Haunted State

Some few years back, when FYE was still a thing, I’d hunt for bargains at our local.  I came across a two-for-one DVD that seemed promising, but when I got it home I discovered it was a made-for-television combo, and movies of that ilk often fudge on many angles.  I watched them nevertheless.  These were the Discovery Channel’s first two specials in what would become a series titled “A Haunting.”  I have to admit A Haunting in Connecticut freaked me out so much that I decided to trade the disc back in—something I rarely do.  (The other feature, A Haunting in Georgia, I could barely remember.)  As is usual with things I get rid of, I grew curious once again—this time a decade later.  Fortunately both movies are included in Amazon Prime, so I was all set.  I just needed that rarest commodity of all, time.

You might think that a guy who gets up at 4 a.m. on weekends would have plenty of extra time.  That’s not the case.  Nevertheless, I squeezed the clock to watch these shows again for research purposes.  Neither one was so scary as I recall—I’ve seen quite a few movies since then—but they did get October off to a moody start.  Of the two I recalled far less of the Georgia story.  Perhaps part of the reason is that it left so much unresolved.  The Wyrick family apparently experienced many ghosts and their investigator, William G. Roll, took their claims seriously.  While not an Ed and Lorraine Warren film, like its sibling, it follows the pattern of repeated, reported activity, investigation, and, well, not quite resolution.  The family attends a Pentecostal church, and, interestingly, the documentary treats it respectfully.

Unlike A Haunting in Connecticut, A Haunting in Georgia films some events in real time—notably the church service.  The pastor is interviewed and he, unlike Dr. Roll, believes the entity to be demonic.  The documentary treats him with the same gravitas as it does the Berkeley-trained psychologist.  There’s too much going on here to make a memorable narrative, though.  Stories, at least in the classical fictional sense, have some kind of resolution.  The Georgia narrative has too much complexity and too little sense that anything has been solved.  To me the amazing thing was that I had watched this film before and I remembered maybe only the first fifteen minutes.  Both films went on the bigger things, getting remade into theatrical features that I’ve never seen.  But then again, I barely have time for my own unresolved story.  Maybe FYE offers its own brand of local haunting.

Long Nights

Before I really knew who Ed and Lorraine Warren were, I watched a made-for-television movie called, I think, A Haunting in Connecticut.  Unlike many television movies, it was actually quite scary.  Fast forward several years and I find myself writing a book that involves the Warrens.  I felt obligated to read all the books they “wrote”—all of them ghostwritten—and I’d been holding off on the one titled In a Dark Place, which is the story behind this television movie which was subsequently made into a theatrical movie.  The book is by Ray Garton and the parents of the family involved (Carmen Reed and Al Snedeker) are also credited.  The story is indeed a dreary one, not something I expected would bring any holiday cheer.  About that I was correct.

Why do I do it, then?  A concern with veracity drives me.  Throughout history enough people have told stories like this that either we have to lump our species together as a bunch of lying attention-grubbers, or there might be something to what they say.  The academic and official responses have long been to state that such things can’t happen, so they don’t.  When compared with how we come to know other things about life, we quickly realize that it involves experience.  In cases where experience is anomalous we tend to dismiss it.  We are great conformers.  What if there really was a demon in the Snedeker house?  Others have told similar tales.  If there’s any reality to it, shouldn’t we know?

As a former academic, I always thought that if we really wish to learn the truth, no subject should be off-limits.  That’s not the same thing as credulousness.  We don’t have to believe everything overwrought people say, but the subject should be worth consideration.  Of course, those who ghostwrote for the Warrens claim that they were given liberty to stretch the truth to make a better story.  They also tend to claim that the basic elements of the story are true.  When someone’s writing a book, there’s likely some hope of remuneration involved.  And sometimes the truth isn’t quite flashy enough for major presses with the bottom line in sight.  Still, the question of what really happened is left open.  The internet is a place where credulity reigns.  We can seek truth there only with great caution.  Maybe that is the lesson to apply to books like this as well.  Although In a Dark Place is scary, there was money at stake, and as the wise say, money changes everything.