The author of the book that launched The Conjuring franchise (two main horror films and spin-offs based on the work of two notorious paranormal investigators) has now launched a double bombshell. He is suing the movies’ producers for allegedly violating his rights, while also stating that central claims in the movies are bogus.
Gerald Brittle is author of the 1980 book The Demonologist, which features the allegedly paranormal cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren, self-claimed “demonologist” and “clairvoyant” respectively. Brittle is suing Warner Brothers, New Line Productions, and others, including director James Wan, for $900 million, claiming their movies The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, and Annabelle infringe on Brittle’s exclusive rights (Cullins 2017).
According to Brittle, in 1978 he and the couple signed an agreement for the book, which included a provision disallowing “competing work” that remains in effect. Brittle’s attorney, Patrick C. Henry II, insists that this prohibited the Warrens (now just the widowed Mrs. Warren) from granting to the defendants the right to use their case files which the defendants have themselves repeatedly avowed are the basis of their movies. Henry states, “Lorraine Warren had nothing to convey.”
Neither is the lawsuit the only one visited on The Conjuring. Norma Sutcliffe, current resident of The Conjuring house, invited me to the eighteenth century property to see firsthand the evidence that the story is fictionalized and fantasized. The resulting “Conjuring-instigated siege” of her and her husband’s previously serene property, according to legal papers, led them to file their own lawsuit against Warner Bros. Studios (Nickell 2016). Ashley Cullins (2017), observed that “The Conjuring franchise has been fraught with litigation,” but the latest $900 million claim “is sure to spook producers.”
Brittle’s attorneys say they sent a cease-and-desist order to the defendants before The Conjuring 2 was released; however the latter maintained the movies were based not on the book but on “historical facts.” Brittle’s legal team responded by saying, basically, nice try. According to attorney Henry:
Lorraine and Ed Warren’s claims of what happened in their Perron Farmhouse Case File, which the Defendants freely and publicly admit their The Conjuring movie was based on, does not at all jive with the real historical facts. This is a pattern of deceit that is part of a scheme that the Warrens have perpetuated for years. . . . There are no historical facts of a witch ever existing at the Perron farmhouse, a witch hanging herself, possession, Satanic worship or child sacrifice.
Author Brittle adds that while he was writing The Demonologist, he took the Warrens’ word that their accounts were true. However, he now believes he was duped, that the films are not based on real occurrences but are “at best” works that are unauthorized and derivative. His attorney Henry concludes, “To the extent the Defendants’ movies are not based on ‘historical facts’ they cannot claim they are protected by the ‘fair use’ doctrine exemption to copyright” (Cullins 2017).
Brittle, Gerald. 1980. The Demonologist: The True Story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the World-Famous Exorcism Team. Reprinted New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1991.
Cullins, Ashley. 2017. Warner Bros. Facing $900 Million Lawsuit. . . . Hollywood Reporter, March 3. Online at https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/warner-bros-facing-900-million-lawsuit-conjuring-franchise-990107; accessed March 31, 2017. (Thanks to Tim Binga for passing this along.)
Nickell, Joe. 2016. Dispelling Demons: Detective Work at The Conjuring House, Skeptical Inquirer 40:6, November/December 2016, 20–24.