In Episode 203, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger explore Brookfield, Connecticut, to examine the infamous 1981 “Devil Made Me Do It Case” involving Arne Johnson, his girlfriend, Debbie Glatzel, and famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. After Debbie’s youngest brother went through a demonic possession and a series of exorcisms, all was quiet until a fateful day in February when a man was murdered. Arne Johnson was found guilty of manslaughter, but to this day he insists he was not operating under his own power at the time. Hear the real story behind the new Conjuring 3 movie!
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RAY: What brings us to church today, Jeff? I’m guessing we’re long overdue for confession.
JEFF: Looooong overdue, Ray. No question. But no, there’s no time for us to squeeze in a confession today. The penance alone would take weeks!
RAY: So we’re at Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in the center of Brookfield, Connecticut. It’s a large church. It’s pretty, with a tall steeple and fancy windows.
JEFF: It is pretty, and peaceful. But some scary things have happened here.
RAY: Like what?
JEFF: Way back in 1980, a young boy went through an exorcism.
RAY: That DOES sound scary.
JEFF: But that’s not the half of it. A few months later, a man connected to that young boy would end up killing another man, and when the case went to trial he made national news by claiming he was possessed… and that the devil made him do it.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger and welcome to episode 203 of the New England Legends Podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. I love that episode 203 is in Connecticut.
JEFF: Ha! I get it. 203 is the area code for half of Connecticut.
RAY: Right! Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re a community of Legend Seekers who love sharing these tales of the strange and the unexplained. We can’t do what we do without you, so please subscribe to our podcast, because it’s free, and share your favorite episodes with a friend or two. It helps us out a lot.
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JEFF: Okay, Ray. I know both of us were raised Catholic.
RAY: That’s true.
JEFF: Catholics believe in God and the devil. In saints and sinners. In Purgatory. And of course in angels and demons.
RAY: There’s kind of a whole spectrum there.
JEFF: We were taught from a young age that sometimes things can go very bad for us. That sometimes a demon can come into our world and take possession, and the only cure is an exorcism by a priest.
RAY: We all saw the movie, The Exorcist.
JEFF: A classic.
RAY: That movie scared the hell out of me. It’s the story of a young girl named Regan who became possessed and who went on to attack the priests trying to help her. Or, I guess I should say the demon inside of Regan attacked the priests. It was damn scary.
JEFF: The Exorcist movie came out in 1974 and became a horror movie phenomenon. That movie remained on everyone’s mind for years to come.
RAY: That movie STILL holds up today.
JEFF: This story we’re chasing this week hits pretty close to home for me because I grew up in Newtown, Connecticut, the next town over from Brookfield. In fact, that’s the town where all of this got started. And Newtown is the town next to Monroe, Connecticut, which is where famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren lived.
RAY: Okay… wait a minute. This is all starting to sound familiar. The Warrens, the Devil Made Me Do It? This sounds like the new Conjuring 3 movie.
JEFF: And you’re right. This week we’re going to explore the real story behind the movie. So let’s head a few miles south to Newtown, and dive into the darkness.
RAY: It’s July first, 1980, and we’re standing in front of a small house with an attached apartment here in Newtown, Connecticut. The yard is a little overgrown, and the whole place could use a little TLC, but it’s not bad for a young couple trying to start their lives together.
JEFF: Arriving today at the house in Newtown is just such a young couple, but it’s more complicated than just two people moving in to a house. First, there’s Debbie Glatzel. She’s 26 years old, from nearby Brookfield, and she’s got her young 7-year-old son with her. There’s Debbie’s boyfriend, 18-year-old Arne Johnson. For those of you doing the math in your head right now, Debbie’s child is from a previous relationship.
RAY: Debbie had been living in an apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with her son, and with a roommate who was raising three young girls on her own. Money is tight, but if they pool what they have, they can just cover living in this house, which is a nicer place to raise young kids.
JEFF: Plus, Arne is a tree surgeon and landscaper, so he’ll find a lot more work in this rural part of the state compared to the city of Bridgeport.
RAY: The plan is for Arne, Debbie, and Debbie’s son to live in the main house, and Debbie’s roommate and her three kids will live in the attached apartment. At least… that’s the plan.
