On June 21, 2019, a new couple purchased a fourteen-room farmhouse on eight and a half acres in Harrisville, Rhode Island, for approximately $439,000 (Mroch 2019). Normally such an event wouldn’t be a big deal—much less make news—but this was not an ordinary house. This was the infamous residence known to the world as “The Conjuring House.”
If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s a brief synopsis: In January 1971, the Perron family, Roger (father), Carolyn (mother), and their five daughters, Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, and April, moved into a farmhouse on the outskirts of Burrillville, Rhode Island. Not long after moving in, the family reportedly experienced all manner of paranormal activity, from apparitions to physical attacks by unseen hands. The most frequent apparition, according to Andrea Perron’s “true story” books, was that of a woman with a broken neck who came to be (wrongly) popularized as Bathsheba Sherman.
Paranormal “investigators” (I use that term very loosely) Ed and Lorraine Warren inserted themselves into the family’s alleged experiences, making the case famous via their lectures and eventually The Conjuring film. The Perron family claimed that paranormal experiences went on for almost ten years, until the family had to abandon the house in 1980. The story quieted down for a time, until the house was shoved back into the spotlight with the release of The Conjuring film by Warner Brothers in July 2013.
The new owners of the house, Cory and Jennifer Heinzen, were very interested in the farmhouse. According to several interviews, Cory fell in love with it after visiting the house before it had gone up for sale. Not surprisingly, Cory and his wife are also ghost hunters, and Cory feels the house is “a piece of paranormal history” (Garcia 2019). Since moving in, Cory claims to have experienced the modern standard ghostly activities: “doors opening and closing on their own, footsteps, knocking, the disembodied voices” (Heim 2019; Garcia 2019). He even claimed a black mist was witnessed, describing it as “it looks like smoke. It’ll gather in one area and then it’ll move” (Heim 2019).
It’s important to note that Norma Sutcliffe, who owned the house from 1987 until she sold it to the Heinzens in 2019, never claimed to have experienced any ghostly issues with the house. In an email conversation, Sutcliffe said, “I never said I believed in ghosts but did remark on some sounds, which of course could be explained by natural causes” (Sutcliffe 2019). Although the house did appear on an episode of the television series Ghost Hunters (S2, E7), at no point in the episode did Sutcliffe claim to have seen ghosts or been attacked by demonic entities, as claimed by the Perrons. In fact, all Sutcliffe (and her late husband) claimed to have experienced (on the show) were slight vibrations of a door, a chair, and a bed. This was after living in the house for eighteen years and is hardly the level of activity reported previously. At the end of the episode, the ghost hunters walked away with an unimpressive video of a closet door opening and closing, easily attributable to differences in air pressure or even an accomplice behind the door. That’s it for “evidence.”
Despite the lack of extraordinary evidence, the farmhouse has gained celebrity status among ghost hunters. However, I am not going to focus on the alleged paranormal activity that has been claimed over the years by both the Perron family and the Warrens. That would fill an entire book, and many of the experiences have already been thoroughly investigated by Joe Nickell several years ago (Nickell 2014; Nickell 2016). Rather, I want to take a closer look at some of the historical inaccuracies that have been perpetuated over the years, including a great injustice that has been done to a particular individual who is powerless to defend herself from the rumors, misguided assumptions, and outright fabrications. I had originally narrowed my focus to the accounts written by the eldest Perron daughter, Andrea, contained within her three-volume series, House of Darkness House of Light. As I dug deeper and this article evolved (as they usually do), I found the need to include other sources, such as Keith Johnson’s book Paranormal Realities, which provides a different version concerning his involvement. And finally, while working on this project, I became aware that my “buddy” Zak Bagans was filming at the farmhouse for his 2019 Halloween special; I couldn’t ignore including his participation.
