The Haunting in Connecticut House
This suburban house in Southington, Connecticut has been the subject of a book, a television movie, a mainstream theatrical film, and reportedly another book on the subject is in the works as of this writing. The Colonial Revival house on Meriden Avenue is a simple, white, multiple-story home that was built in 1916 and sits in a neighborhood that is recognized by the National Register as a historic neighborhood in Hartford County. For years, the building served as a funeral home, but was turned into a duplex rental home (or apartments) in the mid-1980s. Around this time, a family from Northern New York rented the house and their stories about supernatural experiences there have turned the place into the equivalent of "The Amityville Horror of Connecticut" (see Amityville Horror House).
Hallahan Funeral Home
For several decades beginning in 1936, the house served as the Hallahan Funeral Home. A news story from March of 1940 mentions the funeral home being used for the funeral services of Connecticut Senator Thomas F. Stammers. Stammers, a Democrat had only served a short time in his elected position before dying at the age of 56 from an illness he had been receiving treatment for in Florida. Oddly, Thomas Stammers isn't the only senator connected with the property (see Chris Murphy below).
It appears that the Hallahan Funeral Home eventually moved to Plantsville, Connecticut sometime in the mid-1980s where they became the Bergin-Hallahan Funeral Home (now known simply as Bergin Funeral Home). The property was purchased by Darrell Kern of Kern Realty. His initial plans were for the now-vacant building to be converted into a local real-estate office (some accounts also mention the possibility of it becoming a hospital office building), but zoning issues ultimately prevented it and Kern instead transformed the house into a duplex, with apartments broken up between the upstairs and the downstairs. Although there appears to have been nothing overly notable about the facility up until this point, it was about to become an infamous part of the area's history when a New York family soon took up residence.
The Southington Funeral Home Case
In 1986, Carmen and Allen Snedeker, along with their four children, relocated from a home in Upstate New York in order to live closer to the John Dempsey Hospital at University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. The Snedekers' eldest son, Philip, was suffering from Hodgkin's disease and the university's hospital offered treatment they hoped would heal the teenager of his serious illness. The family apparently settled on renting the house on Meriden Avenue due to it being very affordable for its size and location. The Snedekers moved in on June 30, 1986 and took up residence in the downstairs apartment of the property.
It has been said that the Snedeker family did not discover the house's former use as a funeral home until after they had moved in, although neighbors and their former landlords dispute these claims. According to their accounts, the basement rooms used to prepare the former funeral home's deceased clientele were obscured from view by construction materials and Carmen did not notice it during her initial walkthrough and were only discovered after the family had moved in. Some items from the mortuary trade were apparently left behind in the basement, including a blood drainage pit, a box of coffin handles, and a casket lift. This area of the home became the bedroom for Philip and his younger brother, Brad, as there were no rooms large enough on the floor above to accommodate them.
Over the next two years, the Snedekers reportedly experienced a significant amount of paranormal phenomena that left the family shaken and, in some cases, bruised and battered. Today, the case is widely known in the paranormal field as the "Southington Funeral Home Case." The exact details of what the family was said to have experienced is not entirely clear, as the most readily available sources of information of the story are the dramatizations in book, television, and film form that even the family admits feature a variety of embellishments. Regardless, there are some details that the family has confirmed and/or were part of the initial news reports.
The Snedeker's noticed personality changes in their eldest son. Philip began writing disturbing things and dressing differently. The boy also made claims to his parents of having heard disembodied voices and seeing apparitions within the house; including a man dressed in a gray, pinstriped suit and perhaps most unsettling, a small boy that was dressed in Superman pajamas. His parents dismissed these claims initially as being hallucinations brought on by his cancer medications, as they reportedly did not witness any unexplained activity themselves. That would soon change.
