Damned Interview: Ray Garton

March, 2009 by Ray Bendici
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bestial1Ray Garton is the author of over fifty books, including the Bram Stoker Award-nominated Live Girls (soon to be a motion picture), five short story collections, and last year's werewolf novel Ravenous. In 2006, he received the Grand Master of Horror Award from the World Horror Society, putting him in the company of previous recipients such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and Richard Matheson.

Outside the horror genre, he has written the books Trade Secrets, Biofire, and Sex and Violence in Hollywood. He is the author of several young adult novels and media tie-ins under the name Joseph Locke. His vampire novel Lot Lizards and his short story "Graven Image" are both in the works as movies.

His new novel, Bestial (the sequel to Ravenous), will be in stores April 1 from Leisure Books. His books can also be found at E-Reads. He lives in northern California with his wife Dawn and their many cats.

He also wrote In A Dark Place, which is billed as the "true" story behind the upcoming motion picture The Haunting in Connecticut, which has generated a lot of interest here on this site.

Ray was recently kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer some questions from Damned Connecticut about In A Dark Place, the alleged haunting and, of course, his new novel, Bestial.

Damned Connecticut: What was your experience writing In A Dark Place and working with the Warrens and the Snedekers?

Ray Garton: I was offered the job, and because I used to read of Ed and Lorraine Warren's exploits in the National Enquirer when I was a kid, I took it. I went to Connecticut and spent time with the Warrens and the Snedekers. When I found that the Snedekers couldn't keep their individual stories straight, I went to Ed Warren and explained the problem. "They're crazy," he said. "All the people who come to us are crazy, that's why they come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? Well, make it up and make it scary. That's why we hired you."

Damned Connecticut:  When in the cycle of events were you brought in?

Ray Garton: I became involved in 1991, years after the alleged events were supposed to have happened.

Damned Connecticut:  You've publicly questioned the Snedekers' story -- what things in particular don't you believe? What leads you to question their credibility? Do you have any particular evidence?

Ray Garton: They couldn't keep their stories straight, for starters. The family was a mess, but their problems were not supernatural and they weren't going to get the kind of help they needed from the Warrens. At the time I was with them, Carmen Snedeker was running some kind of illegal interstate lottery scam that I don't think I was supposed to find out about, but when I did, she repeatedly urged me not to mention it in the book and not to tell anyone. Their son, around whom their entire story centered, was nowhere to be found. I never met him. I was allowed to talk to him briefly on the phone, but as soon as he started telling me that the things he "saw" in the house went away after he'd been medicated, Carmen abruptly ended the conversation.

The Warrens repeatedly told me they had videotape of actual supernatural activity shot in the house and they were going to show it to me while I was there, but they never did. They said they couldn't find the tape. I never saw the inside of the house (the former funeral home in the story) because the people living there at the time wanted absolutely nothing to do with this circus, and they claimed there were no problems at all in the house. The Warrens explained that this was because the house had been cleansed by a priest who had performed an exorcism, but to the best of my knowledge, the Catholic church has absolutely nothing to do with the Warrens in any official way and there are questions about the legitimacy of the priests who work with them.

Since writing the book, I've learned a lot that leaves no doubt in my mind about the fraudulence of the Warrens and the Snedekers -- not that I had much doubt, anyway. I've talked to other writers who've been hired to write books for the Warrens -- always horror writers, like myself -- and their experiences with the Warrens have been almost identical to my own.

The Snedekers claimed they had no idea the house was a former funeral home until after they'd moved in, and from what I've learned, that wasn't the case. It seems nearly everyone in that neighborhood knew it was a former funeral home, it was no secret. I've learned that the "supernatural" problems in the house didn't start until the landlord, frustrated after months of being unable to get rent out of the Snedekers, made moves to have them evicted. Then all of a sudden the house was infested with demons. Carmen Snedeker -- now Carmen Reed -- is the one who did all the talking when I was gathering information for the book. Al Snedeker said very little. Carmen was running the show. Now she's selling herself as a "spiritual advisor" and claims she's always had this "gift," although it never surfaced while I knew her. Back then, she was just a housewife running an illegal lottery scam. She's also on the lecture circuit now, which tells me she's learned a lot from the Warrens and their nephew John Zaffis. Zaffis was around when I was working on the book, but it was made clear to me by Ed and Lorraine that he was not really an investigator, he was just trying to learn the business. Now the story goes that John has always been the "lead investigator" in this case. My story hasn't changed since 1992, but their story keeps going through all kinds of transformations.