In 2011, Andrea Perron released volume one of House of Darkness House of Light, her version of the “true story” of her family’s experiences in the famous house. This was followed by volume two in 2013 and volume three in 2014. I purchased and read all three volumes; I was not impressed. The books are fluffed up beyond the point of most romance novels, often using several paragraphs to repeat the same thing while using multiple clichés. I found myself rolling my eyes and repeatedly thinking “Come on, get to the point already!” I have little doubt that without the heavy padding, the information from all three volumes could have easily fit into one book, saving the reader time and the expense of two additional volumes. I have quite a few issues with these books, one being that the author enjoys skipping back and forth through the timeline, rather than laying out the story in a linear fashion. I found this approach confusing and irritating, especially with future events often being mixed in with past events, leaving the reader to wonder when things actually took place.
Another issue is the creative license taken with many of the events Perron describes, providing detailed accounts some forty years after the fact. In the opening chapter, titled “Prologue in Prayer,” Andrea states: “It matters that this tale be told with honesty and integrity” (Perron 2011), with the last paragraph of the same section stating, “The Perron family requested this tale of darkness and light be honestly told. It contains no embellishment; merely a modicum of literary license regarding dialog, though some is quite precise” (Perron 2011). First, I truly believe she does not understand the definition of modicum, which means “a small portion.” Second, even taking a little creative licensing with dialog is an embellishment. Perron provides dialog for a great many conversations and experiences for which she was not a participant, often having been in another location entirely. She describes, with great detail, events that occurred to other people that were alone when the experiences took place. To say Perron embellished “a few things” would be a gross understatement.
The deaths of several figures have been attached to the history of the farmhouse, often cited as the cause of the haunting activity. Yet when proper and in-depth research is performed, one will discover there is little connection between these deaths and the farmhouse. This realization casts a veil of doubt over the entire Conjuring story, because the basis for the alleged haunting activities simply vanishes when investigated. I am certainly not the first to delve into this research, and what I present here is built upon the work of those who tackled this task before me. Let us take a journey back through time and explore each figure, dispelling the mistakes that tie them to this farmhouse on Round Top Road.
1 – Mrs. John Arnold: In her book House of Darkness House of Light Volume 1, Perron writes of Mrs. John Arnold and her apparent hanging/suicide at the farmhouse. We are first told that “only one thing is known for certain; far more than a century ago Mrs. John Arnold decided to claim her life at the age of ninety-three and was discovered, cold and grey, as stiff as the wood from which she was found dangling in the rafters of a barn” (Perron 2011, pg. xx). Perron later goes on to describe an experience from her mother, Carolyn, while in the barn: a hand scythe that had been hanging on a beam had come off its perch, by itself, and was witnessed spinning while hovering in mid-air. After a few moments, the scythe came down toward Carolyn, striking her neck and shoulder. Luckily, Carolyn was wearing a heavy leather jacket that took the brunt of the blow. Andrea writes, “Years later Carolyn would learn of Mrs. John Arnold; the woman who died by her own hand, found hanging in the barn on precisely the same beam from which the scythe had fallen” (Perron 2011, 102).
I set out to learn about Mrs. John Arnold for myself. My attention was immediately drawn to a listing in the Black Book of Burrillville, a macabre book listing unusual deaths in the Burrillville area, such as murders, suicides, poisonings, etc. An entry for a Susan Arnold notes under the heading Suicide by Hanging, “April 13, 1866. 3/2/1866 – 50 yrs. In attic at her home. Wife of John Arnold.” This is most likely the source of the “Mrs. John Arnold hanging” account, though the “50 yrs.” notation directly contradicts the ninety-three-year age we’re given by Perron.
I was able to find two potential “Mrs. John Arnolds” within the Burrillville area; one is Abigail Cook Arnold (1776–1869) who was ninety-three years old when she died. Although Abigail matches the age of the woman we’re searching for, her death is listed as a result of “old age,” and her death occurred three years after the 1866 date. Our second candidate is Susan Richardson Arnold (1816–1866), the daughter of Dexter Richardson of Uxbridge, Mass. After much digging into her past and confirming a few details with historian Kent Spottswood, I’ve established that this is the Mrs. John Arnold behind the “hanging in the barn” story, matching both the name and date of death.
