Ed and Lorraine Warren, two names that are synonymous with the supernatural, the paranormal, and demonology. The Conjuring franchise made them household names. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work on an investigation with them? If the answer is yes, we have something very special for you.
For the first time in over 40 years, retired entertainment engineer John Catapano is sharing what he experienced during two investigations with Ed and Lorraine Warren. Not only will you get to hear the two stories, but he will also recount the knowledge that Lorraine shared with him in detail.
Horror Fuel: “You were a professor, is that right?”
John: “I was. I taught at the university for about ten years. From the early 80’s to the late 80’s.”
Horror Fuel: “What were you a professor of?”
John: “Communications. My first Master’s degree is in television production. I later got a doctorate in communication theories. My other Master’s degree is in education. My bachelors was a three-part communications bachelors of arts.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow, those are some serious credentials.”
Horror Fuel: “What is your connection to Jurassic Park?
John: “I worked on that, part of the technology. That is a very weird movie and a groundbreaking movie. A lot of the technology was being developed as the movie was being made. Originally, the dinosaurs were going to be in stop-motion or as large mechanicals. As they were in that process the CGI (Computer Generated Images) got to the point where Spielberg felt that he could use those more in the film than they had originally planned. My part was in the control room. There were a hundred and eight computer monitors in there and at the time it was difficult to shoot a computer screen on film because the frame rates were different. The film frame they were shooting was twenty-four film frames per second and computers are at least thirty frames per second. You get what we call the bar. A black bar that you can actually see in the video if you do that. Originally they were going to greenscreen all the monitors and then go back a place images into the monitors. They couldn’t do it all at once so they had to do groups and they would constantly have to shoot and go back and take the footage and re-expose it and it would degrade the quality of the resolution of the picture. I had some students back when I was teaching that were in Hollywood working with effects and someone had mentioned to the effects folks on Jurassic Park that I was working with another guy to develop a system to use computer images at any frame rate or resolution specifically for film and other reasons. They contacted me from California and we flew out and talked to them. The told us what they wanted. We were pretty confident that what we were working on would fit the bill. They asked us if we could finalize all the equipment and come up with a prototype and be able to install it in four months. And that’s what we did. So we were able to live switch and distribute the different computer images into all those monitors without them having to re-shoot and re-shoot. ”
Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome. What else have you worked on?”
John: “I am a writer now. I’m a retired entertainment engineer. I did that for 40 years. I’ve worked in broadcasting. I’ve worked on a couple of feature films as a consultant. I’ve been lucky there. I worked for the Disney company here in Florida in different parts of their venues around the world for 18 years. I’ve worked for other international entertainment companies as a director of engineering. I retired from that last year and dedicated myself to writing full time. I have a number of books that are published. I did comic books. I’ve done graphic novels. My books (‘Clarence and ‘The Unusual Suspects’) that came out a year ago this October has a character named Doctor sarcophagus who runs a late 1920’s traveling carnival. There are supernatural aspects to that. I’ve also written a movie trivia book for horror science fiction, ‘The Baby Boomer Horror Sci-fi Movie Trivia Book’. I used to teach film history. All my stuff is available on Smashwords.
Horror Fuel: “In the October 1974 edition of the Beacon, you describe two investigations that you participated in with Ed and Lorraine Warren. Can you tell us about that?”