dark-placeDamned Connecticut: There's been some speculation to the Snedekers' son's illness -- you've questioned whether he actually had cancer as the family has claimed, and suggest that he may have been wrestling with drug addiction instead. What do you base your conclusions on?

Ray Garton: Like I said, I was never allowed to meet the boy, and my only telephone conversation with him was cut short when he started to say the wrong things. When I was in Connecticut with the Snedekers, what I was told about his illness was odd. They never seemed to be too sure exactly what kind of cancer he had. It was very vague, never pinpointed, never named. I don't know about you, but if my son had gone through a battle with cancer, I would be very familiar with all the details. There were vague references to drug problems the boy had had, but the Snedekers didn't seem to be willing to discuss that in any detail.

Since writing the book, I've talked to a couple of people who knew the Snedekers when they lived in the house in question, and it seems no one in the neighborhood was aware of the boy having cancer. I've been told he was a trouble-maker who had some difficulties with drugs and mental illness, but nothing like the health problems the Snedekers claim. The Snedekers' story involves an incident in which some young female relatives were fondled and groped in the house by demonic hands, but the boy confessed that he had done the fondling and groping, and that's why he was removed from the house.

Personally, I have no solid evidence that the boy did not have cancer, and I've never said that he didn't. But the evidence that he did is pretty flimsy, and when you combine that with the other holes in this story and some of the disreputable details about the Snedekers and the Warrens, it's difficult not to question it. As I said, I'm not claiming the boy did not have cancer. But there are reasons to doubt the claim, and all those reasons are related to the wobbly and ever-changing story told by Carmen Reed.

Damned Connecticut: Did you hear from either the Warrens or the Snedekers after the book was completed? Have you heard from them recently?

Ray Garton: No, I have not been in contact with them since doing the book. Carmen has denounced the book I wrote, saying it wasn't accurate and that she and her family had little or no involvement in it. That's a lie. They were very involved. They signed off on the whole thing. I spent a lot of time with them in their home. But they've reinvented this story for the movie and the new book that's being written about it, so it's important for their presentation that they dismiss the book I wrote. If my book was inaccurate, it's because I was told to make up whatever I needed to.

I have been telling my story since In A Dark Place was published because my name is on that book, and it disturbed me that it was being sold as "non-fiction." I wanted to make sure I had a clear conscience, so I've given my account at every opportunity, and it's all over the internet. Over the years, the true believers have accused me of holding some kind of grudge, or "cashing in" on all this by denouncing the book I wrote. That's nonsense. The Warrens and the Snedekers did nothing to me personally. I hold no grudge toward them. And I haven't made a penny by telling my story. I've done it in the interest of full disclosure.

Damned Connecticut: If you knew the book was fiction, then why did you agree to a non-fiction title?

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Ray Garton: I'm not a believer in this sort of thing, but when I took the job, I assumed I'd be dealing with people who sincerely believed they'd had some kind of supernatural experience. That was fine with me and I was willing to tell their story. I'd heard of the Warrens and had enjoyed some of their stories in the past -- they were very entertaining. So I signed on. After I learned that the whole thing had been concocted by people looking for a book deal and a possible movie deal, I was locked in. The publisher had no interest in anything I had to say. I was contracted to write this book, and the book was always meant to be "non-fiction." It wasn't really my book, I had no control over it. I'd been hired to do a job, and nothing more. The book's "non-fiction" status was entirely out of my hands.

Damned Connecticut: Did you hear of any other incidents at the house after the exorcism was performed?

