Netflix released an ominous, supernatural true-crime documentary on Oct. 17, and I’ll be honest, I flinched three times.
The Devil on Trial begins with the story of David Glatzel from Connecticut, who allegedly became possessed at the age of 11 in 1980. The filmmakers interviewed Glatzel, his two elder brothers Alan and Carl Glatzel, Arne Cheyenne Johnson and more.
Concerned about the boy’s worsening condition, the Glatzel contacted the infamous paranormal duo, Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens told the family to start gathering evidence of David Glatzel’s behavior.
The family began using cassette tapes and Polaroid cameras to document what was happening in their home. The film plays actual audio recordings of instances where David Glatzel was under possession and shows chilling images of the family holding him down.
It was unnerving. Hearing the growls and snarling sent a chill down my spine. But then came the plot twist that made my jaw drop.
“Leave this little kid alone. Take me on. I’m here. Take me on,” Johnson said during the Sept. 2, 1980 exorcism of David Glatzel.
I know Johnson thought he was helping David Glatzel, but come on. You do not challenge or provoke a demon.
After the exorcism, the Warrens went to the police and Glenn Cooper, a Connecticut detective, who said the Warrens warned him there was a possibility of something dangerous occurring because Johnson challenged the devil.
“I see serious injury or death with a knife,” Lorraine Warren told Cooper.
Guess what happened five months later?
On Feb. 16, 1981, Johnson killed his landlord, Alan Bono. He stabbed Bono four times in the torso with a knife.
I knew it was coming, but my mind was blown by the fact that Lorraine Warren predicted this event.
The murder became known as the “Devil Made Me Do It” case. The Glatzels and Johnson claimed the entity that had possessed David Glatzel transmigrated to Johnson.
Unfortunately for them, possession does not hold up in court. Convicted of first-degree manslaughter instead of murder, Johnson went to prison.
Johnson said he had no recollection of the event, but perhaps the trauma was causing a memory block. It is also convenient that he has never had another documented instance of being possessed. Just saying.
Though the possession was over and done with, the film was not. The eldest Glatzel, Carl, repeatedly stated he did not believe his brother or Johnson were possessed and the Warrens were frauds.
This film changed my perspective of the Warrens. It started with them as knights in shining armor coming in to save the day and the lives of multiple families. However, their true colors were shown in how they benefited from the families they were supposed to be helping.
“Lorraine told me I was gonna be a rich little boy from having this book deal [about his possession], and that was a lie. The Warrens made a lot of money off of us. If they can profit off of you, they will,” David Glatzel said.
The entire time, I was sold that David Glatzel was possessed based on the accounts from himself and Alan Glatzel. Certain scenes spooked me, like when the Glatzels said the house shook for nearly a minute straight, and when David Glatzel talked about his visions of Bono’s dead body and Johnson coming to kill him.
I enjoyed Carl Glatzel’s perspective because it made me question the entire event. He shared an instance where David Glatzel was possessed and their father slapped David Glatzel, telling him to stop.
What did David Glatzel do? He stopped, according to Carl Glaztel.
What did it for me was the final plot twist: Carl Glatzel’s discovery after his mother’s death that she may have been putting Sominex, a medication to treat cold and flu symptoms and induce sleep, in the family’s food for years via notes she wrote .
Once again, my jaw dropped.
“I remember my mother serving us dinner. Her bowl was always separate from ours. If she had spaghetti, everybody eats out the bowl. But she’d have hers separate,” Carl Glatzel said.
Carl Glatzel believes David Glatzel experienced severe hallucinations, causing him to believe he was possessed and, in turn, behaving as such.
Let me tell you, this is a solid watch. I felt like I watched a narrated mix of a Conjuring movie, MythBusters and a Buzzfeed Unsolved: True Crime episode, and I remain conflicted about what really happened.