JEFF: Debbie’s mom and her younger brothers have just arrived from Brookfield to help with the move-in, but there are already problems. First, there’s still furniture and even a bed from the former tenant that haven’t been moved out yet.
RAY: While that’s frustrating, that’s not the only problem. That attached apartment that Debbie’s roommate is going to move in to? There’s a person living there right now. It’s the landlord’s daughter who has no intention of moving out just yet.
JEFF: Still, Debbie and Arne have faith that the landlord is going to arrive and get everything worked out. So they head inside.
[DOOR CREAKS OPEN]
JEFF: Once inside, though, Debbie’s mother is uncomfortable. Something seems off about this house. She can’t put her finger on it. Still, the move must go on.
RAY: Debbie sends her youngest brother, 11-year-old David, back to the master bedroom to carry in a box and sweep up the room. But just after David enters the bedroom…
RAY: The door slams, and David is shoved down on the bed by an unseen force.
JEFF: David stands up to see a ghostly figure standing before him. It’s an old man who looks angry. The ghost warns David to go home and take down his crucifixes and religious medals.
JEFF: David fleas the bedroom, runs out of the house, and plops himself down under a tree in the front yard. He refuses to go back inside.
RAY: Inside the house, David’s two older brothers also have a strange encounter in that bedroom.
RAY: The door slams on them, and they’re now locked inside. They pound on the door…
[POUNDING ON DOOR]
RAY: Finally it opens.
[DOOR CREAKS OPEN]
JEFF: Because Arne and Debbie can’t fully move in to the house yet, they spend the night at Debbie’s parents’ house in Brookfield. It’s just a few miles away. That evening, everyone is tired from the move, however Debbie’s younger brothers are spooked, but none more than David.
RAY: The three brothers talk about the strange things they experienced inside the Newtown house, but young David speaks up. He walks into the kitchen and tells the adults about the ghost. Not only that, but David says he can see the old man’s ghost right now… he’s coming this way from the house in Newtown.
JEFF: It’s July third, and Arne and Debbie are back at the Newtown house. The former tenant has arrived to get the last of her things. When Debbie presses her, the woman admits, the master bedroom seems to have a ghost, but that’s all she’ll say.
RAY: Meanwhile, down in the basement, Arne discovers there’s a strange room built out of plywood. It’s locked, Arne can’t get inside, but it makes him uncomfortable. As he’s heading up the basement stairs, something unseen taps him on the shoulder.
JEFF: The couple are spooked, and Debbie’s roommate still can’t move in because the attached apartment is still occupied. So they demand to get their deposit back from the landlord. It’s decided they’ll have to move in with the Glatzels at least for now. It’s July 5th back at the Glatzel house in Brookfield, and something is wrong with David. He’s being tormented by this entity that’s now in his house. David doesn’t call him the old man anymore, now he refers to him as… the beast.
RAY: The Glatzels are a religious family. Devout Roman Catholics. They have crucifixes hanging on their walls, St, Michael prayers printed on cards and hanging up, and they attend Saint Joseph’s parish in town regularly. When David moves from spooked to tormented, they reach out to their priests who are quick to come to the house.
PRAYER: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
RAY: The priest says a blessing, he sprinkles holy water, and lights religious candles. The family find some peace, but not for very long. The blessing seems to have infuriated the entity tormenting David! The young boy is getting scratched and hit by something no one else can see, and that’s when the Glatzel’s priest suggest they reach out to two local paranormal investigators who specialize in this kind of thing. A couple from Monroe, Connecticut, named Ed and Lorraine Warren.
JEFF: In this area, everyone has at least heard of Ed and Lorraine Warren and what they do. So a phone call is made.
JEFF: Given Brookfield is just two towns over from Monroe, Ed and Lorraine hop in the car.
[CAR STATING AND DRIVE OFF]
JEFF: And make their way over to the Glatzel’s house in Brookfield. They’re bringing with them a medical doctor to evaluate David. On the way up to the door, the doctor stumbles on the sidewalk. No big deal, just a stumble. He’s fine. So they knock on the door.
[KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK]
JEFF: And head inside.