According to their accounts, once Philip was removed from the home (see Public Scrutiny below), the rest of the family apparently began experiencing supernatural phenomena as well, both in the house and away from the property. The experiences included unexplained sounds, foul odors, and sudden drops in temperature. Carmen and a female niece named Tammy, who was staying with the family, reported being touched by unseen hands, including an incident where Carmen felt one hand clamp over her mouth while another yanked her hair. Later claims included violent attacks on the family members, including being raped and sodomized by demonic forces.
In addition to the events above, the family experienced an onset of personal tragedies. While initially these tragedies appeared as a series of random, unconnected events, their timing appeared to coincide with the family's stay on Meriden Avenue, which has led to some speculation about whether there was in fact a connection. Only months after moving in, the family was devastated to find out that the body of Carmen's father had been discovered in his home on December 8, 1987. He reportedly had been attacked by an assailant, which resulted in an angina attack that resulted in his death. It is unclear whether anyone was ever arrested in the case. In addition, her sister developed acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) the same year and died within a couple of years, while her brother was killed after being run over by a van on Father's Day.
The problems appeared to carry over to their work-life as well. Carmen reportedly experienced other frustrating moments at her job during that time, such as the telephone system or computer system crashing during her shift, or her car refusing to start. However, it was at her job that Carmen first learned of Ed and Lorraine Warren from a co-worker. The Warrens were a married couple who had made names for themselves in the fields of demonology and psychic research and also happened to be residents of Connecticut. Ed and Lorraine had previously been involved in researching the infamous Amityville Horror case in Amityville, New York (see The Haunting in Connecticut House above). They also had published several books about some of their other investigations into alleged cases of supernatural activity. After two years of living in the home and unsure about whom else they could turn to, the Snedekers eventually contacted the Warrens.
Ed and Lorraine Warren came to the aid of the family and moved into the home for a period of nine weeks. They brought with them their nephew, John Zaffis, and grandson, Chris McKinnell, who were described as "psychic researchers" to aid in their investigation. According to some accounts, one of their first orders of business was to contact the local press and get the family's story out there. Lorraine Warren has since stated that the purpose of getting the immediate public exposure was to put pressure on the Catholic Church to get involved in the case. The first known coverage appeared in the August 11, 1988 edition of The Bristol Press, under the headline "Southington Family Spooked by House." More stories from Connecticut newspapers would quickly follow.
The sudden notoriety of the house at 208 Meriden Avenue reportedly came as a surprise to the home's owners and Snedeker's landlord. When interviewed by a member of the media, they reported that this was the first time they had heard the allegations and that the Snedeker's had made no mention of it during their two years of residency, nor had any other tenant ever mentioned anything unusual going on. Carmen questions their version of the account and suggests that not only was the subject matter discussed prior to the media attention, but that the landlord (Kern) had also told her of some unusual events that occurred during the construction phase of transforming the house from a funeral home into a duplex. According to what she had been told, one worker had broken a leg, another had a stroke and died, while yet another had his ladder and tools disappear from the house, only to have them reappear in his truck.
The Exorcism and Moving Out
Meanwhile, the Warren's nine-week investigation of the home was coming to a close and their conclusions stated that the Snedeker family was not being terrorized by ghosts as originally believed, but rather demonic forces. Armed with these findings, the family reportedly then turned to the Catholic Church to have an exorcism performed on the house, in hopes of driving the alleged demonic forces away. According to recent report from the Meriden Record-Journal, an exorcism was performed on the house on September 6, 1988. However, other sources have sought recent confirmation from the local diocese, which reportedly refused to confirm or deny whether the Church ever got involved - raising doubts about this claim.
Regardless, the Snedekers ultimately moved out of the house on Meriden Avenue shortly after the reported exorcism and two and half years after becoming tenants. To date, none of the following occupants have made any public claims of supernatural or unusual activity occurring on the property since. Today, both Carmen and Lorraine Warren insist that the exorcism was a success and cleansed the residence of any unwanted forces.
