The Haunting of the Perron Family

The 'true' story behind The Conjuring movie

When the Perron family moved into the old Arnold estate on Rhode Island in the December of 1970, they were given just one piece of advice by the previous occupants:

“For the sake of your family, leave the lights on at night!” 1

The haunting began almost immediately.

At first the spirits were largely friendly towards the Perrons. The children, the five sisters Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy and April, were the main focus of the of the friendly apparitions’ attentions. They would, in fact, grow very fond of two of spirits. One of these entities was claimed to be the benevolent ghost of Mrs Arnold, who was reported to have tucked the girls in at night and would kiss them on the forehead. The other was Johnny Arnold, the boy who was said to have hung himself in the attic of the secluded farmhouse in the mid-18th century. So fond of the boy spirit were the girls that they lovingly nicknamed him “Manny”. He was said to have played with their toys, and watch the sisters as they played outside.

The Old Arnold Estate: fans of The Conjuring movie are politely asked to respect the current owners’ privacy and keep away from the property.

The family, in general, especially welcomed what they called “the sweeping ghost”. This spirit’s presence would only ever be heard from a distance: the sound of a broom shuffling against the floor. Whenever the family would go in and investigate, they would find a broom leaning against a wall, with a neat pile of dirt next to it.

However, as time went by it became apparent that not all the spirits on the estate were friendly.

The Perrons claim to have encountered malevolent entities

Most mornings at 5:15, spirits who smelled of “rotting flesh” would visit the sleeping family to lift up their beds, tossing aside whomever were in them. 2

The Perrons also claimed to have encountered demonic forces at the farmhouse, who would pull on the girls’ hair and limbs during the night. Banging doors and disembodied cries were also a regular occurrence. One night the family supposedly heard a voice that told of seven dead soldiers buried within the walls of their home. 3

However horrible these occurrences were, there was one entity which made the rest pale in comparison. The events were supposedly so terrible that Andrea Perron, now a grown woman, still refuses to talk in detail about it. 4 Her only comment about this malevolent entity was this:

“Let’s just say there was a very bad male spirit in the home – with five little girls.”

Bathsheba Sherman

Aside from these spirits, there was one which is now infamous, brought into the popular sphere by the horror film The Conjuring. Her name was Bathsheba. Much of Andrea Perron’s adult autobiographical account is dedicated to this spirit.

Bathsheba Thayer was born on Rhode Island in 1812. In her early thirties she married Judson Sherman, and give birth to at least one known son, Herman. Bathsheba and Judson are believed to have had three other children, with all dying at a very young age.

From what can be gathered from the public records, Bathsheba and Judson Sherman lived out their days at the old Arnold Estate, both dying in the 1880s. Their son, Herbert Sherman, outlived them, dying in 1903.5

During Bathsheba’s lifetime, there was one incident which marked the familial home out as a place of darkness. It involved the death of an infant and the accusation of murder, caused by an incision at the back of the head. The infant had been in the care of Bathsheba at the time, and her neighbours were quick to accuse her of being a witch. Sadly, such an accusation was all too common a fate for any woman who was in any way associated with tragedy and had attracted jealousy. After all, Bathsheba had much to make her neighbours envy: she was beautiful and had a husband who provided well for her and a young boy on a private estate.

From there, rumours spread like wildfire. The local community whispered that Bathsheba Sherman was a sadist who enjoyed torturing her staff, much like Madame Lalaurie of New Orleans in the early 19th century. When Bathsheba died, her body was said to have turned to stone: that was part of Satan’s price for having granted her beauty.