I obtained an obituary for “Susan Arnold, wife of John,” copied from the Pascoag Herald, dated 1866. The obituary describes Susan’s death: her husband had been ascending the stairs and found a storeroom locked. Thinking something was wrong, he “went through a window into a shed-roof and into another window, and there found his wife suspended from a wardrobe hook with a very small cord.” It goes on to explain that Susan also had a loaded gun, a dirk knife, and a phial of mercury in the room with her. She had also laid out clothes for her funeral in another room. Susan Arnold’s suicide also appears in the April 18, 1866, edition of the Evening Star.
These obituaries describe the woman listed in the Black Book of Burrillville and confirm the event really happened. Although Mrs. John Arnold did commit suicide by hanging, she obviously did not do so in the barn of the Harrisville farmhouse but rather in a storeroom in her own house. The route Mr. Arnold took (through windows) to get to his wife is not possible with the structure of the farmhouse, either now or then. Also, according to a document titled Highway Districts in the Burrillville Tax Book from 1862, she and her husband, John Arnold, had a small house on Harrisville Road in District 1. The Harrisville farmhouse (Conjuring house) is in District 6, several miles away. As far as the available records are concerned, Susan Arnold was not a member of the same Arnold family associated with the Harrisville farmhouse (or its barn).
2 – John A. Arnold – According to Perron’s books, John Arnold “made the same critical decision to take his own life in the eaves of the house where he remains” (Perron 2011, pg. xxi), referring to the farmhouse. Another quote from Perron, wondering who one of the spirits might be, asks “Was it Johnny Arnold, the man who crawled up into the eaves to drink horse liniment and died a horrible death in the house?” (Perron 2014 pg. 182). These quotes suggest to the reader that John Arnold took his own life inside the Harrisville farmhouse.
John Arnold was the son of Edwin Arnold (mentioned presently), but not the husband of Susan Arnold mentioned above. Since he was the son of Edwin, who had owned the farmhouse for a time, it is understandable that Johnny would have spent his early years in the house.
According to his obituary from the Pascoag Herald dated 1911, “For several years he had not been in good health and latterly become despondent. In a fit of despondency, he took a dose of paris green and the efforts of a physician to save his life was unavailing.” Paris green is a highly toxic crystalline powder that was used as a pigment in paints, wallpaper, and fabrics.
It is true that John Arnold took his own life—but once again it was not in the Harrisville farmhouse. His obituary starts with “John A. Arnold died at his home near Tarkiln,” with the Black Book of Burrillville also noting that he was in “his home near Tarkiln.” This location is several miles southeast of the Harrisville farmhouse; thus, John Arnold’s suicide clearly did not happen where Perron claims it did. The only discrepancy in the records relates to the substance he took; the Black Book notes that he drank horse liniment, which is repeated by Perron in her books. The obituary instead names the toxic substance as paris green.
3 – Jarvis Smith – There are a few deaths associated with the house that are labeled “mysterious,” two of which involve people freezing to death: Edwin Arnold and Jarvis Smith. Perron mentions in her books, by way of her father, “two men who froze to death underneath the blacksmith shop” (Perron 2011, 310).
Edwin Arnold, a former owner of the farmhouse, died of exposure in 1903 while walking home one night. He had been missing for seven weeks until a hunter discovered his body. Edwin’s remains were found about a mile and half down the road, leaning against a stone wall of the Smith Aldrich farm. It appears he had been walking across farms, taking a short cut home. He laid down to rest but never woke up.
Two years prior (1901), the body of Jarvis Smith was found in a “rickety shed” beside the highway on the property of the Harrisville farmhouse. Smith had recently been on trial for the murder of a Briton Rounds in October 1898, of which he was acquitted. He had apparently been liquored up the night before and came to rest in the shed, which had stood about two-hundred feet from the farmhouse. Like Edwin, he never woke up. On a related note, the shed in which he died in was torn down decades ago.