As for what was the cause of the "haunting" the Snedeker's reportedly experienced, no definitive answers have been produced. Those that support the accounts point to the home's years of service as a funeral home as a possible reason. Similarly, there have also been vague allegations of a more sinister possibility. Some sources, including certain members of the family, have reported rumors that a former employee (or employees) of the funeral home engaged in acts of necrophilia in the years prior and that those acts may have attributed to the events that followed. However, there appears to be no published accounts of such a crime ever occurring in the news from the time period and no arrests ever appear to have been made. While this does not mean that the event never happened, it does make it nearly impossible to verify.
Almost as soon as the Snedeker's story broke, others stepped forward to cast doubts on the claims. Aside from the home's owners, much of the other criticism came from area-residents who were less than thrilled with the attention that was being brought to their neighborhood. Included in the skeptic's camp was the other tenant in the home, who maintained a residence in the top-floor apartment. Not only did she refute the claims and insist that nothing unusual had happened to her, but she told the New Britain Herald (August 29, 1988) that she believed the Warrens were "...con artists..." that were taking advantage of the Snedekers. She added, "I definitely know that no one has been raped up here."
Much of the negative publicity seemed to be connected to the fact that the Snedeker's had been served an eviction notice for failure to pay to the rent on time just prior to the story going to the press. To many, the implication was a sign that the family and the Warrens were inventing the story as an opportunity to make money. In fact, allegations that the two were negotiating a book deal about the case emerged almost immediately, including statements from some that a member of the family had talked openly about just such a deal - something both the Snedekers and the Warrens adamantly denied. As it would turn out, a book detailing the family's time in the home and alleged paranormal encounters would in fact be published (see In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting below). However, it is worth pointing out that the book would not emerge until 1992 - over four years after the story first broke and the allegations began to surface.
Some of the neighbors have stepped forward to offer possible other explanations for some of the supernatural experiences the family alleged took place. One such neighbor, Kathy Altemus, directly referred to a circumstance where the Snedekers reported hearing clanking chains from the basement's coffin lift moving on their own and offered a more mundane explanation. On the same night, she had recorded in her journal the passing of a truck on the street that sounded as though it may have been dragging chains. Altemus has attributed some of the other events to a very human cause in the form of various pranks pulled on the house following the stories being circulated in the press. Kathy Altemus apparently began keeping her journal after a neighbor asked her to keep an eye on things in the neighborhood after a conversation between his wife and Carmen Snedeker about the possible haunting in the Snedeker home concerned him.
Today, the majority of the criticism and skepticism seems to be centered on the Snedeker's eldest son, Philip. Some of the many accusations leveled against him during his time in the home include drug use (including the hallucinogenic, LSD), vandalism, breaking and entering into a neighbor's home, and even making threats to murder his own stepfather, Allen. Perhaps most damaging was the Snedeker's own admission that the boy was not removed from the home because of his illness, but rather because he had been caught trying to fondle his young cousins while they slept. The episode resulted in his parents calling the police and he was incarcerated at a juvenile detention center where he was later diagnosed as schizophrenic. The incident is used as ammunition to shoot down the accounts of the young girls reporting being touched by unseen hands when in fact, the perpetrator may have been Philip.
For their own part, the Snedekers do not deny any of the above allegations and in fact, included many of them in the following book and 2002 docudrama. However, they continue to insist that the boy's behavior may have been influenced by external and demonic influences. Similarly, they maintain that the activity, including the unwanted touching, continued after the boy had been removed from the home. In fact, they continue to insist that the activity only got worse.
The statewide media coverage soon went national and both the Snedekers and the Warrens made an appearance on episode of A Current Affair around mid-September 1988 - Only weeks after the alleged exorcism reportedly took place. In the footage, which may have been shot well in advance, the program interviewed the upstairs neighbor, identified only by her first name Sally, who related much of what she had told the press earlier. Similarly, they encountered an irate Ed Warren when pressing him for the name of the priest that they had contacted. The report concluded that they had tracked down the priest, presumably without Warren's help, who informed the program off camera that no exorcism was scheduled, but that he "...felt a strange pressure upon entering the house."