John: “Sure. It was William Patterson college then, it’s now William Patterson University in New Jersey. I was going there as an undergraduate. I was majoring in communications. We had a student center on campus with a ballroom where people held lectures or dances. Within the student government group, there were students who put together these different programs and activities. The year before, they had brought Ed and Lorraine Warren to do one of their lectures about demonic possessions, hauntings, and their investigations. Ed and Lorraine were doing that on different college campuses and that’s how they would make money. They would bring a slide tray and Lorraine would describe what they did and what they saw. I did not attend the one the year before, but right after they were there in October because they were part of the Halloween week with all kinds of spooky things going on. Right after they came that year in December The Exorcist came out. And of course, it really affected pop culture. Almost every newspaper and magazine in the country has something about demonic possession. Of course, the next year they brought them back again for the second year. I was on the Beacon as a feature writer, photographer, and cartoonist. My editor said, ‘Hey, you’re kind of into all this weird stuff, why don’t you cover them and interview them for the paper?’ So, I said, ‘Sure’. I talked to the student activities people because I had to go through them to get permission to interview them and they put us in touch. The student activities people that year had also talked to them about going and investigating Hobart Manor. William Patterson University was given the property by the state of New Jersey who was given the property by the Hobart family, a very old New Jersey family. There were two or three structures still on campus that were part of the original buildings from the early 1800’s. One was the Manor House which was the main house that the Hobarts lived in. When the university was started, as the Paterson Normal School which was a teaching school, they were cut up and made into offices. My job on campus, I worked for the office of the register. Part of my job was filing and making copies down in the basement of Hobart Manor. Which had a rough basement made out of fieldstone, cemented and whitewash painted over it by the New Jersey State maintenance people. A number of times in the early evening, I would hear footsteps out in the hallway and I would go out in the hallway and nobody would be there. I talked to other people who worked there including the Register and some of them said, ‘Yes. We heard a child crying, footsteps and doors closing’, but there was no physical activity. I found out that the student activities people had talked to the Warrens and asked if they would go through the house at midnight after their lecture and tell them if it’s haunted or not. Ed and Lorraine agreed. Since I worked there I was interested.
John Catapano (1975)
I go to the lecture, and it was very well attended maybe 200 to 250 people. Ed and Lorraine were very good at their presentation. He was a very good photographer and artist. After the lecture, I walked up and Ed was talking to people. Lorraine was getting together the equipment, so I introduced myself. And she said, ‘Oh yes, you are the young man from the paper.’ I asked if they were going to go through Hobart Manor. She said ‘yes’ and I told her that I had had some experiences. She said, ‘Why don’t you tell me what those are.’, and we had a good conversation about what I had experienced and what I knew about the building. People from the student activities group came up and said, ‘Okay, let’s walk across campus to Hobart and we’ll go through it.’ As we are exiting the building, a young man, older than me, approached and I recognized him as either an assistant or an adjunct professor from the music department. He comes up and shakes Ed’s hand and he says, ‘Mr. Warren, I have some friends who have a house very close to here who are having some problems, especially with their daughter and I would like to know if maybe you could go and look at the house.’ Ed said, ‘You know, we are on our way across campus to this Manor house that we are going to go through. Why don’t you come with us and after we are done with that we can talk.’ We carry on to the Manor House, and the photo in the article was taken in the living room of the Manor House that night. We get there and go in and Lorraine takes off her shawl and says, ‘I’m going to just walk through the hallway and I’m going to get my impressions of what is here. If everyone could just stay back and stay quiet that would be wonderful.’ She simply walked very quietly, very slowly through the corridor and in and out of rooms. Then she came back and she said, ‘Okay, let’s go upstairs and I will tell you what I think is here.’ That’s when the photo was taken. She said that she got the impression of a woman who was dressed in either farm clothing or as a nurse who was taking care of a young child. The child was very ill. But she didn’t think that the child died. She didn’t believe that there were any human spirits in the building. These were merely impressions from people under stress that had been absorbed by the environment. And when people with the right radar were there it would play back, almost like a movie. No one I had talked to had seen anything, just heard things. It was almost like an audiotape being played back.”
“I talked to her later and asked her what we were talking about and she said, ‘That’s the first level of what you would call hauntings. There is no real spirit there. It is simply impressions that have been absorbed by walls, furniture. Things like that. I found that very interesting.”
Horror Fuel: “It is very interesting.”
