First Posted: 7/19/2013
WEST PITTSTON — A new movie opened in theaters Friday titled “The Conjuring,” which relates an incident involving paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren — the same people who snooped around a supposedly haunted house in West Pittston in 1986.
“The Conjuring” is a supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and stars Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal investigators who come to the assistance of the Perron family, who are experiencing increasingly disturbing events in their farmhouse in Harrisville, R.I., in 1971.
The plot is similar to the Warrens’ visit in 1986 to West Pittston. Jack and Janet Smurl and their children then resided on Chase Street; the house, the family and their story became the center of national attention.
The Smurls decided to go public with their contention that evil forces haunted their home, claiming they were experiencing strange disturbing sounds and physical attacks. Those claims raised the curiosity of skeptics and experts in the occult.
Two such experts, self-proclaimed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, traveled from Connecticut to attempt to verify the Smurls’ accounts. West Pittston was deluged with local and national media outlets.
The Smurls moved out of the home in 1988. An exorcism was performed by the Catholic Church.
The Smurls said they endured many horrors: unearthly screams, pig grunts, rotten meat odors and angry spirits that flung their daughter down a staircase and the family’s German shepherd against a wall. Whether it was a hoax or a haunting, the ensuing media frenzy qualified as paranormal for the usually tranquil community.
The Smurl family, Jack and Janet and their four daughters, lived on one side of the double-block home, while Jack’s parents, John and Mary, occupied the other side. Jack said the demon once dragged him on his knees while he said the rosary and tried to beat him into submission. He also said he had been sexually assaulted by the demon on several occasions.
According to Ed Warren, who is now deceased, and his team of investigators, there was a very powerful demon in the home, which had gotten progressively stronger through the years. After months of investigation, Ed Warren claimed he had audiotapes of knocking and rapping and images of dark shadows that belonged to the demon.
“We’re dealing with an intelligence here,” he said in an August 1986 article in The Times Leader. “It’s powerful, intangible and very dangerous.”
The Smurls’ story was the subject of a 1986 paperback titled “The Haunted” and a 1991 made-for-TV movie of the same name released by 20th Century Fox.
Attempts to reach Lorraine Warren for comment Friday unsuccessful.
“The Conjuring” is playing at Movies 14 in Wilkes-Barre and Cinemark in Moosic.