After the family left the house, the stories seem to die down for the most part. That changed in March 2, 1992 when Carmen was again featured in a brief segment on The Maury Povich Show. However, the criticism would fully come to a head on October 30th of the same year when the Snedekers and Warrens appeared on an episode of The Sally Jesse Raphael Show, titled I Was Raped by a Ghost. The appearance was in promotion of the forthcoming book (see below) and the show lined up a series of guests that challenged the claims. Among them were other residents of the area, confirmed skeptic Joe Nickell (who has since written his own take on the story in his book, Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons, and Other Alien Beings), and even the then-current occupant of 208 Meriden Avenue. By most accounts, the appearance did little to convince the skeptics and the family withdrew from the public spotlight for several years.
In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting
Horror author Ray Garton was hired to work on a book with both the Snedeker family, as well as the Warrens and the Warren's nephew John Zaffis (who had also been a researcher on the case). The book, titled In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting, was published on October 31, 1992. Since it's publication, Ray Garton has publicly stated that the book is nothing more than a work of fiction, despite the title's implication that it was based on a true story. Garton explained that he'd initially been excited to work with Ed and Lorraine Warren because he had "...regularly read about their activities as paranormal investigators..." in "...tabloids, like the National Enquirer..." and he'd found their exploits to be entertaining.
After interviewing the family members and working his way through the reported facts of the case, Garton has stated that several things just did not add up the way they should. Unsure of how to handle it, he reportedly approached Ed Warren and explained his dilemma to him and asked for his advice. According to Garton, Warren replied with the following advice:
"Everybody who comes to us is crazy. Otherwise why would they come to us? You've got some of the story - just use what works and make the rest up. And make it scary. You write scary books, right? That's why we hired you. So just make it up and make it scary."
Reportedly following Ed Warren's advice and with little else to go on, Garton admits to adding a variety of fictional touches to the family's experiences in his account. After making such dramatic additions to the storyline, Garton reportedly tried to get the publisher to release the book as a work of fiction, but his request was denied. By this point, Garton was contractually obliged to deliver the book and was left with no recourse, but has since sought to tell his side of the account following the book's publication.
Additionally, Garton has gone on to state publicly that the Snedeker family had "...serious problems like alcoholism and drug addiction..." and has alleged that Carmen Snedeker had been "...running an illegal interstate lottery business..." at the time of the events. In his recounting of his encounters with the family, Garton has also stated that he was given only one opportunity to interview the Snedeker's son, Philip, during the writing of the book and that the conversation had to be conducted over the phone. During this phone interview, Garton reported that the boy "...began to talk about drugs and told me that he didn't hear and see strange things in the house once he began taking medication." According to his account, Carmen abruptly ended the conversation at that point and he would have no further interactions with the son.
Ray Garton's account of the writing of In a Dark Place has provided ammunition for further criticisms that the Warrens have faced from both skeptics and believers alike over their publicized investigations. For their own part, both Lorraine Warren and Carmen Reed have publicly stated that while the book featured some "embellishment," there were certain aspects to Garton's book that were true. However, the Snedecker family, Warrens, and Zaffis have all refuted Garton's other claims regarding the family and his conversation with Ed Warren (see The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting below).
A Haunting in Connecticut (2002)
On December 29, 2002, the Discovery Channel aired a docudrama titled, A Haunting in Connecticut. The TV movie told a dramatized version of the Snedeker family's reported encounters inside the home. Actors were used to portray the family, whose names were changed to the Parker family for the adaptation. Surprisingly, the actual house on Meriden Avenue was used for exterior shots, as was the general neighborhood and nearby St. Thomas Cemetery, which were seen in both aerial and ground film footage. The interior scenes were apparently filmed elsewhere and reportedly varied greatly from the actual interior of the home.
