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In the late 1980s, one of the most horrific hauntings ever reported was investigated by the seasoned paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The haunting allegedly plagued the entire Snedeker family, who lived in Southington, Connecticut, for years. It is believed that the entities within their home routinely abused them in abominable ways and made their lives a living hell.
The alleged narrative of the Snedeker family haunting
In 1986, Carmen and Al Snedeker were both driving long distances from their home in northern New York to get medical treatment for Carmen’s son Phillip, who suffered with Hodgkin’s disease. The commute was making their situation unbearable, and thus they decided to move somewhere closer to the medical centre. This is when they found an apartment, one of two in a large colonial house, available to rent at an affordable price.
The house in Connecticut was spacious enough for them to move in with their children and nieces. They just needed to convert the basement into two rooms for their children. It was during this conversion that Al discovered mortuary equipment in the basement, which included coffin handles, a chain-and-pulley casket lift, and a blood drainage pit. It turned out that the house had served as a funeral home for many decades previously.
The Snedekers did not think too much of their home’s past. Whilst it may have been somewhat morbid, they decided to continue with the conversion of the basement where dead bodies would have constantly passed through, for their two sons to sleep in.
From the very first night of sleeping there, Phillip complained of hearing strange voices and anomalous sounds. He even described seeing shadow figures, and a man with a pin-striped suit with white hair, skulking in the dark, staring at him as he slept. Phillip supposedly became so terrified of his room that he begged to be allowed to stay at the hospital. 1
Despite his insistence that what he was experiencing was true, Philip’s parents dismissed his claims, suspecting hallucinations as a side effect of the cobalt treatment he was receiving for his illness.
After moving into the basement, Phillip’s personality is said to have changed drastically. His interests and tastes altered – he started to wear leather and developed a strong interest in the occult. It was when Philip started to get violent that the Snedekers made the decision to send him away. At one point he is known to have broken in to their neighbours’ house to steal a gun in order to harm his step-father, Al. On another occasion, it is alleged that he assaulted his female cousin. 2
The Snedekers claim to be haunted by evil entities
It is claimed that once Philip was out of the house, the dark forces residing within the walls started to turn their attention towards the rest of the family.
The other children began to report seeing ghosts, hearing footsteps and voices. Carmen reported once having mopped the floor, only to see the water turn blood red in front of her eyes. The couple’s bed was said to have vibrated inexplicably. During a television interview, Carmen and Al described how the bed often vibrated with a sort of “heartbeat”. They alleged that numerous visitors to their home had felt these unearthly vibrations. As well as this, the electrical sockets and light bulbs were described as having an unnatural glow – even when the bulbs were removed from their sockets. Foul odours of rotten meat and human feces were also claimed to have plagued the household. 3
The haunting continued for years. As peculiar as these incidents were, the situation was not considered too serious until the incidents started to escalate – and become violent.
Carmen is reported by The Huffington Post as having described a particularly terrifying incident. “The shower curtain very quickly wrapped around me, and I couldn’t push away.” According to the article, her only thought was that “this thing” was trying to “kill” her. 4
Other incidents were reported as being equally heinous. Their niece claimed to have felt a disembodied hand touch her in a sexual manner. She even alleged that an unearthly presence had raped her. Speaking about these abhorrent attacks, Carmen described how the entity “laughed a hideous laugh when it went above her shirt and out the window.” 5
Sexual assault was something which other members of the family claimed to have experienced as well.
Carmen and Al both reported having been disturbed on many nights by an unearthly atmosphere in their bed. They described having heard 1930s’ ambient mood music playing in the background, which occasionally preceded an assault upon one or both of them. The couple asserted that they had both been raped multiple times by a dark entity. Shockingly, Carmen even stated on television that once, whilst running away from their home down the road, her niece was hideously abused the entire way. 6
“One night I ran down the street with Kelly, being sodomised the whole way.” – Carmen Snedeker
When asked during an interview why they did not leave the house after these terrible incidents, Carmen explained how she believed this would make no difference. “Everywhere we went, it followed us.” 7
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It was at this point that Ed and Lorraine Warren, the famous demonologist and clairvoyant, became involved in the case. The Warrens, along other investigators, spent a total of nine weeks at the Snedekers’ home. When describing what they encountered at the location, the Warrens rated the possessing entity as a nine on a scale of one to ten. They concluded “the house was infested with demons”.8
After much alleged documentation and investigation, the Warrens claimed that they arranged for the house to be exorcised. 9
After the house was cleansed, the Snedekers moved out to another house, and afterwards were involved in the writing of a book, as well as being featured in documentaries, television shows and being the inspiration for a movie.
