When I read about these cases I try to keep a level of skepticism. Like I said, I wasn’t there and even if I were I can’t be sure that I wouldn’t still be wondering. The country had dug the Amityville Horror. A few years had passed since then and an opportunity was there for the next big ghost story. Something with that “based on actual events” tagline would be especially popular. Enter "The Haunted," a book and subsequent film about the Smurl family’s ordeal following the media coverage of their situation. Other than a few neighbors claiming two women had lived in the house and had practiced Satanism, the Smurl case lacked the sensational background story, but more than made up for it with it’s more bizarre claims and paranormal activity in higher frequency and intensity. I wasn’t there so I have no idea if their claims are true or not. For my purpose that is beside the point. It’s a really good story whether it actually happened or they made it all up. If they did, they deserve the money they made off books and movies. We make authors and screenwriters rich don’t we? I’m going to tell their story as if it really happened only because it’s easier and more entertaining to not insert “supposedly” and “alleged” into every sentence.
The night of their daughter Heather’s catholic confirmation a heavy chandelier mysteriously fell, just missing their daughter Shannon. One night while making love the Smurl’s reported Janet being pulled off the bed while clutching onto the sheets, and Jack laying paralyzed and overtaken by a vile odor. The Smurl’s german shepherd, Simon, wasn’t spared form the oppression, being picked up and thrown several times.
The Warrens’ first tactic was to try and provoke the demon. They played religious music which resulted in a mirror violently shaking and a voice growling. Ed invoked the name of Jesus Christ and was hit by a noxious smell and fell ill for days. He saw a black wispy smoke appear and spell out, “You filthy bastard, get out of this house.” For the time being the Warrens had Rev. Robert McKenna perform two exorcisms and the sprinkling of holy water and prayer seemed to abate the demon. But it was only to be for a short while.
Medium Mary Alice Rinkman came to the house. Her reading corroborated that of Frueh, saying she felt there were 4 spirits in the house; a woman named Abigail, a man named Patrick who had killed his wife and her lover and then been hanged by a mob, another earthbound spirit, and a powerful demon.
The intensity of the activity continued to increase. The demon followed Jack to work and followed the family on a camping trip. After being turned down by the Catholic Church for a sanctioned exorcism they sought media attention in hopes of finding help. They went on a local talk show and told their story, although their faces weren’t shown. It seemed the demon didn’t like this. Immediately upon returning home Janet was picked up and thrown into the wall. Later that night Jack says saw a figure that resembled a pig standing up on two legs and was raped again. Now I’ve been subjective in telling this story up to this point. However, I must pause here. Would the small possibility of making some money off the story entice a man to claim he had been repeatedly raped by a ghost? Or was the activity in this house THAT severe. Are these claims so outrageous that one couldn’t make them up? As I said before, since I wasn’t there I will never know. Now on with the tale.
The media attention seemed to help and eventually the Catholic Church sanctioned the participation of clergy. Father McKenna returned and performed a third exorcism. The activity would die down then pick back up. Frustrated, the family moved to another town. After they left a fourth exorcism was performed and no further activity has been reported by subsequent owners. A film version of The Haunted was released in 1991.
While the scientific world is hesitant and often scoffs at claims of the paranormal, the entertainment industry loves them. “The Conjuring,” a film about Ed and Loraine Warren comes out this July. For any readers who are Walking Dead fans, the film version of the Smurl story stars, Jeffrey DeMunn as Jack Smurl. DeMunn was also Dale Horvath for two seasons on A&E’s The Walking Dead. Janet Smurl is played by Sally Kirkland who appeared on television as Dr. House's mom and as Senator Ruth Martin in The Silence of the Lambs.