With the next installment in the ‘Conjuring’ universe, ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It,’ expected to be released on June 04, 2021, we at Horrorfacts thought we would investigate the real life Warren case file that inspired this film.
‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It’ will focus on the real-life murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson and the bizarre events that were part of this controversial murder case.
What made this case so unusual was that it was the first time in U.S. history that the defense claimed that his client was possessed by the devil at the time of the murder and therefore not criminally responsible for his actions.
The Murder of Alan Bono
On February 16, 1981, Arne called in sick to his job at Wright Tree Service claiming that he had a sore throat.
On this particular day, Arne’s girlfriend, Debbie Glatzel, who worked as a dog groomer at Brookfield Boarding Kennels, had a client bring in an “ugly black poodle.” Eager to see the dog, Arne’s younger sisters, Wanda and Janice Johnson, along with their cousin Mary went down to the shop to check it out. Arne decided to join them.
Debbie’s new manager at the boarding kennels, Alan Bono, had recently come to town to run the business owned by his sister. He had been running the kennels for about six months now but Debbie knew very little about him.
That afternoon, Bono invited the group out to lunch at the Mug ‘N’ Munch, a local bar in Brookfield. At lunch, Bono ordered wine for the table. Arne and Debbie had a small amount while Bono proceeded to get intoxicated.
After lunch, Bono invited everyone back to the kennels. After a while, Debbie took the girls out to get pizza, telling them that they needed to hurry. She could sense that there was tension in the air between her boss and boyfriend.
When they got back, Bono did not want the party to end and invited everyone up to his apartment over the kennels. They went upstairs, but soon it became clear that Bono was starting to become belligerent. He started to aggressively punch his fist into his palm over and over again.
Debbie instructed the lot of them to vacate the apartment, hoping to prevent the situation from escalating. Arne headed downstairs ahead of the group and walked over to the car. While the others were attempting to follow, Bono grabbed Mary’s arm and refused to let her go.
Hearing the commotion, Arne returned and told Bono to, “Let her go.” Bono released the girl and she ran for the car. Debbie attempted to deescalate the situation by standing in between the two men. Wanda, at this point, grabbed hold of her brother and desperately attempted to pull him away. Wanda would later state to police that “he was like a stone. I couldn’t budge him.”
Wanda then heard audible growling coming from her brother. Arne withdrew a five-inch pocket-knife and proceeded to stab Bono with it. Arne then turned and started to walk into the woods, staring straight ahead in a daze as he walked.
Bono, possibly in shock, repeated the gesture of punching his fist into his palm a couple times before finally falling face down onto the ground. Bono had sustained five wounds, mostly to his chest, including one that started at his stomach and extended to the base of his heart.
Arne was eventually located two miles away from the kennels, having walked the entire distance. He was taken into police custody and charged with the first recorded murder in the history of Brookfield, Connecticut.
Arne Cheyenne Johnson would, of course, plead his innocence, after all the Devil made him do it.
A Deal With the Devil
The events of this strange case started back in the summer of 1980, when Arne and Debbie were planning to move into a rental property located deep in the woods on Old Hawleysville Road just outside Brookfield, Connecticut, not far from where Debbie’s family lived.
Arne and Debbie, along with Debbie’s eleven-year-old brother David, arrived at the home to begin cleaning it before they moved in their belongings.
In the master bedroom, they discovered a large waterbed that belonged to the previous tenant. Upon finding the bed, Arne and Debbie took turns lying on it, laughing at how strange it felt. David, however, was not interested in the bed and refused to lie on it.
A short time later, David was cleaning alone in the bedroom when, without warning, he was shoved onto the bed by what appeared to be an “old man” in a tattered plaid shirt and jeans. He shouted at David to “beware” before completely vanishing in front of his eyes. David got up and ran out of the house, past Arne and Debbie, without saying a word.
When Debbie went to go see what was wrong, he told her about the “old man” who had pushed him. Debbie was reluctant to believe her brother and thought he was just trying to get out of cleaning after he told her that he couldn’t step foot back inside the house.