Lorraine and Ed Warren – Hobart Manor
John: “We finished that. We were outside the building and I am standing kind of on the perimeter, and the young man, I don’t remember his name, comes up and says ‘What about my friends house?’ and Ed goes, ‘You know, we are supposed to drive back to Connecticut tomorrow because we have some other engagements, but I think if we can meet them early in the afternoon then Lorraine can go through the house and I can get some information and we can give you an evaluation of what’s going on.” He said, ‘That would be great and we can meet at a designated parking area on campus.’ He was going to drive us because he clearly knew where the house was. As they are finishing that conversation Lorraine turns to me and says ‘Would you like to go?’ I’m like, ‘To this house?’ and she says ‘Yes. You have a good aura I think you would like to come. You should come with us.’ I didn’t believe in auras or any of that stuff and I didn’t think I was a particularly good person. So, I said ‘Yeah, sure.’ Then the guy said that the family didn’t want any kind of publicity. They didn’t want any kind of article. He didn’t think it was a very good idea. I said, ‘You know what, I will give them the right to edit the article. They can see it before it ever goes to print. But I would really like to go.’ He said, ‘As long as you give them that right and that you’ll make it so that no one can figure out who they are or where the house is, I think we’d be okay.” After that, I walked Ed and Lorraine back to their car and on the way there, Lorraine turns to me and says, ‘What faith are you?’ I told her I was raised Catholic but I haven’t been to church in like three years. I went to an all Catholic boy’s high school. She said, ‘Well, you have to receive the sacrament before you go to this house.’ I said, ‘Communion?’ and she said, ‘Yes, communion. You need to do that or else don’t come with us. It’s for your protection.’ I went, ‘Well, there’s a campus ministry. I’ll see what I can do. I tell you what if I can’t then I just won’t show up. Go without me.’ They went off to their nearby hotel, motel, in Wayne New Jersey there were no hotels.’
Horror Fuel: “Did he tell you anything really scary that had happened?”
John: “In one incident, the 13 Yr. old was having a seance and the chair she was sitting on “threw” her off and fell hitting her in the head. The more drastic one was during an Ouija session her chair suddenly started to “scoot” around the room with her in it. She’s screaming and 2 big jock friends who were present tried to lift her out of the chair. She weighed less than 100 pounds and they could not move her. Later, in the same chair, they easily picked her up.”
Horror Fuel: “So what happened next?”
John: “The next morning, I got up and went to the campus ministry and by luck, there was a Catholic priest there. I sat down and explained to him, ‘Look, I’m going to a house that may be possessed or have some hauntings going on. It has been suggested by the professionals that I receive communion and confession.’ After a very lengthy confession, I went to meet the Warrens at the designated place. The guy drives us to this very nice house. It looked like every other house on the block. It was kind of on a hill so that the driveway went down a hill and in the back, there was a two car garage. A woman came out who turned out to be the wife of the family in the house. She was also an adjunct professor in the music department. I came to find out everyone in the house was artistically or musically inclined, which I’ve found interacting with the Warrens that those brains are more susceptible or more likely to have experienced. Nothing out of the ordinary, a very nice lady who was at that time in her early 30’s. She had a teenage daughter and a subteen son, a couple of cats and a dog. But the house looked nothing out of the ordinary. The husband, who I believe was a musician himself, comes home and Ed is talking them, Lorraine is listening, and Loraine says, ‘I would like to go through the house. Is that possible?’ and the woman said, ‘Sure, no problem.’ and I said, ‘I would like to go too.’ and she again said, ‘Sure, no problem.’
