Inside America's most haunted cemetery


I had been in a lot of weird situations as a journalist.

I've watched a live exorcism; hung out with cult members; traipsed across the Australian outback with a prominent UFO hunter and his pet galah “Pink Bits” and have been escorted through peak hour traffic in Kuala Lumpur by a police convoy – which made like the Red Sea – just to get us to lunch on time.

I had a great dragon of the Ku Klux Klan proposition during an interview (it was a no from me) and have gone on national television to discuss with naked man rolling in the grass with a saltwater crocodile on his back as two lingerie-clad models with his new bondage range.

I was rocked up to a "live art exhibition" only to be passed a plaster mold of the artist's vulva before she unexpectedly took off her pants, inserted a ball of wool, whipped out some needles and started knitting from her nether regions as part of the demonstration; her lifelike sculpture, still in the palm of my hand.

Later, she showed us more craftsmanship and she called "c ** t fling-ups" before explaining the purpose of the female-inspired material cut-outs: they were to be thrown over power lines like some people do with old shoes.

Look, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I found myself in, it’s probably pretty safe to say nothing will ever knock the knitting “performance” off its because it is the most bizarre of them all.

However, another experience recently became a strong contender for runner-up.

It unfolded during a press junket in Monroe, Connecticut with Warner Bros. and a group of international media to promote the release of Annabelle Comes Home movie.

After watching the new film, we were taken to a site known as "one of the most haunted places in America" ​​- Union Cemetery.

"If anything goes wrong, it's Annabelle," a publicist nervously joked as our bus pulled up.

It 's where famous paranormal investigators and demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren – who The Conjuring and Annabelle horror franchises are based on – conducted extensive investigations.

It’s said that a figure known as the “White Lady” haunts the grounds and its surrounds. The legend goes that she is wearing a white dress, with multiple reported sightings of the ghost over hundreds of years.

To my knowledge, there were no sightings of her during the junket. But it was the next stop where things took an unusual turn: nearby Stepney Cemetery, a 400-year-old burial ground where the Warrens lay side-by-side.

The couple's daughter Judy Warren and her husband Tony Spera – who had watched her character as a life on the big screen with our group – ushered us to the final resting place of her parents.

Lorraine had died just three weeks earlier, the soil still fresh. Tony is reminiscing about some of the most extreme supernatural encounters with certainty and having to increase their chances of attracting a response.

He rattled off some examples: "What’s your name?", "Where did you live?" And "How did you die?", Among them.

Our impromptu crash course in raising the dead concluded with a practical element when we were off to the cemetery and instructed to have a chat with whichever gravesite pulled us towards it.

If you will. But ultimately, a lot of one-way conversations occurred that night.

The junket concluded at the family home of the Warrens, in the suburban Monroe, about 30 minutes drive from the cemetery. Outside the house, which has a separate "artefact room" full of items the Warrens said were possessed by demons, we were met by a priest in a clerical collar and shirt.

Health and safety first, he blessed us with holy water by tracing a cross on our foreheads to ensure we couldn’t get possessed by demons upon entering.

After all, the "real" Annabelle was encased in a glass box inside. It is a little known fact the evil vintage doll of the conjuring spin-off series Annabelle is based on a real-life doll that the Warrens performed exorcisms on and keep locked up to this day. A sign on the box – also featured in the movie version – warns: "Positively, do not open".


There have been eight films in the franchise in the last six years, with offshoots for The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona.

The latest offering, Annabelle Comes Home opens as The Warrens – played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga – are driving home when it dawns on the doll they have just acquired a beacon for evil.

When they get to their Connecticut split-level house, they put Annabelle – who had not one but two origin stories in Annabelle and Annabelle Creation – behind glass in their room of art, a collection of so much stuff that it 's blessed weekly by a priest.

But for much of Annabelle Comes Home, Ed and Lorraine are out of town, leaving their 10-year-old daughter Judy Warren (McKenna Grace) in the hands of her teenage babysitter Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman).

Judy is a sweet young kid who has inherited her mother's spirit but, two to her parents' reputation, is shunned by many of her classmates.

She and Mary Ellen are having a fine time together, but trouble comes in the form of Mary Ellen's friend, Daniela (Katie Sarife), who shows up uninvited and mischievously curious about the Warrens' work.

She also hided her own grief, having recently lost her father in a car accident. Yearning for some connection to what's beyond the grave, she's drawn intractably to the locked room and, naturally, to Annabelle.

Pandora's box opened and the three girls found themselves in a haunted house with all manner of terrors.

Well, almost all. There was no one with their pants off wielding knitting needles.

Annabelle Comes Home, a Warner Bros. release is now in cinemas across Australia

[email protected] | @Megan_Palin

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