Tired of the classical sculptures, impressionist paintings, and chipped ancient relics you stroll past at your local art museum? Perhaps you’d like to gawk at a haunted Raggedy Ann doll in a glass case that might try to kill you instead.
Underneath the Connecticut home of one of the country’s most prominent experts on supernatural hauntings, through a so-called haunted passageway, is a room dubbed the “Museum of the Occult.” The museum calls itself not just the only museum of its kind but, redundantly, also the oldest, boasting it has “the largest array of haunted artifacts and items that have been used in occult practices throughout the world.” The family-owned establishment is filled from floor to ceiling with creepy voodoo dolls, satanic altars, mummies, magic mirrors, shadow books, and a very prominently displayed rag doll under a cross with bold letters issuing a warning on the glass case: “Positively Do Not Open.”
This is the museum’s centerpiece. Named Annabelle, the doll is said to be haunted by the spirit of a young girl. Fans of the 2013 horror film The Conjuring may be familiar with the doll, which plays a central role. Though it was exorcised and is now caged, it apparently still moves about and growls at visitors.
The doll is “believed to be responsible for the death of an individual who came in to contact with it,” the museum notes. The last person to touch it apparently died in a motorcycle accident after leaving the museum. He had, according to the museum, challenged the doll to do its worst before leaving.
The Museum of the Occult resides in the house of well-known ghostbusters Ed and Lorraine Warren, founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research, which began in 1952 with the goal of investigating supernatural hauntings. A decade later, they were called to a haunting case and decided to devote themselves to helping remove spirits from people’s belongings and homes. They say they have worked over 10,000 cases, and that their method of expelling evil spirits “is based in religion but also uses science.”
For 60 years, the Warrens have been collecting relics from the hauntings they’ve studied. “Many of the objects in this room here have had dire effects on people,” Ed told a tour in the mid-’90s. “People have been maimed and killed.” The museum hits the witching hour between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., when, according to Ed, the nighttime goings on can occasionally be heard a few floors above in their bedroom.
The pair was married at 17, after Ed survived a shipwreck during his tour in World War II, and they stayed together until his death in 2006. Ed described himself as a demonologist, while Lorraine, who is 87, calls herself a trance medium. “But you'd never know it if you met them on the street,” their website assures with a blinding mix of flickering candles and dancing skeletons. “They are not occultists. They are not strange. They are essentially ordinary people who happen to do highly extraordinary work.”
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, they were involved in a number of notorious criminal and ghostly cases, and even gained attention from Hollywood. They rose to prominence while investigating the Amityville haunting and the Perron house haunting—later the basis for The Conjuring, in which the two main characters are based on the ghost-hunting couple. On IMDB, Ed is listed under the remarkable position of “demonology adviser” for Amityville II: The Possession.
“Nobody can bring us into a house and fool us. You couldn't tell us that your house is haunted and get away with it because I’m the biggest skeptic going. I have to see it, I have to hear it and I have to feel it with the physical sense,” Ed is quoted as saying on the museum’s Facebook page.
Now, the society is run by the Warrens’ son-in-law, who manages investigations with Lorraine’s assistance. The museum is only open for visits during official “Warrenology” events, which, according to the website calendar, occur weekly and have been sold out for the past month. These are “intimate evening[s] that propels you into the mysterious, sometimes terrifying realm of the supernatural and preternatural.” At the Museum of the Occult anything goes—just don’t offend Annabelle.