Neither man died “underneath” any blacksmith shop, and although dying from exposure (freezing to death) is unfortunate, it is hardly mysterious.
4 – Prudence Arnold – In her book, Perron writes about her mother researching the history of the Harrisville farmhouse. Perron writes, “Prudence Arnold: so young, few details of her life left to punctuate that tragic passing. It was later discovered she had been raped and murdered by a local farmhand who then took his own life” (Perron 2013, 43–44). This event is addressed later in the same volume: “The fairest of them all, dear Prudence Arnold, was an innocent victim of evil. Her rape and murder, throat cut with a straight razor…” (Perron 2013, 271).
This is both the most brutal event covered and the easiest for anyone to have researched. Prudence Arnold was the orphaned child of Eber and Charlotte Arnold. Her father died when Prudence was a year old, and her mother died when she was three. Prudence had been taken as a foster child in the home of Anan Richardson. When Prudence Arnold was eleven, William E. Knowlton, twenty-two, followed her up to the second floor of her home and cut her throat with a straight razor, nearly decapitating her. A jury of inquest was held on January 31, 1849, in which it was discovered that Knowlton killed her out of “love and jealousy” when she refused to marry him as she had allegedly promised four months prior.
This horrible event was well documented at the time and became known as the Uxbridge Tragedy. However—as clearly noted in the name—it played out in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, which is approximately nine miles northeast of the Harrisville farmhouse. Although Perron later corrects this oversight, she makes the mistake of assuming, without evidence, that Prudence had once lived at the Harrisville farmhouse, likely due to the girl having the surname Arnold. Perron writes, in her mother’s words, “Prudence wasn’t murdered at the farmhouse, but her spirit returned home after death, at least part of the time” (Perron 2014, 141; emphasis added).
Over the course of researching this case, it became evident that Perron (as well as other authors) relied heavily on anyone mentioned in the Black Book of Burrillville with the surname Arnold. There seems to have been no further research to determine whether an Arnold was of the same family or a separate family with the same surname. According to Kent Spottswood, a retired journalist, folklorist, and skeptic in southern New England, “There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of Arnolds and Shermans within a mile radius of me, and I live out in the countryside. It’s true of Hawkins and Cutlers and Reynolds, too. And you wouldn’t believe how many Richardson houses there are around here. This is a good thing to keep in mind when the Perrons start claiming everyone by the name of Arnold killed themselves in the barn” (Spottswood 2019). I traced the family history of Prudence through several generations and could not establish a connection with the Arnold family that owned the Harrisville farmhouse. They were not the same family; they only shared the same surname.
There is also an added sensationalized embellishment to the death of Prudence, that she was raped before she was murdered. This is repeated ad nauseum on countless websites that feature The Conjuring story, with Perron mentioning it at least twice (quoted above) in her books. As I read over the various accounts published after the murder, there is not a single report that mentions rape or even hints that it occurred. Testimony given during the Jury of Inquest, which included local coroner Aaron Burden, also lacks any reference to a rape preceding the murder (“The Uxbridge Tragedy” 1849). By all available accounts, the lurid rape aspect was added to the story later. Her murderer tried to commit suicide with the same razor he used on Prudence but found it was too dull. The self-inflicted wound was not serious, and Knowlton was taken to jail in Worcester; he did not kill himself.
5 – Bathsheba Sherman— Undeniably, Bathsheba Sherman has suffered the most damage to her reputation from these tall tales of the supernatural. According to both The Conjuring film and the books authored by Andrea Perron, Bathsheba is portrayed as an evil, Satan-worshipping witch who sacrificed a baby by impaling a sewing needle into the base of its skull. She is described as “Bitter. Vindictive. Hateful and Unholy” by a Mr. McKeachern, who claims by firsthand knowledge that Bathsheba would starve and beat her staff, yet she was a “ravishing beauty in youth” (Perron 2011).
