The True Story Behind ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’

With the release of The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It trailer, many fans were curious when they saw the trailer revealed the story is based on the true case files of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. Like the previous Conjuring films, also taken from the Warren case files, The Conjuring 3 is based on the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson aka The Devil Made Me Do It case.

In the trailer, we see Arne Johnson (played by Ruairi O’Connor) as he in court for the murder of his landlord due to being possessed by the Devil. Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) cover the Johnson case, which is also connected to the possession of David Glatzel, Johnson’s girlfriend’s little brother. Although the film may sensationalize the story a bit, the real case by the Warrens is quite interesting.

The 1981 murder case was the first known court case in the United States where the defendant sought to prove their innocence by claiming demonic possession to deny responsibility for the crime. In Brookfield, Connecticut, Arne Cheyenne Johnson murdered his landlord, Alan Bono (in the film, he is renamed Bruno Sauls) with no recollection of doing it. Johnson claimed that a demon took possession of his body, while he was trying to help another family, The Glatzels, expel a demon out of their son, David.

According to The Discovery Channel’s A Haunting episode “Where Demons Dwell,” The Glatzel family claimed their 11-year old son David was possessed by a demon after the family went to clean up a rental property they acquired. David said he had visions of an old man who would also appear as a demonic beast muttering in Latin, threatening to steal his soul. He started to exhibit strange behavior — growling, hissing, and speaking in otherworldly voices, and reciting passages from the Bible or Paradise Lost. He also had unexplained scratches and bruises and suffered through spasms and convulsions. The family called for the Catholic Church to help perform an exorcism, but the church refused to authorize it. That’s when they called the Warrens to help remove the spirits.

The Warrens suspected multiple possessions controlling David and attempted to perform exorcisms. Arne Cheyenne Johnson was the boyfriend of the Glatzels’ daughter, Debbie. After Johnson attempted to coerce one of the demons out of David during one of the exorcisms, the family claimed the demon focused its attention on Johnson. He claimed that days after the exorcism, he was attacked by the demon. It was only when he went back to Glatzel’s rental property that he was possessed by the demon after making eye contact with it on the property. 

According to an article by the Washinton Post on the murder case, while at an event at Bono’s, something triggered in Johnson, causing him to stab Bono multiple times. Johnson’s sister Wanda claimed she heard her brother growling like an animal and then a shiny flash in the air. After Johnson killed Bono, he walked in a trance-like state straight into the woods. He had no memory of the murder. 

The Warrens became involved when they claimed Johnson was possessed by the Devil. It sparked a media frenzy. Johnson’s lawyer Martin Minella didn’t have an interest in the supernatural, but believed Johnson was posessed due to the deep wounds in Bono’s body that could not have been made by a human. Minella attempted to submit a plea of not guilty during the trial, but was rejected by the judge. The judge argued that the defense could not exist in a court of law due to the lack of evidence. Johnson was eventually convicted of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 10-20 years in prison, but only served five.

It will be interesting to see how the film portrays the case. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opens in theaters and on HBO Max on June 4.

True horror returns. Based on the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It reveals a chilling story of terror, murder, and unknown evil that shocked even these experienced real-life paranormal investigators. 

One of the most sensational cases from their files, it starts with a fight for the soul of a young boy, then takes them far beyond anything they’ve ever seen before, to mark the first time in U.S. history that a murder suspect would claim demonic possession as a defense. Starring Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, and Julian Hilliard, and directed by Michael Chaves. 

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, coming June 4 to theaters and on HBO Max. Available to stream on HBO Max in the US only, for 31 days from its theatrical release, at no extra cost to subscribers.