Annabelle True Story & What The Conjuring Movies Changed

The Annabelle doll in The Conjuring movies is loosely based on a true story. Here's what really happened, and which parts were changed for the films.

Annabelle in Conjuring Movies With Real Life Doll

Most of the movies set in The Conjuring Universe, including Annabelle, are interestingly inspired by true events. The Conjuring movies are based on the case files of famed demonologist couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, who looked into numerous paranormal incidents, including the controversial Amityville haunting. One particular case, the Annabelle doll, has been the subject of three movies in The Conjuring Universe. All three films deal with a different event in the doll's timeline.

It all began with the first movie in the franchise, The Conjuring, which focuses on Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) investigating a paranormal case. This comes right off the heels of the Warrens' investigation of the Annabelle doll, which is featured in the movie. The doll received its own spinoff a movie year later, followed by two sequels, Annabelle: Creation in 2017, and most recently, Annabelle Comes Home in 2019. The Annabelle trilogy explored the origin of the doll, how it ended up in the hands of the Warrens, and a purely fictional event that occurred in the Warrens' home.

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Related: Annabelle Comes Home Creates A Conjuring Timeline Plot Hole

Of course, since the franchise manages to stretch the doll's story into three movies, liberties are taken with what happened. However, there are portions of Annabelle's story that have some basis in truth despite most of it being fictionalized, and the Annabelle true story itself is actually quite interesting.

The Annabelle True Story

Annabelle Come Home Poster

According to information gathered by the real-life Warrens, a student nurse named Donna received the Annabelle doll as a gift from her mother in 1968. Donna and her roommate, Angie, began to notice strange paranormal occurrences. It would change positions unexpectedly and show up in different rooms of their apartment. The doll would also leave notes for the girls, with messages like "Help me" scribbled on them. They became alarmed when they found blood dripping from the doll.

Donna and her friend Angie had a medium take a look at it. The medium determined that the doll was possessed by the spirit of a seven-year-old girl named Annabelle Higgins. The medium then explained that Annabelle died in a car accident. Apparently, the child's death took place near Donna's apartment building, which explained why it attached itself to Donna's doll. Donna and Angie, believing that the young girl's spirit would be harmless, agreed to let it live inside the doll. This proved to be a mistake, as it eventually began displaying aggressive behavior that frightened the girls. At one point, it even attacked one of their friends.

The girls contacted the Warrens, who concluded that the spirit haunting the doll was not a seven-year-old child. Instead, it was a demon who had fooled the girls. The Warrens believed that the demon's goal was to acquire Donna's soul. The Warrens solved their problem by taking the doll with them, but they encountered continuous car trouble on the way back to their home. The demon within the doll rejected an exorcism, and in the end, it was put in a glass case in the Warrens' Occult Museum in Connecticut. To this day, Annabelle remains a tourist attraction.

Related: The Best Conjuring, Annabelle & Nun Movie Viewing Order

Why Annabelle Looks Different In The Movies

The real-life Annabelle wasn't scary enough for The Conjuring

The doll featured in The Conjuring and the Annabelle movies actually looks nothing like the real thing. In the movies, Annabelle is a vintage porcelain doll, while the real one is a simple, Raggedy Ann doll. It's obvious that the physical appearance of the movie version of Annabelle isn't inspired at all by its real-life counterpart. The explanation for this is simple: an ordinary Raggedy Ann doll doesn't convey the sense of terror that's expected from an R-rated horror movie. Since it looks like a harmless child's plaything, it's difficult to imagine it as the host of a menacing, demonic entity.

The movie's depiction of the doll, however, is a different story altogether. The eyes and face give it a much-needed creepy feel, which is something that Annabelle had to have in order to make the audience believe that it could actually be haunted and, in a way, come to life.

What The Conjuring Movies Get Right

The Conjuring with Annabelle and Bathsheba

The overarching plot of all three Annabelle movies are fictionalized, but do contain a few nods to the Warrens' account of what happened. Annabelle, which takes place in 1967, gives the doll a new backstory. Annabelle Higgins is a member of a demon-worshipping cult who dies while holding the doll. Higgins apparently summoned a demon that took hold of the doll. Like the real-life doll, Annbelle's objective is to obtain the souls of others. After it gets what it wants, it disappears. At the end of the movie, Annabelle is purchased at an antique shop as a gift for a student nurse. This lines up perfectly with the timeline of the real Annabelle, and how it ended up with Donna in 1968.

Annabelle: Creation goes back even further and reveals that the Annabelle doll's origin story actually didn't begin with Annabelle Higgins. It was made by a dollmaker whose daughter was hit by a car. The dollmaker and his wife were contacted by the girl's spirit, who asked if she could live inside the doll. They eventually realized that they had been deceived by a demonic force. This, like the plot of Annabelle, was fictionalized, but it does resemble the story the medium told Donna. The spirit's wish to live in the doll and eventually take someone's soul are parts of the Warrens' account of the event, except that it was Donna and her friends who were contacted, not the child's parents.

The third movie in the trilogy, Annabelle Comes Home, shows what happened after Ed and Lorraine took the doll from the nursing student and her friends. On their way home, they encounter car trouble and have to stop - right outside a cemetery. This is when ghosts, who are attracted by the doll, attack Ed. This is a dramatization on the real-life Warrens' trip back home after obtaining Annabelle. So while the plot of the Annabelle movies aren't based on true stories, some of the basic concepts found in the movies, such as Annabelle's desire for human souls, are reportedly true, which is one of the things that audiences find so appealing about The Conjuring Universe.

More: The Conjuring Universe Complete Timeline

Key Release Dates
  • The Conjuring 3 (2020) release date: Sep 11, 2020
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