Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) is almost killed by a demon in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, but did his heart attack happen in real life? Directed by Michael Chaves, the third movie in the main saga of the Conjuring universe is based on the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O’Connor), who in 1981 pleaded not guilty to murdering his landlord on the basis that he was possessed by a demon at the time and not in control of his actions.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opens with the exorcism of a little boy called David Glatzel (Jullian Hillard), who is in the throes of a violent demonic possession. Psychic investigator Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) and her husband, demonologist Ed Warren, have been called in to consult on the case and are taking part in the exorcism when the possessed David breaks free from his restraints and attacks Ed. The demon attempts to use its powers to stop Ed’s heart, and succeeds in triggering a heart attack that lands him in the hospital. Ed’s death is only prevented by Arne dragging David away and inviting the demon into his own body.


So, how does this compare to the true story? Obviously “true story” is always going to be a grey area with tales of ghosts and demonic possession. However, while the real David Glatzel did undergo several exorcisms with the Warrens present, Ed Warren did not experience a heart attack during any of those exorcisms. Gerald Brittle’s book about the case, The Devil in Connecticut (which was based on interviews with the Warrens and the Glatzel family), says that Arne invited the demon into his own body in order to save David’s life, not Ed’s. According to Brittle, the demon had repeatedly attempted to force an end to the exorcisms by pushing David to the brink of death and making him beg his mother to spare his life. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It‘s depiction of David’s violent exorcism, and Ed’s heart attack, is based on this part of the book.

It appeared as though David had actually experienced a heart attack. The pulse and heartbeat were nil. The boy’s skin grew white. His body lay motionless, seemingly depleted of life. By the time a full minute had passed, those in the room could not help but take it for real… Desperate to save David’s life, Arne declared, “Let David live! Take me on! Come into me!”

In fact, The Devil in Connecticut states that Ed Warren wasn’t even present at the exorcism where Johnson invited the demon into his body – though he did still have a terrifying encounter with “the beast” while the exorcism was taking place. Ed was at home in his study and performed a ritual to summon the demon, with the intention of binding it. Sure enough, he received a visitation from the entity possessing David Glatzel. According to Ed, the entity showed him the many demonic faces that David had described, and he realized that it was actually just one devil with many faces. He also realized just how powerful it was. “As a whole the entity was overwhelming,” Ed told Brittle. “It could not be dealt with. Binding was impossible. If I had started, it would have killed me.”

Ed Warren did suffer a heart failure many years later, in 2001. Although the attending paramedics were able to restart his heart, he remained in a coma for 11 weeks afterwards. His health continued to deteriorate in the years that followed, and he passed away on 23 August, 2006, in his home with Lorraine at his side. His obituary says that Ed was once asked if he feared death, and he replied: “No, I don’t fear it, not one iota. I know I’ll be going to a beautiful place.”

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