Debbie, who was eager to return to work, decided to leave David outside, figuring he would grow tired of whatever game he was playing and come back inside. Debbie’s theory would prove to be wrong as David proved to be true to his word and stayed outside all day.
That night, the three of them returned to Debbie’s parents’ house, where Arne and Debbie had been staying. That night, David told Arne, Debbie, and his mother, Judy Glatzel, that the “old man” had visited him once more. Unlike their first encounter, the man looked more demonic with skin that appeared burnt and black. David claimed that the “old man” told him that if they went back to the house, he would “hurt them.”
David also told the group that he was getting visions of a dog scratching at the front door of their new home. At the time, he didn’t know what they meant or why he was seeing them.
When Arne and Debbie returned to the home the next day, they found the front door covered in scratches. David had demonstrated that he possessed the ability of precognition, a sign often associated with demonic possession.
This was enough for Arne and Debbie to change their minds about moving into the home. They were in the process of packing up their belongings when Arne’s mom arrived. She had just given up her apartment, intending to move into the house with Arne and Debbie.
Angered by their decision, she demanded the keys to the house. She wasn’t going to let a ghost story scare her away despite the couple’s protests.
Unable to convince his mother to reconsider her decision, Arne and Debbie returned to Debbie’s parents’ house where a troubled David was once again seeing the “old man.” In these new visions, he claimed that he had vacated the rental house and was now “floating over the treetops” towards Debbie’s parents’ house. David stated that the “old man” was coming here for him and that he intended to “hurt him.”
The next day David revealed that the “old man” had made his way into the home and was now residing in the attic. Not long after this reveal, the family heard what sounded like movement in the attic. Arne decided to go up and investigate but found nothing out of place or anything to suggest that anybody had been up there.
Later that same day, David began acting hysterical, claiming that the “old man” had told him he wanted his “soul” and would not leave David until he got what he came for.
In front of his family’s eyes, David started screaming and reacting as if he was being beaten and kicked. He screamed out in pain as his invisible attacker continued to assault him while his family watched on helplessly. Marks and bruises appeared on David’s skin where he was struck, but as quickly as the bruises appeared, they would also vanish, leaving no physical evidence of his assault.
The family decided that they needed help and turned to a local priest for help; they were convinced that the matter involved an evil spirit that had somehow latched onto David.
The priest attended the home and attempted to bless the house and David, hoping it would free him from whatever evil had targeted him. The attempt was in vain, however, as the “old man” became angered by the priest’s presence and retaliated by physically choking David. The family watched in horror as David gasped for breath and red marks formed around his neck in the shape of human hands.
The priest could tell that the matter was far greater than anything he could handle and decided to reach out to Ed and Lorraine Warren. He explained the situation over the phone and that he believed the “old man” to be an evil spirit that had attached itself to the boy. He told the Warrens that the matter was an emergency and that he feared for the boy’s immediate safety. The Warrens, who resided in Monroe, Connecticut, less than half an hour away from the Glatzel’s family home, wasted no time and decided to investigate the case that night.
Upon arriving at the home, Ed accidentally tripped climbing the stairs to the front door, out of sight of any of the Glatzel family. When the Warrens entered the home, they found David doodling. Lorraine stated that, when he lifted his head to look at them, he was no longer David. Instead, there was now a “creature in his body.” Despite no one having witnessed Ed’s stumble when he came up the stairs, the first thing David said to Ed was, “You tripped coming up the stairs tonight.” When Ed asked David how he could have possibly known that, he replied by stating that the “beast” had told him. The “beast” was what David and the rest of the Glatzel family now referred to the “old man” as, since David now reported that he had gone from looking like a human in tattered clothes to something that now resembled a hideous, black creature.
Ed began asking David what abilities the “beast” possessed. He responded by stating that he could “throw him out the window” at that very moment. When Ed challenged the “beast” to display these powers, nothing happened. David informed him that the “beast” was “laughing” at him, as he felt he didn’t need to prove anything. Ed once again called his bluff and stated that he didn’t throw him out the window because he couldn’t actually do it. At that moment, the items on the table began to rattle and, soon, every item in the kitchen started to shake by an unseen force. Ed had managed to anger the “beast” and it was now demonstrating that it possessed enough power to move every item in the kitchen. During Ed’s conversation with David, Lorraine observed a large, black mass that appeared to hang over David, telling her that an evil presence had surrounded the young boy.
