There are numerous accounts of demonic possession in history, many of which end either in the violent death of the individual or a church-sanctioned exorcism—the forceful eviction of the demon back to the netherworld. Interestingly, the age-old ritual of exorcism has made a huge comeback in the 20th century, and the ’60s and ’70s saw a 50 percent rise in the number of exorcisms performed. Is it all media hype? Are there malevolent beings that can force themselves into a human and take control over their body, or is the whole idea of demonic possession simply a myth perpetuated by hoaxes and overactive imaginations?
10. The Perron Family
In 1971, the Perron family moved into their new home in rural Burrillville, Rhode Island, a sweeping farmhouse built in the 18th century. It was to be the start of a new life for the Perrons and their five young daughters; and it was, but not in the way they expected. After only a few nights in the house, Carolyn Perron, the mother, awoke to the specter of an old woman hung by the neck from her bedroom ceiling. Over the next few weeks, strange sounds emanated from the crawlspaces and cellar of the house, doors would open themselves and slam shut, food would sweat blood.
With the help of paranormal investigators, the Perrons discovered that a witch practicing in the 18th century had supposedly sacrificed her own child to Satan, opened the house to the devil, and then hung herself. The Perrons came to believe that the witch’s ghost—as well as a myriad of demons and the ghosts of further suicides on the property—were haunting them. One of the daughters, Andrea Perron, now in her fifties, still maintains that the story is completely true, and that her mother even became possessed at one point. She says, “The only time I was truly terrified in that house was the night I thought I saw my mother die. She spoke in a voice we had never heard before, and a power not of this world threw her 20 feet into another room.”
The Perron story is the inspiration for the film The Conjuring, but the film doesn’t tell the whole story—after Mrs. Perron was possessed, the family stayed in the house for about nine more years, and just sort of “learned to live” with the spirits.