The Devil Made Me Do It
The Devil Made Me Do It was the first case ever to pass through a court of law in the United States where demonic possession was set to be used as a defense. It sparked intrigue throughout the community in the early 1980’s, which has carried forward into present times, with a new feature film about the murder and resulting court case set to release soon. The latest installment in the Conjuring universe will explore this case through the Warren’s lens of involvement. Before the film is released, let’s delve into the true details of the events that have inspired the Conjuring 3.
The Beginning- Brookfield Connecticut, 1980
The year 1980 saw the young couple, Debbie Glatzel and Arne Cheyanne Johnson, acquire a new rental property. The home came at a great financial cost to the couple, yet they were still excited about the move. There was some cleaning and work to be undertaken before the couple could move into this property, so they set to work with the help of Debbie’s younger brother, David.
Paranormal activity would be reported pretty much straight after David entered this home. Soon, David would leave the house spooked. Telling his sister, Debbie, that he had seen an old man within the home, who had warned him to “beware.” Although David was terrified, the young couple wrote off this behavior as David simply making up an excuse to avoid cleaning.
After spending this first initial day cleaning, Debbie, Arne and young David returned to Debbie’s mother’s house. Judy Glatzel had allowed the couple to stay with her while they acquired this new home. Scarily, this wasn’t the last that David would see of the terrifying old man from his sister’s house, for he followed David home. That night David reported to sight the man again, though he looked different to the first time he was seen. He now had skin that appeared black, as though it has been burnt and charred, he was also barefoot, though his feet were described as appearing like a deer, being hooved.
Although some very strange noises were heard in the attic by the adults in the household on this particular night, it was only David that had captured sight of the old man, who would soon be nicknamed ‘the Beast’. Judy Glatzel would later describe this entity, the Beast, as “a man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns and hoofs.”
David would also mention a very specific incident to Arne and Debbie about an animal scratching the doors of their new home. This appeared to be some kind of foretelling as the next day when the couple returned to their rental property, they found scratches on the inside of the door, just as David had described. This spooked everyone enough that the decision not to move into the home was made, despite having laid down a considerable amount of money to secure the house.
David’s condition deteriorated from here. He claimed that the terrifying old man from the rental property continued to visit him, appearing as a demonic beast, who sometimes muttered phrases in Latin and threatened to hurt David or even worse, steal his soul. David would also develop petrifying night terrors, exhibited strange behavior that was out of character for him and was often covered in bruises and scratches, which were unexplainable.
Judy, Debbie and her partner Arne all claimed to have witnessed David being physically attacked by something unseen, as though he was being beaten and even strangled. After which, red marks would appear on the child’s skin. Additionally, David had begun to growl and hiss as though he was some kind of animal. He’d also recite bible passages and other pieces of literature a young child wouldn’t typically know.
This would have obviously been distressing for the family, as well as young David, so the church was called and consulted. From here, the Warrens, Ed and Lorraine, were brought into the mix. David had already endured 12 days of these menacing visions and attacks before the Warrens became involved in the case. Lorraine recalls feeling as though she could see more of a creature than a child in David’s body and stated “there was tremendous tension in that house, you could cut it with a knife.”
Lorraine Warren also claimed to have sighted a black mist form next to David during this visit, which led her straight away to believe they were dealing with something particularly malevolent.
Supposedly, some work was done to ensure what was happening to David wasn’t something caused by psychological issues, and an exorcism was recommended. Typically, when an exorcism is performed, the church investigates thoroughly before getting involved and approving an exorcism. For this particular case, the Warrens felt as though David was in grave danger, so they recommended a minor exorcism, which could be expedited and would mean David wouldn’t have to wait so long for help.
The situation in this household grew increasingly dire. David would convulse each night at random intervals so the family would take it in turns watching over him, pushing everyone to breaking point and utter exhaustion. Finally, David was able to have an exorcism performed, which was attended by his mother, sister and her partner, multiple priests and of course Ed and Lorraine Warren. Over the course of multiple days, several exorcisms were performed on David and things reportedly got pretty intense.
Lorraine described some of this exorcism process claiming that during it, David levitated, stopped breathing for a period of time and even demonstrated precognition where he foretold some future events, including the murder, Arne was to later commit. It was during this ordeal that Lorraine became fearful something bad may happen and even contacted the Brookfield Police to warn them that the situation with David had become dangerous.
Obviously, this must have been quite a stressful time for everyone involved. Everyone attending must have felt helpless for not being able to help or even see what was attacking David. Apparently, this is something that affected Arne Johnson. Meaning well and wanting to help draw the demons out of David, he challenged one, asking it to take him on instead of the child.
The Warren’s claim to have warned Arne not to challenge the demonic, but in a moment of desperation, hoping to help, Arne Johnson did just that. A moment he would likely come to regret. Mere days later, this incident came back to haunt Arne who was about to run some errands in his car. Allegedly, his car’s engine began to race, control over the vehicle was taken from him, a dark figure appeared and the car crashed into a tree. Luckily, Arne escaped unhurt and with his life.
This experience shook Arne and he made the decision to return to the rental property to investigate a well he had heard David speak of, supposedly located at the back of the property. This probably wasn’t the best idea, as Arne claims to have encountered the demon at the well, having made eye contact with it and becoming possessed himself.
