13 Life Lessons from The Conjuring

And other things we’ve learned from scary movies

The Conjuring — opening today — is based on the “true” story of two families: the Perrons who are being terrorized by the evil spirits in their new country house, and the Warrens, paranormal experts that the Perrons turned to for help. With great acting (especially Vera Farmiga as the clairvoyant Lorraine Warren), homages to class horror movies, and old-fashioned, door-slamming scares, Conjuring is one of the most enjoyable horror movies to be released in a long time. [My grade: B+]

But even here, no matter how loud you scream at the screen, characters in haunted houses and demonic possession movies do incredibly stupid things. They will go down into the cellar by themselves or go investigate a noise. If only they would heed the following advice:

1. Do research before buying a house.
The price for that amazing manse is too good to be true. First, do some research — and not just on Zillow. Go through the local library stacks; talk to the neighbors. If you find out that the house was a) ever the site of a demonic cult, b) built upon an ancient burial ground, or c) ever nicknamed the “murder house,” do not put in an offer. But if you do, at least keep a little money in savings to pay for temporary housing. And keep reading.

2. Don’t play hiding games.
In The Conjuring the Perrons play “hide and clap”: one person is blindfolded and must find the other players by the sounds of their claps. This is just stupid.

3. Those bruises are not caused by an iron deficiency.
No matter how many pills you take or steaks you eat, that handprint on your arm ain’t going anywhere.

4. Your child is not talking to an imaginary friend.
Don’t waste your time asking questions like, “Who are you talking to honey?” It is a demon or a child ghost trapped in the house trying to get your kid to do something. Leave. Just leave.

5. Don’t use a Ouija board.
Anything mass-produced by Hasbro is probably not an effective occult instrument. But why risk pissing off the spirits?

6. Cut down that old tree.
Somebody was hung from it.

7. Get rid of the old TV.
Unplugging it is not going to help. Throw out that TV in the basement that has a knob. Otherwise you might be listening to Carol Anne talking to you through a static-y channel.

8. Nail down some furniture.
If someone you love becomes possessed, it will be necessary to tie them down. But with all of the thrashing and gnashing and vomiting, the last thing you’ll want to deal with is the levitating bed or chair. So do yourself (and your possessed loved one) a favor, nail it to the ground beforehand. An ounce of prevention…

9. Avoid mirrors.
Do not play Bloody Mary. Do not say Candyman five times. Do not ask the spirit to reveal itself. It will appear behind you. And you will deserve it.

10. Throw out everything left over in the house.
Yes that wardrobe is beautiful and that music box is probably worth a fortune, but they are all horcruxed up with evil spirits. Get rid of them.

11. Listen to your pet.
If your pet starts barking or whining or refusing to come into the house, turn around and leave.

12. Call an expert.
As we learned in Poltergeist and The Exorcist, if you call in an expert you and your family will come out okay. (Though the same is not always true for the expert.) So the first time you see that pig face in the window, start Googling.

13. Don’t own any clown items.
Or old creepy dolls, with names like Annabelle. (Looking at you American Girl dolls.)