Convinced that the “beast” was more than a ghost or evil spirit, the Warrens told the family that they would present David’s case to the church in the hopes of arranging an exorcism. The Warrens revealed that they believed the “beast” to be a demonic presence that was attempting to take over David’s body.
That same night, after the Warrens left, David was once again viciously attacked by an unseen assailant. Just as before, his body reacted as if someone was kicking and beating him. The invisible hands also reappeared around his neck as he struggled for air.
Arne, who was forced to watch and helpless to do anything to help David, shouted at the “beast” to leave the boy alone and to “pick on me instead.” Unbeknownst to Arne, he had just sealed his fate and the fate of Alan Bono at that moment. Arne’s taunt would, however, go unpunished for the moment as the attacker continued its assault on David. These attacks would continue to become a regular occurrence.
A few nights after Arne had challenged the “beast,” he had to leave to run some errands. When he started his car, the engine started to race for no discernible reason. A dark figure then appeared standing in front of the vehicle: a figure that resembled the description David had given of the “beast.” Now, someone besides David was seeing physical proof of its existence for the first time. The dark figure lifted its hand and pointed at a nearby tree directly in the vehicle’s path. The car, which had refused to move up to this moment, suddenly took off and collided with the tree the figure had pointed out. The car sustained damage, but thankfully Arne was unharmed in the ordeal.
The next day Arne and Debbie went to the priest they had first consulted and told him about what had happened. Arne also shared with him that he had provoked the “beast” and told it to go after him instead. The priest informed Arne that he had made a critical error and that the “beast” was most likely exacting revenge for his taunts.
Arne was given a blessed crucifix and was advised to wear it at all times. He was told that the necklace would serve as some protection against the “beast.” When they returned home, David was sitting on the couch. He looked at the crucifix hanging around Arne’s neck and told the pair that he knew where they had been. He then let out a laugh and told Arne in a guttural voice that the cross was not going to protect him from what was coming. David then clawed at the necklace and, to the bewilderment of the family, managed to fling it off Arne’s neck and send it sailing across the room without ever actually making physical contact with it.
Debbie picked up the crucifix and flashed it in front of David’s face. He initially reacted to the object with a snarl, but soon his features relaxed as whatever had been controlling David slowly faded away. When he regained complete control, David informed his sister and Arne that the “beast” had been temporarily sent away, but that he would soon find his way back to the house. He told them that the “beast” lived in an old well below the rental home and that was where he had been sent.
Fearing for his mother’s safety, Arne, along with Debbie, drove to the house to warn his mother to vacate the premises. When they arrived, they were shocked to discover that the house was completely empty. There was no sign of his mother or any of her belongings. She must have packed up and left without telling anybody.
Debbie continued to search the home while Arne went in search of the well. He wandered through the woods behind the house before he stumbled across an old abandoned well hidden in the brush. Arne stated that he could tell at that moment that this is how the creature had entered their world. He lifted his head and noticed that the dark figure was standing only a couple of feet away from him. Arne peered into its coal-black eyes and found himself unable to tear himself away from its gaze. At that moment, he lost all sense of reality.
Debbie, who had searched every room of the house by now, waited anxiously for Arne to return. When he finally did return, he appeared void of any humanity. She called out to him but he didn’t answer. He just lumbered over to her like someone in a trance. Debbie screamed out his name, but again he didn’t answer. As he got closer, Debbie could see that his eyes appeared fixated on her. She reached out and struck him across the face as he got within arm’s reach. The slap awoke something inside Arne and he appeared to snap back to reality. In a confused state, he confessed to Debbie that the last thing he remembered was staring into the creature’s black eyes; he had no memory of how he got to the house or what just transpired. As we know, this wouldn’t be the only time Arne would fall under the “beast’s” influence.
