How The Conjuring Changed Vera Farmiga Forever

In James Wan's "The Conjuring" series, which has spawned an entire "Conjuring" universe, Vera Farmiga plays Lorraine Warren, a real-life paranormal investigator and devout Catholic with psychic abilities who was involved with the famous "Amityville Horror" mystery. Alongside her devoted husband Ed Warren (played by Patrick Wilson), she battles ghosts, ancient witches, and demons. Lorraine is resilient and dedicated to her faith, family, and helping others. She believes that good will always triumph over evil. The films depict the Warren's various cases during the 1970s and 1980s. 

But the heroic ghost hunters we see on the screen do not reflect their real-world counterparts. In Chris Evangelista's eye-opening article on how romance is the secret weapon of "The Conjuring" series, he explores the stark differences between the Warrens' rosy cinematic depiction and their immoral business practices and personal life. Many people regard the Warrens as "full-blown con-artists scamming people ... While the Warrens didn't charge people for their investigations, they did make a healthy living from selling books about their cases." 

But no matter your feelings on the real-life Warrens, the heavily fictionalized movie versions are compelling horror protagonists, brought to endearing life by Farmiga and Wilson. And no matter your feelings about "real-life" tales of the supernatural, Farmiga herself claims that the odd, the unexplainable, and the downright spooky have invaded her life since she took on the role.

She Felt a Spiritual Presence

In 2013 when the first "Conjuring" was released, Farmiga was mostly known for her roles in "The Departed," "Up in the Air," and the child horror film "The Orphan." The series changed Farmiga's life both on-screen and off, solidifying her stardom and transforming her as a person. By immersing so deeply into the role of Lorraine Warren, someone with a profound belief in the demonic and holy, Farmiga alleged that she opened herself up to the spiritual world.

Horror movies have a history of being cursed in real life, sometimes harming or even ending the lives of its stars. There were numerous deaths during and after the making of "Poltergeist" and terrifying on-set injuries while filming "The Exorcist," such as crew members losing toes from sunstroke and Linda Blair fracturing her spine. The "Conjuring" series is part of this lore of haunted film sets, thanks to Farmiga's chilling experiences with no earthly explanation.

Note: In 2017, The Hollywood Reporter published a damning story about a woman named Judith Penney who was reportedly Ed's lover for decades, beginning when she was only 15-years- old. Lorraine was accepting of the relationship, but pressured Penney to get an abortion in 1978 in order to keep the affair hidden. Lorraine even took extra care to include a stipulation in her contract that "The Conjuring" films "could never portray either of the Warrens 'as participating in an extramarital sexual relationship.'" It is important to note that Farmiga does not acknowledge Penney's claims of abuse at the hands of the Warrens; she often gushes about her relationship with Lorraine and the counsel she received from her. Any mention of the Warrens going forward refers to their romanticized cinematic versions — the happy, faithful couple with a shared love of helping others and an authentic connection to the afterlife.

She Experienced Strange and Scary Things

During a video interview with MTV UK for "The Conjuring: The Devil Make Me Do It," Farmiga relayed an unusual incident that occurred in her home: "Like right now my toilet paper, every time I pull out a sheet of toilet paper, these five little claw marks fall to the floor. I am serious! Do you want me to bring the computer to show you?" Patrick Wilson laughed and expressed his doubts, leading her to respond: "Patrick, don't roll your eyes at me!"

This wasn't the only time Farmiga had seen claw marks. Before "The Conjuring" began shooting, Farmiga recalls to CinemaBlend:  

"The strangest occurrence for me personally, on the first one, was the day I had a creative conversation with James Wan. I had just been researching Lorraine. I wasn't familiar with her, and so before our phone call, I was on the computer, and I had closed it. We had our conversation ... and then we said goodbye, and I opened the computer screen and there were three digital claw marks, from the upper right diagonal to the lower left." 

She also saw these foreboding marks the day after she finished filming the first "Conjuring" film. Farmiga woke up to discover "three claw mark bruises across [her] thigh," even though she had a peaceful sleep the night before in the comfort of her home:

 "It wasn't incredibly painful. It might have felt like a bruise ... It was these three, very distinct, what looks like claw marks, that long nails or long fingertips, like thin fingertips could make."

These claw marks were not Farmiga's only eerie experience. During the shooting of "The Conjuring," she would consistently wake up between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., also known as "the witching hour" or "the devil's hour" — the time of night when the window between life and death closes and ghostly entities have a greater chance of appearing. In "The Conjuring," this is the hour when the characters repeatedly wake up and some of the biggest scares occur. Aside from these scary moments, portraying Lorraine Warren's intrinsic connection to the supernatural plane impacted Farmiga's identity in a powerful way.

She Toughened Up

The terrifying and unexplained claw mark incidents would frighten anyone, but they only strengthened Vera Farmiga's bravery. She says that playing Lorraine and dealing with such horrific tales of bloody death and evil spirits has toughened her up. "I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect me, the first two films. But I think I've toughened up. I had to do a lot of really weirdo research for this project. I've gone down some dingy holes," she admits. 

Bringing such a determined horror heroine to life gave Farmiga an inner resolve that made it easier for her to face personal challenges and the grim circumstances of the paranormal cases head on. Despite their illegitimacy, Farmiga takes the Warrens' claims at face value and believes it would be very easy to become disillusioned by the pure evil they "witnessed." Farmiga learned from Lorraine Warren herself how to deal with such disturbing details (via People): 

"One of the first things Lorraine said to me is that, from her perspective and her knowledge of the diabolical, all of that negative stuff feeds on fear. That is probably something I've learned to push away year after year And that's really, honestly, the trick — how does one do that? I don't necessarily have a recipe for that, other than knowing the knowledge of that."

"The Conjuring" series changed Vera Farmiga forever by giving her a newfound courage and possible contact with the occult. Or maybe she just learned from an expert fraud how to sell a spooky story that makes for great publicity.