The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – What parts of the movie are real compared to the true story?

The Devil Made Me Do It - The Warrens: True Story Vs Movie (Image via mashable.com)
The Devil Made Me Do It - The Warrens: True Story Vs Movie (Image via mashable.com)

The Conjuring Universe is no stranger to holding center stage among horror fans, and the new installment "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" follows suit.

As with the previous Conjuring movies, the third installment focuses on a case investigated by real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The case in question is the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who was convicted of manslaughter in 1981. He became the first person in the US to claim a defense of demonic possession during a murder trial.

Since opening at the cinemas, the movie has been attracting plenty of horror fans. A good proportion of those viewers are intrigued by the controversial real-life case it's based upon and just how many liberties the horror flick took with the truth.

While the extended Conjuring universe is pure fiction, the main Conjuring films are based on actual events. However, according to critics, the third installment seems to be grounded more in fiction than reality. And the question arises - how much of the latest movie is based on facts and how much is artistic license?


Everything Conjuring 3 fictionalizes and changes from the real-life "The Devil Made Me Do It" case

David's exorcism

Conjuring 3 - David Glatzel's exorcism (Image via Warner Bros. Pictures)
Conjuring 3 - David Glatzel's exorcism (Image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

The movie starts off with the perfect homage to 'The Exorcist' as father Gordon arrives for the exorcism. What follows is David Glatzel's torturous exorcism as we see his bone-cracking contortions and the eventual possession of Arne Johnson.

While there are no photographs to support the actual exorcism, multiple witnesses have verified that several exorcisms took place. In fact, numerous priests were present as formal exorcisms were carried out.

While David's contortions in the movie are artistic license, witnesses and family present during the actual exorcism did claim that a demon fled the child's body. There is also no evidence of David pouncing on Ed's heart or trying to kill his father (who believes David was never possessed).

A rare still of David Glatzel form the actual exorcism (image via ScoopWhoop.com)
A rare still of David Glatzel form the actual exorcism (image via ScoopWhoop.com)

During the end credits of the movie, we can hear the actual audio recordings from the exorcism. As much terrifying David's screeching and growling may sound, the recordings are genuine. Interestingly enough, they have never been previously revealed to the public in their entirety.


Alan Bono's murder

Arne Johnson after stabbing Bruno Sauls in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)
Arne Johnson after stabbing Bruno Sauls in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

One of the most critical parts of the story, Alan Bono's stabbing, was highly edited for the movie. From Alan's name (Bruno Sauls was his counterpart in Conjuring 3) to the events leading up to the murder and the events following the murder, not everything was presented as it happened.

The movie only claims Debbie and Arne as witnesses to the murder. In reality, Arne's sisters Wanda(15), Janice(13) and Debbie's 9-year-old cousin Mary were also present during the incident.

In fact, Mary played a vital part in the incidents that led to the murder. It's also noteworthy that Alan wasn't stabbed 22 times as portrayed in the movie. In reality, he suffered four or five tremendous wounds, mainly to his chest area.

The real Arne Johnson and Debbie Glatzel pictured in 2006 (image via historyvshollywood.com)
The real Arne Johnson and Debbie Glatzel pictured in 2006 (image via historyvshollywood.com)

The movie also claims that Alan died at the scene. In reality, he died several hours later, presumably at a hospital. All the events surrounding the incident are factually fuzzy because instantly after the stabbing, Arne walked off into the woods in a catatonic state. He was later found a couple of miles away with no memory of the murder.


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Father Kastner and his daughter, the Occultist

Father Kastner and his daughter, the Occultist in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)
Father Kastner and his daughter, the Occultist in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

As discussed above, Conjuring 3 takes many creative liberties, especially with the main antagonist of the story, the Occultist. Depicted as a 'Master Satanist', her character is entirely a work of fiction introduced to give the story some structure and depth. The same goes for Father Kastner and the entire storyline surrounding the Satanic cult.

The Occultist during her satanic ritual in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Occultist during her satanic ritual in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

Pursuing a satanic claim to reason with the infamous real-life case is the creators being as Hollywood as possible. The movie is set in 1981, when Satanic panic was at its peak in North America, giving the director an outlet to eat into people's fears.