So Lorraine said, ‘Look, I will follow her into the house and you follow behind me like last night. Just don’t make a lot of noise and keep a distance.’ We go in the house and the woman went in through the basement and up a stairway and came out in the kitchen. Once in the kitchen, I felt like I was being stuck with needles. You know what goosebumps are, this was much more extreme than goosebumps. It was all over my body. And Lorraine was having a similar reaction. She was visibly getting ill. We went from the kitchen into the living room and that’s where she actually sat down for a moment. Then she got up and said, ‘I need to get out. I need to get out and get some fresh air.’ The woman and I helped her back outside where she sat on a picnic table out in the backyard. Ed had been talking to the guy about the history of the house, how long they had been there. Basically, he found out some of the things I put into the article which was, they had lived there for eight years. They had some small events, knocking, doors opening and closing, lights flickering, that kind of stuff. But the 13-year-old, since she had seen The Exorcist, her and her friends would come home from middle school and have started having seances and playing with Ouija boards and since they had done that the events had gotten much worse. They asked, ‘Well, what are we going to do?’ Lorraine said, ‘Well, I think there is something very bad in the house from my impressions. It is not completely human. There is a human spirit here, but there’s something else.’ Ed was like, ‘I need more information. I would really like to be here to interview anyone who has had any kind of experience in this house, but we have commitments. We have to drive back to Connecticut in a few hours. So, we can’t do this.’ Normally, when Ed and Lorraine were asked to look a site they did research before they got there. They set up interviews where they could record the interviews while they were there. They were always there for more than a day. But in this case, because this was not on the schedule, they had made no arrangements for that. Ed looked at me and said, ‘Look, you’re a journalist, you know how to interview people and your research, right?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘Well could you do that if I give you a list of things I need to find out. And you get a list of people who have had experiences here, could you interview them and take notes and then call us and give us all this information? Then we will come back?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ We talked a little to the family. I talked about the article that would eventually be written. They had some concerns and I tried to allay those concerns. I’m sure you have had similar instances. Ed gave me somethings he wanted to know like who originally owned the property, everyone who owned it through the years. He wanted to know who built the house, how old the house was if there were any wills or deeds, paperwork, anything like that. And to interview anyone who has seen something, heard something or been effected at the house.”
Horror Fuel: “Please, continue.”
John: “I went about looking for all these documents. One of the interesting things I found was that the area had been settled since revolutionary times by the Dutch. The guy that owned the house was Dutch. In his will, when he passed in the early 1900’s, he stipulated that no one of Italian or Jewish nationality should ever own the property or even if a factory was built on the property in the future, no one of those nationalities should ever work there, which is pretty extreme. That’s a pretty deep hatred right there. I looked up his family and it was a fairly prominent family. One of the five prominent families that settled in that area. He still had some surviving cousins and a great niece who was in her 80’s and in a home at the time, and her son. I got to interview them eventually and found out that he was not well liked by almost anybody in the family. I found too that a lot of the furniture in the house went to another family member. Why that is interesting is that that cousin’s house is now part of a New Jersey park and the house still exists. There have been many, many, many, incidents reported by people in that house. The people who were currently in the house, the family, had moved from a smaller home and they needed furniture to go in the house and they went to an auction at this house and bought a number of pieces of furniture and a chandelier that they hung in the house. There is a good probability that that furniture has originally existed in the house.
When I started interviewing people I found out that the mom and dad had experienced a number of different events, knocking, doors opening and closing, hearing footsteps on the second floor where the kids slept. They would go up there and the kids would be dead asleep. The dog would sit at the bottom of the stairs and would stare at the top of the stairs and cry all the time and could not be pulled away. It had to be physically moved. The daughter, as I said would have seances and Ouija board sessions after school. At one Point, a fluorescent light bulb fell out of the ceiling during one of these and almost hit a kid. She was doing dishes one night and there was a window right behind the sink and she saw the face of an old man on the other side of the window. She yells and Dad comes in. She goes, ‘There’s someone outside by the window. He went down into the basement and out the back door and he looks up at the window which is 15 feet above the ground because the house is built n a hill. And there was no ladder. There is no way anyone could scale than 15 feet. Salt shakers would make somersaults. Another guy that I actually knew from my freshman year in college, he was my lab partner in a bio class, had been over to the house a couple of times and he witnessed things. One was when a water glass slowly tipped over and touched the table then exploded. At one point during a seance in the living room, the chandelier swayed back and forth to the point the mother thought it was going to fall out of the ceiling. Neighbors saw people in upper windows when no one was home. As far as I could tell, all of the Ouija boards that were used were made in Salem.