A Haunting in Connecticut shows the parents, Karen and Ed Parker (Vanessa Lock and Rod Pearson), struggling with their teenage boy, Paul (Brett Fleisher), who is under the influence of demons. As the boy grew steadily more distant and sinister, he finally has to be institutionalized following an attack on his female cousin, Theresa (Kelli Barrett). Following the boy's departure from the home, the Parkers then find themselves the targets of the demons. Among the many things they experience are invisible assailants attacking family members, crucifixes disappearing from around the house, rosary beads and shower curtains becoming animate and threatening lives, and mop water that turns to blood.
Accompanying the dramatization footage are interviews with the actual Lorraine Warren and her nephew and fellow investigator John Zaffis (who even portrayed himself in the dramatizations), as well as a woman that is presumably Carmen although her identity was completely obscured. It also featured interviews with writer Michael W. Cuneo, author of American Exorcism and The Smoke of Satan. The docudrama was paired with a similarly titled A Haunting in Georgia that aired months earlier and both proved to be tremendous successes for the network and were spawned off into the television series, A Haunting in 2005. A Haunting in Connecticut and A Haunting in Georgia have continued to make regular repeat appearances on the network in the years since and are now available on DVD (see Available from Amazon.com below)
Despite turning to the media in the early years after their story went public, the Snedeker family ultimately decided to shun the spotlight for the most part in the years since and attempted to avoid the attention that the case generated. Carmen Reed (formerly Snedeker) has since stated that if she knew how much interest and scorn that the story would generate, she would have never gone public with their accounts. Reportedly, the family faced a lot of harassment following their story going public and the parents began turning down requests to tell their side of the account out of concern for their children.
As the story refused to fade away, only fueled by the popularity of the Discovery Channel's A Haunting in Connecticut, Reed has stated that she could not escape it and decided it was time for her to directly address the story once again. Since then, she has become more outspoken and has made a variety of public and radio show appearances to talk about the case. In a 2005 article in the Joplin Independent, it was announced that Reed had signed a "...multi-million dollar deal..." to turn her family's story into a feature film, which resulted in 2009's The Haunting of Connecticut (see below). In addition, she is currently working with the Warren's nephew, John Zaffis, and psychic medium, writer, and former actor, Chip Coffey, to write a new book about her family's time at 208 Meriden Avenue. The book's title has been stated to be either Demons from the Dark or Demons in the Dark, although the expected release date is not known.
Reed has also taken her experiences (including both her experiences at the house, as well as the public scrutiny that followed) to come to the aid of others in similar circumstances. According to her, she has since developed certain innate gifts of intuition with the assistance of a spirit guide by the name of "Jaco" that aids her in helping others. This claim has opened her up to further criticisms from some who question why she went seemingly unaware of the presences in the house on Meriden Avenue for so long if she had this particular gift. In her defense, she has stated that she had the gift since she was a small child, but had been suppressing it for years, including the years she spent in the house. Interestingly enough, one of the pieces of advice that she openly passes along to others that seek her help is to refrain from taking their stories to the press.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
In 2009, the family's story would again surface in a feature film with nearly the same name as the 2002 docudrama for the Discovery Channel. As with the previous projects, the family's name was changed to Campbell for The Haunting in Connecticut. Unlike the 2002 docudrama, the new adaptation did not incorporate the actual house into the film and instead shot on location in the province of Manitoba in Canada - opting to use an isolated, rural house that bears little resemblance to the real thing. Peter Cornwall directed the 2009 version of events, which stars actress Virginia Madsen (Candyman, The Prophecy) in the role of the mother, Sara, Martin Donovan (The Visitation, The Dead Zone, Ghost Whisperer) in the role of the father, Peter, and Kyle Gallner (Veronica Mars, Red) in the role of the eldest son, Matt. Cornwall has since gone on record to say that he never referred to Garton's In a Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting, but rather the source material for the remake was the 2002 docudrama, A Haunting in Connecticut.