In truth, there are very few records about Bathsheba Sherman (1814–1885), including a few census records, an obituary, and her will. There is no birth or death certificate, as they were not issued during that time. Mr. McKeachern, a figure whose existence is possibly a fabrication, would have been at least eighty-five years old in 1971 (when the Perrons bought the house) if he were born when Bathsheba died in 1885, putting him into his nineties to have any chance of having firsthand knowledge of Bathsheba. If Mr. McKeachern really existed, I would have serious doubts concerning the accuracy of any firsthand knowledge he possessed.
In volume one of her series, Perron associates Bathsheba Sherman with the Arnold family and living/working on the farm. For example, while describing the details of an inquest into the murder of a baby, Perron states “…but Bathsheba was an Arnold and she’d lived on the Arnold Estate at that age so there was every indication to believe the event occurred in Carolyn’s own home” (Perron 2011, 299).
In fact, Bathsheba Sherman was born to Ephraim Thayer and Hannah Taft, making her a Thayer—not an Arnold. She married Judson Sherman and moved from the Thayer farm to the Sherman farm where she lived out the rest of her days. They had four children: Julia (1845–1847), Edward Francis (1847–1848), Herbert (1850–1903), and George (1853–1856); none of their deaths were listed in the Black Book of Burrillville, and none were suspicious. Bathsheba died on May 25, 1885, of sudden paralysis, which likely meant a stroke. Her husband, Judson, died in 1881 and, again, nothing suspicious about his death is noted. Bathsheba married Benjamin Greene a year later but remained on the Sherman farm. Upon her death, Bathsheba was laid to rest in the Riverside Cemetery (now Harrisville cemetery), next to her first husband. Her funeral services were officiated by Rev. A.H. Granger, pastor of the Fourth Baptist Church of Providence. Bathsheba never lived or worked on the Arnold estate (farmhouse), nor was she associated with the Arnold family.
I consulted with Spottswood, who stated, “I’ve interviewed Edna Kent, pres. emeritus of Glocester Heritage Soc.; Betty Mencucci, pres. of Burrillville Historical and Preservation Soc.; Pat Mehrtens, Burrillville Town Historian; the late Joyce Remington, pres. of Burrillville H & S; and many others. No one knows of a Bathsheba who did bad things, or of a McKeachern (or McKitchen) who had a leg up on local lore” (Spottswood 2019). I’ve also search extensively over the past several months without finding a shred of evidence that anyone by the name of Bathsheba did anything unusual, evil, or criminal.
Lorraine Warren is often credited as being the first to name Bathsheba as a “witch” and the “demonic entity” haunting the Harrisville farmhouse, having gained the name through a psychic vision. However, Perron makes it quite clear that her mother, Carolyn, is the one who first pointed a finger at Bathsheba as a source of evil. For example, while describing how her mother had been searching through archives in the village of Chepachet, Perron states, “They soon discovered the identity of Carolyn’s archrival and nemesis; one evil mistress of the house. Bathsheba Sherman. Based on what they learned of her life, she became the principle subject in death; the likely culprit: The bad witch” (Perron 2011, 298). This takes place well before the Warrens arrived at the farmhouse and introduced themselves into the story.
However, there are no such records to be found, and certainly not in Chepachet, as Perron claims. Burrillville, where Bathsheba lived, was incorporated as an independent municipality on November 17, 1806, eight years before Bathsheba was born. Any crimes she would have committed in Burrillville would have been documented in the Burrillville town records, not in archives of the village of Chepachet, which is in the town of Glocester. Furthermore, Spottswood pointed out that any records Carolyn would have found and copied into her notebook, such as those “pertaining to an inquest regarding the death of an infant” (Perron 2011, 321), would still be readily available for later investigators to verify. Despite an extensive search, no such records have ever been uncovered, and in a brief conversation with me, Perron was unable to clarify her sources.