I relayed all of this stuff after I collected it to Ed. They came back on a Saturday and met with the family. Ed told them, ‘Look you have a human spirit here whose energy and your daughter’s activities have brought something that is not human into the house. You need to have the house exorcised. Go to your local perish priest and ask if they could do an exorcism. If not, we can give you several people in the surrounding states. Tell them we said to come on your behalf and they will do an exorcism and they will come.’ The other thing that got me was his family, The Dutchman’s Family, could not find his grave site. They did not know where he was buried. They looked for years. There was no record of it. There is a Dutch cemetery in Wayne, but they had no record of his burial. Lorraine sits down away from everyone and talks to the girl. She comes back and she says, ‘He’s in the Methodist cemetery.’ And everybody was like, ‘but he was Dutch.’ Ed and Lorraine and the girl and I go down to the Methodist cemetery and very quickly she leads us directly to his grave where he should not have been.
I wrote the article and made it vague enough where nobody could find them. I believe they had an exorcism but I never had contact with them again. I really suppressed a lot of that until a few years ago when I was watching television and I was hopping through channels and there’s Lorraine. I think it was like Paranormal… something or other. One of the paranormal shows and I’m like, ‘That’s Lorraine Warren.’ and my girlfriend said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘I know her. I did some investigations with them back in the 70’s.’ and I had completely suppressed that. I didn’t even think of that. Didn’t follow up on anything. It was kind of strange.”
That’s my experience. I know what I felt in that house, I trusted what people told me. What really got me was the guy I knew from freshman year and I knew that he wasn’t lying. He wasn’t looking for anything. The family wasn’t looking for publicity. That was the furthest thing they wanted. They just wanted help.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s crazy. I believe you. I’m a big believer in the paranormal/supernatural myself. I’ve even experienced a few things.”
John: “I have as well since I was like 5 years old. Not continuously, but every blue moon something will happen. I had a lot of conversations with Lorraine that evening and that day in the car. I didn’t put it in the article, but she said, ‘You’re really a scientist.’ I said ‘Yeah’, at that point I was really dedicated to science my first two years of college before I changed for different reasons. She tried to explain the difference to me in scientific terms. She said, ‘You believe in the scientific fact that energy can not be created or destroyed. What happens to all the biological energy in your body when your body dies? With theory, it has to become something else. Morph into something else. What if that’s the spirit? What if that’s the soul? And if someone doesn’t know they are dead or has unfinished business or is very protective of what they had? They don’t know how to transition from this plane to another plane? That’s what we call human hauntings, human spirits. Now, you’ve heard all the theories about parallel dimensions. What if through an Ouija board, enough psychic energy is focused that something on the other side of a dimension wants to come through, but needs the energy to open a portal? Then those things could come through. In our limited experience, maybe that’s what we are calling demons. I know that you’re not a faithful person, but as a scientist, do you think that is a possibility?” I said, “Sure, I think that would be possible.” That’s how she explained that to me and it was very satisfactory.”
Horror Fuel: “That makes a lot of sense.”
Horror Fuel: “What was your first impression of Ed and Lorraine?”
John: “Lorraine was very warm. It’s funny, at 19 you don’t really gauge how old people are, but I thought she was older. I’m guessing by looking at her age now, she was in her late 30’s, early 40’s. She was a very tall, thin woman with a kind of Marge Simpson hairstyle, all piled up on top of her head. But she was very warm and very genuine. Ed was a little more formal. He didn’t smile a lot, Lorraine did. He did not condescend or anything like that. He was an excellent lecturer. He was a good photographer. We bonded over photography. I took pictures for our yearbooks and newspapers in high school, so I had been doing it for a while. He was more of the business side. But she was absolutely genuine, they both were. They got paid for their lecture, which they should, but there was never anything mentioned to this family about fees or costs, never, even though they took an extra day out of there itinerary to come and look at this house.”
Horror Fuel: “Is the lecture seen in The Conjuring from the investigation you were part of?”
John: “I don’t know, I have never seen the two movies. I had the first movie but I never opened the package. About three months ago I went to look for it, but could not find it in my library. But, I don’t know. My experience with them was very early, it was just before Amityville. When you write a movie script, you take a lot of information from a lot of people and whittle all down to something usable. I have no idea.”
Horror Fuel: “Speaking of movie scripts, is it true that there is a script about your story?”
