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Movie link conjures up nightmare for local family

July 25, 2013

A poster for the movie, 'The Conjuring.'

BURRILLVILLE – Norma Sutcliffe does not believe in ghosts or haunted houses but she says “The Conjuring,” last week’s Number 1 box office cinema megahit, has put her in a horror movie of her own.

“The Conjuring” boasts of being “based on a true story” that happened in the 1730s-era house in Harrisville where Sutcliffe and her husband have lived for 25 years. Previous owners of the home, the Perron family, are the subjects of the movie. Sutcliffe said she had conversations with Andrea Perron, who wrote a trilogy of books about the supposed haunting she and her family endured before the movie went into production. She regrets even doing that now.

“We haven’t slept in days,” Sutcliffe told The Call. “Because we wake up at 2 in the morning there are people with flashlights in our yard.” People call on the phone and ask “is this ‘The Conjuring’ house?” They have received other harassing phone calls as well, she said.

While the majority of the horror fans are probably just curious or harmless thrill-seekers, Sutcliffe worries that “all it takes is one crazy to do something. There are already threats on the Internet that ‘wouldn’t it be fun to break into that house?’ Our barn is very vulnerable and there is a big story connected to the barn about supposed hangings. Can you see kids breaking in and doing a séance with candles and having it burn down?”

She is angry that the movie’s publicists flogged it as being based on a true story from Harrisville and put out pictures of the house. “It took seconds for people to find out all the information” about where the house is located.

“I have an unlisted phone number – it is all over the place,” she said. “People are putting my address all over the blogosphere.

She said she has been asked by Warner Bros., the movie’s distributor, to go on television shows such as ABC’s “Nightline.” “I said, I don’t want anything to do with this movie,” Sutcliffe related. “I just want these people to go away.” The couple recently spent some time at a friend’s beach house just to get away from the movie madness.

Sutcliffe said she is in her late 60s and her husband, whose first name she declined to use, is 70, and both have experienced recent health problems. “We don’t need this,” she said. “He sits up all night; he doesn’t even sleep.”

She said they are not connected with the movie in any way and have received no compensation at all. “All we get is the consequences. It is not our story but we are the ones who are suffering.” She said she has considered buying a gun. “I’m up in the middle of the night screaming at people to get off the property.”

Asked if they have any legal recourse, Sutcliffe said the answer is probably no. She said she consulted a lawyer who told her the movie studio would have made sure they would be protected from lawsuits. The family who subsequently bought the house that was involved with an earlier horror film “The Amityville Horror” could not sue the moviemakers, but did file a successful suit against thrill-seekers, she said.

“I don’t want any money,” Sutcliffe said, she just wants the harassment to stop. If anything, she said, she would want the Burrillville Police to get some compensation for the time and effort they have spent shooing people away from her house.

“They are great,” she said of the police officers, “they are trying to do their best. But they can’t be here 24/7.” The cost of that protection should not be put on the town’s taxpayers, she asserted.

“This is affecting us physically and emotionally and I don’t know long we can take it,” Sutcliffe said. “We put every penny we had into this house,” to fix it up the way they like it, she said. “We wanted to die in this house. It is a beautiful, historic piece of property” that, several years ago, before the movie hype, was written up in Colonial Homes magazine. “And it is being disrespected totally. The town of Burrillville has recognized that it is one of the most precious properties in town because of its age and value and it is being totally degraded.”

Sutcliffe said she has seen the movie. “I just laughed at the whole thing. I thought it was so ironically ridiculous. I thought it was an insult to the Perrons.”

Follow Jim Baron on Twitter @Jim_Baron

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