By WILLIAM J. WRIGHT
Given the opportunity to move into one of the most notorious haunted houses in the world, most people would run screaming. Cory and Jennifer Heinzen, however, are not most people. As featured in T+E‘s upcoming two-part documentary BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL, the Heinzens bought the 285 year-old farmhouse at 1677 Round Top Road in Harrisville, Rhode Island, in 2019. Officially, the property is called the Arnold Estate, but, to horror fans, it will forever be known as The Conjuring House.
Filmmaker James Wan brought international attention to the frightening events that befell the Perron family at the historic Colonial home in the 1970s, with his 2013 blockbuster. Based on the case files of demonologist Ed Warren and his clairvoyant wife Lorraine, The Conjuring frightened millions of moviegoers and launched one of the most popular and profitable horror franchises of the past few decades. Although The Conjuring is an effective shocker, the film presents only a limited perspective on the house and the Perrons’ experiences there. BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL hopes to set the record straight on the farm on Round Top Road, and quash a number of myths about the property.
Under the Heinzens’ ownership, the Arnold Estate has become a popular destination for paranormal investigators, horror fans, and the curious. Embracing the home’s historical importance as well as its reputation as a supernatural hotspot, the Heinzens have opened The Conjuring House for investigations and tours (booked through the end of 2022 as of this writing). Recently, we sat down with Cory and Jennifer Heinzen to discuss their participation in BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL, the ongoing paranormal activity at the property, and the future of The Conjuring House.
Cory and Jennifer, the Halloween season is obviously a busy time for you, so thanks for taking some time out to speak with Rue Morgue. Let’s talk about the real-life Conjuring House. How did you come to be the current owners of the home?
CH: Actually, we became the caretakers just by happenstance. I found a random Facebook post at four o’clock in the morning saying that somebody had thought they heard the owner [of the Arnold Estate] was putting the house up for sale. We took a shot in the dark. We knew some people down here that knew the owner, and they got in touch with her. She got us in touch with her realtor. Before you know it, we were signing the paperwork like it never even went on the market. [The owner] didn’t want it to go on the market because she didn’t want what’s going on right now. She didn’t want the attention. That’s how we became the current owners.
Tell me about your background in the paranormal.
CH: We’ve been investigating just around 12 years, give or take. I’ve always been interested in everything paranormal – if it’s not normal, it’s paranormal so that’s a broad spectrum, obviously. When I was in the Marine Corps, I didn’t have the chance to really pursue it, but that’s when I had my first experience and I always really wanted to try to find out the answers for that. So once I retired, I started into full bore and started going around the country investigating what I could. I started doing the whole client thing and investigating [people’s] homes. Jen did it every once in a while when her schedule allowed it, but typically, she would just go over evidence with me. She has a keener eye for that kind of stuff.
JH: I liked it!
CH: Yeah, she liked it. Which I didn’t complain about, because I can’t stand watching those videos sometimes!
You mentioned an incident that you experienced while in the military that started you on this path. Would you mind sharing it with us?
CH: I was stationed in Quantico, Virginia. We would have overnights called periods of military instruction. We went out as a platoon and we stayed on a battlefield – it was either Massaponax or Fredericksburg, one of the two, I can’t remember. There were 50 of us out there. We stayed out on the battlefield for the night as kind of a camaraderie-building thing. The next morning, we were going to get the tour of the battlefield, and then we were going to break up into groups and talk about how we would have attacked it back in the day based on our knowledge of warfare.
That night, around two o’clock in the morning, we all got woken up by cannonfire and muskets and screaming. It was so loud and so real, it was like someone was messing with us. I was like, “This is stupid!” But there was nobody there. There was nobody running around in the woods. There was nobody out on the field. It was just us. And it woke everybody up. The next morning, the tour guide came out, and she was like, “Oh yeah, it happens all the time. It’s normal.” No, it’s not normal! Since when? [Laughs]
What’s been the most frightening incident to occur in The Conjuring house under your watch?