Andrea Perron, when writing in her later autobiographical account, has suggested that the infamy of the accusation levied against Bathsheba pained her throughout her life. Thus, by the time Bathsheba died, all that remained of her once beautiful and youthful self, was a woman filled with bitterness and rage. A woman who had been tormented by the cruelty of her fellow man. In the afterlife Bathsheba continued to nurture this hatred, howling angry cries in the night and tormenting all those she encountered. 6

The Perrons claimed that Bathsheba would disturb the children by moving their toys around and making their things disappear. The spirit of Bathsheba, however, had a particular hatred of Carolyn, Andrea’s mother. It was said that Bathsheba was infatuated with Roger, Carolyn’s husband, and as such wanted Carolyn out the way. Because of this, Roger only ever encountered Bathsheba’s sweeter side: with nothing but light-fingered caresses and sensual advances from the spirit.

For Carolyn, not only would objects in the house disappear, but she reported being physically hurt and emotionally tormented, her energy constantly consumed, almost like Bathsheba intended to possess her body.

Before too long, the Perron family were exhausted – and desperately in need of help. And so, they reached out to the paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Ed and Lorraine Warren visit the Perron household

Lorraine, a clairvoyant, said she immediately sensed a dark spirit living in the house. Bathsheba. She pointed to an small circular incision at the back of Carolyn’s leg, identifying it as Bathsheba’s handiwork. Lorraine stated that the wound possessed the same characteristics as the one found drilled into the infant’s skull, and that Bathsheba had indeed been guilty of the horrific crime.

As such, Bathsheba was posthumously denounced as a witch. The Warrens declared the house to be diabolically infested, with all its inhabitants in danger of falling under Bathsheba’s power. However, they stated that an exorcism was not possible because the Perrons were not religious. They did, however, attempt a seance with Carolyn in the cellar of the house.

It backfired.

Even to this day, Lorraine is still traumatised by the Old Arnold Estate. In her own words:

“The things that went on there were just so incredibly frightening. It still affects me to talk about it today.” 7

For years after the Warrens’ visit, the Perrons continued to live alongside the dark entities of the house. Interestingly, according to Andrea, the Warrens did not help the haunting at all, but rather, made it worse.

Years later, the Perrons would leave the house and Norma Sutcliffe would move in.

After the release of The Conjuring movie in 2013, fans of the film began trespassing on the property. This prompted Norma to make a response to the movie’s claims.8

The history of the Old Arnold Estate

Even the trial of Bathsheba Sherman was found to be dubious, with there being no historical record of it taking place. Her grave, however, is known to be at a nearby Baptist cemetery. It is recorded that at her funeral the Baptist minister honoured her with a eulogy. Something which would probably not have happened if Bathsheba had truly been suspected of infanticide. 9

After living in the house for many years, Norma states that she has never seen a ghost or spirit.

It is, however, interesting that, in 2005, the Syfy channel’s Ghost Hunters were invited to investigate the house. The team reported finding several cold spots, and recorded a door opening of its own accord in the house. All of this surprised Norma at the time.

Whilst the history of the house may have been muddled, either intentionally or otherwise, across the decades, it is still possible that the house is haunted. Indeed, Andrea Perron and her family continue to confirm that the haunting really did occur.

What is more, it is a possibility that the haunting was not directly connected to the house, but rather to the family themselves. After all, in cases of hauntings children are often the focus of spiritual activity, such as with young Daniel Lutz in the case of Amityville. Carolyn and Roger Perron had five daughters.

Sadly, there is, however, little evidence for the Perron family’s haunting beyond their collective testimonies. If there were evil entities at the house, it is unlikely that one of them was Bathsheba Sherman, as records show no evidence of any of the accusations levied against her. However, evil spirits, or even demonic forces, have never needed a name. If they exist, they would probably have no scruples as to how we identify and categorize them. Evil entities, much like evil people, would simply change names and faces to suit their aim of deception. Thus, much like the nameless serial killers who grow to old age and die quietly, the truth of what happened to the Perrons shall always be elusive.

Further reading:

About Erik 10 Articles
A life-long dabbler in the paranormal, Erik researches other-worldly phenomena to sate his curiosity. More of a believer than Laura, he is of the opinion that only through science can the reality of the paranormal be confirmed. Some of Erik's main interests are demonic possession, occult groups and the possibility of parallel dimensions.