I’ve been obsessed with the paranormal ever since I was a kid, so when I got the chance to stay overnight in one of the most infamous allegedly haunted houses in history, I jumped at the opportunity.
In January 1971, Carolyn and Roger Perron, along with their five daughters, moved into a house built over 200 years ago in Harrisville, Rhode Island. During their time there, each family member allegedly experienced mounting supernatural phenomena; Carolyn claimed she was possessed by a demonic entity. The family eventually turned to famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren for help, but they were unable to end the supposed haunting.
“The Conjuring,” which is based on the Perron family’s experiences, was released in 2013 and became one of the most successful horror movies of all time. Nearly a decade later, my interest in the well-known haunting, combined with my previous paranormal experiences, made me want to investigate what was really going on in that house. Was this all just an elaborate Hollywood hoax? Or does something truly otherworldly inhabit the rural farmhouse? I decided to try and find out.
The house is located about six hours from my home in upstate New York and it was dusk when my boyfriend and I finally made it there.
We pulled down the long, winding gravel driveway, passing numerous “no trespassing” signs and security cameras along the way. My stomach was in knots as scenes from the movie played in my head. When the quaint two-story farmhouse came into view, I remember thinking how small it was in comparison to the large manor featured on the big screen.
We were greeted by the friendly homeowner, Cory, as well as his two big German shepherd pups. He and his wife, Jennifer, bought the “Conjuring” house in June 2019. Soon after, they began welcoming brave souls and paranormal skeptics to rent the house for a night. They’ve since sold the house, but the new owners also offer overnight stays.
Immediately upon entering the home, I felt like I was in a space where time stood still. The house was built in several stages, with the oldest part dating back to the 1730s. Exposed wood beams line the ceiling, and gaps in the floorboards make the second floor visible from below. Even the decor is creepy. The home is filled with Victorian decorations that conjure up an eerie aesthetic. The most disturbing bit of bric-a-brac is a replica of the famed Annabelle rag doll that lies in a glass case where the coffee table should be.
While showing us around the property, Cory withheld stories of his own supernatural experiences in the house, as he didn’t want to shape our expectations in any way. He did, however, divulge one spine-chilling detail (that came across more like a warning) about a spot in the basement where a few people, including himself, claimed they were touched by an unknown entity.
And as if that didn’t make the basement creepy enough, the dogs ― who up to that point had been glued to our sides ― refused to go into that area of the house. They remained frozen at the top of the basement stairs as if there was an invisible brick wall in front of them. Cory said they had never gone down there.
He then said good night and made his way to the makeshift bachelor studio in the adjacent barn on the property, giving us the private rein of the house for the next 14 hours.
We were now alone. Or were we?
Eager to share my experience, I hopped on a livestream. The chat immediately filled up with curious viewers eager for a glimpse inside the real “Conjuring” house. I gave a brief tour, and after about 45 minutes, I officially began our ghost hunt while my boyfriend filmed.
I turned off all of the lights in the house and headed into one of the upstairs bedrooms in an attempt to communicate with whatever spirits might be there. I pulled out a set of L-shaped metal dowsing rods (aka spirit rods), which are a kind of mobile Ouija board that are purported to respond to supernatural energies by moving in one direction or another. I gripped the rods tightly, one in each hand, and asked if there were any spirits in the room with us.
Without hesitation, both rods, which originally were pointed directly in front of me, simultaneously spun to my right and pointed towards a dark, small and windowless attic space. Naturally, this would be the spot where the spirits like to hang, right?
As I kneeled in the tiny attic space, hoping to avoid hitting any of the exposed nails in the walls, I appeared to be connecting with an entity, who, through answering a series of “yes” or “no” questions via the dowsing rods, identified itself as the spirit of a little boy. I had purposefully refrained from doing any research on the house beyond what I’d seen in the films to stay as unbiased as possible, but I learned after my stay that several children reportedly died in the house.
From what I could gather, the young entity seemed mostly intrigued by what we were doing, and I genuinely didn’t feel like I was in harm’s way. However, as soon as I was able to identify who I was communicating with, our connection was lost, and the dowsing rods stopped responding.
Energized by what had just occurred, the livestream chat flooded with a variety of questions and requests, but they all seemed to point in one direction: the basement.
I made my way down the rickety wooden stairs alone. On the side of a cabinet that looked like it had been there for ages, there were children’s drawings illustrating someone with a bent neck. These drawings took on a whole new meaning when I considered that one of the most well-known legends of the house is about someone who hung themself from a tree on the property.
Guided only by the light on my phone, my heart was racing and my clammy hands were trembling as I submerged deeper into the abyss of the pitch-black basement and down the very hallway where Cory warned us that a spirit liked to get handsy.
