were famous for their involvement in the Amityville Horror case, were thrust back into the spotlight. Minnella told the New York Times, "The courts have dealt with the existence of God. Now they're going to have to deal with the existence of the Devil." The lawyer, Martin Minnella, is depicted as a female in the movie and renamed Meryl.
The Devil Made Me Do It
trial made headlines around the world. Pictured inset is the accused, Arne Cheyenne Johnson.
Did the judge in Arne Cheyenne Johnson's murder trial forbid the "demon defense"?Yes. Judge Robert J. Callahan promptly rejected the idea of a defense based on demonic possession. Callahan stated that no such defense could ever exist in a court of law due to a lack of evidence. He stated that it would be irrelative and unscientific to allow testimony related to such a defense. Arne Cheyenne Johnson's lawyer, Martin Minnella, had to give up the argument of demonic possession and instead decided to argue that Johnson acted in self-defense.
The judge in Arne Cheyenne Johnson's murder trial forbid his attorney from arguing demonic possession as a defense.
Did the jury find Arne Cheyenne Johnson guilty?
Yes. In researching The Conjuring 3 true story, we learned that the jury deliberated for 15 hours over the course of three days. On November 24, 1981, Arne Cheyenne Johnson was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.
Did Debbie Glatzel and Arne Cheyenne Johnson marry while he was in prison?
Yes. Debbie Glatzel and Arne Johnson married while he was in prison. He also received his high school diploma and took several college courses while behind bars. He was a model prisoner and was released on good behavior after serving less than five years. The couple had two children.
Arne and Debbie are pictured more than two decades later in 2006.
Have any other movies been made about the Devil Made Me Do It case?Yes. A 1983 television movie titled The Demon Murder Case was made about the David Glatzel possession and the Arne Johnson trial. It starred Kevin Bacon, Andy Griffith, and Cloris Leachman. In that film, the character who represents Arne Johnson is portrayed by Kevin Bacon and renamed Kenny Miller. David Glatzel, the 11-year-old boy, is renamed Brian Frazier and portrayed by Charles Fields. Ed and Lorraine Warren are renamed Guy and Charlotte Harris and played by Andy Griffith and Beverlee McKinsey. Like The Conjuring 3 demon, the movie implies that it took control of Arne Johnson when he killed Alan Bono. However, The Demon Murder Case certainly doesn't hold back in its depiction of Arne as a jealous lover.
The Devil Made Me Do It case was first told on the small screen. Kevin Bacon starred in the 1983 TV movie The Demon Murder Case
The movie includes a disclaimer in the opening credits, which states that the "film contains some fictional scenes depicting demonic possession. It is suggested by the stories of people who claim to have witnessed so-called demonic possession." It is rare nowadays for a horror movie based on a true story to be that upfront about the creative license it has taken, opting instead to imply that everything that unfolds on the screen is the truth.
Is it possible that the Devil Made Me Do It case was a hoax?David's brother, Carl Glatzel, spoke out against Gerald Brittle's book that Lorraine Warren was involved in, The Devil in Connecticut, when it was republished in 2006. Carl called the book "a complete lie," saying that "the Warrens concocted a phony story about demons in an attempt to get rich and famous at our expense." According to Carl, the Warrens told the family that the demonic possession story would turn them into millionaires. In reality, the Glatzel family was paid just $2,000. Carl said that his younger brother David had been suffering from a mental illness at the time, from which he has since recovered. He said that the entire family was manipulated and exploited by Ed and Lorraine Warren. In 2007, David and Carl went as far as to file a lawsuit against Gerald Brittle and the Warrens for unspecified financial damages.
Paranormal investigator/psychic Lorraine Warren was involved in Gerald Brittle's book The Devil in Connecticut
Author Gerald Brittle claimed that his book was based entirely on fact and that he spent more than 100 hours interviewing the Glatzel family, which he has on video. Lorraine Warren said that the six priests who participated in the lesser exorcisms all agreed that David Glatzel was possessed. Both Brittle and Lorraine Warren criticized the lawsuit and questioned Carl Glatzel's motive, with Brittle implying it was for financial gain. Of course, the same could be said for the Warrens and Brittle.
Debbie Glatzel and Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who married while Arne was in prison, appear to be the only two members of the Glatzel family who support the Warren's account of possession. In addition to his brother Carl, David Glatzel's father also denied that his son was ever possessed (Daily Mirror). At the time, however, David's mother mostly backed up the Warren's story (Newsweek). With the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, perhaps David Glatzel will speak out about the true story and the Warrens' involvement.
Ed and Lorraine Warren Interview & Related "Conjuring 3" Videos
Paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren with Debbie Glatzel in the early 1980s (top) and in 2014 (bottom). Photos: Official Ed and Lorraine Warren Channel (YouTube), Deborah Johnson Facebook
Watch the History vs. Hollywood episode in which we explore the events that inspired the horror movie, which was based on the Warrens' case files. Also, uncover more details about The Conjuring 3 true story by watching an interview with Ed and Lorraine Warren in which they discuss the Devil Made Me Do It case.