CH: Probably the first mortgage payment. [Laughs]
Let me rephrase that. What’s the most frightening paranormal incident to occur in the house under your watch?
CH: Honestly, everything is scary to us because you’re never really ready for it. We’re not psychics.
JH: [When things happen], it’s more like a jump scare. It’s not like we’re afraid of anything. Well, I shouldn’t say we’re not afraid of anything. Nothing has made us afraid to the point where we feel unsafe or that we need to run. Probably the most profound thing that’s happened in the house to us was when we saw a full-bodied, black apparition peeking in the doorway in the middle of the night. As soon as we saw it there, we said something to each other, and it was gone. Again, it wasn’t scary. It didn’t make us feel like we were in danger. We actually high-fived each other like it was exciting.
How do you address the previous owner’s claims that there is no supernatural activity in the home?
JH: We address that delicately.
CH: We can understand why she was trying to dismiss it. However, how can you dismiss something that you advertised?
JH: Before the movie came out, there were lots of interviews with her discussing the paranormal things that have happened in the house, but when the movie came out and everyone realized where the actual house was located, she had a lot of trespassers. Seeing what we’re dealing with now, I can’t imagine what she was dealing with when the movie first came out. She and her husband were in their 60s. I don’t personally blame her, because it had to be very chaotic and there were a lot more people trespassing then than there are now. We do know that she sued Warner Brothers and was awarded a settlement. I’m sure she just wanted everything done and over with at that point. I don’t blame her. I would have probably done the same thing if I were in her shoes. But you can’t take back things that are on the internet. Those are all out there for people to see and hear. Numerous people reached out to us after we first bought the home about their experiences here. We know that things did happen back then, but we don’t blame her for what she went through.
Is trespassing still a problem? How do you handle the curious who attempt to get on the property illegally?
JH: It is something we deal with frequently. It’s actually worse than I thought it was going to be. At first, it was a lot of people just stopping in the road taking pictures, which I totally understand. It was hard on the neighbors when they turned around in their driveway. There’s really no place to pull over and take pictures, so I was really afraid of car accidents. I feel like it’s worse during the day now that more people are actually just driving right in and knocking on the door or parking in the road and jumping the fence. People are getting a lot more daring which is surprising to me. We’ve opened it up at night for investigations. We started to engage tours, so there’s an opportunity for people to be able to book something to come. It surprises me the amount of people that feel entitled to just assume that it’s okay to come on the property without permission.
How has the community accepted you and what you’re doing with the property by opening the house up for tours and investigations?
JH: I feel like a lot of the neighbors are very supportive. I do feel like it stopped a lot of the traffic on the road. More people are able to come in. So I feel like it stopped a lot of the looky-loos who just want to pull over and take photos. What’s impacting us more is the people who are parking and jumping the fence. I think when we first purchased the house, a lot of the neighbors were afraid of what would happen. I’m sure a lot of them assumed that we were going to turn it into a circus, and I hope, at this point, that they’ve realized that wasn’t our intention. I think more are supportive than not. We have had a few neighbors who have protested some of the events that we applied for through the town, but their problem was really people turning around in their driveway. That’s the biggest complaint that we’ve heard from the neighbors. We haven’t heard anything since we’ve opened for day tours.
As the people currently most closely associated with the property, do you have any thoughts on why the activity in the house subsided so dramatically with the Perron family’s exit?
JH: I don’t know. I think that their family dynamic was different than ours. We moved in accepting [the haunting]. On day one, we walked through the door and we really tried to talk to the spirits and let them know we’re here for them and that we want to coexist with them. We’re here to learn. We’re here to help. We’re here to listen. When we moved in, we had a 19 year-old and a 17 year-old , so our kids were older, and neither one of them actually ended up living here.
