One of the decade's most popular horror films was The Conjuring (2013), which tells the story of the Perron family and their encounter with the malevolent spirits haunting their old Rhode Island farm house. The film is based on true events - the producers based the script on the real-life paranormal investigation carried out by ghost-hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren.
|Bathsheba Sherman from The Conjuring (2013)|
Obviously I like weird legends, but I also like to know the truth behind them. Did Bathsheba Sherman really commit the crimes The Conjuring attributes to her? Suicide. Devil-worship. Infanticide. Those are some serious charges to level against a 19th-century farm woman.
My friend Sam Baltrusis discusses the hauntings at the Perron house (and many others) in his new book Mass Murders: Bloodstained Crime Scenes Haunting The Bay State. The book is about haunted sites in Massachusetts, and the Perron's property in Burrillville straddled the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border. Baltrusis interviewed Andrea Perron, who lived in the house when she was a child, about Bathsheba Sherman and the stories surrounding her:
According to Perron, the alleged murderess was a far cry from the blood-spewing villain that was portrayed on the silver screen. In fact, Perron believes that Sherman was targeted by her nineteenth-century community and the witch hunt continues in the afterlife...
“There’s nothing recorded that substantiates the idea that she practiced witchcraft,” Perron said. “If she did, it would have been a Salem-style death. As we saw with the innocent people who were hanged in 1692, witch was a dangerous word to say..."
There’s no way that she secretly practiced witchcraft, especially since Sherman was given a proper Christian burial next to her family. “She was buried in hallowed ground and that wouldn’t have been the case if she had been found guilty of witchcraft,” Perron confirmed (Sam Baltrusis, Mass Murders (2020).
Well, if she wasn't a Devil-worshipping witch, maybe she was still a baby murderer who killed herself? Not true, says Perron. There's no evidence that she killed anyone, and she didn't die by suicide either. Bathsheba Sherman died in 1885 from natural causes at the age of 73.
|Photo of the Perron's house by Frank Grace, Trig Photography.|
So does this mean the house isn't haunted? Not quite. Perron claims that the old farm house is indeed haunted but by a variety of ghosts, including seven soldiers, a young girl murdered in 1849, and others. Perron said she has also contacted Bathsheba's spirit but that she is not malevolent.
The Burrillville house was recently purchased by a couple who intend to open it up for paranormal tours. I suppose if I took the tour I'd find out the truth about the ghosts, but I think I'll pass. I've seen one too many horror films to feel safe in a haunted house.