This is their official narrative. However, when the case is examined in detail, it quickly becomes clear that the Snedekers’ story is muddled and at times extremely confusing. Even the names of those involved, such as those of the couple’s nieces, cannot be ascertained with any certainty. No detail is reported with consistency, except for Philip’s illness.
Unravelling the case of the Snedeker family
There is no disputing that the Snedeker’s wished to move to Southington to be closer to the hospital for Phillip’s treatment. There is, however, much disagreement concerning whether or not they knew the house they decided to rent had previously been a funeral home.
It was the disturbing discovery that they were living in an old funeral home that can be said to be the moment that the Snedeker family’s fortunes changed for the worse. However, Darrel Kern, the owner of the house, has said that Carmen and Al were fully aware of the house’s history before they moved in. Some have even claimed that there was a sign, engraved “Hallahan Funeral Home”, beside the entrance when they viewed the house. The Snedekers and others have disputed this by saying that the sign had been covered with plywood, and thus concealed from view. Whatever the truth, that such a small detail has been so hotly disputed helps give an idea of the amount of muddling involved in this case.
Landlord and neighbours dispute the Snedekers’ claims
For many at the time, the truth about the Snedekers was obvious: the family had invented the whole story. The owner of the house, Kern, flatly stated that the entire case was a hoax. When interviewed by a local newspaper, he made his thoughts very clear.
“It’s a fraud. It’s a joke. It’s a hoax. It’s Halloween.” – Darrel Kern
Kern stated that the paranormal activity seemed to have conveniently escalated around the time the Snedekers started to get behind on their rent, and that they moved out before eviction proceedings were complete.10
The landlord was not the only one to have voiced doubts as to the genuineness of the case. One of the Snedekers’ neighbours, Yvonne, stated on television that there was never a problem until they got behind on the rent. 11
Another neighbour, Katherine Altemus, stated in an interview that it was her opinion that the Snedekers “had this planned right from when they moved in.” 12
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Such doubt was shared by the family’s upstairs neighbour, whom they shared the duplex with. This neighbour, Sandy, had not seen or heard anything supernatural in the building13. Sandy had also been an employee of the real estate agency that the family had employed to find their new home at the time. As far as she was concerned, Carmen and Al “were totally made aware that […] this was a funeral home.” She also corroborated the fact that the Snedekers were falling behind on the rent. When asked by the news reporter what their motive could have been for potentially inventing such a hideous narrative, Sandy flatly said, “money.”
Indeed, Sandy described a very different story for the television camera. According to her, it all began when Carmen told her she was having nightmares. Sandy had suggested to her that she take some sleeping pills. Carmen allegedly responded by saying, “No, it is my father coming to haunt me. I am calling the Warrens.” 14
Ed and Lorraine Warren were by that time firmly established as household names, as a result of their connection to the Amityville haunting and other famous paranormal cases.
RELATED: AMITYVILLE: THE “TRUE” STORY BEHIND THE FICTION
For all of these accusations, it is inappropriate to dismiss the Snedekers’ claims on the sole basis of external observations. What happens behind closed doors is, after all, out of sight of the outside world. Surely, therefore, it was the Snedekers who were best placed to report on what was happening inside their home?
Ray Garton, author of the Snedekers’ book, undermines their claims
According to Ray Garton, the author who was commissioned by the Warrens to document the Snedekers’ experiences for a book titled In a Dark Place, trying to extract a consistent narrative from the family was impossible.
In the years since the explosion of interest in the case, Garton has been very vocal in expressing the frustration he experienced when working with the Snedekers. “The family involved, which was going through some serious problems like alcoholism and drug addiction, could not keep their story straight,” he is quoted as having said in 2009.15
“I became very frustrated; it’s hard writing a non-fiction book when all the people involved are telling you different stories.” – Ray Garton
As Garton “gathered all the necessary information for the book”, he “found that the accounts of the individual Snedekers didn’t quite mesh.” According to Garton, it was as though they were incapable of keeping their stories straight. 16
Such a statement from someone tasked with recording the Snedekers’ experiences, casts serious doubt upon their alleged narrative.
