There’s a whole lot of God in the Conjuring franchise, and not just because it’s about a demon-hunting couple that shouts things like, “In the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I condemn you back to hell!” No, Ed and Lorraine Warren—the real-life couple whose experiences inspired the films—were true-believer Catholics, whose faith played a critical role in their work, making the Conjuring films “an unabashedly Christian horror franchise,” according to our critics. “God brought us together for a reason,” Lorraine tells Ed in the original film.
And God was cool if they kept things “open-minded,” apparently. A story in The Hollywood Reporter today dives into the details of a legal battle around the Conjuring franchise, including claims that Ed Warren initiated a romantic relationship with a 15-year-old girl in the early ’60s—when he was in his mid-30s—with the full cooperation of Lorraine Warren (whom he also abused physically and verbally, the story says). The girl, Judith Penney, would go on to live with them, according to the report, and the relationship lasted a stunning 40 years—even surviving an abortion the Warrens supposedly compelled Penney to get in her 30s so they could maintain their pious public image.
The materials reviewed by THR suggest that Warner Bros., which released the film, was informed of the Warrens’ secrets after The Conjuring came out in 2013, but it’s unclear if the studio took any action. Ed Warren died in 2006, and Lorraine Warren is in her 90s and in poor health, thus unable to respond, but Penney went into great detail about her relationship with the couple in a sworn declaration.
Now in her 70s, she’s not a complainant in the legal wrangling around The Conjuring, but her story has been used to bolster two claims against the franchise: one by Tony DeRosa-Grund, a producer for the original Conjuring, who claims he deserves money from the sequels and spinoffs; and another by writer Gerald Brittle, who’s seeking $900 million because he says the films steal from his 1980 book, The Demonologist. (“TRUE ACCOUNTS OF THE PARANORMAL INVESTIGATORS FROM THE CONJURING FILMS” blares the cover copy of a recent edition—though scratch the “true” part, because Brittle now claims the Warrens made up their stories.)
In 2015, a lawyer representing one of the aggrieved parties used Penney’s story to assert Ed Warren was “cut from the same cloth” as Jerry Sandusky and Bill Cosby, and that Lorraine Warren was “as complicit as her husband” in “condoning and covering up these heinous acts.” A settlement was proposed that would’ve resolved Derosa-Grund and Brittle’s complaints and given Penney $150,000 for her life rights and not disclosing her relationship with the Warrens, but the deal never happened.
New Line, which produced the Conjuring films, has dismissed claims of Derosa Grund and Brittle (and filed a countersuit), but no one from New Line or Warner Bros. has confirmed or denied Penney’s story. In legal papers, an attorney for the studio simply said the writer and producer were using Penney’s story “as part of a vendetta” against the series. But the THR story notes that Penney was arrested in 1963 after someone reported her relationship with Warren to the police. Good to know law enforcement was on the case!