The Terrifying True Story Behind The Demonic Possessions And Grisly Murder In 'The Conjuring 3' (2024)

While The Conjuring 3 may seem like pure fiction, it was actually inspired by true stories of exorcisms and murder in early 1980s Connecticut.

The Terrifying True Story Behind The Demonic Possessions And Grisly Murder In 'The Conjuring 3' (1)

Warner Bros. PicturesRuairi O’Connor as Arne Cheyenne Johnson in The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.

Since its debut in 2013, The Conjuring series, has terrified audiences with its tales of hauntings, demons, and murder. And part of what makes these films so compelling and so terrifying is that they have roots in real life. So when another film in the series came out in 2021, it left fans asking one big question: Is The Conjuring 3 based on a true story?

Indeed, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was rooted in the macabre and real-life murder trial of 19-year-old Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who was charged with killing his landlord Alan Bono on February 16, 1981. In court, Johnson notoriously claimed that he had been possessed by demons when he stabbed Bono to death — and that the devil made him do it.

The gruesome incident in Brookfield, Connecticut, marked the first time that anyone had been murdered in the town’s 193-year history, and Johnson’s shocking defense that a demon had commandeered him to kill had never been wielded in an American courtroom before.

Though Johnson’s case was thrillingly depicted onscreen in The Conjuring 3, director Michael Chaves took vast creative liberties with it. For instance, Johnson had claimed not to have any memory of the murder, leaving Chaves to interpret its details himself. With fictionalized suicide attempts and a fanatic occultist figure, the movie wasn’t exactly accurate.

So what is the true story of The Conjuring 3? Let’s take a look back at what really happened during that bloody incident in 1981 and the eerie happenings that preceded it.

The Alleged Possession Of David Glatzel And Arne Johnson’s Murder Of Alan Bono

Before his incident with his landlord that served as the true story behind The Conjuring 3, Arne Cheyenne Johnson had a spotless record. Living in the sleepy Connecticut town of Brookfield, Johnson was engaged to a woman named Debbie Glatzel, but all was not well with the couple.

Indeed, in the year leading up to the murder, Glatzel’s 11-year-old brother David had begun acting strangely. The child reportedly told both Johnson and Glatzel that he was tormented by an “old man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns and hoofs.”

When Johnson stayed with the Glatzels to help, he began hearing noises from the attic himself. The Glatzels consequently called paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren in desperation when David began hissing, seizing, and speaking in odd voices. The Warrens concluded that David was possessed by a demon, even though various psychiatrists diagnosed him with a learning disability.

The Terrifying True Story Behind The Demonic Possessions And Grisly Murder In 'The Conjuring 3' (2)

Bettmann Archive/Getty ImagesJohnson arriving (left) and entering (right) the courthouse in Danbury, Connecticut, on March 19, 1981.

Nevertheless, the family called in the Church. With priests present, the Warrens conducted three exorcisms on David, who allegedly levitated and even predicted that Johnson would kill someone. In October, Johnson allegedly told the demon to “take me on” and leave David in peace.

He claimed in court to have peered into a local well where David said he had first met the demon. Johnson then began falling into trances, growling, and hallucinating — all of which he wouldn’t remember afterward.

Finally on Feb. 16, 1981, the true story behind The Conjuring 3 came to a head. Johnson was meeting with Glatzel at a dog kennel owned by Alan Bono, who was also Johnson’s landlord. Glatzel worked there grooming the dogs and had brought her nine-year-old cousin Mary along that day.

When Bono reportedly grabbed Mary in a drunken rage, Glatzel claimed Johnson flew into a rage himself, growling like an animal, in an effort to get Bono off of her. He wound up fatally stabbing Bono with a five-inch pocket knife in the stomach and chest.

Johnson was arrested two miles away and brought to trial in November. To the bafflement of the courtroom, Johnson claimed he didn’t remember anything from the murder — because he was possessed by a demon at the time.

The True Story Of The Conjuring 3

Both the Arne Johnson case and The Conjuring 3 concluded in the same way: with no proof that demonic possession caused Bono’s murder. Yet Johnson was convicted of first-degree manslaughter on Nov. 24, 1981, and sentenced to 10 to 20 years.

The Terrifying True Story Behind The Demonic Possessions And Grisly Murder In 'The Conjuring 3' (3)

Bettmann/Getty ImagesEd and Lorraine Warren.

In the movies, both Ed and Lorraine Warren are present at the trial as they were in reality. It’s important to note that the Warrens were the basis of the previous two Conjuring films, which was based loosely on their real-life investigations of the so-called Enfield Haunting in England.

While some considered the paranormal couple credible, others believed they were simply con artists.

But if the Warrens are to be believed, then The Conjuring 3 painted over the facts of Johnson’s case in broad strokes. According to Ed Warren, for instance, Arne Johnson wasn’t possessed by Satan, but by 43 different demons. Furthermore, a subplot in the film about an occultist priest who purposefully cursed the Glatzels was wholly fabricated.

A further narrative in the movie that this same priest wanted Johnson to murder somebody before committing suicide in prison was yet another element conjured up by screenwriters. The film also omits key details about Bono and Johnson’s friendship prior to the murder. In the end, the director was interested in more spiritual questions.

