April 27, 2020

Bathsheba Sherman: Evil Witch or Innocent Victim? The Story Behind The Conjuring's Villain

This probably won't be a surprise to hear, but I'm a big horror movie fan. Zombies, summer camp killers, carnivorous alien monsters - yes please! I like arthouse movies like The Lighthouse, schlock like Friday the 13th, and the mainstream horror films that have been popular the last few years. 

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)
The Warrens believed that the main spirit haunting the Perron's house was the ghost of Bathsheba Sherman. According to local legends, Bathsheba was a devil-worshipping witch who murdered at least one child in the 1800s. The film claims Bathsheba committed suicide by hanging herself her from a tree and that her spirit lingered at the farm to torment any future owners. 

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.
Perron says the Warrens were the first people to suggest that Bathsheba's ghost was the malevolent force haunting their house. It sounds like the Warrens made this decision after they researched the town's folklore. 

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.


J'aime Rubio, Author said...

Hilarious that Andrea is backpedaling now. I have read her books. She has been pushing the witchcraft/ murder theory for years. Researchers such as myself, Shannon Bradley Byers, Kent Spottswood and Kenny Biddle have all debunked the false story surrounding Bathsheba. By the way, that wasn't local legend. The Warrens and Perrons are where these rumors originated. I debunked this back in 2014 and 2016. Google Bathsheba Sherman's Vindication for the facts.

J'aime Rubio, Author said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thanks J'aime for setting the record straight...If Kent had not passed away I'm sure he would chime in on this one.

Unknown said...

I didn't believe this story myself it's all fake no Bathsheba never resl