The Warrens & the Smurl Haunting

By Maxim W. Furek

One of the most horrific cases of purported demonic possession occurred in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, inside a 92-year-old duplex. The Chase Street dwelling belonged to Jack and Janet Smurl. From 1974 to 1987, the Smurls and their four daughters endured howls and blood-curdling screams, pig grunts, kitchen appliances catching fire, and awful odors. Amorphous black clouds materialized inside the lodging. Janet was dragged out of bed by malevolent forces, and Jack was sexually assaulted by a succubus, a demon in female form. Finally, after agonizing torment, they contacted paranormal researchers Ed (1926-2006) and Lorraine (1927-2019) Warren. Ed, a former police officer, described himself as a “religious demonologist” and Lorraine as a “sensitive clairvoyant.” The Warrens were paranormal celebrities. In 1952 they founded the New England Society for Psychic Research to investigate suspected hauntings, including the Amityville Horror and the Perron farmhouse in Rhode Island. The Warrens investigated more than 10,000 cases in the U.S. and abroad. Their strange profession triggered widespread interest in the paranormal, leading to television shows and cult films such as Conjuring and Conjuring 2. Because of their occult knowledge, they were asked to co-author a book. As a result, St. Martin’s Press published The Haunted: One Family’s Nightmare (1988), written by Robert Curran, a reporter for the Scrantonian-Tribune, with the Warrens and Jack and Janet Smurl as co-authors. The book became a national bestseller for St. Martin’s Press, published in 78 countries and serialized in Redbook Magazine. Then, in 1991, FOX TV presented “The Haunted,” a made-for-TV adaptation. Jim Thorpe Presentation To promote The Haunted, the Warrens began a 15-city book tour in the quaint village of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. They appeared at the Victorian Palace Theatre on July 19, 1988, presenting two slide shows with personal photographs of Amityville and other psychic investigations. As a researcher, I was fascinated by the Smurl haunting and read everything I could about the events in nearby West Pittston. I drove to Chase Street, took photos, and spoke with several neighbors. The Smurls avoided the media at that time, but when I heard that the Warrens would be in Jim Thorpe, I contacted the Victorian Palace Theatre requesting an interview. I conducted my interview with them on the sidewalks of Jim Thorpe. It was a hot July evening. Ed and Lorraine were friendly and extremely knowledgeable. In addition, they professed their Christian faith, allowing me to photograph them on the street and tape their comments. At the time, Ed was sixty-two years -old, and Lorraine was sixty-one Roman Catholic Mysticism The Warrens were well versed in Roman Catholic mysticism and believed literally in a spirit world-encompassing heaven and hell, limbo and purgatory. In addition, they believed in lost souls and demonic entities. Ed explained how he prepared himself for paranormal encounters. To do battle against demonic possession, he used the Bible, a crucifix, and holy water as weapons. However, there were other options as well. Ed Warren called upon “religious provocation” to provoke spirits into action, he explained: It works this way. The name of Jesus Christ and his sacred blood is invoked. You then command the demon to reveal itself and be banished from the home. Another technique, what we call ‘religious resistance,’ is used to ward off a demonic attack. I envision myself being Christ-like and call on Jesus Christ, St. Michael the Archangel, and Padre Piel to help me and give me strength. Psycho-Ergokinesis Still, other supernatural forces could have been at work. For over 50 years, the public has been enculturated into forbidden themes of the occult through motion pictures such as Children of the Damned (1964), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973), It’s Alive (1974), The Omen (1976), Carrie (1976), Children of the Corn (1984) and Firestarter(1984). Although pure cinematic escapism, these films investigated children with preternatural abilities. One parapsychological theory espouses that latent telekinetic powers of female adolescents may cause “hauntings.” These abilities were called Psionics or Psionic Energy Manipulation (also known as Psycho-Ergokinesis). The popular Stephen King thrillers, Carrie and Firestarter, utilized this premise. The Smurls seventeen-year-old daughter, Dawn, had witnessed attacks by demons while dark shapes followed her in the house. In The Haunted, Lorraine Warren explained:

Demonic spirits are often attracted to houses where young girls are going through puberty. The spirits draw on the particular type of energy the girls emit, the emotional level being very high and ideal for spirits to feed on. Critics were quick to point out their appearances on Sally Jessy Raphael, Geraldo Rivera, and Larry King, as well as Entertainment Tonight and A Current Affair as proof that the Smurls had, in some way, sold out for financial gain. That part of the narrative was accurate. The Smurls and the Warrens and Robert Curran all hit the road, embracing the media, as they told their varied stories to a public hungering to learn more of the bizarre incident. It didn’t matter what the critics charged. The Warrens stuck to their original claims that the Smurl hauntings were real and that their investigation was of the highest order, as Lorraine Warren explained to this researcher: Our motivation is most positive. We are thinking from a Christian standpoint and ask only for Christian protection in our work. Inside the Smurl house, Ed Warren brought “relics of the saints and true pieces of the cross.” He played religious music and prayed to “frustrate the devil.” Then, he experienced cold spots and temperatures below freezing, and dark shadows were moving across the bedroom: the words, You filthy bastard. Get out of this house were suddenly etched upon a mirror. Yet, as a true believer, he remained steadfast in his Catholic faith and conviction: I learned a long time ago that everything that we speak on is in the Bible---apparitions, ghosts, demonic spirits, levitations. If nobody in the Catholic Church were to become knowledgeable about these forces, who would the victims go to? So, this is my job, to recognize it, bring in the church’s authority, and bring in the exorcist. The Smurl horror ended after Bishop James Clifford Timlin intervened. When bishops feel that they don’t have a qualified exorcist in their diocese, they’re allowed to look elsewhere. So Timlin summoned Father Alphonsus Trabold, a priest-exorcist from the Diocese of New York and St. Bonaventure University, “with authority to do whatever is necessary.” Trabold was an exorcist, professor, and paranormal expert. In 1989, Trabold’s church-sanctioned exorcism ended the haunting. Subsequent tenants at the West Pittston Chase Street home reported no disturbances. Lorraine concluded that four spirits haunted the family; a harmless older woman, an older man who had died at the house, a young and violent girl, and a malevolent demon that turned the other spirits against the Smurls, driving them to the brink of madness. But, of course, there are many things that science cannot explain. The Smurl incident is among them. Nevertheless, the Warrens claimed that the Smurl hauntings were real, serving as an ominous warning about a hidden, coexisting demon world. And with that, the Warrens have provided a possible explanation for our consideration.

Maxim W. Furek is an avid student of the paranormal. His eclectic background includes aspects of psychology, addictions, and rock journalism. He has a master’s degree in Communications from Bloomsburg University and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Aquinas College. His book, Sheppton: The Myth, Miracle & Music, investigates supernatural events during a mining disaster. He was featured on Exploring the Bizarre, with the legendary Timothy Green Beckley (Mr. UFO) and Tim R. Swartz (Commander X) and has been interviewed on Darkness on the Edge of Town, Darkness Radio, Dark Sun Rising, and Midnight in the Desert (with Heather Wade). For contact information, visit: