By WILLIAM J. WRIGHT
In 1971, Carolyn and Roger Perron and their five daughters moved into their dream home, a secluded, Colonial era farmhouse known as the Old Arnold Estate in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Little did the Perrons know that their dream would quickly turn into a nightmare. The ghostly activity that plagued the family started small. Household items would go missing or inexplicably move from location to location. Mysterious sounds were heard throughout the home and the Perron daughters claimed to interact with friendly spirits, some of which were children. However, the seemingly benign haunting gradually turned sinister when a malevolent female entity made her presence known and made Carolyn Perron the target of her wrath.
In 2013, director James Wan brought the strange case of the Perron family haunting to the big screen as The Conjuring. Based on the case files of self-described demonologist Ed Warren and his psychic medium wife Lorraine who investigated the old Arnold Estate in 1973, The Conjuring is a stylish and terrifying, albeit fictionalized account, of the events that plagued the Perron family. Yet, it is far from the whole story behind the events that occurred at the Harrisville farmhouse.
The two-part documentary BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL, part of T+E’s annual Creep Week, aims to present the facts behind the famous haunting as never before. Integral to that search for the truth is paranormal investigator Erin Goodpipe whose indigenous heritage and unique perspective add a new dimension to the ongoing events at the home known as The Conjuring House. Recently, Erin was kind enough to speak with Rue Morgue about her work in BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL and reveal her thoughts on one of the most notorious haunted houses of all time.
Erin, thank you so much for speaking with us about BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL. Let’s talk about your background a little bit. How did you develop your interest in the paranormal?
EG: Actually, it has a lot to do with my personal story. I am a Dakota and Anishinaabe woman, and I am very much involved as a First Nations person with cultures and traditions. A lot of that is really steeped in spirituality and the belief in a spirit realm and a spirit that is basically inherent in everything–my personal life is really mixed with that. In addition to that, my background is in teaching and in Indigenous Studies and Indigenous Education. It’s a big part of my life.
Those intuitive gifts are something that I pursue a lot in my personal life and my professional life. It got a little more focused in the last few years with some of the work that I do professionally as an artist and a storyteller. . . The search for truth is something that’s really important in my life, so I began doing really formal paranormal investigations with a team out here in Canada and we do a show called The Other Side with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. This really just happened in the last four years. We travel around and document spiritual experience through an indigenous lens.
Could you speak a little more about how your indigneous heritage affects your approach to the paranormal? Do you believe it gives you an advantage in your investigations or, perhaps, even an edge over non-indigenous investigators ?
EG: It informs everything that I do. It’s my worldview. It’s my perspective and philosophy which is really grounded in indigeneity and, obviously, very specific cultural aspects because not every indigenous nation is the same. I follow a Dakota way mostly, which some people would call Sioux but that’s sort of a colonial name–Dakota is the proper name. I go to a lot of ceremonies where everything is about connecting spiritually–about raising our higher consciousness. That informs the way that we walk in the world, and that really has everything to do with the spiritual worldview and really honing that.
So do I have an edge over non-indigenous investigators? I don’t necessarily want to say that I have an edge because I don’t know every single paranormal investigator and the way that they do things in their personal lives to hone their own intuitive gifts in connection to the spiritual. But I do think that it’s really important that we connect in some way. I’m very fortunate that my culture really believes in those things and that we see ourselves as the tool for connecting with what is around us. It actually has everything to do with our health and our well-being and our walk on the Earth.
It’s quite interesting being an indigenous paranormal investigator because there are very “Western” ways of approaching spirits sometimes. Oftentimes, it becomes a little bit of educating, not necessarily on my part, but we’re sharing cultures and we’re sharing ideas of spiritual belief and our underlying ideas of what is happening here. It always comes back to the existential questions of “Who am I?” “Where am I from?” “Why am I here?” “Where am I going?” As paranormal investigators that’s at the forefront of what we do. A lot of my work becomes decolonizing work even in the paranormal realm. Being an indigenous woman as a paranormal investigator is sort of a new niche, and, unfortunately, I think it shouldn’t be, because we have so many gifted people from many other cultures.
How did you get involved with BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL and what do you hope viewers learn from it?
EG: Obviously, I’ve always had a vested interest in the house on Round Top Hill as a paranormal investigator. It’s definitely one of those cases of legend and lore. Being asked to be a part of this project was incredible. I was really excited and grateful for the opportunity to be able to come to the Territories. I was able to talk with the Chief of the Nipmuc Nation and her daughters. That was a big part of the work for me. Anytime somebody asks me to do something, I always ask, “Okay. Are we looking at just the narrative here of just basically when non-indigenous people came, or are we going farther back?” When people want to look at things that are haunted and want to look at history, I’m always addressing that question of, “Are you addressing the full, entire history?” That was really important for me in this journey. When I was asked to do BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL, I made that a point to address the perspective of the original inhabitants [of the area].
I think this story of Bathsheba is sort of stereotypical. It felt as if maybe [the makers of The Conjuring] picked somebody at random to be this witch, and I really just want to look at the facts. I wanted to have the opportunity to go to the property in person and to feel the space with my own intuitive gifts and also to look at the facts because that’s so important–to ask local people, to ask the indigenous people that are there, to ask the people who have lived in the space who have had experiences. I was really excited to be able to uncover parts of the truth and be able to share that with the rest of the world.
Going into BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL, had you seen The Conjuring? How do you keep a location’s reputation from coloring your perception of what you might find?
EG: Yeah. That’s a really good point. I have watched The Conjuring. I remember going to see it at the movie theater. Obviously, it’s a great Hollywood story. It does it’s job of entertaining, but it’s sort of spinning the same narrative we’ve seen many times over. Going into the space itself, I have to be really aware of those perceptions. Once you’ve seen the movie, you’ve been exposed to it and it’s working its way through your brain. So I really had to spend some time before I went to the space to say, “Okay, I acknowledge that this narrative is in my mind that is sort of its own energy.” I spent a lot of time just being open to things and being aware that these narratives are in my mind along with my biases and my own beliefs. I think that energy can impede on some of the communication that you might get.
Right now, the current owners sort of have it set up for paranormal tourism. It’s set up in such a way that it’s speaking to the narrative of it being really haunted and, perhaps, evil, and all of those things. That was actually the opposite of what I experienced when I talked with the owners. We actually share similar beliefs. That was an interesting mix.
What are your thoughts on the Warrens? In the case of the Perron family, did they ultimately do more harm than good?
EG: My own ethic as a paranormal investigator is rooted in respect and reverence and trying to get away from my own ego when I go into these spaces. I think we go in there as human beings thinking we can do this and do that, but really, I’ve been humbled every time I go into this space. You never know what’s going to come up. Sometimes you get all sorts of things and sometimes, you get nothing. People often ask me if I can come to space and remove spirits. I don’t have that power. We can support that process. That’s my belief, but spirits and the spirit realm are ultimately above us. We’re just glimpsing it. We have these moments when we can find glimmers of truth.
With the Warrens, it’s tough to say because I wasn’t there. That’s really it. Oftentimes, I’ve wondered if [the Arnold Estate] is haunted because it’s in a spiritually-charged space. Is it people? I often find that it’s people whose spirits are following or are attached to people or items as opposed to the area or the land or a building. With the Warrens, yeah, I think you can come in and shake things up depending on how you’re coming into the space. We bring our own energies. Our own intention carries a weight to it in the spirit realm. If you’re willing to respect the space or the wishes of the people who are living in the space, I think you can stir some things up. I think that’s a real possibility that that happened with the Warrens. We just have to be really careful with what we’re opening up when we open the realm. . . People don’t realize what they’re opening and haven’t developed themselves to have the capacity to take on what might come through that doorway. The Warrens might have shaken some things up, for sure. I was hesitant about that, too. There was the idea of doing a seance. Of course, there’s different degrees of doing a seance, but I was like, “Is that something I want to do here?” That’s not necessarily something I’m 100 percent open to because we have ceremonies in my culture where only specific people can do that. [The ceremonies] are very methodological and very well-thought-out. We do them very rarely. I walk with a little bit of hesitancy and care.
Without giving too much away, did you walk away from this investigation with any answers about what the Perron family experienced? What do you think the source of the activity is?
EG: I’m not necessarily sure that the documentary even talks about this, but I was genuinely surprised about the energy there. I was very surprised by the feelings that I got there, but I have to preface it by saying when we go into investigations, we’re really just visitors and we don’t really get to build a relationship with the spirits that are there. . . On any given day, it really depends on what’s going on in the spirit realm in that area. You could get something totally different from day-to-day.
I was very surprised that when I went into that space, I got a really strong female presence. I wasn’t able to really hone in on who that was, but it was a strong, strong, strong female presence. Also, the land is very spiritually charged. We did a lot within our investigation looking at facts and looking at the history. Why is this space charged? I just think that it is. That land holds a lot of history both good and bad. You have everything. Many people died in wars there. There were tragedies there, but it was also a gathering place for the Nations and a beautiful space.
There is really something there–perhaps a doorway of some sort. Without giving too much away, I think the land holds something really sacred there and there is a strong female presence. That was my experience.
BATHSHEBA: SEARCH FOR EVIL will air on Sunday, October 17th at 8 p.m. ET/PT, Saturday, October 30th at 3 p.m. ET and Saturday, October 31st at 8 p.m. ET/PT on T+E.