Every entry in The Conjuring-verse is ‘based on true events’, however the first horror movie in the hit spooky franchise has one of the most mysterious real-life tales. Directed by James Wan in 2013, The Conjuring tells the story of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren and the hauntings of the Perron family in 1971.
Supposedly the Perron family encountered the spirit of an evil witch named Bathsheba Sherman once they moved into an old farmhouse. However, it turns out that Bathsheba’s real-life history paints a very different story to the one we see in Hollywood.
In The Conjuring, Bathsheba’s character is based on first-hand accounts from the Warrens and Andrea Perron’s recollection of events that befell her family – later recorded in her House of Darkness House of Light trilogy. According to Perron’s novel and the 2013 film, Bathsheba was a witch and devil worshiper. The ghost movie details her backstory, telling the grim history of a woman who cruelly killed an infant before announcing her love for Satan and hanging herself. However, right before she died, she cursed the land that would later become the site of the Perron’s home.
But, despite the Warren’s, Perron’s, and the film’s account, there is no evidence that Bathsheba Sherman – who was a real woman and not some urban legend – ever engaged in devil worship. There is also no evidence of the woman killing children at all, and as it turns out, even the claim that she was accused of witchcraft is dubious.
The real Bathsheba Sherman died in 1885 as an old woman, not by hanging as the movie suggests. She was a member of the First Baptist Church, living a typical life for a New Englander; there was no general satanic activity ever recorded.
Mr McKeachern, who Perron claimed provided first-hand knowledge of Bathsheba’s evil ways that we hear about in the 2013 flick, was shown to be unreliable, as he was born ten years after Bathsheba’s death (if he even existed in the first place).
In an interview with Kenny Biddle for The Sceptical Inquirer, historian Kent Spottswood stated that after extensive research into The Conjuring: “No one knows of a Bathsheba who did bad things, or of a McKeachern (or McKitchen) who had a leg up on local lore”. Furthermore, Biddle, a paranormal investigator himself, said, “I’ve also searched extensively over the past several months without finding a shred of evidence that anyone by the name of Bathsheba did anything unusual, evil, or criminal.”
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This heavily extends to the claims of child abuse in Bathsheba’s portrayal in The Conjuring. Any crimes Bathsheba would have committed would have been documented in the Burrillville town records.
However, as you can probably guess, there are none. According to The Sceptical Inquirer, Perron couldn’t clarify her sources of Bathsheba’s backstory that we have seen in her trilogy and later in Hollywood either. So yeah, close to everything we have seen on the silver screen regarding her “nefarious character” is actually fictional.
Now we aren’t saying that the hauntings themselves that the Perron family or the Warrens may have experienced aren’t real – that’s a whole can of worms that we here at The Digital Fix aren’t opening today.
You can’t skip over the fact that both Warren and Perron recount something supernatural happening in the ’70s. In 2013 Perron told USA Today: “Whoever the spirit was, she perceived herself to be mistress of the house, and she resented the competition my mother posed for that position. ”
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Perron also revealed how she witnessed a “possession” take place. “My mother began to speak a language not of this world in a voice not her own. Her chair levitated, and she was thrown across the room.” However, as the evidence above proves, this spectre that they supposedly encountered probably wasn’t a witch obsessed with killing children called Bathsheba, as we see in Wan’s thriller movie.
It is time to tell the real true story of this falsely accused woman. Since The Conjuring’s release, the real-life grave of Bathsheba has been tampered with continuously. In 2016 The Burrillville Historical and Preservation Society newsletter revealed that her grave was vandalised and broken into pieces; more cases of disruption at the plot have also been recorded since.
While The Conjuring is fun to lean into, Hollywood’s lack of facts in a movie supposedly based on true events shouldn’t be the cause for disturbing Bathsheba Sherman’s peace. As Shannon Bradley Byers says in her book ‘Paranormal Fakelore, Nevermore: Real Histories of Haunted Locations’:
“Bathsheba Sherman has no documented history of hurting anyone in her life. She was a member of a Baptist church, she mourned the loss of three small children, and she raised her only living child as best as she could. Her final gift was a trust to provide for her grandson in her will.”