As mentioned above, Lorraine Warren is said to have had a psychic vision that gave her the name Bathsheba. However, that doesn’t seem to be how it came about. In fact, in volume one, Andrea Perron lays out exactly how Mrs. Warren came by the name: “While Carolyn was displaying her research to the couple (the Warrens), she told them the story of Bathsheba Sherman: The needle” (Perron 2011, 327). By the end of this paragraph, we read “From then on Mrs. Warren referred to the God-forsaken spirit as the lone demonic presence in their house, calling her by name: Bathsheba” (Perron 2011, 328). Thus, there was no magical psychic vision or informative spirit guides; Mrs. Warren was given all the information she needed before going on her not-so-psychic “hot reading” tour of the house. Hot reading is a method in which alleged psychics have prior knowledge of a person or event and pass it off as receiving the information via metaphysical means.
By the third volume of her series, Perron had shifted her stance, acknowledging that “there are no records to support the rumors about Bathsheba,” while still keeping those rumors alive in her story. It is an attempt to convince her readers that she now defends Bathsheba’s reputation, placing blame instead on Lorraine Warren for naming Bathsheba first. Perron eventually shifts focus from Bathsheba to Mrs. John Arnold/Susan as the main evil entity—who as we have seen had nothing to do with the farmhouse (Perron 2014, 270).
If Perron had done proper research from the beginning, she could have avoided being the one who ultimately destroyed Bathsheba’s reputation. She would have discovered for herself that there are absolutely no historical documents in existence that attribute Bathsheba Sherman to being a witch or murdering a child or being investigated for anything criminal whatsoever. Bathsheba’s obituary, as any historian will tell you, would have recorded such things when reporting on her death. There is also no physical description of Bathsheba recorded anywhere that could be found, so there is no way to know if she had been a “ravishing beauty in youth,” as embellished in the story.
This brings me to a mysterious and missing artifact: Carolyn’s notebook. After Carolyn’s first major encounter with an apparition, she grabs “a pencil and the notebook usually reserved for grocery lists and lines of poetry” (Perron 2011, 189) and scribbles down an extremely detailed description of the ghost she saw along with sketches. Mentions of this notebook pop up a few times in Perron’s books, as all the research Carolyn had collected about the house and the people she believed haunted the farmhouse was contained within it. We are told several times throughout the series that the notebook was loaned to the Warrens, who promised to return it in a timely manner. Apparently, it hasn’t been seen since, and I’m left wondering whether the Warrens stole the notebook, or perhaps it never existed and was fabricated to add legitimacy to Perron’s story, considering Perron’s “research” is likely based on what was contained within it. Because she fails to cite any sources in her own books, recovery of the notebook would have been a high priority.
As I continued to work on this project, I came across another article with a headline “Zak Bagans ‘Was Extremely Ill’ After Investigating ‘The Conjuring’ house” (Lawrence 2019). The article was a preliminary overview of Bagans’s “investigation” of the Harrisville farmhouse for a two-hour Halloween special titled Ghost Adventures: Curse of the Harrisville Farmhouse. I’ve previously written about Bagans’s museum (Biddle 2018), and several of the items inside, such as the Dybbuk box (Biddle 2019), which turned out to be a hoax.
It seems Bagans is dead set on his path of sensationalism while ignoring basic research skills and fact checking. In the article he is quoted as saying, “What we can’t argue is the fact that there was a huge curse put on the Arnold family. I mean, there was suicide. There was murder. There were just unusual deaths. Poisonings, throats being slit. Something was plaguing that family” (Lawrence 2019).
First, we absolutely can argue his alleged “fact” of a curse; curses do not exist, plain and simple. In addition, if curses did exist and one was indeed put on the Arnold family, the Perron family would not have had to worry, being from an unrelated family. Second, as demonstrated here, there was not a single suicide or murder inside the house. Also, there were no unusual deaths, poisonings, or throats being slit inside the Harrisville farmhouse. Based on information found by several researchers, Bagans’s statement is entirely false.
