The Briefing: The home of Jack and Janet Smurl in West Pittston, Pennsylvania, was the scene of a horrific and terrifying haunting from 1985 to 1987. The case received wide attention in the media. Although the house went through three exorcisms and investigations by demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the demon refused to leave. The hauntings were chronicled in a book and portrayed in a movie both named “The Haunted”.
The Story: The house involved is a duplex, built in 1896 on a quiet street in a middle class neighbourhood. After hurricane Agnes flooded much of north-eastern Pennsylvania in 1972, the Smurl family was forced to leave their home in Wilkes-Barre. Jacks parents, John and Mary Smurl, bought the house in West Pittston in 1973 for $18,000. They lived in the right half and Jack, Janet and their first two daughters, Dawn and Heather, moved into the left half. The Smurls spent much time and money redecorating and remodelling, doing much of the work themselves.
In January 1974, a strange stain appeared on a new carpet, Jack’s television set burst into flames, water pipes leaked even after repeated re-soldering. The new sink and bathtub in the re-modelled bathroom were found severely scratched, as if a wild 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 toilets flushed 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.
In 1985, what had started as annoying disturbances became frightening experiences. The house now often became ice cold. John and Mary heard loud, abusive, and obscene language coming from Jack and Janet’s side of the house although Jack and Janet were not even arguing. In February 1985 Janet heard her name being called while in the basement doing laundry, after searching for the unseen caller, she realised she had been alone the entire time.
Two days later, icy cold again was felt in the house but this time a black, human shaped form with no facial features appeared to Janet in the kitchen. It de-materialised 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. 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. As activity increased Jack and Janet had, on occasion, levitated. Janet was violently pulled off her bed after making love to her husband while he lay paralysed, gagging from a foul odour. The family’s German shepherd, Simon, was repeatedly picked up and thrown. Terrible rapping and scratching noises were continuously heard in the walls. One night while sleeping, Shannon was tossed out of bed and down the stairs. Even neighbours were not spared; several heard screams and strange noises coming from the house when the Smurls were not even home. Most of the neighbours were sympathetic as the Smurls vowed to fight.
The Warrens 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.