RAY: Ed Warren begins to interview David and his family. He learns that David is not prone to lying. That he’s an honest kid, yet something is very wrong right now. That’s when David makes a comment about how the doctor should watch his step walking up to the house… and now Ed Warren perks up. He knows there’s no way David could have seen that happen. Ed suspects he might be dealing with something sinister.
JEFF: From here things only get worse and quickly.
RAY: David is getting attacked by a dark force. He feels like he’s being stabbed. He’s speaking languages he doesn’t know. He’s growling and according to the family, he’s even levitating.
JEFF: Ed Warren explains that there are four stages of demonic possession. There’s encroachment or permission, where the entity gains access; there’s infestation where the entity is moving in to the living space of the target person; there’s oppression where the victim is getting tormented; and finally diabolical possession where the entity has now taken over the victim. According to Ed, this process can take months or even years, but with young David, it’s happening in the span of just a few weeks. He’s never seen anything take over this fast.
RAY: The Glatzel family are at their wits end. They’re desperate for help, and the Warrens are doing everything they can to help get David an exorcism.
JEFF: Getting an exorcism in the Catholic church isn’t easy. There’s an investigation, a medical and psychological evaluation, then it must be approved by the diocese, the archdiocese, and all the way up to the Vatican. Still, the priests at Saint Joseph’s parish are doing all they can.
RAY: But David is in a bad way. At one point he pulls a knife on his brother. Another time he’s writhing around on the floor screaming. And that’s when Arne Johnson jumps on top of him, places the cross he’s wearing around his neck onto David’s forehead, and tells the entity, “Pick on someone who can fight back. Fight me instead.”
JEFF: Lorraine Warren is shocked. While she understands Arne is being selfless and trying to help, it’s a dangerous thing to say to a demon.
RAY: It’s September and 11-year-old David Glatzel undergoes a series of exorcisms at Saint Joseph’s. Though the full rite of exorcism hasn’t been authorized, the minor rite has been. The first two exorcisms are violent affairs for David. The family is concerned it will literally hurt or kill him, so the priests stop short. But finally, the third exorcism takes place on the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Lorraine has a good feeling about this one, and it turns out she’s right. After this third exorcism David finds some peace. (PAUSE) And life slowly gets back to normal for everyone.
JEFF: Within the next couple of months, Debbie Glatzel finds work as a dog groomer in Brookfield. The job even includes an apartment for she and Arne, and her son. So the couple are out on their own, and Arne finds work too. Things are looking up.
RAY: It’s February 16, 1981. Arne woke up this morning not feeling well. That isn’t like him. He never misses work, but today he calls in sick. He sleeps in and by late morning, he’s feeling better, so he heads into the dog groomer office to say hello to Debbie.
JEFF: It’s a slow day at the groomer’s office, so Debbie’s boss and their landlord, Alan Bono suggest the three of them go out for lunch. Alan is a worldly man, he lived in Australia for several years, and he likes to drink. One glass of wine at lunch turns to two, and so on. By the time they get back to the office, Alan is ready to continue his day drinking into the night. By closing time, Alan suggests they order a pizza, and keep drinking upstairs.
RAY: Debbie and Alan have seen how drunk Alan can get, but still, the couple are game to hang out for a bit in Alan’s apartment. However, it doesn’t take long for Alan to get pretty intoxicated. And Arne isn’t far behind him. Debbie and Arne are ready to leave, but Alan wants them to stay. Tempers rise.
JEFF: Alan grabs Debbie’s arm, and Arne has had enough, he pulls his girlfriend out into the hall, but Alan follows the couple. Debbie would later recall in that moment; everything changed in Arne. His face, his eyes. It’s like a switch flipped. Arne and Alan collide, there’s a struggle, and then Alan slumps over on the ground, and Debbie sees a knife lying nearby and claims the knife is glowing. Arne walks off in a daze.
RAY: The ambulance brings Alan Bono to Danbury hospital where he dies from multiple stab wounds a few hours later.
[WALKING IN WOODS]
RAY: Meanwhile, Arne Johnson is found by police two hours after the fight wandering by a roadside. Arne goes peacefully. He’s confused. He doesn’t remember anything.
JEFF: For the Brookfield police, this case is open and shut. Two guys drinking all day. There’s an argument, one of them has a knife, and now a man is dead. It seems simple. And by the way, this would be the first murder in the history of the town! A town established in 1788.
