Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

‘The Conjuring’ Inspired Trespassers, Couple Says

PROVIDENCE (CN) - A Rhode Island couple whose home inspired the horror film "The Conjuring" claims in court that the unwanted attention has turned their lives into a veritable fright fest.

Though a Harrisville, R.I., family supposedly hired paranormal investigators and performed an exorcism to rid them of malevolent spirits in the 1970s, the couple who lives there today has not reported much in the way of paranormal activity.

That is until Warner Bros. Entertainment released its 2013 film "The Conjuring," starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga.

With Halloween around the corner, Norma Sutcliffe and Gerald Helfrich want the Bristol County Superior Court to hold Warner Bros. responsible for the "Conjuring-instigated siege of their property."

They say the last year and a half since the film's release has brought them nothing but "threats of physical violence and harm, sleepless nights, and worry that one day, one of the many trespassers will commit an act of destruction, violence, or harm."

Warner Bros. produced and released the film without notifying them at all, telling horror fans that the film was based on a true story that occurred in their home, according to the Sept. 30 complaint.

Since "The Conjuring" hit theaters on July 19, 2013, the couple say they have had to make "almost daily calls for police assistance" to deal with the constant trespassers whom the film inspires to visit the property.

Sutcliffe and Helfrich say they bought the farmhouse in 1987 and they lived there "in peace" until 2013.

Proving that the movie is responsible for bringing the couple unwanted attention, they point to a video of two trespassers put on YouTube on July 25, 2013.

In the video, two Rhode Islanders note "that until they saw 'The Conjuring,' they did not know the property on which it was based was in Harrisville," according to the complaint.

Sutcliffe and Helfrich name these two pranksters as defendants to the lawsuit. Three other individual "trespassers" are also named as defendants.

The plaintiffs call it "clearly foreseeable" that marketing the horror movie as being based on a true story and identifying the house's location would cause "sudden, devastating damage" to the couple.

Indeed older films such as "Amityville Horror" caused similar reactions.

"The Conjuring" made $137 million domestically, putting it at No. 5 on the Internet Movie Database's list of top-grossing U.S. horror titles.

A Brad Pitt-leading zombie title that came out the same year, "World War Z," ranks at No. 1 with $202 million at the box office.

The other top flicks are all older, "The Blair Witch Project" earned $141 million in 1999, "Gremlins" made $148 million in 1984 and "What Lies Beneath" brought home $155 million in 2000.

In addition to the individual trespassers and Warner Bros., the complaint names as defendants New Line Productions, the Safran Co., Evergreen Media Holdings, director James Wan and producer Tony DeRosa-Grund.

The plaintiffs are represented by Michael Eskey.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.