[The Perrons] had five daughters with mom, Carolyn Perron, at home most of the time by herself. The dad, Roger Perron, was on the road a lot–he traveled a lot for work.They walked into it unknowingly. We walked into [the house] prepared where they didn’t. I feel like the energy of the five girls and the energy of mom being alone [contributed to the activity]. Andrea, the eldest of the Perron sisters, has talked about whatever was here followed them to Georgia. Maybe it was something connected to them. I’m not really sure. There are so many possibilities, I suppose, but what it really comes down to is the family dynamic and the energy between the two different situations.
Speaking of Andrea, tell me about your interactions with the Perron family. Have any of the Perrons been back recently and how did the house respond to their presence?
JH: The last time they were here was August of 2019 and it was Andrea and her dad and the sisters. There was a lot of activity when they were here. They’re actually coming back Halloween weekend. We’re doing a livestream, and the whole family is going to be here except for Carolyn and Nancy. Carolyn says she will never come back. But they will be FaceTiming and we’ll get to talk to them. It will be our first time talking to Carolyn, and we’re pretty excited about that.
I definitely feel like the house responds to their energy. I really think the house misses them.
BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL offers up a number of possible origins for the haunting. What do you believe is the source of the activity?
JH: Honestly, I feel like it’s still a mystery. We bought the house hoping and thinking we would find some kind of answer. But the more we dive into possible situations, the more questions we come up with. We have nothing concrete. We have a lot of theories about what it could be, but I don’t think we’ve narrowed it down.
CH: We were leaning towards King Philip’s War [a bloody conflict between settlers and indigenous people fought across New England from 1675 to 1678] because of what’s going on not only here but at the neighbors’ houses, as well.
JH: We do feel that it’s coming from the land.
CH: But with the influx of UFO activity that we’ve been having, it’s really difficult to say at this point.
With UFOs now in the mix, do you think you might be dealing with a broader phenomenon similar to Utah’s Skinwalker Ranch where you have an area that seems to be a magnet or a portal for the paranormal?
CH: Yeah, basically. We have everything except for the cattle mutilations.
Why do you think Lorraine Warren was so quick to point the finger at Bathsheba Sherman, a local woman purported to be a witch and characterized as the malevolent entity in The Conjuring, when the facts of Sherman’s life as presented in BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL don’t seem to support the legends about her?
CH: I wasn’t there. You’d have to ask Lorraine. From everybody that I’ve talked to, Lorraine wasn’t the kind of person to pull something out of nowhere. She had a reason to do that. As a paranormal investigator, there are two things that you have to look at: the scientific methods and the metaphysical methods. The scientific method relies on tangible evidence – what you can show people. The metaphysical relies on your feelings and stuff like that – your psychics and your mediums. I think with Erin Goodpipe [the paranormal researcher featured in BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL] coming in, they were able to answer some of the questions in the documentary.
Now that the property is on the market again, what are your hopes for the house’s next chapter? Any words for any potential future owners of The Conjuring House?
CH: The house is on the market? [Laughs]
That’s the rumor!
CH: We’re trying our best to find the right caretakers, and we’ve turned quite a few people away so far.
JH: We’re really just trying to find someone who’s willing to take on what we’ve started and really be willing to look at all the different aspects and see if we can get answers to some of these questions. We’re looking for someone with that passion–somebody who wants to dive in deeper and try to find some answers.
And obviously, you’re looking for someone who’ll go after those answers without exploiting the property.
JH: Exactly. I know when we purchased it, there was a fear that we were going to turn it into a circus, but that was not what we wanted and not what we want for the next owners, either. We want someone who’s going to keep the integrity of the home and love it like we do.
What do you hope viewers will take away from BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL?
CH: We’re hoping that they can actually distinguish what happened in real life from what Hollywood made it out to be and see the separation between fact and fiction there. Unfortunately, there were a lot of liberties taken with this story. Bathsheba’s family’s name was drug through the mud because of the way Hollywood portrayed it. We’re hoping it’s a vindication that helps change her legacy.
BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL premieres October 11 at 9PM ET/PT as part of T+E’s fifth annual Creep Week broadcast event.