I watched the Halloween special, which was pre-recorded a few weeks prior to airing. The opening sequence showcased the same false accounts of hangings, poisonings, and murder. I was also quite disappointed that the new owners, who have been made aware of the false histories (detailed above), would allow Bagans to continue promoting the misappropriated events associated with their farmhouse. If this were my residence, I would surely have insisted on an accurate representation of my home’s history. The rest of the show was more or less a three-ring circus of bad acting, playing up to the camera, and recycling bad information—as is the standard for these shows.
There was one segment of the episode I need to address. It happened early in the show, when the host interviewed Lt. Albert Carlow of the Burrillville Police Department. Bagans does a voiceover stating, “the officer tells us that the owner just before Cory had several calls to 911 for mysterious illnesses.” The officer then states, “I think the last time I was here was maybe seven or eight years ago. I just know it was constant for a guy who didn’t seem to be all that ill.”
I contacted the owner “just before Cory,” Norma Sutcliffe, asking about the emergency calls and the mysterious illnesses mentioned by the officer. As it turns out, Sutcliffe had called emergency services in 2016 when her husband suffered a stroke. In October of the same year, her husband had a second stroke, which eventually forced him into a nursing home. Sadly, he passed away a few months later. According to the Mayo Clinic, “a stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. A stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications” (Mayo Clinic 2019). This is quite a serious matter that should not have been brushed off so casually.
Prior to these events, in 2012 a roofer had fallen from a ladder and required medical attention. The roofing company—not the Sutcliffes—had called for emergency services in that case. This incident does fall within the seven- to eight-year range given by the officer and may well be what he was referring to. Interviews can easily be edited in post-production, with voiceovers added to different clips to change the context of the interview. I’m hoping this is what happened, and the officer didn’t brush off a gentleman suffering a stroke as someone “who didn’t seem to be all that ill.” I find it in extremely poor taste to have included this segment in the episode. Sutcliffe has filed a complaint with the police department, which is currently under investigation as of this writing.
In the end, the Harrisville farmhouse simply doesn’t have the tragic and gruesome history we’ve been led to believe. When legitimate research is done by competent people, we find that the tragedies used to justify the hauntings of the farmhouse have been snatched away from other families of the area. This appropriation of histories seems to have begun with a book released in 2009 titled Paranormal Realities by Keith Johnson. In it, Johnson talks about Prudence being murdered in the farmhouse, John Arnold committing suicide in the house, and both Jarvis Smith and Edwin Arnold freezing to death on the property (Johnson 2009, 82). He also relates the tale of a “witch” who killed a baby, though he does not give her a name. Bathsheba is spoken of later on in the chapter as a separate person under the name Bathsheba Greene (Johnson 2009).
With Andrea Perron’s first book having been released two years later, I can’t help but see many of the histories Johnson erroneously attributed to the Harrisville farmhouse merely repeated and expanded upon by Perron, rather than properly researched and corrected for historical accuracy. She could have set the story straight from the beginning but failed to do so. Speaking of her story, Perron has added additional components to her version over the years, such as aliens and UFOs that she claims began communicating with her at the age of twelve while she lived at the farmhouse (ParaTalk Radio 2018; Kruse 2019). I’m just going to move past that one.
The historical tragedies associated with the Harrisville farmhouse have been proven time and again to not have taken place on the property (except for the death of Jarvis Smith). Norma Sutcliffe (2014), Joe Nickell (2014; 2016), J’aime Rubio (2016), Shannon Bradley Byers (2017) and now me all have presented hard evidence that refutes the notion that murders, suicides, or any other mysterious deaths have occurred at the Harrisville farmhouse or on the property. Most importantly, they have shown that Bathsheba Sherman has been unjustly cast as an evil, murdering witch to sell a story. As a result, her gravestone has been vandalized several times over the years, no doubt a direct result of the false claims made against her. In all the interviews and lectures I’ve watched (some in person) of Perron, not once has she taken responsibility for her mistakes or apologized for demonizing an innocent woman and tarnishing her memory.