I noticed the Wi-Fi signal on my phone was cutting in and out and, strangely, the battery was rapidly draining, which some ghost hunters claim happens when a spirit is siphoning energy to use to manifest itself. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that there was something else down there with me. I stood still for a moment as I took in the silence that filled the space when, suddenly, I felt an undeniable tug on the back of my shirt ― as if something was trying to get my attention. I gasped and quickly spun around, but nothing was there.
I screamed for my boyfriend and ran back up the basement stairs. With every step, I thought something might grab the back of my foot. I made it upstairs, latched the basement door shut, and told my boyfriend, “I never want to go down there again.”
Startled by what had just happened, I ended the livestream. My boyfriend felt we’d had enough excitement for the night and suggested we go to bed. I agreed. I was surprised by how quickly he fell asleep considering what just happened to me. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to sleep.
We were staying on the second floor in the bedroom located in the oldest part of the house. During our tour, Cory explained that our room once belonged to the youngest Perron daughter. She claimed that while trying to get to sleep one night, a spirit told her there were bodies buried in the wall. Her parents were suspicious of her story, given that the walls are made of thick solid plaster, but recent property surveys revealed human-sized burial sites located near a stone wall in the backyard in view of the bedroom window.
I was lying on the right side of the bed looking directly at an antique rocking chair, which I continued to monitor for even the slightest movement. My exhaustion was starting to wear on me, but the thrill of being in the actual “Conjuring” house and everything I had already experienced kept me awake.
The house was eerily silent, but it was so hot that I couldn’t sleep under the blankets anymore. I kicked the comforter off my legs, leaving my bare feet exposed, and as soon as I finally felt settled, I heard it...
A whisper from the hallway.
I couldn’t believe it. My entire body stiffened as I tried to process what was happening. Several moments passed and I began to hear more whispers, this time coming from the corner of our room, right behind the rocking chair. Whatever had been in the hallway was now in the bedroom with us. I was frozen with fear. I couldn’t quite make out specific words but it sounded like a quiet conversation between at least two “people” and it was distinct enough for me to know something strange was taking place.
Suddenly, I felt something lightly double tap the top of my left foot. This was followed by an audible child’s laugh coming from the closet. The adrenaline rushed through my veins as I once again developed full-body chills and quickly pulled both of my feet under the covers.
I was certain that I had just been touched by something.
The whispering stopped. The house fell silent. I whipped out my phone and began recording in case any sounds started up again. My eyes darted from the floor to the ceiling as I surveyed every inch of the room, but I constantly felt my gaze pulled back to the rocking chair in the corner.
The sound of a child’s scream shattered the silence. It was more of a giddy, playful shout, but it was a scream nonetheless. I sensed that it was now coming from the very attic space where I believed I contacted the spirit of a little boy.
My heart was beating out of my chest and I thought about waking my boyfriend, who was somehow sleeping through all of this. But I was also determined to make it through the night, especially because I didn’t feel like there was anything malevolent with us. The activity ceased and I began to wonder if what I’d just experienced had really happened or if this was just my overactive imagination playing tricks on me. After what felt like hours, I finally managed to fall asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I forgot where I was ― until I caught a glimpse of the burial site markers out the window and I realized we had survived a night in the “Conjuring” house!
I told my boyfriend everything that I had experienced during the night and he was upset ― but equally relieved ― that he slept through all the supposed paranormal activity.
After we packed up, Cory met us near our car and inquired about our night. As I began to share my story, he interrupted with, “Did any of the kids come out?” My heart nearly stopped and I nodded yes. “Yeah, the children like to chatter at night,” he stated very matter-of-factly. “It’s the creepiest when they whisper your name.”
I was speechless. He’d just confirmed my experience.
Of course, I don’t know for a fact that what I encountered that night was paranormal. The mind is capable of incredible things when it’s placed into extraordinary situations, and who knows exactly what was happening in that house? Maybe I wanted to experience its haunted history so badly, I allowed myself to interpret completely natural occurrences to be supernatural. This wasn’t a Hollywood movie. But I also know how my body reacted to being in that space. I felt and heard things that felt and sounded real to me. And knowing that so many others ― including the homeowner ― have had similar encounters leads me to believe it was real.
Either way, I will continue to look for chances to brush up against the supernatural in hopes that I will have new opportunities to question and investigate our world ― and beyond. The potentially paranormal speaks to me (and so many others) because there is much we still don’t know about ourselves and I love wrestling with the unknown. Looking for answers to some of the biggest mysteries to perplex humans since the beginning of time ― like what happens when we die? And can we communicate with the dead? ― is thrilling for me. And no matter what I find, it always makes for a good story.
Alex Aronson is a pop culture junkie, host and entertainment writer. His work has appeared in Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Elle, and more. You can find him on Instagram and TikTok at @AlexVee_TV.
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