Annabelle: The True Story Behind the Film

annabelle true story
There’s nothing quite like a creepy doll in a rocking chair

The Real-Life Couple that Inspired The Conjuring’s Universe

Ed and Lorraine Warren

Ed and Lorraine Warren are probably the best-known names in the field of paranormal investigations.  Actually, they are probably the only known names in the field, and they owe that status to the popular The Conjuring film series. 

The Warren’s founded The New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952.  Their investigations into paranormal activity have resulted in some of the most famous supernatural cases in the world.  A huge number of films have been inspired by the Warren’s, including The Conjuring series. 

With Annabelle 2: Creation set for release in August, there’s no better time to explore the story behind its eponymous demon doll.

The Origins of the Haunted Doll

The real-life Annabelle in a display case at the Warren’s museum

In 1970, a student nurse named Donna was gifted the doll.  It was a classic Raggedy Ann style doll, probably the creepiest on the market at the time.  Pretty soon, Donna noticed something strange.  The doll would wind up in odd places, seemingly moving on its own. 

Shortly after learning to walk, the doll became literate.  Donna began finding handwritten notes on parchment paper scattered throughout the house with messages like “Help Us” on them. 

The final straw was when the doll was found with blood on its hands.  Donna brought in a medium to commune with whatever spirit was possessing the doll. 

The medium found that long ago a girl named Annabelle had been found dead on the land their apartment was built on top of.  Apparently, the girl’s spirit took a liking to the Raggedy Ann doll and inhabited it.  According to the medium, the spirit was harmless.

Believe it or not, it turns out the spirit wasn’t harmless.  Nightmares plagued Donna and her housemates.  One of them was attacked by some invisible entity that left claw marks all over his chest (of course, those wounds magically healed themselves in a matter of minutes). 

Donna finally contacted the Warrens, who agreed that the doll wasn’t inhabited by a spirit, but by a demon.  They doused the doll in holy water and took the doll back to their home, where it remains to this day in a glass display case.  

The Film Takes Some Liberties

So how much is the film Annabelle based on these (and I use this word loosely) facts?  It turns out very little.  The story focuses on a fictional couple that had the Annabelle doll before Donna ever owned it.

The movie draws from the mythology of the real-life story: Annabelle is possessed by a demon, she leaves ominous notes around the house, claw marks inexplicably show up on a character’s arm and disappear just as quickly.  Other than those small elements, the movie is purely fiction.  It introduces a deadly satanic cult into the mix and the doll’s powers go far behind the ability to write and walk. 

In the film, the doll sets fire to a house, can induces hallucinations, and summons female spirits to freak out the protagonist. It’s understandable though.  If the movie was totally faithful to its source material, all we’d get is a doll that can eerily change its position.  

How true is it?

Every ghost story has its naysayers.  In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that your author is in fact a skeptic himself (I hope you can forgive his usage of the third-person).  What it all really comes down to is evidence—and where the paranormal is concerned, that evidence is almost always testimonial. 

The evidence for the existence of a real cursed doll is made up entirely of eyewitness accounts.  As science writer and hardcore skeptic Sharon A. Hill puts it, “we have nothing but Ed [Warren’s] word for this.”  All we will ever have is another person’s word when it comes to the supernatural, at least until supernatural entities finally lose their phobia of being filmed.

Like its predecessor, Annabelle 2: Creation diverges from the Warren’s account of the case.  As you can pretty much gather from the title, it will tell a (purely fictional) origin story of the doll.  It is set to be directed David Sandberg, the mind behind last year’s fantastic Lights Out. 

Annabelle 2: Creation is set to be released on August 11th, 2017.

Annabelle 2: Creation trailer

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Jake Swain has been interested in horror gaming and films since first watching David Lynch's Eraserhead at a far too young and impressionable age
Top 3 Favorite Games:Outlast, SOMA, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
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