If you're looking for a movie this Halloween weekend and are not too worried about things that go bump in the night quite literally, the new paranormal documentary The Sleepless Unrest: The Real Conjuring Home is one you'll definitely want to tune into. Paranormal investigators and former Ghost Hunters Brian Murray and Richel Stratton reveal to PopCulture.com in an exclusive interview that the experience of investigating the home with filmmakers Vera and Kendall Whelpton was not only a "bucket list" moment for the pair, but one that left them a bit "uneasy" with a feeling of being watched.
"When I first walked into the home, I thought, 'I am in one of the most iconic locations in the paranormal that anybody could be in.' I was overwhelmed, I was like, 'I can't believe that I'm here, there's so much that's been said to have happened here, let's do this, let's get going,' I was pumped," Murray said in a telephone conversation with PopCulture. "But then there was this moment where I was kind of —I was a little bit uneasy. I don't know what to expect, I've read the stories, I've watched the documentaries, but now I'm here, now it's my turn to make my story, you know what I mean? And it felt like I was being watched. If that makes sense, it feels like I walked into an area where things were watching me and they weren't necessarily going to do anything at that moment, but they were wondering who I was, what I was going to do, and I could just feel eyes on me."
With Murray and Stratton spending two weeks at the reportedly haunted 18th century Rhode Island farmhouse that inspired the 2013 horror movie The Conjuring alongside the Whelptons and meeting with current homeowners Cory and Jennifer Heinzen, the investigation left Stratton with a "weird feeling" despite the location being so iconic. As history would reveal for the team in their research, the home is also situated around the sites of King Philip's War, an armed conflict in the mid-1600s between indigenous inhabitants and New England colonists and their indigenous allies. Not to mention, allegedly haunted by the spirit of Bathsheba Sherman, one of the home's first inhabitants from the 1800s who was rumored to be a witch after locals reported the mysterious disappearance of her infant, per reports from History vs. Hollywood.
"You don't want to have too many expectations when you go in. Like Brian and I don't like to have expectations when we go to a location anyway because you don't know what's going to happen," Stratton said in the conference call with Murray. "But you kind of have to push down the feelings of like you're nervous or like anything could happen at any moment and hyping it up so much. And if you look at it as a location, it's got a creepy, like a cabin in the woods, feel to it. But it's eerily cozy, it sounds crazy, I've told people multiple times like, this house is the most peaceful, active location I've ever been to. During the day when the sun's shining, it's quiet, activity will be happening. But still... I don't know if it's like, I'm sitting on the back porch drinking coffee and I'm at peace, and then all of a sudden we're seeing a shadow out the corner of our eye that's in the library."
Following claims of doors opening, footsteps and knocks along with disembodied voices and shadow figures, Murray and Stratton with the Whelptons discover plenty more activity when utilizing the spirit box on one of their investigations during their two-week stay. The device, which creates white noise by constantly cycling through various radio frequencies, reportedly allows spirits to communicate in a direct manner as seen in the movie. During a moment during their investigation, the team while with the Heinzens, attempt to make a connection with the spirits in the dining room using the spirit box by asking questions only those in the room would know.
Sharing how in their technique the team set the box to AM and played it backward, Murray says what investigators want to look for when using a device like this is "full sentences" and anything that pertains to real-time occurrences. "It sweeps over different radio frequencies, and if you can get full sentences with the same voice, then you have to look at it as something a little bit odd," he said. "[But] if you got the opportunity to try different things, it never hurts. And that situation, it had worked for Cory and Jen [Heinzen] for the last year and a half that they've owned the property, so they said, let's try it, and we were bored, let's give it a go, let's see what it amounts to. And there's some cool things that happened with that stuff that we couldn't explain."
Stratton admits while she was a "skeptic" with the spirit box sessions, it was the way the team got responses in the room that made her think twice, especially when the acknowledgments sparked somewhat aggressive behavior leading to knocks on the wall outside and another flinging a door open. "I don't always hear what everyone else hears, I don't necessarily hear words, I'm like, it's just a lot of noise. But being in that house and running the spirit box — the way they respond to him, I had never seen before. So the spirit box session made me believe, like, okay, I believe in this spirit box session because the things that they're saying, you do not hear on the radio."
Sharing how the voices on the spirit box were responding to how many fingers they held up, requests to blow out candles while another called out Vera's middle name — one which is not at all common — Stratton says it's all those elements that made her believe in the spirit box session.
As for the house being sinister, Stratton doesn't believe it is. But she is careful about how she approached the "personality" of the home. "I have told multiple people that, that house does not get its reputation because it's all sunshine and rainbows," she said. "I think that it is capable of a lot of things. Did we experience anything that I think is demonic? No, but I believe that there are multiple spirits there and there's one that isn't super friendly, I don't know if that's who the Perrons [the homeowners whose hauntings inspired The Conjuring movie] dealt with or had their experiences with. But that house — the best way I can describe it is, so you know when you meet someone and they seem super nice, but you have a feeling like something's off? You don't trust it. That's how that house is," she said. "It's like, you're not showing me that I should be terrified that something bad can happen, but there were glimpses. And you watched the film, there were glimpses where it's like, okay, this could escalate because it escalated pretty quickly just by a little question. So, I mean the house has a personality."
