From 1974 to 1987 in the town of West Pittston, Pennsylvania one of America’s most terrifying haunting’s took place. It was at the home of Jack and Janet Smurl; the case received wide attention in the media. Although the house went through three exorcisms and investigations by demonologists the entity refused to leave. The haunting’s were turned in to a book and later a movie both named “The Haunted”.
Jack and Janet Smurl had moved to West Pittston from Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania to escape the flooding damage left behind from hurricane Agnes in 1972. They moved into a duplex Jack’s parents had purchased, sharing the house with them. Jack and Janet and their two daughters, Dawn and Heather lived in one half, and Jack’s parents lived in the other. The house had been built in 1896, and was on a quiet street in a middle class neighborhood.
One if the daughters being attacked by an unseen force.
Both Jack and Janet had grown up in the area, meeting in 1967 and marrying in 1968. Jack served in the Navy, becoming a neuropsychiatric technician. Both the Smurl’s were raised in Catholic homes and had strong religious beliefs. They enjoyed living with Jacks’ parents and had no trouble sharing the duplex with them. The family did some remodeling and redecorating work on the house, settled into it, and Jack and Janet added twin girls Shannon and Carin to the family. The first 18 months on Chase St. were happy ones.
In January 1974, a year and a half after moving in, the atmosphere in the house began to change. It all started with the appearance of a stain on the new carpet. Several days later the television burst into flames. Then the events became more disturbing the newly fitted sink and bathtub were found severely scratched as if a large animal had clawed at them. Freshly painted woodwork in the bathroom also showed similar scratches.
In 1975, their oldest daughter Dawn repeatedly saw people “floating” around her bedroom. The paranormal activity in the house increased toilets would flush without anyone using them, footsteps would be continuously heard on the stairs, drawers would open and close on their own accord, radios would blare although they were unplugged and empty rocking chairs would mysteriously rock and creak as if someone were actually sitting in them. As time went on, they began to smell sour and vile smells throughout the house and on several occasions, Jack felt the touch of an unseen hand caress him.
These where moved by something unseen as someone or something began to put chairs ontop of other objects.
By January 1985 the poltergeist activity was no longer confined to Jack and Janet’s side of the Duplex. Jack parents, John and Mary were also subjected to frightening events. The house would become icy cold, and they would hear what appeared to be violent shouting on Jack and Janet’s side of the home, with abusive, foul language.
In February 1985 Janet heard her name being called while in the basement doing laundry, after searching for the unseen caller, she realized she had been alone the entire time. Two days later, in the kitchen the temperature dropped rapidly becoming icy cold, a black, human shaped form with no facial features appeared to Janet in the kitchen. It disappeared through the wall and appeared to Mary on the opposite side of the house. From that point on, the haunting activity increased in both frequency and magnitude.
Physical violence towards the family escalated, a large ceiling fan crashed down inches from Shannon, nearly killing her, on the night her now 13 year old sister Heather was to be confirmed into the Catholic religion. Janet was violently pulled off her bed after making love to her husband while he lay paralyzed, gagging from a foul odour. Even the pet German Shepherd was tormented, picked up and thrown repeatedly.
The Smurl family was growing frustrated and fatigued by the increasing paranormal activity. Ed and Lorraine Warren were contacted by Janet in 1986 for help. The Warren’s are well known psychical researchers and demonologists from Connecticut. The Warren’s claim to have investigated over 10,000 hauntings during their career. Ed and Lorraine Warren were among the very first investigators to investigate the Amityville haunting. Janet had heard about them, and in desperation asked them for help in spite of her skepticism.
The Warrens were accompanied by Rosemary Frueh, a registered nurse and psychic. They began the investigation by quizzing the Smurl’s about their religious beliefs, the happiness of their family life, whether they had ever practiced Satanism, occultism, used a Ouija board or in any way invited the supernatural into their home. Then the Warren’s and Frueh explored the house, identifying the bedroom closet as the crossover point between the two sides of the duplex. The team said they detected the presence of 4 evil spirits. 3 were minor but the fourth was a demon.
With no evidence of family dysfunction, occult invitation or tragedy, the Warren’s surmised that the demon must have been dormant, possibly for decades. According to the Warren’s it had arisen to draw on the emotional energy generated by the Smurl’s daughter’s onset of puberty.
The Warren’s tried twice to provoke the demon to expose itself by playing tapes of religious music and confronting it with prayer. The demon reacted by violently shaking a mirror and dresser drawers and yet another instance by spelling out “You filthy bastard, get out of this house.” Only Holy water and prayer seemed to stop the manifestations.
The actions of the Warren’s seemed only to make the situation even worse, Jack Smurl was raped by a succubus (a female demon) whilst alone at the property. The succubus was described as an old woman with a young body, her eyes were red and her gums were green. Several days later Janet claims to have been sexually assaulted by a shadowy humanoid figure, she recalled hearing pig noises (a sign of serious demonic infestation) coming from within the bedroom walls.
When the Smurl’s attempts to involve the Roman Catholic Church for help failed the Warren’s brought in Father (now Bishop) McKenna, a traditionalist priest who said mass in Latin and had performed more than 50 exorcisms for the Warren’s. He conducted the ancient rite which did nothing but infuriate the demon.
After the failure of the Warren’s to quell the poltergeist activity the Smurl’s invited a medium, Mary Alice Rinkman, who visited the house and corroborated the Warren’s findings of 4 spirits. She identified one as an elderly woman named Abigail and another as a dark, moustached man named Patrick who had murdered his wife and her lover. Patrick had then been lynched by a mob. She could not identify the third but the fourth was a powerful demonic presence.
McKenna performed a second exorcism in late spring but the haunting continued even attempts to escape the haunting were also unsuccessful. The family was followed on a camping trip; and Jack Smurl was even having paranormal experiences at work. In desperation, the family decided to turn to the media for help. The resulting press coverage opened the floodgates, and the Smurl’s home became a tourist attraction, press magnet, and forum for skeptics.
After repeated refusals by the church to help, Jack Smurl decided to appear on television. Remaining anonymous behind a screen, they were interviewed by Richard Bey on a local Philadelphia show called “People are Talking.” Immediately after returning home the demon retaliated. It levitated Janet and then hurled her against the wall. Later that night Janet was throttled and thrown about by invisible forces, whilst Jack was raped by a monstrous creature resembling a pig on two legs.
After repeated refusals by the Church to become involved, the media coverage finally motivated the Scranton diocese to offer an investigation into the Smurl’s case. A third exorcism performed by Father McKenna brought a stop to the activity. In December 1986, however, after only 3 months of freedom from the torture, Jack saw a dark form beckoning to him. He clutched his rosary and prayed, hoping this was simply an isolated incident. It was not, the banging started again, as well as the putrid smells and violent poltergeist activity.
Frustrated, tired, and hopeless, the Smurl’s moved to another town, shortly before the release of a book concerning their ordeal, “The Haunted”, went to press. The church performed a fourth exorcism in 1988, which finally seemed to have brought peace to the property. A movie version of “The Haunted” was released in 1991.