Ray Garton: By all the accounts I've read and heard, there have been no problems in that house since. I've heard that the people who live in that neighborhood are pretty sick of this whole thing, and some of them maintain it was all a hoax. There's a young family living in that house now, and they love it. The only problem they're having is with the total strangers who are wandering around the house for a look and annoying them because of all the attention this new movie has attracted.

Damned Connecticut: What's your take on the movie The Haunting in Connecticut?

Ray Garton: My take is that H.L. Mencken was right when he said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

Damned Connecticut: Do you know how closely it follows In a Dark Place?

Ray Garton: I have no idea. I know nothing about the movie.

Damned Connecticut: Were you involved in it at all? Did you receive any compensation related to it?

Ray Garton: I have no involvement whatsoever. I've been accused of being angry because I'm not getting any money from this, and that's why I'm telling my story, but that's not true. I've been telling my story since 1992 and it has absolutely nothing to do with this movie.

Damned Connecticut: Will you see it?

Ray Garton: I'm a big fan of both Virginia Madsen and Elias Koteas and I love to watch them work, but I really have no interest in seeing the movie. I've had my fill of this con.

ravenousDamned Connecticut: What can you tell us about your new book, Bestial? How was the experience working on it?

Ray Garton: It's the sequel to last year's Ravenous, and both are werewolf tales. I'm the first person to say that they are not true stories and are entirely made up. I'm not too fond of sequels, but I intended to write a sequel to Ravenous from the beginning. Ravenous ended on a sour note and there was a lot more to the story about the goings-on in Big Rock, California. I've dropped some of the usual werewolf mythology and added a couple of twists of my own. Usually, the werewolf curse is spread through a bite from a werewolf, but here it's a sexually transmitted disease. Bestial features private investigators Karen Moffett and Gavin Keoph, who first appeared in Night Life (which was the follow-up to Live Girls), thus linking the four books into a loosely connected series.

I had a lot of fun writing Bestial. It's pretty common for religion to show up in vampire stories, but I haven't seen that happen with werewolves. In Bestial, I've added the element of religion in a subplot about Bob Berens, a man whose emotional growth has been stifled by his strict Seventh-day Adventist family. Just as the lycanthropes experience a transformation from human being to werewolf, we see the beginning of Bob's transformation in his efforts to break free of the hold his family's smothering religious cult has on him.

Damned Connecticut: What compels you to write horror stories?

Ray Garton: I was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, and that's a pretty dark, frightening religion. They have very bizarre ideas about how the world is going to end. Adventists worship on Saturday, the seventh day, rather than on Sunday, as Christians do. They believe that Sunday worship will become the Mark of the Beast referred to in the book of Revelation. In the "last days," they claim the Catholic church -- which they believe to be the Beast of Revelaton -- will gain control of the country and eventually the world, and a "Sunday law" will be passed requiring everyone to worship on Sunday. When the Adventists refuse to do this, they will be hunted down, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their belief. I was taught this from infancy onward, and I was taught it could happen at any moment. I lived in fear of it every day of my life while growing up. I literally lived in a state of terror. I didn't sleep well, I was prone to panic. When a TV show was interrupted by a special news bulletin, I froze with panic, fearing that the announcement was going to be that the Sunday law had been passed and my family and I would have to flee to the mountains and hide in a cave, or something. Among my earliest memories are praying to god to kill me before that time arrived so I wouldn't have to go through it. This was when I was a very small child -- instead of being playful and carefree, I was hoping that death would rescue me from this coming nightmare. Fear was a major part of my life.

I always loved to tell stories, even before I knew how to write -- I would draw the stories in comic-book panels. Everything I wrote was always dark. When I wrote, that's what came out, and I think it's pretty obvious that the cause was this terrible fear I lived with every day. The horror genre is where my work fit best, so that's where I ended up. I have other interests, though, and I write other things. But I will always come back to the dark, I think.

Damned Connecticut: Why do you think horror (and damned-type things) continues to be so popular?

