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The Nun: A Paranormal Analysis

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

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- The Nun

The 2018 addition to The Conjuring Universe, "The Nun," takes us back to 1952 and opens up with a gruesome scene of a nun taking her own life after her fellow sister is dragged into the darkness by an unseen force, aka the nun (Bonnie Aarons). Enter the Vatican, which would like to know why and how such a sin was committed. To gather this information, Father Anthony Burke (Demián Bichir) and a nun, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga), are sent to rural Romania to investigate the Abbey. Their arrival is met with apprehension as the closest village to the Abbey believes it to be a place of evil. Reluctantly, they are escorted to the castle, St. Carta, by the French-Canadian farmer Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet).

The demonic cyclone that envelops the characters in "The Nun" might be just a movie, but real ghosts don't know that. "The Nun" was filmed across various locations in Romania and seemed to stir up interest from otherworldly entities. Even though the film's director, Corin Hardy, considered himself a skeptic at the time, he still had the set blessed by a priest. This, thankfully, could have kept something larger at bay, but it didn't stop all paranormal encounters from happening on set.

Hardy recalled, in an interview, a time on set when he walked into a dark room and saw two men hanging around. They thought they were a part of the crew and gave them a quick nod before looking at the monitors to check the outlook of a tricky scene. Turns out, the scene was good, and an excited Hardy turned to the men to celebrate, but they were gone. With only one way out of the room, Hardy would have seen the men leave. Puzzled but busy, Hardy went back to work. Contrary to just about all forms of storytelling, not all ghost encounters are scary.

"The demon in your painting is real,"

- Lorraine Warren

While you can easily enjoy "The Nun" on its own without too much confusion, it's a prequel to 2016's "The Conjuring 2". Without getting too much into it, "The Conjuring 2" introduces the demon Valak as the terrifying force set on harming innocent lives. "The Nun" is the story of how Valak escaped Hell and entered the physical world.

Is Valak real? Yes. Also, no. It really depends on your beliefs, but is the Valak in The Conjuring Universe real? No. Though, I wouldn't want it to be real anyway. Valak, or Volach, Volac, Ualac, Valu, or even Doolas, has been said to be a demon that controls serpents, calling upon them to adhere to any evil tasks that might be on the to-do list. Which in "The Nun" seems to be targeting Father Burke and backing him into his own grave.

Valak is referenced as far back as the 17th century in the Clavicula Salomonis Regis or The Key of Solomon. The book acts as an instruction manual for the 72 demons which King Solomon supposedly vanquished during his reign. Should you ever come across one of these demons, this book will tell you everything you need to know about expelling them, given that you have it on hand and possess the time to read it while battling a demon. Better memorize it.

The 62nd spirit on this list is Valak. Though described not as a nun but rather he "appeareth like a boy with angel's wings, riding on a two-headed dragon." He is called the "Grand President of Hell" and is said to lead an army of thirty demons.

"Every decision the Vatican makes is with purpose."

- Father Burke

The grimoire containing Solomon's 72 Demons was added to the Roman Catholic Church's index librorum prohibitorum, or index of forbidden books, as they believed it to be dissident. The existence of the index was to "prevent the contamination of the faith or the corruption of morals through the reading of theologically erroneous or immoral books." However, in 1966 the index stopped being published and is now considered a historical document.

"I'm a part of a small select few the Church relies on to look into their more unusual matters."

- Father Burke

The Church does occasionally look into matters that include revelations and apparitions, though rarely do they get officially recognized and approved. A compiled list on Miracle Hunter shows far more unapproved apparitions, with many of them never being given a final judgment.

"It was common practice during the plague when people feared being buried alive. If you were unfortunate enough for it to happen, you could ring the bell to let those above ground know they have made a mistake."

- Father Burke

The fear of being buried alive, mixed with a heaping amount of claustrophobia, has led to some unique, macabre inventions. With documented cases of people being buried alive, or in the case of Alice Blunden in 17th century England, being buried alive twice, graves began to be built in preparation for these "silly me" moments.