And certainly, when one analyses the various statements made by the Snedekers, inconsistencies are easy to spot.
Inconsistencies in the Snedekers’ claims
When asked why they did not leave the house earlier, Carmen’s answer changed depending upon who was asking the question. On one occasion, she explained that the happenings would follow them, making moving a pointless task. On another occasion, however, she claimed that she was “unaware” of what was happening in the house, stating that “it was the kids being tormented”, and not her. 17
Obviously, this statement runs in complete contrast to her detailed and sordid revelations about the physical and sexual abuse she personally endured at the property – claims which she announced on television.18
That Carmen ever experienced such terrible abuse has been questioned by many, including one of her neighbours, Joan Mirabelle. She described how she often saw the family outside their house in the middle of the night, saying that they could not go back in. Yet, far from being terrified, as one would expect after having supposedly experienced the atrocities which they claimed, the family seemed perfectly happy.19.
“They never seemed to be afraid,” Mirabelle stated. “They were always out there laughing and joking.” – Joan Mirabelle
The role of Carmen’s son, Philip, in the haunting can also be said to undermine some of the family’s claims. In Garton’s book, it is said that Philip, dubbed Steven in the text, was caught fondling his cousins and was questioned by police afterwards. This led to Philip admitting that this was not the first time he had acted inappropriately with his female relatives. According to the book, Philip admitted to having performed such heinous acts habitually, in secret at night, without being caught, and that he even once attempted, unsuccessfully, to sleep with his cousin. After this shocking admission, Phillip was taken to a juvenile detention centre where a psychiatrist diagnosed him as schizophrenic.20
That Philip admitted to having committed obscenities similar to those attributed to the demonic entities said to reside in the family’s home is hard to ignore. It could be said that, rather than being attacked by unseen, supernatural creatures, the family were instead being abused by Philip, and that their fantastical claims were invented as a form of psychological coping mechanism.
Ed and Lorraine Warren and the Snedeker family
Ed and Lorraine Warren’s involvement in the Snedeker case has been criticised.
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The couple claimed to have arranged for an exorcism to be performed at the house, but have never provided any substantiating evidence to prove this. When questioned on television at the time, Ed referred to the priest who conducted the exorcism as a “Father A.”, who had supposedly appeared on television before. When pressed to give more detail, Ed responded with disproportionate aggression by saying, “Father A. that’s the name I give you. I don’t have to give you anything.”21
Ed went on to state that evidence of the priests being there could be proven by “official records from the chancellery.” 22Yet, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, which covers the area where the Snedekers lived, reported that no officially sanctioned exorcism rite had taken place there23.The Warrens claims could not be substantiated.
Throughout the televised interview in which the Warrens appeared alongside Carmen and Al Snedeker, Ed did not engage in the debate. Instead, he can be seen dogmatically and aggressively enforcing his views. Ed even accuses one of the neighbours of being “paid off by the landlord” to dispute the Snedekers’ claims. When Joe Nickell, a sceptical investigator, appeared on the set of the television show, Ed also berated him aggressively and constantly talked over him.24
“What are you going to do about it?” – Ed Warren when Nickell says he should be careful who he calls a liar.
Afterwards, Nickell even claimed that “Ed made veiled threatening asides to me and, offstage, swore like a sailor.” 25
Ed Warren’s other on-screen appearances connected with the case can be said to do little to help alleviate the image of him being arrogant and short-tempered.
In another interview, when questioned by reporters about the priest who supposedly conducted an exorcism at the property, Ed once again became hostile, shouting and gesticulating aggressively.