Ray Garton: We all have fears, the fear of death chief among them. The horror genre gives us a chance to let those fears come out and play in a safe environment, in a situation that puts us in no real danger. The popularity of horror in film and literature goes through hills and valleys, but it never goes away. There's always a demand for it in some form because we all like to be frightened without being threatened, and I think that goes all the way back to primitive man telling stories around the campfire while surrounded by the dark of night. Horror remains popular for much the same reason that roller coasters remain popular.

Damned Connecticut: What other projects are you working on?

Ray Garton: Off and on for the last few years, I've been working on a novel called Dismissed From the Front and Center, a comedy about my two years at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy. I've also been working on a multi-generational dark comedy about two competing families in the funeral business. Right now, I'm writing a mainstream thriller. And a publisher is trying to talk me into writing a sequel to my novel The New Neighbor, which I'm considering.

-- Again, thanks to Ray for taking the time to answer our questions!

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Comments

Submitted by Andrew Gilbert (not verified) on

I've visited other messageboards that contain posts from old classmates of the Snedeker boy. They have never said anything about his illness being a lie. These people have only stated that they knew he was troubled and hope he's okay now. Btw, it's not unusual for neighbors to be unaware of someone having cancer. A neighbor of mine died from it, and we didn't know until we saw her family coming back from her funeral.

I've thought the Warrens were a couple of publicity hungry loons for years now. I'm interested in 'true haunting' stories but as soon as the Warrens get involved, I tune out.

I'm really looking forward to "Bestial." Still not entirely sold on the 'lycanthropy-as-STD' idea but I enjoyed "Ravenous" well enough and quite frankly can't get enough of werewolf stories.

Well this now offically does it for the Warrens, I don't think anyone can believe a word they say now. I started having my doubts with them back when they wrote there book Ghosthunters especially when it came to their chapter of Duddlytown called "The cursed Village" Their historical background research was really non-existent. Even a 10 year old could have called them out on that one. Anyone who reads Connecticut history will tell you that the first English settlers to arrive to Connecticut landed in the Hartford area led by Thomas Hooker in 1636. However, according to the warrens, Duddlytown was first settled by four Dudley brothers back in 1632.... Hmmmm either every American Historian was wrong about where and when Connecticut was first settled or we got the warrens rewriting Connecticut History. That was bad enough, now we have this interview. I don't think anyone can ever believe a word they say now... What a bunch of Con-Artists....

Submitted by Ben (not verified) on

"When I was in Connecticut with the Snedekers, what I was told about his illness was odd. They never seemed to be too sure exactly what kind of cancer he had. It was very vague, never pinpointed, never named. "

The newspaper articles covering the story in 1988 clearly stated that it was Hodgkin's Disease. It sounds like Ray wants us to believe HE made up the type of cancer, and Carmen just stole his idea when she re-tells the story. Am I the only one who thinks Ray might be using this as a way of receiving publicity for himself?

Submitted by JTK (not verified) on

Yeah its pretty much just you, Ben. They are scammers who profit from these kinds of lies. This author on the other hand doesn't profit from telling this story... in fact, he would make more money if he pretended his book was real and backed it to the hilt. To do something like this which would cost him money and the chance to be part of a movie deal implies that he has a damn good reason to say what he does.

Submitted by Ben (not verified) on

Well JTK, this story is not owned by Ray. It's Carmen's story. It's not like they were basing a movie off of one of his books. I don't think any of his books have been turned into movies at that matter. Of course, he doesn't make money off of telling his story. Although, the new books he'll always bring up during these interviews do. I think Ray wanted to turn this into a franchise like The Amityville Horror. Guess when it didn't happen, he wanted to get even with the Snedekers. Carmen wants us to know there are such evil things in the world. She never made anyone buy a book or a movie ticket. If the public didn't want to waste time or money on a "fraud", they should've just ignored it all.