“The fun thing about these movies is you’re always playing this fun game of, well, what was true?” Chaves said. “How extraordinary did it get? It’s like my own faith was in question. If you choose to believe him and his story, it really has consequence and weight, because we’re talking about a real victim and a real murder.”

What Happened To Arne Johnson After The “Devil Made Do It” Trial?

Arne Johnson ultimately served five years in prison and earned his high school diploma behind bars. He was 24 years old upon release and married his fiancée, Glatzel. In 1983, a book about his case titled The Devil in Connecticut was printed to such popularity that his brother-in-law, Carl Glatzel, had to leave the state as a result of its spotlight.

While the Warrens stood by their testimonies in Johnson’s trial, Carl Glatzel wound up suing them, claiming they had exploited his family for monetary gain. In 2007, Glatzel confirmed that his brother David had indeed suffered from an illness at the time.

The Terrifying True Story Behind The Demonic Possessions And Grisly Murder In 'The Conjuring 3' (4)

Warner Bros. PicturesThe alleged demonic possession of David Glatzel as depicted in The Conjuring 3.

So was The Conjuring 3 based on a true story? It certainly chronicled the defense’s narrative of a real-life court case. But there are two sides to every story, and The Conjuring 3 was ultimately more about entertainment than truth.

After learning about true story behind The Conjuring 3 and the case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, read about the real Bathsheba Sherman from the first Conjuring. Then, learn about the origins of the demonic Valak from The Nun.

The Terrifying True Story Behind The Demonic Possessions And Grisly Murder In 'The Conjuring 3' (2024)


What is the true story behind the conjuring 3? ›

This time, it's not a haunted house, but the trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson. Johnson murdered his landlord in 1981, but asserted that he was possessed by a demon that came from the exorcism of David Glatzel – the younger brother of Johnson's girlfriend Debbie – that was attended by the Warrens.

What is the real story behind conjuring? ›

The Haunting Legacy of the Harrisville Farmhouse

In 1971, the Perron family moved into a notorious farmhouse in Harrisville, Rhode Island, unaware of its dark history. The house had been home to a series of tragedies, including the infamous acts of Bathsheba Sherman, believed to be a witch.

What actually happened to Arne Johnson? ›

In 1985, Arne Johnson and Debbie Glatzel got married in prison. Arne was released a year later, after having served five years, for good behavior. The pair stayed together until Debbie's death in 2021. But the four Glatzel siblings are scattered and rarely keep in contact.

Who is the killer in the conjuring 3? ›

Arne Cheyenne Johnson stabs and murders his landlord, claiming to be under demonic possession while Ed and Lorraine Warren investigate the case and try to prove his innocence.

How old is the real Annabelle doll? ›

Though not quite as menacing-looking as its movie counterpart, which has been featured in three spin-off "Conjuring" movies, the original doll is much larger than most Raggedy Anne dolls, standing at roughly three feet tall when stood upright. The doll was given as a gift to a Hartford nurse in 1970.

Is Annabelle the doll real? ›

Annabelle is an allegedly-haunted Raggedy Ann doll, housed in the now closed occult museum of the paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Annabelle was moved there after supposed hauntings in 1970. A character based on the doll is one of the antagonists that appear in The Conjuring Universe.

How much of the conjuring 3 is true? ›

Chaves admits that, while the story is based on a real case, court records and interviews, certain liberties were taken to craft the movie version. He talks to USA TODAY about how he balanced telling the story right vs. making an entertaining horror thriller.

How much of The Conjuring is true? ›

The Conjuring claims to be based on true events, but how much of what happened in the movie happened in real life? The Conjuring universe movies are almost entirely fiction. In every case in the movies, he Warrens had only minor connection if any to the described events.

Which horror movie is based on a true story? ›

Poltergeist (1982)

In the 1950s, the curious case of the Hermann house in suburban Long Island became a national media story after the family brought in a paranormal investigator to diagnose unusual activity, such as randomly popping bottles and objects moving on their own.

How long did Arne Johnson go to jail? ›

Johnson served almost five years of a 10-to-20-year sentence for his November 1981 conviction on a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter. He was scheduled for parole on Feb. 26, but was released early because of his good behavior, authorities said.

Where did the conjuring 3 take place in real life? ›

Plot. In 1981, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren document the exorcism of 8-year-old David Glatzel, attended by his family, his sister Debbie, her boyfriend Arne Johnson, and Father Gordon in Brookfield, Connecticut. In an attempt to save the little boy, Arne invites the demon to enter his body instead of David's.

Is the witch from the conjuring 3 real? ›

In the movie, Johnson is really possessed thanks to a witch who put a curse on the Glatzels' house. It also links Johnson's case with that of missing girl Jessica Louise Strong. All of that is an invention of the film–Strong is not a real person, and neither is the enchantress who makes the totems in the movie.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Stevie Stamm

Last Updated:

Views: 6159

Rating: 5 / 5 (60 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Stevie Stamm

Birthday: 1996-06-22

Address: Apt. 419 4200 Sipes Estate, East Delmerview, WY 05617

Phone: +342332224300

Job: Future Advertising Analyst

Hobby: Leather crafting, Puzzles, Leather crafting, scrapbook, Urban exploration, Cabaret, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is Stevie Stamm, I am a colorful, sparkling, splendid, vast, open, hilarious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.