After all of this, Debbie and Arne move out of her mother’s house. They moved into an apartment, which they rented from a man named Alan Bono. Not only was Alan Debbie’s landlord, but he was also her boss, since he managed the dog grooming business she worked for. It wouldn’t be long after this move, that Alan would die at the hands of Arne. It’s also worth noting that Arne Johnson had also started displaying some odd behavior of his own, acting strange and in similar ways to David.
The Murder- February 16th, 1981
On the 16th of February 1981, Arne Johnson called in sick to his employer at the Wright Tree Service. He then proceeded to spend the day with Debbie Glatzel at her employer, the Brookfield Boarding Kennels. In addition to Debbie, Arne would be joined by Wanda and Janice, his 15 and 13-year-old sisters, as well as Mary, his 9-year-old cousin. The group would go on to meet Alan Bono at a local bar for lunch. It was here that Alan would begin to drink excessively, though that wasn’t behavior out of the norm for him.
Following lunch, the group returned to the kennel where they would spend much of their afternoon. At some point, Debbie took the younger girls out to grab a pizza, yet apparently, she got a sense of some sort of tension and wished to hurriedly return back to where she had left Arne and Alan. Upon their return, Alan urged the girls upstairs to his apartment, which existed above the kennels. Reportedly he became loud and agitated here, so Debbie urged the girls to leave and go downstairs. Yet, as Mary attempted to leave Alan Bono grabbed her. Debbie had managed to free Mary but at this point, Arne Johnson returned to the apartment.
Debbie stood between Alan Bono and Arne Johnson while Wanda attempted to hold Arne back, but an altercation was to take place. Supposedly, Arne began to growl and act animalistic before taking a 5-inch pocket knife he carried on his person and using it to stab Alan. Bono was stabbed four or five times with this knife, mostly sustaining injuries to the chest area, though one stab punctured through his stomach to the base of his heart. Suffering these wounds would later end his life.
Arne Johnson claims to have no memory of this incident and walked off into the forest following the attack. He was detained later, 3 kilometers away from the scene and placed in a local correctional facility. This was to be the first documented murder in the history of Brookfield, Connecticut.
The Day After- February 17th, 1981
Lorraine Warren contacted the Brookfield Police the day after Alan Bono’s murder, wishing to inform them that Arne Johnson was possessed by a demon at the time he had committed this crime. This statement was to be used by Martin Minnella, Johnson’s lawyer, making it the first case in United States history where demonic possession was used as a defense. Great public interest in this case swirled and the media jumped on board dubbing it the “Demon Murder Trial.”
Interest in the case even extended internationally, and Arne’s lawyer would visit England to consult those who had worked on similar cases over there. Though, neither of those cases were ever put to a jury to deliberate on, such as Arne’s would be. Plans to fly in exorcism experts from Europe and subpoena the priests who performed David’s exorcism, if they didn’t cooperate, were even made.
The Trial- October 28th, 1981
October of 1981 saw the trial take place within Connecticut’s Superior Court of Danbury. Here, Minella attempted to submit his plea of not guilty due to the demonic possession Arne was overcome by at the time of the murder. The judge, Robert Callahan, rejected this defense claiming that such a defense couldn’t ever exist in a court of law due to the lack of evidence, describing it as “irrelevant and unscientific.”
Due to this, the defense went on to state that Johnson acted in self-defense. The jury would deliberate over this case for 15 hours, across 3 days and were not able to legally consider demonic possession as an explanation for the murder.
The Outcome- November 24th, 1981
After much deliberation, Arne Johnson was convicted of first-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. During his time in prison, Arne worked to obtain his high school diploma and other educational certificates. After serving just 5 years of his sentence, he was released and described as having been a model prisoner and in good mental standing. Arne and Debbie would also get married.
This is all quite an incredible story, but it is also worth noting that Debbie’s brother, Carl Glatzel, wasn’t so happy with the Warren’s involvement in all of this. He even sued them for profiting from the ordeal, since they had published a book detailing its events. He claimed this was all fabricated and there was no truth behind the story.
On the other hand, Debbie and Arne have stood by the Warrens and this entire story. They claim that Carl’s actions were nothing more than a mere money grab. So what do you all think? Do you believe the story? Maybe there are some aspects you believe and others, maybe not? Leave me a comment below.
Thanks for reading!
Posted by Dwan Kematch on October 9, 2021
Paranormal and the “real world” is not something I’ve see in a sentence, until today of course, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Feelings of deja vu, dreaming of future births\deaths, having a bad feeling is something that I’ve had all my life. Is it society’s feelings towards cases like this that make people guffaw at it?! Or do events like the ones that I foresee in dreams or deja vu make people believe especially when it comes true?! See what I mean….back and forth.
Honestly, I still sleep with my light on at the witching hour, I don’t open my door to noises, I look under my bed, I recite the Lord’s prayer when I’m scared….. Does that make me a believer or just plain paranormally paranoid?
Posted by Amy on October 10, 2021
Thanks for sharing Dwan, you raise a good point. Perhaps it is that you want to believe there is more to the world, but you are still skeptical that it exists? In any case, there’s nothing wrong with keeping your guard up and it certainlny doesn’t hurt.