Further sharing how she knows it might sound "nuts," Stratton reveals whenever she and the team would talk about the house, she made sure to do it outside of the house. "If I wanted to talk about the house because — it sounded weird, but I was like, I don't want the house to hear me and then react to a theory," she said. "I didn't want to offend the house. It sounds nuts when you say it, but if you're in this field, you kind of understand what I mean."
Echoing her sentiment, Murray adds that the entities in the home were "going to react" however the team would react. "I think they were watching us just the way we were trying to watch them or trying to figure out who they are, I think they were doing the same. And the first day that we were there, we got the most sleep that night — then the rest of the time, we averaged about two hours of sleep the remainder of the time because things were going on, and the way I put it out and I think Kendall, and Vera, and Richel, we kind of talked about this, I feel like the house, in the beginning, was like, 'Okay here comes another group of people in here, I'm not going to react, I'm not going to interact with them, I don't care about them, I'm tired of this,'" he said.
"And then after days went by, they saw that we didn't go in there and we're trying to find the demonic nature, and we're trying to search out for that Bathsheba or anything like that. We're just literally living in the house trying to see what experiences we have without trying to really go look for it. And I think the entities were like, 'Okay, they're different, and towards the end, I think they were full of life, they were wanting to let us know that they're there. Things were happening, but like Richel said, there is something, I believe that there is an entity that could go either way, could get angry, or could be nice, if you're doing the wrong things."
The Illinois natives, who are heading back to the Rhode Island home with their investigating team Riverbend Paranormal in the next few weeks, might have had the experience of a lifetime visiting but advise those who ever want to investigate haunted properties to "do as we say, not as we do" after the pair along with their filmmaking friends took home souvenirs from the house. In the last few moments of the film, Stratton and Murray, as well as the Whelptons reveal they have been experiencing paranormal activities in their own home now because of the items brought with them.
"I did not mean to bring something home, okay?" Stratton said. "We were catching a lot of flak from it, I was like, I get it, we're not supposed to bring stuff home, but when you're in an iconic spot, it's really super tempting. But, I did not mean to bring dirt home — at all, like if I'm going to bring back a souvenir, it's not going to be dirt. But I gathered the dirt from the yard, there's supposed to be seven bodies buried out in the yard. They had done that ground-penetrating radar and had it marked, I wanted to collect some dirt from that area for an experiment that we were going to do."
Revealing how she got permission from the Heinzens and property caretaker to collect some for a sample, Stratton says she and Murray dug up a bit of dirt for their experiment. However, it was an accident to bring it back to Illinois with her. "We had not slept in two weeks, my brain was not firing on all cylinders like I was exhausted not thinking right, we had to catch a flight home. We had stuff happening up until the moment we left, so we're hurrying and trying to throw stuff in our bags to get in the car so we can get to the airport. I accidentally threw it in my bag with the rest of my crap," she said through a laugh. "When I got home, things were going on, which sometimes happens after an investigation, sometimes you have like some things that happen at your house every once in a while. I did not realize until like a week or two later when I finally decided to unpack my bag because I'm lazy, and I unzipped it, and I had seen the dirt in there. I was like, 'Oh my God!' And I was like, 'Well, what's done is done.' I'm not going to throw it out in my yard, I don't want ghosts out in my yard and I'm not going to flush it down the toilet, I feel like that's disrespectful. I'm like, so I'll just keep it in the jar and I'll return it when I go back."
Murray, on the other hand, says he "totally meant" to bring something back. Sharing how he took the doll from the home with him, the investigator says he still has it at his house. "I keep a camera on it," he laughed. "I get alerts, so if anything is to happen, I can look down there and make sure nothing's happening or whatever. But yeah, things were happening two months afterward, and then honestly, it started to tail off a little bit, and when the premiere of the film came out, it started happening again. And every now and then if we do a podcast or an interview and we start talking about the film and stuff, things will start to happen for a couple of days."
While the documentary is not a horror movie, Murray and Stratton want viewers to feel intrigued by their investigation and take it as insight into what it's like to live in a haunted house 24 hours a day. "I want people to watch it and just — the whole idea was to feel how it feels to live in a haunted location, like watch it like you're at the house, don't necessarily watch it as it's strictly investigation because it's not strictly investigation because there's times when we're just living in the house, don't watch it thinking it's going to be a horror film because no one dies," she laughed. "We all made it out. Our intention was for people to feel what it was like to live in a haunted location and kind of be there with us."0comments
Murray adds it's all about the experience and one that viewers can watch with their friends. "It was literally a group of four friends going to go live in the most iconic haunted location in history," he said. "So let's see what happens. Why did we do that? Is it going to be dark? Is it going to be nice? Are there going to have any kind of experiences? That's what I want people to watch it for. Watch what happens, and then you can tell us how you felt during that. I had people watch this film and literally texted me and called me saying they had stuff happening at their house."
The Sleepless Unrest: The Real-Life Conjuring Home is now available to watch on Amazon and for free on Tubi. You can pick up a copy on Blu-ray as well. For more on all your favorite paranormal news and movie updates, keep it locked to PopCulture.com!