“This is baloney,” he said on camera, “come on, let’s get out of here.” After this, he started to walk off camera. As he walked away, the reporter asked him to stay and answer some more questions, for the sake of improving his credibility. Ed responded by simply saying, “I don’t care about credibility, pal.” 26
Ed Warren’s lack of interest in credibility in connection with this case is something which the author Ray Garton has confirmed. When interviewed for Horror Bound Magazine, Garton described how he once approached Warren with concerns about the inconsistencies with the Snedekers’ testimonies. Warren, Garton has claimed, responded by saying, “Oh, they’re crazy […] All the people who come to us are crazy. You think sane people would come to us?” After condemning the Snedekers, Warren supposedly told Garton to “just use what works” from their testimonies, and then “make the rest up.” 27
“Just make it up and make it scary.” – Ed Warren to Ray Garton
The case’s connection to fiction can also arguably be seen in its similarity to the popular 1982 horror movie The Entity. In this film, the female protagonist is repeatedly assaulted by an invisible, supernatural entity. In an interview, one of the nieces, called Tammy by the interviewer, draws parallels between the movie and what she experienced. According to the reporter, the character in the film is “attacked almost identically to the description by Carmen of her own experiences”. Both Carmen and her niece are described as having “affection” for The Entity film in the interview. Could it be that this affection transformed into inspiration for an “entity” of their own creation? 28
Clearly, there is a lot of evidence available to condemn the Snedeker case – although not enough to entirely dismiss it as a complete fabrication.
After all, it must be considered what kind of person would construct such abhorrent lies about their family – their children – being abused in such a manner? Such a false narrative, could have wide and damaging psychological repercussions, especially on children. The degree of callousness and sadism required would be extraordinary. Were Carmen and Al Snedeker capable of such cruel behaviour?
Support for the Snedekers’ claims of haunting
Asides from this concern, neighbours have reported seeing the Snedekers outside their home in the middle of the night. Joan Mirabelle even claimed to have seen a mysterious green glow coming from one of their windows, as well as allegeding to have been stung by a mysterious force when she visited the family’s house.
“I don’t believe they had made the whole thing up,” Mirabelle told a local newspaper. She was, however, suspicious of some of Carmen Snedeker’s claims. Commenting on the growing media storm connected to the case, Mirabelle described how “everytime I have seen her [Carmen] on TV, the story became more and more involved and it just got bigger.”29.
Nancy Boucher, Al Snedeker’s sister, also corroborated having experienced paranormal activity in the family’s house. 30
John Zaffis and the Snedeker haunting
Another willing to stake their reputation on the Snedekers’ claims being true is John Zaffis, the paranormal researcher and nephew of Ed and Lorraine Warren who worked with them during their nine weeks at the property.
He has described experiencing dark happenings at the house. One particular incident, he has stated, happened whilst he was studying some notes on the dining room table. “The room grew bitterly cold,” Zaffis is reported as having said. “I could sense a presence around me.”
Supposedly, he attempted, in vain, to get somebody to wake up in the living room, when, all of a sudden, he looked up the stairs and “saw an apparition starting to form.” He has described smelling a “disgusting odour, so foul” that it restricted his ability to breathe. As the apparition manifest, he claimed he “could hear a noise that sounded like thousands of flapping wings coming from behind it.” This hideous being supposedly descended the stairs towards him. As it approached, it is alleged to have spoken to Zaffis.
“Do you know what they did to us, do you know?”
The experience terrified the Warrens’ nephew to such an extent that he would not return to the house for several days. Some time afterwards, when questioned about the case, he is reported to have stated that, “Compared to that house, the other cases I had been involved with were like dealing with Casper the Friendly Ghost.”31
And, if the Warrens are to be believed, the investigation uncovered some truly terrible details. Through Lorraine’s so-called mediumistic abilities, they allegedly discovered that the morticians who had previously worked in the funeral home had committed vile acts on the dead, and that these unnatural actions had drawn demonic entities into the property. 32
Whilst an official exorcism has not been confirmed to have ever taken place at the property, there have been priests involved in the case. One has stated that they “felt a strange pressure upon entering the house.” 33
Sadly, as this case relies entirely on testimonial evidence, it is extremely difficult to form a conclusion either way. Without official documentation or physical evidence, the claims of the Snedekers, the Warrens and all those who stand against them can be disputed by both believers and sceptics.
It is for this reason that some sort of middle ground is often argued for: that the Snedekers’ did indeed experience some form of paranormal activity in the house, but then exaggerated it for publicity and financial gain, most obviously through the involvement of the controversial figures of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
With all of the inconsistencies, muddled reportage and severe lack of evidence, it is very difficult to believe the story in its full, presented form.
Whatever the truth regarding the Snedekers’ alleged haunting, no one has reported any paranormal activity in the house since.
- In a Dark Place, by Ray Garton (ed. 2014)
- The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren, by Gerard Brittle
- Ghost Hunters: True Stories from the World’s Most Famous Demonologists, by Ed Warren and Robert David Chase (ed. 2014)
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