RAY: This case DOES seem open and shut… until Ed and Lorraine Warren get involved.
JEFF: Ed and Lorraine Warren believe Arne shouldn’t be held accountable for the murder of Alan Bono, because he was possessed by the same demon who possessed Debbie’s brother, David. The Warrens bring their evidence to attorney Marty Minnella. They play the frightening audio tapes, show him photos of the scratches and attacks, and Minnella is suddenly on board with a devil-made-me-do-it defense.
RAY: And then the media circus begins.
[CAMERAS CLICKING CROWD NOISE]
RAY: International news comes in to cover this story – a story, by the way, that no one would care about beyond the local paper under normal circumstances, but these aren’t normal circumstances. Many think the idea is ludicrous, but then people start talking about our legal system. In court, when they swear you in, you place your hands on the Bible and swear to tell the whole truth so help you God. So the court believes in God, but not the devil?
JEFF: As the circus builds, and the court of public opinion weighs in, Ed and Lorraine Warren are getting ready to put their life’s work on the stand. They’re ready to bring up priests, demonologists, and religious scholars. They have photos, videos, and audio clips to share. They’re ready for their big moment to prove evil and demons exist in a court of law.
[JUDGE BANGING GAVEL]
JEFF: It’s March 19th 1981 when Judge Robert Callahan of Danbury court calls the session to order. Before any opening statements can be made, Judge Callahan makes an announcement.
RAY: What’s the announcement?
JEFF: That demons and devils are not relevant to this case. They may exist, but they can NOT be used as a defense.
RAY: With only drunken self-defense as a backup plan, attorney Marty Minnella has to switch gears. Ultimately Arne Johnson is convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years in jail. He’ll serve only five with good behavior. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: There’s so much to unpack here. Without this devil-made-me-do-it defense, this is just another manslaughter case that no one would talk about after a few months, and only within that community.
RAY: And now that the movie is out, plus the new documentary on Discovery-plus—which you’re a big part of, Jeff.
JEFF: Yeah, I filmed an interview for that this past winter.
RAY: And now we’re all talking about this case. It’s gone pop-culture!
JEFF: This case brings up some big questions. Let’s pretend Judge Callahan had allowed this defense.
RAY: For one, I imagine every person accused of murder across the nation would try the same defense.
JEFF: There’s that. But here’s the next question. Do you believe in evil? The devil?
RAY: You only need to look at the news headlines to know there’s evil in the world. But there’s good too.
JEFF: Have you ever felt rage? Like something was taking you over?
RAY: Sure! I’ve driven in rush hour traffic and been cut off. You grip the steering wheel, you grit your teeth, you scream at the driver.
JEFF: But you don’t kill him.
RAY: No, I don’t. The rage passes.
JEFF: If we can get possessed by a demon, does that mean we don’t have free will, which of course is a major foundation of most world religions.
RAY: Those who believe in demonic possession would tell you that you relinquish your free will when you invite the demon in.
JEFF: Which means whether the devil made you do it or not, you’re still responsible for relinquishing that control. I think the judge made the right call on this one.
RAY: I agree. Still, maybe it’s the Catholic boy in me, but the thought of demonic possession is the most frightening subject we’ve covered. Maybe we should head back inside Saint Joseph’s and find a priest…. Just in case.
JEFF: Just in case is right! It’s all fun and games until someone is possessed by a demon. A big thanks to everyone who saw the Shock Docs: Devil Made Me Do It documentary I was on. That’s the fourth Shock Doc I’ve been on for Discovery-plus, and I just filmed my fifth.
RAY: We’re starting something new this week. Jeff and I don’t just make podcasts, we love listening to them. So we wanted to highlight some of the podcasts we’re checking out.
JEFF: A podcast you should check out is: Ghost Magnet with Bridget Marquardt. You might remember Bridget from the Girls Next Door show at the Playboy mansion on the E Channel. If you love the paranormal and ghost investigating, she has great guests who discuss the topic.
RAY: And picking Bridget’s podcast first has NOTHING to do with the fact that you had dinner with Bridget and her producers while you were in LA last week.
JEFF: No! But seriously, check it out.
RAY: We’d like to thank our Patreon Patrons for all of their support, and our theme music is by John Judd.
JEFF: Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.