If you’re anything like me you’ve wasted no time rushing to the theater to see the latest instalment of The Conjuring, which sees Ed and Lorraine Warren jetting off to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Enfield Poltergeist, one of the most famous and well-documented cases of paranormal activity of all time. In the film, the duo come face to face with a very specific demon, but is Valak just a Hollywood concoction, or based on an actual entity?
It goes without saying, but if you read on below the trailer, you’re going to get some spoilers.
If you know anything about the real life Enfield investigation, you’ll know that the movie adaptation of the famous case took quite a few liberties, the most obvious one being our introduction to the demon Valak. Well, it turns out that Valak is, in fact, a real demon, one that the creators of The Conjuring franchise have added into the mix as a way to link both the Enfield and Amityville stories together.
While it’s true that the Warrens did investigate Amityville, and it’s also true that they did spend a few days meeting the the actual investigators of the Enfield Poltergeist, as far as we know neither of these cases have anything to do with Valak in real life. So who, exactly, was this demon, and why were they dressed like a nun?
According to the demon conjurer’s go-to guide, The Lesser Key of Solomon, a 17th century grimoire that acts a kind of Yellowpages of Hell, Valak (or Ualac, Valac, Valax, Valu, Valic, Volac) is none other than the Great President of Hell. Generally speaking, he’s hot shit in the demon world. Often depicted as riding a two-headed dragon and commanding 30 legions of demons, he takes on the visage of a small child with wings, which if you ask me, would have been way more terrifying than a nun in corpse paint.
Valak’s skill set also amounts to a lot more than floating legos around the room and spinning crosses. Even today, he’s often invoked by magical practitioners who are looking to find “true answers of hidden treasures”. He’s also known as being quite strong and not opposed to sharing that strength with those worthy of calling upon him. Not worthy? Well then, I’d hate to be you, because Valak will probably ruin your life, which happens a lot slower than it does in the movies.
So what did Valak have to do with Amityville, Enfield, and The Warrens? Nothing. James Wan, the film’s director, says he intended the demon to be a premonition for the Enfield Poltergeist case, with no relation to the paranormal activity happening in 112 Ocean Avenue.
“She’s got nothing to do with Amityville. At all,” he told to reporters.
Most likely, the demon was introduced as a wholly original way for The Conjuring to bridge the Amityville and Enfield cases together in a semi-cohesive way, as the rights to The Amityville Horror are owned by another company, making any popularized connection to Jay Anson’s book or the horror films based on it a no-go.
But the biggest question of all: why is Valak presented to us as a late 90s representation of Marilyn Manson? You can thank James Wan and the real-life Lorraine Warren for that. While the name of the Big Bad had been decided upon early on in the process, Wan still hadn’t settled upon the actual design of the demon until the 11th hour. While speaking to Lorraine in passing one day, she mentioned that she had once encountered a swirling vortex with a dark, hooded figure at the center. That bit of information was translated into the demonic nun, which, believe it or not, was added to the story in a series of re-shoots.
“I had a strong outlook on the whole movie, but the one thing I wasn’t quite sure of [was the design of the demon character],” James Wan explained to io9. “I felt like I was still discovering it. And believe it or not, I always knew that I was going to do additional photography. So I was saving it because I was hoping I’d discover what that thing would look like as I was putting the movie together in post-production.”
Here’s hoping that if Valak makes an appearance in future films they’ll ditch the nun and give us some nightmares of winged children from hell instead.