The Harrisville Haunting
In December 1970 Roger and Carolyn Perron purchased a farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Following events at their previous address, Carolyn decided she did not want to rear her children there and felt a house in the country would be a more suitable location for her 5 young girls to grow up. What Carolyn thought would be her dream home turned into a living nightmare.
The house they purchased was the old Arnold farm which was over two centuries old. Eight generations of families had lived and died in that house and some of these spirits never left. Previous residents of the farmhouse included Mrs John Arnold who at the age of 93 hung herself in the barn and Bathsheba Sherman who had an extremely hard life. She lost all of her children before the age of four. When she was a young woman, Bathsheba had a young child in her care (it is uncertain if this was her child or if she was caring for the child for a friend) that died. Upon examination of the baby’s body it was found that a needle had been impaled into its skull and the baby had died from convulsions. Bathsheba was charged with manslaughter but due to lack of evidence the case was dropped. However, in the court of public opinion she was found guilty. She was a very beautiful woman whom men loved and women envied. Following the death of the baby rumours began to swirl that Bathsheba had sacrificed this baby as an offering to the devil for eternal beauty. Due to the belief of the locals that she was a witch she lived a life of solitude. Eventually she married and it is unsure if she lived all her days at the Arnold farm or the adjacent Sherman farm. She died in 1885 and the coroner made a note in his report stating that he had never seen anything like it that it was like her body had turned to stone. The Perron family spoke to a man who knew Bathsheba and he said she was a very angry and bitter woman who would beat and starve her farmhands.
From the very first day the Perron family moved into the farmhouse the paranormal activity began. When the family first arrived at the house the old tenants were packing up the last of their things. As they did so a man stood in the corner watching them. Three of the five girls seen this man but the parents did not. It was an apparition. The family continued to see spirits some of which did not even notice the family were there, they were the quiet ones who lived peacefully at the farmhouse and did not bother the family. One of the girls made friends with a spirit whom she called Manny. He was a sympathetic soul whom the Perrons believed was the spirit of Johnny Arnold who had committed suicide in the house in the 1700’s. He would watch over the family. He would appear to the children but as soon as they made eye contact he would disappear. Many peaceful souls resided at the farmhouse but there was also dark forces. Every time the father was home machinery in the house began to breakdown that he would have to go and fix. All of this machinery was located in the cellar for example the boiler and the heating. When he would go to the cellar he would be approached by a spirit who seemed very attracted to him. She would touch him on the back of the neck and run her hands across his back. Over time he developed a kinship with this spirit and this was the spirit who caused most of the problems in the house. It is believed this was Bathsheba (although it is possible it could have been one of the many other spirits) and that she seen herself as the mistress of the house and Roger and the kids were hers which led her to put Carolyn Perron through what her daughter Andrea describes as ‘Something no human being should endure’. She wanted to drive Carolyn from the house and when this did not work she tried to claim her from within and this is when the true terror of Harrisville began. One of the children, Cindy, one day decided with her friend that they would try to drive the spirits from the house which resulted in a brutal attack on the two children and then Cindy began to suffer at the hands of the evil spirits also.
After four years of living in the house a family friend decided that an intervention was needed and Ed and Lorraine Warren the original paranormal investigators were called in to help. Unfortunately this only made matters worse and even with all their experience they could not free the family of this haunting. In the end the father kicked the Warrens out of the farmhouse. Their relationship did not end well. The Warrens have stated that in their 50 years of paranormal investigations that this was the worst and most significant case they had come across.
The family remained in the house for ten years. Every time the mother would suggest leaving the children would get so upset as they loved this house despite of the activity and they would cry and beg her not to leave. Also, during this time there was a recession and the family were not in a financial position to move to a new house. Everyone who has lived in this farmhouse both before and after the Perrons have reported paranormal activity in the house and the current residents claim there is always activity in the house but not to the extent the Perrons endured.
The eldest daughter Andrea always knew that one day she would tell this story and she waited 30 years to do so. Andrea has written a trilogy of books entitled ‘House of Darkness, House of Light’ volumes 1, 2 and 3. When I asked Andrea why she waited so long she stated that there was a number of reasons. Her family had to process what they had been through and also she did not feel the world was ready yet for this tale of terror at a farmhouse in Harrisville. The books are a collective memoir of the family’s memories and reactions. Hollywood also became interested in the story and New Line Cinema have made a movie named The Conjuring directed by James Wan (Insidious) which tells the tale of Harrisville from the point of view of Ed and Lorraine Warren using their personal files. This movie opens in the states on July 19th and stars Lili Taylor, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. The movie was given an R rating, not because of sexual content or bad language but because it is that scary. Andrea stated in my interview with her that they are extremely happy with the way their story was conveyed and that the movie although it has some fiction is a quite accurate account of the haunting of the Harrisville Farmhouse.