Looking Back – Ed and Lorraine Warren
People have asked my opinion of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Here’s my reply.
Ed and Lorraine Warren have been — together and as individuals — vital to the development and popularity of this field. Without their work, I don’t think there would be a “Ghost Hunters” TV show, etc.
I can say the same about Hans Holzer, Andrei Puharich, and many other 19- and 20th-century paranormal researchers, as well.
I’m not overlooking problems with their early research techniques. We learn through trial-and-error: There will be errors — and plenty of them — while any field is becoming understood and codified.
My articles (published in 2000, before ghost hunting developed its current popularity) about one of Ed and Lorraine’s first investigations — the Ocean-Born Mary story — are an example of early research problems.
However, we’re looking back on research in the mid 20th century. It’s easy to forget how little was available to paranormal researchers.
Ed and Lorraine didn’t have the Internet as a resource. They didn’t have my 30+ years of experience with historical and genealogical research. It’s easy to point out the shortcomings of others, when they didn’t (or don’t) have the resources that can make a huge difference in how a story is told.
PARANORMAL BUSINESS MODELS
I was sometimes troubled by the business model that Ed and Lorraine used. I said so at the time. However, there are no simple answers to the money issue.
In a perfect world, spiritual researchers — including ghost hunters — would be supported as many religions have been, by voluntary donations from their believers. Without that kind of funding, it’s difficult to work in this field.
Many people view our work as spiritual, and accuse us of being mercenary when we try to recover the money we spend on research, which is largely unseen by the public. Also, they may not realize what it costs us to travel to help clients… many of whom have reached such a desperate emotional state (from living with hauntings or even demon attacks), they’ve already lost their jobs.
Our options are limited, and some are slippery slopes.
OUR FINANCIAL OPTIONS
We can become “entertainers” …which can require compromises to build and maintain a fan following, or to meet the demands of ruthless managers and over-zealous producers. While we create some problems ourselves, others are built around us without our permission and sometimes without our knowledge.
It’s a challenging field to navigate.
Ghost hunters can charge significant fees from clients who are able to afford it; a 2009 poll at HollowHill.com showed that some people were doing that, though they were in the minority.
We can cover our ghost hunting expenses with related part-time or full-time activities, including:
- Writing articles and books.
- Teaching classes and workshops.
- Providing readings.
- Speaking at events, or even hosting them.
- Creating and selling products related to ghost hunting.
Or, we can maintain regular jobs, though that takes valuable time away from our research and the time we could use helping others. (Most friends who’ve starred on ghost-related TV shows have kept their day jobs. Some TV shows pay only an undisclosed “stipend.” It may not even match minimum wage levels.)
As I said, there are no easy answers to this dilemma.
THE WARRENS’ LEGACY
In recent years, I’ve softened my views towards 20th-century pioneers in paranormal studies. Each of them has left an important legacy.
I am grateful to Ed and Lorraine Warren for facing the skeptics and vehement critics, and maintaining a firm belief in what they were doing. I’m thankful that they conducted so much research, and were forthright about what they did and the conclusions that they reached.
Their integrity made it possible for us to review their work in the light of additional facts and tools developed in the 40 or so years since they began studying ghosts and haunted places.
This field wouldn’t be where it is without people like the Warrens. For that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Remember that Joshua Warren is not related to Ed and Lorraine Warren. I’m not sure he’s actually made that claim, but I’ve been told he’s not always quick to deny the connection, either. (I published this article in July 2009. In May 2014, he replied, saying ” I have never once ever allowed that idea to persist.”)
Were Ed & Lorraine’s methods perfect? No. (Ghost hunting tools and techniques still aren’t perfect. I’m not sure they ever will be.)
They did the best that they could with the tools that they had, the few sites they had free access to, and what little was understood in that era.
For example, no one carried an EMF meter during early ghost hunts. Researchers weren’t aware that elevated EMF — from very normal sources — can disorient people and cause them to behave in odd ways.
Today, we check for electrical wiring and other sources of EMF, before leaping to any conclusions about paranormal influences.
In the early 21st century, we’re closer to understanding ghosts and hauntings, but I expect we’ll be harshly criticized by those who follow us 20, 40, or 100 years from now.
MY PERSONAL OPINIONS
When someone asks my personal opinion of Ed and Lorraine Warren as a ghost hunting team, I reply in three parts:
At first, I was dazzled by them. In the mid-to-late 20th century, they were pioneers in a very exciting field.
When I later examined their work, using tools available decades later, I was disappointed when I could disprove some of what they said. That cast a harsh light on their work. Things that I’d believed as a child turned out to be false. That can embitter anyone.
Fortunately, I continued my research and reached a more balanced perspective.
Today, looking back on people like Ed & Lorraine Warren, I’m tremendously grateful for their work. I was merely an “early adopter” of this research. They were among the innovators.
AMITYVILLE CHANGED EVERYTHING
The name “Amityville Horror” wouldn’t be well-known without the Warrens.
The Warrens were instrumental in bringing ghosts and hauntings to the world’s attention. They opened the door for anyone — with or without prior experience in this field — to conduct paranormal research.
That research has contributed significantly to what we know about ghosts and hauntings. And, by making ghost research more accessible to everyone, pioneers such as Ed & Lorraine Warren built the foundation for our work today.
That is their true legacy, and I’m grateful for it.