While the new storyline maintains the home's former role as a funeral home (renamed to the Aickman Mortuary & Funeral Home), it also takes dramatic license with the reported accounts that were said to have occurred - adding in a subplot involving former sťances and necromancy (using stolen corpses from a nearby cemetery) that took place in the home years before as a way of explaining what unleashed the spirits, as well as the spirit of Jonah (Erik J. Berg), who acted as the medium. The climax of the film also features the house being burned to the ground, using fire rather than exorcism to cleanse the multiple spirits of the corpses of grave robbery victims.
The changes to the storyline in The Haunting in Connecticut did not sit well with at least one individual that took part in the so-called "Southington Funeral Home Case" - Lorraine Warren. In a recent edition of Meriden Record-Journal, Warren was quoted as saying, "Imagine, if it had been done the right way, it could have been something that could more or less educate the public on what had happened. They chose not to."
The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting (2009)
A new documentary that explores the "true story" of the haunting was included on the DVD release of The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), which hit stores on July 14, 2009. The Fear is Real: Reinvestigating the Haunting clocks in at around 30 minutes and features interviews with various members of the Snedeker family (not including the father or eldest son, Philip), Lorraine Warren, John Zaffis, and various residents of Southington, Connecticut. The documentary is directed by Daniel Farrands, who had earlier gained notoriety for his even-handed approach to directing companion episodes of History's Mysteries that tackled the infamous Amityville Horror case - Amityville: The Haunting (which documented the story of the alleged haunting from the Lutz family's point of view) and Amityville: Horror or Hoax (which dealt with the subsequent controversy and claims that the story had been hoaxed) - as well as served as producer for the 2009 adaptation of The Haunting in Connecticut.
The new documentary reexamines the Snedeker family's experiences through their own words, while offering contrasting opinions from former friends and neighbors from Southington who cast doubt on their claims. While much of what is covered in The Fear is Real is already public knowledge, the documentary also allows the Snedekers, Lorraine Warren, and John Zaffis to address the various "hoax" charges against them, including the claims of author Ray Garton. In it, they all adamantly deny the charges leveled against them by Garton as "very hurtful" and Carmen even notes that her only contact with Garton was one face-to-face meeting and around a half a dozen phone conversations. She also states that she had no editorial control over the novel and that "...my story wasn't my story any longer once I signed on the dotted line." Garton, himself, is not featured in the documentary as he apparently declined to be interviewed for the piece.
As an interesting side-note, the house on Meriden Avenue served as home to politician Chris Murphy from December, 1996 through the summer of 1998. A Democrat, Murphy ran for a seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives while residing at 208 Meriden Avenue. He won the race, and a few years later ran for the State Senate and won as well. In 2006, he left the State Senate to serve as a United States Congressman in the House of Representatives and has since become a regular guest on C-SPAN (Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network). Chris Murphy has been interviewed about his time, living in the house, and has stated that he and his roommates did not experience any supernatural phenomena during the year and half that he resided there. Despite the lack of paranormal activity during their stay, Chris Murphy and his friends were able to play off of the reputation of the house, and apparently had a number of parties there. Murphy and his roommates moved out when the house was sold to its current owners.
The House Today
The house at 208 Meriden Avenue continues to function as a private residence and, as such, visitors should respect the privacy of the home's current occupants and refrain completely from trespassing on the property. There have been no reports of demonic or paranormal activity since the Snedekers moved out of the home in the late 1980s. With the recent attention of the 2009 film, The Haunting in Connecticut, the current resident and nearby neighbors have reported an increase of traffic to the area and the fact that several people have already trespassed onto the property. In light of this attention, the local police department has stepped up patrols in the area to keep a lookout over the property and any would-be ghost hunters or curiosity seekers. According to police spokesman, Sergeant Lowell DePalma, "The reason why we were called is because of problems outside of the house. I was sad to hear that people get out of their cars and start trespassing." Kathy Altemus apparently still resides across the street from the home and has stated that she still keeps a journal about what she witnesses in the neighborhood, including taking down the license plate numbers of odd vehicles.