After they returned to Debbie’s parents’ house, Arne went to check on David. As he was about to enter his bedroom, David attempted to stab Arne with a kitchen knife. Arne was able to grab hold of David’s arm before he managed to plunge the knife into his chest. This event would foreshadow the method in which Arne would kill Alan Bono, as it’s reported that David told him at this moment he would take a man’s life with a knife himself. This was the second time that David displayed precognitive abilities.
After this incident, David’s condition only appeared to worsen. The family soon found themselves having to take turns watching him twenty-four hours a day. During this time, he thrashed and kicked as invisible attackers continued to plague him. Like the incident with Arne, David would lash out and attack members of the family during this time. He also reported that the “beast” had called upon forty-two other demons to assist him in David’s torment, all of whom now appeared to reside inside David’s body. He would also quote scripture and passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost, things that David had no previous knowledge of.
During this time, the Glatzel family claimed that objects around their home, including plates, chairs, and books, would begin to levitate. They also stated that, on at least two occasions, David himself levitated off the bed. In one instance, a small toy dinosaur that belonged to David walked around the room on its own despite being incapable of movement.
Judy Glatzel claimed that a “green-scaled hand” would rise out of the floor and attack her. She stated that this happened on numerous occasions. Debbie also made the same claim during this time. Debbie also reported that she, too, eventually saw the “beast,” describing a face with “jagged teeth, coal-black eyes, horns and pointed ears.”
This cycle would continue until, finally, five weeks after the possession began, the Warrens were able to convince the church to hold a minor exorcism.
Two priests, along with the Warrens, held a minor exorcism with David while he screamed, growled, and shouted obscenities at the two priests performing the exorcism.
At one point, he physically lashed out and scratched one of the priests across the face. He was quickly restrained by Ed and the other priest as the exorcism continued. Later, David collapsed, and it was determined that he had stopped breathing. The group was able to revive the young boy and the exorcism proceeded.
Hours into the minor exorcism, the group received their first bit of good news: they had managed to drive one of the lesser demons out of David’s body. The bad news, though, was that forty-one other demons and the beast still remained. Without a proper exorcism, it seemed unlikely they would be able to free the boy from all the demons that resided in his body.
Just as they planned to resume the battle, David unexpectedly collapsed in his chair. When he came to seconds later, he showed no show of any demonic presence. The demons who had taken up residence inside him had, without an apparent reason, vacated his body.
It wouldn’t be until the fateful night of February 16, 1981 that they would find out where the “beast” had vanished to. He had given up control of David’s body and had taken Arne up on his taunts, choosing to take up residence in Arne’s body. Here, it would slowly turn the screw before causing Arne to violently lash out and kill Alan Bono. It appeared the “beast” had finally won, as it managed to claim two souls that fateful day.
The Events That Followed
Despite the Warrens’ claims that the defendant was possessed at the time of the offence and Arne’s lawyer, Martin MInnella, attempting to subpoena the priests who performed the minor exorcism on David, the defense would later have to change its plea to self defense after the presiding judge on the case, Robert Callahan, rejected the idea of demonic possession. He ruled that demonic possession could not be scientifically proven in the court and, as a result, the Warrens’ testimony was deemed inadmissible.
In the end, Arne Cheyenne Johnson would be found guilty of the murder of Alan Bono and he would be sentenced to ten – twenty years in prison. He would only serve five years of his sentence before being released from custody.
It’s unknown how the movie will actually play out, as most films in the ‘Conjuring’ universe tend to change the outcome of the story and hype up the involvement of the Warrens in the case.
The best example of this was in ‘The Conjuring 2’ which saw Ed and Lorraine Warren ultimately save the Hodgson family and Janet from the demon, Valak, and vanquish it back to hell. In reality, the Warrens showed up at the Enfield home and only stayed for about a day before ultimately leaving, a big difference from what was portrayed on screen.
It’s unclear what story this next installment in the ‘Conjuring’ universe plans to tell, but at least you now know what actually happened, and you also hopefully learned a valuable lesson: don’t ever tempt the devil because he might just take you up on your offer.