John: “Yes there is. Around the beginning of the year, I sat down with Mitch Hyman over a few days and recounted most of what I experienced. We added a backstory that would be more cinematic to it. So, yes, there is a complete movie script. And I’ve written movies before, in college and in later years, wrote, shot and edited a couple of documentaries. One was given a National Organizational Women Award. It was about the woman’s immigration experience in the early 1900’s. I did another one about Ellis Island. I was one of the last people allowed on Ellis Island before they rebuilt it. I’ve got footage of the creepy hospital wards. Things were overgrown. The main hall where bricks were falling down. I did another for the national park service at the Bono house, a town away from Wayne, at the national labor museum. It was where people went to congregate and organize. They used that video for a very long time to initiate groups of students to the museum, to give them a background. I used period music, period effects.
Horror Fuel: “Who is Uncle Charley?”
John: “This was one of my experiences. I went to an all Catholic high school, and one of my friends, I’ll just call him “Bob”, used to kid us that he had a ghost in his house and called him “Uncle Charley”. We were like, “Okay, whatever.” He said, ‘You guys are going to come over Friday night, my parents are going out and we are going to play cards all night. And I’ll show you “Uncle Charley.” Me and three other guys show up. We went into a room that used to be a dining room between the kitchen and the living room. There was a single window and two doors, one to the kitchen and one to the living room. He closed both doors and the window and pulled the shade all the way down. We sat down to play cards. Two or three hours into it, we hear [rattling noise] and it’s one of the door knobs. That door opens. The shade on the window goes up. Then the window raises up about a third of the way. The other door opens and closes. Bob goes, ‘That’s Uncle Charley.’ Now, we believed him. He had another story. He was coming back from skiing in Vermont one night in his old station wagon, probably ’71 or ’72, and fell asleep. He wakes up and he is off the road and about 10 feet from a sharp drop on the road that would have hurt him really badly. The car is in drive and running but it is not moving forward. He evaluates the situation, puts his foot on the brake, puts the car in reverse, and gets back on the road. He said, ‘All I said was, thanks, Uncle Charlie.’
Horror Fuel: “Wow!”
I’m sure you’re wondering how real this story actually is. It’s very real and confirmed. His 1974 article backs it all up. Before our interview, I was told the family’s name along with some other information and did a bit of research for myself. Once again, the information confirmed John’s story. Let me tell you, the full story is terrifying.
As for the family that suffered at the hands of “The Dutchman”, their names have not been included to protect their privacy and to keep the promise that John made to them so many years ago. Other details have also been left out to protect other people involved.
After our conversation began his voiced changed. I could hear the tension in it. When he spoke about entering the house and having the needle sensation spread all over his body, I could hear his voice tremble. Even after 40 years, his experiences inside the house still affect him. There was no denying it. I will forever be grateful to John for choosing me to recount his story to, especially considering that he has told it to so few people. It was an honor.
John and Mitch Hyman of Two Rubbing Nickels have a completed script, so it might not be long before we see the story come to life on the silver screen, at least I hope it’s soon. Be sure to check out John Catapano’s author page on Facebook.
Hyman had this to say:
Something I want to clarify about the film we have concerning the Warrens. This is not some blood spewing, pea soup spitting, priest killing typical horror film. This is way more than a one note story. It’s a tale of betrayals, bigotry, greed, egomania, lust and sorrow beyond the grave. Even the young victim falls into this because she seeks power, a treasure and wants her own pet “ghost”. This is a cautionary tale to teach us to not do seances, play with Ouija boards and know that weakness and foolishness can be deadly. Like Mel Brooks, I can do a Blazing Saddles…But am capable of Elephant Man. My company wants to tell good stories and be media with a message. John, me and, another person have worked on this since last year, so it is not something we “slammed” together. The script is intricate and written with over 30 years of experience storytelling as Pros. It does have scary as hell scenes, but offers more. So, hang on. The ride is just beginning.”
We were granted exclusive permission to share this interview with you by both John and Mitch Hyman of Two Rubbing Nickles who own the rights to John’s story. In the event that you would like to contact Mitch Hyman and Two Rubbing Nickles, they have requested that you email us at [email protected] and we will forward any messages along to them.