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story, Premature Burial, he details the precautions taken with his tomb, so should his worst fears be realized, he can escape. Unfortunately, Poe's story wasn't far from what the rest of the world appeared to be thinking. In 1868 a patent was granted to Franz Vester for an "Improved Burial-Case." The case was equipped with an air intake so the buried individual could breathe, a ladder for them to climb out, and most famously, a bell so that if the buried was unable to save themselves, they could call for help.

"Mary points the way."

- Sister Irene

In "The Nun", Sister Irene confesses that she has experienced visions throughout her life that have brought her both scrutiny and confusion. Never the same vision, but always leaving her with the thought, "Mary points the way."

In reality, there are nuns who have been known to experience visions. Sister Marie-Martha Chambon experienced her first vision on Good Friday in 1850 when she was just nine years old. She reported seeing Jesus Christ on the cross, covered in blood. Marie-Martha experienced visions her entire life of heaven and Jesus Christ. She foresaw the death of Pope Pius IX and spoke with the soul of her brother after his passing. The Vatican even granted indulgence to those who said a prayer that was based on one of Sister Marie-Martha's visions.

"Eternal Father, I offer the wounds of Our Lord Jesus Christ to heal those of our souls."

"It's tradition here when someone dies. You cover the mirror so the deceased don't see their reflection and become a ghost."

- Marta

Supernatural qualities of mirrors have been reported for centuries with both fascination and fear. They've long been believed to be portals to other realms or dimensions, and their purpose can serve both good and evil. Superstitions surrounding mirrors include their ability to suck out souls. Removing mirrors from a room containing a sick or dying person will prevent them from losing their soul. When a person dies, mirrors should be covered for the same reason.

One doesn't need to be sick, dying, or dead to feel the negative impact mirrors may have. It's suggested to cover mirrors while you sleep as you are more vulnerable to spiritual attacks. Looking into a mirror at night? Maybe don't. There's a possibility you could see ghosts or demons looking back at you. There's an overwhelming amount of information regarding mirrors as portals, and everyone should act with their own discretion. However, if you ever see something looking back at you that appears off, it could be because it's looking at you from the other side.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12

St. Carta Abbey in "The Nun" is no longer a holy place, and Sister Irene, Father Burke, and Frenchie learn that the nun who hanged herself was the last living nun. They'd been alone the whole time. The demon, Valak, killed all of the nuns, and the last one remaining killed herself as a sacrifice to ensure the demon could not take her soul and escape the walls of the castle. The demon was summoned by The Duke of St Carta in the Dark Ages, or as Sister Oana says, "Hell used him to open a gateway."

"Holy shit,"

- Frenchie

"The holiest,"

- Father Burke

The Church was able to seal the gateway with an ancient relic. The same relic Sister Irene cracked open and spat the contents all over the face of the demon nun. A relic is a physical possession, including clothing or body parts of a saint. In this case, the blood of Christ himself.

"For the demon to enter our world, it must possess a human soul."

- Sister Irene

Aha! Here it is—the tie-in to "The Conjuring 2". If you've seen "The Conjuring 2", you probably let out an "Ohhh" or something when this scene came on as its right back to the part of "The Conjuring 2" when Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) attends a lecture by Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga respectively). They're showing a possession via projector, and the victim is non-other than Frenchie, who is revealed to have been possessed by the nun before the gateway to Hell was sealed by Sister Irene. Thus Valak escaped.

Much of Ed and Lorraine Warren's career has been up for speculation, especially since the introduction of The Conjuring franchise. In reality, there are no tales of the pair meeting a demon nun. However, Lorraine did experience an encounter with the apparition of a nun in the 1970s while at the Borley Rectory in England. The Borley Rectory had previously been named "the most haunted house in England" by the famed paranormal researcher Harry Price.

"This place is no longer holy"

- Sister Irene

Maybe Sister Irene and Father Burke are brave and were simply doing the Lord's work. However, it wouldn't have taken me an entire movie to understand that the Abbey was no longer a holy place.

The real Carta Monastery is located in Romania and looks quite different from the one in "The Nun". It was built in the 13th century and is now mostly ruins, but it is still a popular tourist destination for the living, possibly the dead, as locals know it as the haunted Abbey.

Uncover your own haunts.

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