Ghosts of the past:

Norton recalls interview with paranormal investigators

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 10/14/18

Ed and Lorraine Warren, a paranormal investigators and the subject of the hit horror film series “The Conjuring,” visited Cleveland State Community College in spring 1979, and the Cleveland Daily …

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Ghosts of the past:

Norton recalls interview with paranormal investigators

Posted

Ed and Lorraine Warren, a paranormal investigators and the subject of the hit horror film series “The Conjuring,” visited Cleveland State Community College in spring 1979, and the Cleveland Daily Banner’s current editor, Rick Norton, — a reporter at the time — was able to interview the pair before their lecture and now recounts the mystery that surrounded the couple.

If you turn on the TV, you’ll undoubtedly be assaulted by numerous shows promoting ghost hunting and paranormal investigations. Whether you’re a believer or not, there is no couple more famous in the world of such investigations than Ed and Lorraine Warren. In their investigative work, Ed served as a demonologist while Lorraine claimed to be a clairvoyant.

The focus of the wildly successful “Conjuring” film series, the Warrens are world renowned for being the ones to investigate the site of the Amityville Horror, the haunting of the Perron family in Rhode Island and the Enfield Poltergeist in London, with the latter two being the subject of the first two “Conjuring” films.

Norton was 23 years old at the time of his interview with the Warrens, and said the couple was en route to Memphis to investigate a reportedly haunted house in the area. While in Cleveland, they gave a seminar at Cleveland State on their findings. Current Banner employee Patty J. Hawkins, a CSCC freshman at the time, also attended the seminar.

“The Amityville Horror had just happened in 1977. It was still in the news and was still a huge thing,” Hawkins said of the story, which traced back to that village in New York state. “I’ve always been into ghosts, and it’s just fascinating to me.”

As the students were allowed to ask the Warrens questions following their presentation, Hawkins asked them how they determined which cases they investigated were real and which ones were hoaxes. She added how she believes she mildly offended them with this query.

Developing an interest in the paranormal at a young age, Hawkins said an older woman in her neighborhood would often amaze her and other kids with ghost stories, which eventually drew her into further investigations, with a particular interest in photographs.

While Ed Warren has since died, Lorraine is still alive and even had a cameo role in the first “Conjuring” movie. Hawkins said she noticed how the films portray the couple as having a very romantic relationship, while in real life, the Warrens weren’t as affectionate.

When giving their presentation at Cleveland State, the Warrens mostly discussed the Amityville Horror case, along with displaying photos from their investigation. Hawkins said that despite being a believer in ghosts herself, she noticed how many of the “ghostly” photos were caused by damage to the film or rookie mistakes photographers make. As a photography student, Hawkins said she’s made those mistakes before and knew them when she saw them. The only photo she said the Warrens had that was believable was that of a young boy on a staircase who hadn’t been in the photo when it was taken. This image didn’t come out until several years after the Warrens’ Cleveland visit, but is believed to possibly be the ghost of one of the children murdered by Ronald DeFeo in his Amityville killing spree.

In covering the event, Norton said the Warrens gave both an afternoon and an evening presentation, and dressed in their eccentric “ghost-hunting” clothes for the evening seminar.

“I gave them plenty of time in our interview to explain how they got into this line of work and explain themselves and what they were doing,” Norton said.

Norton also said he asked about previous cases and if Amityville was the biggest case they had been involved in that earned them their reputation. Just like Hawkins, Norton seems to have upset the pair — if facial expressions can tell anything — by asking a “devil’s advocate” question to the tune of “Why should people believe that you are authentic and not just trying to make money?”

He added how the age differences are vast when the real Warrens who visited Cleveland are compared to their movie adaptations. Starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine, Norton said it appeared to him that both lost at least 20 to 30 years on the big screen.

“I’m infatuated with the experience of a ghost story, and I’ll always listen to others’ stories, but somewhere deep inside me, there’s always an ounce of disbelief,” Norton said. “I always give people the benefit of the doubt. I apply that to everyone in my life. The Warrens didn’t convince me of the existence of ghosts, but I know they believed.”

Regardless of how people felt about what the Warrens were doing, Norton said he had fun interviewing the couple and seeing their presentation, and later realized he had interacted with the principals involved in an otherwise national story surrounding the phenomenon of Amityville and other incidents. 

The Warrens have certainly made their mark on the world, not only by rising to stardom in the '70s, but also by being completely reintroduced to the public through the success of the “Conjuring” films. Were their investigations real or fabricated? Perhaps only reading their material and accounts of their experiences will shine a light through their mystique.


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