H auntingly PENNSYLVANIA™ does not publish every ghost story that comes to our attention. Quite the opposite is true. As you know if you have visited other "haunted Pennsylvania" sites, we ignore most of the stories in circulation in favor of fully researched, historically rooted tales. And, we are unafraid to de-Bunk stories when the facts point to that determination.
After much consideration we have decided not to officially de-Bunk the Smurl case - but we do highly recommend that readers proceed with caution as we unwind the story.
Janet and Jack Smurl moved into their West Pittston, Luzerne County 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 were consulted 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 house. Newspapers around 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 most Hauntingly PENNSYLVANIA™ readers are now 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.
So why is Hauntingly PENNSYLVANIA™ resistant to the facts of this story? Primarily because of the timing and the cast of characters:
- Movie buffs will remember that The Amityville Horror was released in 1979 - based on the 1977 book of the same name. The house in Amityville was the scene of an actual multiple homicide. The paranormal activity reported by the Lutz family (who later bought the home) has, on the other hand, been completely refuted.
- The Smurls often repeated the claims of a psychic who told them that their house, like the one in Amityville, was the scene of a brutal murder - and Hauntingly PENNSYLVANIA™ did uncover a shocking killing in West Pittston. But it occurred decades before and blocks away from the Smurl house.
- One coincidence IS quite striking, however: the name of this West Pittston murderer - who bludgeoned his wife to death with a hatchet - was Lutz .
- And then there are Ed and Lorraine Warren whose greatest claim to fame is their investigation of the Amityville case - with a local television camera crew in tow. The Smurl “haunting” was, for them, another bout of free advertising - 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 never released it to any reporters investigating or writing about the Smurl case.
Was the Smurl haunting real... or was it an opportunity too hard to pass up? Did the family hear about the Lutz murder from their neighbors or family members and recognize the coincidence with Amityville... or were they really tormented? And did the Warrens really uncover evidence of the paranormal at this West Pittston home?
Nothing Hauntingly PENNSYLVANIA™ has uncovered suggests that anything out of the ordinary ever happened at the Smurls' Chase Street home. And, as far we we can tell, nothing was ever captured on video, audio or any other source which could be scientifically studied. Only the Smurls really know what did - or did not - occur. 💀