The Disciples of the Ram

The Occultist and Annabelle doll are both connected to The Disciples of the Ram (image via ign.com)
The Occultist and Annabelle doll are both connected to The Disciples of the Ram (image via ign.com)

Carrying on from the Occultist, Conjuring 3 introduces yet another fictional subject to the story, 'The Disciples of the Ram.'

They are a fictional satanic cult that appeared in the 'Annabelle' and 'Annabelle: Creation' movies as the main antagonist. While there's no correlation between the actual 'Devil Made Me Do It' case and this satanic cult, it helps tie the loose sub-plots of the story.

As a bonus, it also links Conjuring 3 to the Extended Conjuring Universe, laying the groundwork for the foreseeable future of the next installment in the franchise.

Annabelle's violent ritual death, with the symbol of the demon and the cult on the wall in the movie Annabelle(2014) (image via villains.fandom.com)
Annabelle's violent ritual death, with the symbol of the demon and the cult on the wall in the movie Annabelle(2014) (image via villains.fandom.com)

Concerning the actual case, the satanic roots hold no significance. While zombie corpses and occult witches look fascinating, they eventually destroy the sanctity of the main conjuring movies, which always stick with the 'based on real-life events' hook.


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Katie and Jessica

Conjuring 3 - The search for Katie and Jessica (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)
Conjuring 3 - The search for Katie and Jessica (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

In the movie, the Warrens encounter a similar case involving the Satanic curse, which eventually helps unravel Arne's case and the Occultist. However, just like most parts of the movie, Katie and Jessica aren't real. Katie's murder by Jessica and Jessica's apparent suicide afterwards never happened in real life.

Even though the film doesn't give a massive amount of backstory about these two, it's inarguably transparent why their story became a part of the movie. Replicating a similar case to stress fictional satanic reasoning shows a lack of intention and creativeness in filling the loopholes of the story.

However, a new book titled DC Horror Presents: The Conjuring: The Lover #1 has been launched by DC Comics. It focuses explicitly on Jessica's story and how her possession came about, working as a direct prequel to the movie.

The cover of DC comics' new book The Conjuring: The lover #1 (image via DC Comics)
The cover of DC comics' new book The Conjuring: The lover #1 (image via DC Comics)

Ed's Heart Attack

Ed Warren in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)
Ed Warren in Conjuring 3 (image via Warner Bros. Pictures)

The movie's opening minutes focus on David's exorcism as we witness him pouncing on Ed's heart. In the aftermath of the exorcism, Ed is rushed to the hospital for suffering a heart attack. In reality, Ed Warren did have a heart attack, just not on this case.

He actually had multiple heart attacks in the 1980s, including a debilitating one that put him in a wheelchair for months. In the movie, his ailment is used as a device to shift the narrative towards Lorraine's real-life work with the police as a psychic. It also helped in romanticizing the story with Ed and Lorraine's moments of true love as depicted in the previous Conjuring movies.


The Glatzel family

The real Arne Johnson during his trial in 1981 (image via nypost.com)
The real Arne Johnson during his trial in 1981 (image via nypost.com)

The Glatzel family came into the limelight in 1981 with Arne Johnson's case making the front page of every newspaper and the headline story of every news report. While Conjuring 3 maintains that the whole Glatzel family believed David was possessed, the truth is far from that.

David's father later revealed that he always thought his son was just mentally ill. It was David's mother who bought into the Satanic panic of the 80s, believing her son was possessed and eventually contacting The Warrens for help.

David's sister Debbie and her boyfriend Arne Johnson have always backed the claim that David was possessed. The same spirit possessed Arne, leading to Alan Bono's brutal stabbing as shown in the movie. However, the film omits an essential part of the real story- David and Debbie's brother Carl Glatzel.

David Glatzel in the movie Vs David glatzel in real life (image via buzzfeed.com)
David Glatzel in the movie Vs David glatzel in real life (image via buzzfeed.com)

Carl never believed in the Warrens and their supernatural reasoning. In 2007, Carl and David filed a lawsuit against the Warrens for unspecified financial damages following the 2006 reprint of Lorraine and Gerard Brittle's book.

Titled 'The Devil in Connecticut', the book documented the actual 'Devil Made Me Do It' case. Carl publicly called out the Warrens for violating their privacy and intentionally inflicting emotional distress. Lorraine and Brittle stood by their work, pointing out that six priests agreed David was possessed.


Also read: How to watch The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It online in India and Southeast Asia? Release date, streaming details, and more

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