I just watched the movie couple minutes a go , n start curious about the story behind this movie. I googled, read here and there. Some site admit half the story in the movie was true, some says it was hoax. Now, I read this interview..huhh..it made me confuse even more. I think Ben could be right, maybe Ray use it to promote his new books, and maybe Ray it self right, who wont made up a bullsh$t story in order hollwood business filming theirs story and pay them for it...everything are possible,,

Submitted by CancerousQueen (not verified) on

I have to say- maybe they didn't have their stories straight because it was YEARS after the "haunting" occurred when the book collaboration began. Garton even says so himself. Not to mention that everyone deals with traumatic experiences differently and recalls them differently with different points of view and perspectives. I know three people who saw a space shuttle explode in the air with people inside it. One of those people will swear to you to this day that body parts were raining out of the sky on her. The other two,however, they will maintain there were no body parts, just alot of debris.

@ Brian- Christopher Columbus was the first to know the world wasn't flat and discover America if you believe it the way historians had told it. We have a federal holiday dedicated to someone who didn't even find NORTH America. He also was not the first person to sail overseas or realize that the world wasn't flat, yet in school they use outdated and fabricated textbooks that make the US look better and of course that we're always right and we're always the good guys. College history has been a big eye opener for me from the crap they feed people in middle school and high school.

Everyone says Garton has nothing to gain by telling his story- but it is getting him publicity. It helps him get himself out there as an author- and promote his next books just like he does here in this interview. He never fails to mention in each interview about his own background as a writer of fictionized horror stories.
People are more interested in his story and finding out the truth. Does he really do all these interviews for free? Hey, its a small price to pay for free publicity for his new book or even some of the old ones.

As for the kid being sick, I'm not surprised that the neighbors didn't know.. Its a serious illness and some people keep that type of stuff as a family matter; not wanting pity from everyone. The happenings that occurred with him may have been a combination of his radiation treatment and paranormal stuff. Maybe things were happening, but the medication made it much more intensified than what it was. Then again, not everyone in the house could've been on this medication and seeing things, then again you never know these days.

Garton says that everyone in the area knew the house was an old funeral home, so the Snedeker's should've known right? Of course I noticed he didn't mention WHERE the Snedeker's were from. They were moving to Connecticut, so it would be safe to think they may have been from out of town.
As for the homeowner telling them, maybe he's the liar to cover his own ass since all of the publicity.

I'm not saying these people are the real deal and that EVERYTHING they say happened, happened. It could just be an overdramatization of what REALLY happened- but that doesn't mean that nothing ever happened there. The only people who will know what really happened is them.

There have been articles that state that nothing has gone on before or after in that house. There are many people who are just immune to the paranormal. They can live somewhere and never feel the slightest shiver or bad feeling, where someone more sensitive will have that uneasy feeling about the house.

Submitted by Brenda (not verified) on

Well, we all need to make a little cash or self promote or defend from time to time, so I can't blame Ray for mentioning his new work in iterview. As for Carmen...I watched her interview on the blu-ray disc under special features and if any one is an expert in reading eye movement while one is speaking I hear you can tell if someone is liing by the direction they look when they make a statement. Since I'm not an expert and have a terrible memory I'm not sure what it means but she did not look directly on and looked down and to the right when the cross fell off the wall durring the interview. Also when she made the comment that any one putting their family members at risk for cash was a waste of a human she also shifted her gaze down and to the right.

She too cut off contact with the Warrens because of the same reasons as Ray. Phillip the son with cancer was not included in this interview.

I believe there are true hauntings and I've even seen an orb in broad daylight floating over a cemetary before I knew anything about them. I don't believe anything made for TV or Movies or entertainment purposes can be 100% actual or it would be a documentary. I liked the movie and thought it was made well.

I am grateful Ray and Carmen continue to do well and have moved past this experience. It is at least interesting and intertaining.

Submitted by cool arrow (not verified) on

A little late to the party, I know, but everyone please remember that the Warrens were also complicit in the "Amityville Horror" hoax.

