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The Smurl Haunting

© 2017 - Stephanie Hoover, All Rights Reserved

Map of West Pittston It is impossible to "prove" a ghost story. Some people will believe because they want to. Others will dismiss it because they refuse to consider any existence of the supernatural. And then there is that third state. The one in which stories like the Smurl haunting reside. We want to ignore them, but there's just something so intriguing...

Janet and Jack Smurl moved into their West Pittston, Pennsylvania duplex in 1973. In 1986, newspapers reported that the family had endured 18 months of unrelenting torture from a "demonic horde." Two exorcisms had failed to cleanse the house of its evil, the family claimed, and everyone - including their German Shepherd - was under physical and mental attack.

Hardly surprising, famed psychic investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren agreed to consult on the case. After a lengthy (and highly publicized) investigation, the late Ed Warren said he had accumulated evidence revealing the existence of a "powerful, intangible, invisible force."

Crowds in the hundreds clogged streets as both the spiritual and skeptical tried to get a look at the Luzerne County home. Newspapers across the country carried the Smurls' story making the home ever more famous. Janet Smurl expressed discomfort about the publicity saying the demon didn't like it.

By late August 1986 Ed Warren was telling reporters that Jack Smurl had been sexually assaulted by a "succubus" inhabiting the residence.

Two weeks later came the headline that many observers were likely expecting: Jack Smurl was in negotiation with a Hollywood production company to sell the rights to his story. St. Martin's Press announced in November 1986 that it was publishing a book about the Smurl haunting. In 1991 the TV movie debuted. Among the writers credited were Jack and Janet Smurl and Ed and Lorraine Warren. By the time of the film's release, however, the Smurls had moved out - and the new resident claimed to have no unusual experiences while living in the home.

Justice Buried, Patricia Bradley So why doubt the Smurls' story? Primarily because of the timing and the cast of characters:

• Movie buffs will remember that The Amityville Horror (supposedly a retelling of true experiences) was released in 1979. It was based on the 1977 book of the same name. Both were national sensations during the time the Smurl family lived in the Chase Street home. The house in Amityville was the scene of a multiple homicide. The paranormal activity reportedly occuring there has been refuted by individuals claiming to be part of the hoax.

• The Smurls reported that a psychic told them that their house, like the one in Amityville, was the scene of a brutal murder - and indeed CIM did discover a shocking killing in West Pittston. But it occurred decades before, and blocks away, from the Smurl house. One coincidence between Amityville and this case is quite surprising, however: the name of this West Pittston murderer - who bludgeoned his wife to death with a hatchet - was Lutz, the same surname as the family in the Amityville case.

• And lastly, there are Ed and Lorraine Warren who achieved fame by investigating the Amityville case - with a local television camera crew in tow. The Smurl haunting was, for them, another bout of national publicity, not to mention a chance to be major players in another book and/or movie. Unlike the Amityville investigation, however, while Ed Warren spoke of the "evidence" he collected at the Smurl house - he apparently never released it to any reporters investigating or writing about the Smurl case.

Was the Smurl haunting real... or was it a bit of fiction that gained tremendous traction? Did the family hear about the Lutz murder from their West Pittston neighbors and recognize the coincidence with Amityville... or were they really tormented? And did the Warrens really uncover evidence of the paranormal at this Pennsylvania home?

As far as we know, nothing was ever captured on video or audio that can be scientifically studied. If anyone possesses evidence to the contrary, contact us. For now, only the Smurls know the truth.

UPDATE:
According to a report on news station WNEP in Moosic, Pennsylvania, Jack Smurl died of diabetes-related complications in June 2017.