Regarding the “haunting” and “demonic” activity reported at the house, I learned an interesting tidbit of information when I had the opportunity to meet Norma Sutcliffe not long ago. While living at the farmhouse from 1987 to 2019, Sutcliffe operated a daycare inside the farmhouse for twenty years. Let that sink in, my paranormal enthusiast friends: a daycare, in this supposedly demon-infested portal to hell. It’s hardly an endeavor that would have lasted so long in a small town. Sutcliffe also ran cooking workshops out of the farmhouse for eight years, with none of her attendees ever reporting strange experiences.
I wish nothing but the best for the new owners of the Harrisville farmhouse. According to their Facebook page, they hope to have nonprofit tours of the farmhouse up and running by the end of 2019 (Heim 2019), a decision some are not happy about. However, they are well within their rights to do what they want because it is their house. Personally, I wouldn’t mind taking a tour of the house and speaking with the new owners. I did reach out to them a week before my visit to Burrillville via their The Farm on Round Top Road Facebook page. Although they viewed the messages, as indicated by an icon, they have not responded.
I must give great appreciation to J’aime Rubio, Norma Sutcliffe, Shannon Byers, Kent Spotswood, and the staff at the Jesse M. Smith Memorial Library for their invaluable research assistance.
- Biddle, Kenny. 2018. The not-so-haunted museum of Zak Bagans. CSI online. Available online at https://skepticalinquirer.org/exclusive/the_not-so-haunted_museum_of_zak_bagans/.
- ———. 2019. The Dibbuk Box. CSI online. Available online at https://skepticalinquirer.org/exclusive/the_dibbuk_box/.
- Byers, Shannon. 2017. Paranormal Fakelore, Nevermore. Lilburn, GA: Paranormal Genealogist Publishing, 107–126.
- Garcia, Kelsey. 2019. The new owners of the real-life Conjuring house confirm that it is indeed freaky as hell. PopSugar.com. Available online at https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/Couple-Buys-Real-Life-Conjuring-House-2019-46436288.
- Heim, R.J. 2019. Only on 10: New owner describes living in ‘Conjuring’ house.
Available online at https://turnto10.com/news/local/only-on-10-new-owner-of-the-conjuring-house-talks.
- Johnson, Keith. 2009. Paranormal Realities. Attica, NY: Summer Wind Press.
- Kruse, Jen. 2019. Andrea Perron: UFOs, galactic family & ETs. The Journey Radio Show. Available online at
- Lawrence, Christopher. 2019. Zak Bagans ‘was extremely ill’ after investigating ‘The Conjuring’ house. Las Vegas Review Journal. Available online at
- Mayo Clinic. 2019. Stroke. Available online at
- Mroch, Courtney. 2019. House that inspired “The Conjuring” may soon welcome investigators. The Occult Section. Available online at
- Nickell, Joe. 2014. The Conjuring: Ghosts? Poltergeist? Demons? Skeptical Inquirer 38(2) (March/April). Available online at
- ———. 2016. Dispelling demons: Detective work at the Conjuring house. Skeptical Inquirer 40(6) (November/December). Available online at
- ParaTalk Radio. 2018. Paratalkradio welcomes Andrea Perron, UFO enthusiast and survivor of a haunting. Available online at
- Perron, Andrea. 2011. House of Darkness House of Light, Vol. 1. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
- ———. 2013. House of Darkness House of Light, Vol 2. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse
- ———. 2014. House of Darkness House of Light, Vol 3. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse
- Rubio, J’aime. 2016. Stories of the Forgotten: Infamous, Famous and Unremembered.
- Dreaming Casually Publication, 188–205.
- Spottswood, Kent. 2019. Personal correspondence via social media.
- Sutcliffe, Norma. 2014. The Conjuring & Perron story: The current owner speaks out.
Available online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2dg2Ufavj8.
- ———. 2019. Personal correspondence via email.
- The Uxbridge Tragedy. 1849. Woonsocket Patriot. Copies acquired from Norma Sutcliffe.