Submitted by ken a (not verified) on

I am also late to the party, but with that new horror film (The Conjuring) doing so well based on more of the Warrens' exploits, I think it is important to point out some things: 1) Garton has been telling the same story about this book since he wrote it (on usenet in the early days of the net) 2) Contrary to the public perception of wealthy genre authors, most of them are not, and Garton didn't have the money to break a contract with a big publishing house. To keep his integrity, his compromise was to tell anyone who would listen that he was TOLD TO MAKE UP THE STORY and he had a problem with this being labeled nonfiction. 3) Ed Warren spent a lot of time as an adult in mental institutions, he loved painting haunted houses, and as a couple, the Warrens were known to see demons wherever they looked. Their sense of history was indeed way off, they were known to be wrong consistently about basic facts regarding settlers, indian tribes, crimes at locations, etc. 4) As mentioned before, Garton would have done better to stand by this book if it were true. Instead the guy tries to have integrity and gets accused of all sorts of motives. I guess

Submitted by ken a (not verified) on

The main thing that bothers me is the thought this story, even if untrue, didn't hurt anyone. The family who ran the funeral home was well known in the community, and was accused by Elaine Warren if frigging necrophilia! Of course she determined this through use of her psychic gifts. So messed up.

Submitted by Dan K (not verified) on

Ray's credibility is lacking here, and I question his motives.

First he says he wrote the story and was told while researching it to "make things up". He acts like he didn't know it was going to be sold as "non-Fiction". Later he says that the books non-fiction status was all under contract and locked in. So by his own admission he knowingly wrote a lie that he knew in advance was going to be sold as "non-fiction". He got paid cash for writing the novel, then it seems that for some reason he got upset with everyone involved, and literally badmouths every single person involved except himself. He tells about every bad thing you can think of about everyone involved. He's accused them of drug addiction, alcohol addiction, confidence scams, pedophilia, incest, sexual assault, fake priests, lying about medical problems, mental illness, not paying rent. About the only thing he doesn't accuse someone of is murder, but then he'd have to have a body to make anyone believe him. No I think something pissed ray off and he decided to sandbag everyone involved. If all these people were all this bad and the book contract was this bad and everyone was such liers, how was this "honest professional" taken in so badly from the start?

No I don't believe one bit of what comes out of Ray's mouth.

And as to people who say he'd be better of lying about the book and saying it's real, that's not true if he wrote the book under contract. that's not unusual at all. Most ghost writers get paid cash and no commission, say $8-15k for a book that might take them a month or 2 to write. Once the author signs the contract they're stuck writing the book. If something pisses them off after they sign the contract, they have no recourse except maybe to badmouth the book after it's published.

Another statement Ray makes that doesn't sit well with me is when he says that Ed told him: “All the people who come to us are crazy, that’s why they come to us. Just use what you can and make the rest up. You write scary books, right? Well, make it up and make it scary. That’s why we hired you.” Okay first of all, if Ed IS a total scammer. Would he tell someone outside of his close circle that he's a scammer? especially a writer, someone that talks to the public a lot? I don't believe he would. And if Ed wasn't a scammer, then he wouldn't make that statement either. Either way, it smells bad, it smells like it's Ed who's lying. Later on he basically says that MANY other writers said they experienced the same thing with Ed warren. I just find this statement hard to swallow as well.

At one point Ray accuses the sneddekers of making up the story to get back at the landlord for evicting them, then later he says that the sneddekers knew in advance that the house was a mortuary and implies that they moved in in order to make up the story and make some cash. Get your story straight Ray. By the way Ray, I've moved MANY times, and one thing I've never done is to go ask neighbors of the new house I'm moving into if it's haunted or if it was a mortuary. Implying that the sneddekers knew the house was a mortuary just because the neighborhood did just doesn't make sense unless the sneddekers were from the neighborhood which they were not.

It seems that Rays spun any and everything he can against the sneddkers and warrens. I wish I knew his motive. I can only guess he wasn't happy about something after signing the book contract, or it could be just another chance to pitch his upcoming books. Either way, I don't believe a word that Ray says. Not that I believe everything the sneddekers or warrens say but Ray's story stinks particularly bad.

Dan K

Submitted by Dan K (not verified) on

Err instead of saying "it smells like ed is lying" , I meant to say "it smells like Ray is lying".

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