The Smurl family was just like any other family living in Pittston, Pennsylvania in the 1980s. The Smurls were a family of six, Janet and Jack Smurl were the parents of four daughters: Dawn, Heather, and twins Shannon and Carin. Their story begins with a completely natural phenomenon. Hurricane Agnes flooded their home in 1972. The Smurls moved in with Jack’s parents to a duplex on 330 Chase St. This home would soon send them careening into the hold of something evil.
The Duplex was originally built in 1896 and was located on a quiet street in a lovely middle-class neighborhood. The house was bought in 1973. Jack’s parents lived on the right half and the Smurl family lived on the left. The Smurls put a lot of love into their side of the home and spent what money they could redecorating and remodeling in an effort to make their new house a home.
The Smurl family was a well-respected Catholic family. Jack and Janet both grew up nearby. They met in 1967 and married in 1968. Jack served in the Navy and would later become a neuropsychiatric technician.
The haunting began innocently enough in January 1974. A strange stain appeared on one of the home’s new carpets that had no explanation and could not be easily removed. Then the floodgates open. A television set burst into flames, pipes continued to leak despite being re-soldered, the new sink and bathtub were unexplainably scratched. In 1975 Dawn, the oldest daughter, began telling her parents she saw people floating around her bedroom.
This activity may be reminiscent to listeners who tuned into the Black Monk series. Just like the Smurls, the Pritchards also experienced strange figures, leaking pipes, and inexplicable mini-disasters. In addition, two other infamous hauntings, the Perrone family and the Hodgson family both had several daughters. Is it possible that the number and gender of children could also be a factor in these kinds of hauntings?
In 1977, after years of intermittent and easily overlooked experiences the phenomena inside the home began to intensify. In addition to the inexplicable things noted above the family also began hearing footsteps. Other incidents like unplugged radios blaring music, cold spots randomly appearing, drawers were angrily opens and closed, also plagued the home. There were reports of a permeating aroma of rot around the home as well. Furthermore, Jack began to feel an unseen hand caress him and the consistent feeling that he was being watched.
In 1985 the activity sparked to an all-time high. During this time Janet gave birth to the twins (Shannon and Carin) which only seemed to further increase the activity. Scratches began appearing on the family members, the walls would rattle, and the dog and Janet experienced levitation. Jack’s parents, the elder Smurls, often heard insults, screams, and other loud noises emanating from the Smurls side of the duplex. However, nothing evr appeared in their own home.
In January 1986 after years of unexplained annoyances and months of terrifying experiences the Smurls decided to try and get in touch with the Warrens. The Warrens responded positively and made their way from Connecticut to Pennsylvania. They brought along Rosemary Frueh who was a nurse and psychic.
Their investigation would last months - well into August, 1986. In their initial walkthrough they believed there to be four different entities within the home. Three were fairly minor and likely responsible for some of the ‘smaller’ unexplained phenomena. However, the fourth entity was very powerful...and angry. According to the Times Leader, Ed Warren said, “The Smurls are truly a family coming under a visual attack,” Warren said. “The ghost, devil, demon – or whatever you call it – is in that home.”
To deal with the most powerful entity, believed to be a demon, Ed Warren decided to contact a Vatican-mandated exorcist - Father McKenna. The attempted an exorcism did not go very well and seemed to only make the demon angrier.
During this time several members of the family reported being sexually violated or otherwise made ill by the entities. According to Helly Star, “Janet said she had been sexually assaulted by the shadows she had seen, one of the twins, Carin, suddenly fell ill and nearly died from this inexplicable infection, and Dawn, the second twin, she became also sexually assaulting the entity. Janet and her mother-in-law had traces of beatings, bites, and bites all over the body.”
Father McKenna attempted another exorcism some months later but, like the first, this exorcism did not yield positive results.
It was during this time of the activity that rumors began to swirl about the family. Many believed the family might be looking to sell their home or make money off the haunting, as they had recently fallen on tough times.
A third exorcism was attempted but this time with several priests as well as a group of parishioners from a local church. It is important to note that this exorcism does not seem to be supported by the Vatican. However, it appeared to work...no phenomenon was experienced for a number of months. Activity began creeping in again, though, and the family decided to finally leave the home.
Rumors of the haunt being a fake were further bolstered when Ed Warren contacted Robert Curran and suggested he write a book about the Smurls and their haunting.
The person who moved into the home 1988 has never reported supernatural activity. The Smurls have not reported any lingering activity in their new home. In 1991, the Haunted (the same name as the book) was made into a made-for-TV movie.
Thanks to Sonya C-S for the topic suggestion!
The above image is unrelated to the story and was taken by Flickr user Hamish Duncan. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)