Hollywood loves the paranormal, especially when tales can be spun with an ounce of truth worked into the mix. It’s important to remember that just about every fictional film created based around a real life haunting contains numerous embellishments added purely for entertainment value. Telling the story exactly as it happened may be too lengthy and not as glamorous as it is with the extra spices of script writers, film directors and special effects artists added in. Still, many of us would likely be terrified just to live through the watered down version.
The events described in The Conjuring (2013) may have been recreated with more than a few artistic liberties, but they still do not erase the fact that a family endured something strange in Harrisville, Rhode Island during the 1970s.
Haunted Rhode Island: The Sherman-Arnold Ranch
Roger and Carolyn Perron purchased what they thought would be their dream home in Harrisville, Rhode Island in December of 1970. Anxious to escape to the peaceful, safe environment of the country, the opportunity seemed like a dream come true to the young family with five little girls.
The property previously belonged to the Arnold family, who had owned it over the past 8 generations. Many family members had lived and died in the home. John Arnold’s wife allegedly hung herself in the barn when she was 93 years old.
Other deaths on the property are believed to include two drownings in the nearby creek, poisonings, hangings, four men who inexplicably froze to death and the unsolved rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl.
Perhaps the most notable tragedy that is said to have occurred on the property involved Bathsheba Sherman. Bathsheba’s four children all died before reaching the age of four. As a young woman, Bathsheba was caring for a child (it is not known if the child was hers or someone else’s) who mysteriously died from convulsions. It was later found that a needle had been inserted into the child’s head. Bathsheba was charged with manslaughter but the accusations were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Despite being essentially “cleared” of the crime, the local community still felt she was guilty. Rumors began to spread that Bathsheba was a witch and had sacrificed the child, possibly as payment to the devil for maintaining her eternal beauty.
Bathsheba married and eventually died in 1885. The story includes a note about the coroner, who stated that her body had mysteriously turned to stone.
Many years later, the Perron family arrived, happy to have found a rustic sanctuary to raise their children.
Paranormal Activity at the Sherman-Arnold Ranch
There were strange incidents happening at the Arnold-Sherman Ranch from the first day the Perrons arrived. A male figure stood by, watching as the family unpacked. Three of the children saw him but the rest of the family did not.
Other strange activity was noted after the family settled in. Voices were heard in the children’s rooms and their beds would sometimes move. The voices often chanted “There are seven dead soldiers buried in your wall” repeatedly.
A young girl around the age of 5 was seen wandering the home while crying for her mother. She would show up in two different forms. One was the image of a healthy, well-cared for child and the other was emaciated in a burial gown.
Andrea Perron discusses her paranormal experiences at the 2012 Paracon in Waverly, Ohio
There seemed to be a distinct difference between some of the spirits that are said to haunt the ranch. Some were friendly, like a male entity that the family named “Manny.” Manny may have been Johnny Arnold who killed himself by drinking horse liniment. The apparition would lean against the door frame and observe the children with an amused expression. If anyone made eye contact, he would suddenly disappear.
Bathsheba is believed to possibly be the most evil entity reported on the property. She was cruel to her staff in life and seems to continue in much the same way in death.
There were a number of incidents that were recreated for the movie that the Perrons claim did happen to them. Rather than an Annabelle doll, daughter Donna actually had a Raggedy Ann doll that was given to her by her mother in 1970. The plaything began moving on its own and even wrote notes. Lorraine Warren now has the doll. According to her late husband Ed, the doll killed a man who challenged it to “do its worst.” Click here to see the Annabelle the Doll page on the New England Society for Psychic Research website.
The movie included the youngest daughter, April, and her interactions with a boy in a mirror. In reality, April did confirm having a strange relationship with a young ghostly boy as well as the little girl that would sometimes appear healthy and other times deathly.
The cellar was a focal point for the movie’s creepiest scenes. According to Carolyn Perron, this area was truly the scariest in the home. She described experiencing a sense of dread each time they would go in there. The feeling was bad enough to keep the family out.
According to Andrea Perron, the tales of Bathsheba Sherman are true. Her mother had a disturbing encounter with the female entity. She believed that Bathsheba’s spirit was threatened by the presence of her mother. At one point something stabbed the back of Carolyn’s leg with a needle. Andrea associates the incident with Bathsheba.
Famous paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the property in an effort to help the family. The Conjuring is told from their perspective with much of the film’s material developed from the Warren’s files.
Dead Air Paranormal radio interview with Andrea and Carolyn Perron
Andrea Perron also appeared on the 2013 Halloween episode of the Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold. Click here to listen to the entire episode. Listeners should note that the program offers free podcasts that go back 90 days. After 90 days the episode will become part of the show’s archives which are only accessible to paying users so the link above will likely no longer work.
The Sherman-Arnold Ranch Today
Some residents who lived in the home after the Perrons left claim that they have also had paranormal experiences, although none as dramatic. The oldest daughter Andrea wrote a trilogy of books called House of Darkness, House of Light which details the family’s experiences.
There seems to be two polar opposite views of The Conjuring and the real story told by the Warrens and the Perrons. The New England Skeptical Society told USA Today that “there is absolutely no reason to believe there is any legitimacy [to the Warren’s reports].”
Andrea Perron, on the other hand, insists that the movie is a:
[…] fair reflection of the chaos and danger we faced at the farm. […] There are liberties taken and a few discrepancies, but overall, it is what it claims to be – based on a true story, believe it or not.
Have you been to the Sherman-Arnold Ranch (or would you like to go)? Share your personal experiences or investigative approach to this location in the comments.