AN ORDINARY murder, that's the way the police saw it, the way they see it still. And in fact, the killing of Alan Bono seems straightforward enough on the surface, a flash flood of anger along the low barren stretches of the human heart. The way it happens sometimes, when something upsets the balance of affection and fury.
This time, though, the friends and family of Arne Cheyenne Johnson say that it was something supernatural, that Johnson is not guilty of Bono's death because he was not the one in control at the time. That is the argument that his lawyer plans to present to the court at his trial next month, and this is the plea he plans to enter -- that Cheyenne Johnson is not guilty because he is possessed by the devil.
Wanda Johnson, 15, remembers it this way:
It was cold the day it happened, Feb. 16. It was George Washington's birthday, a holiday of sorts, at least it was for some. Arne Johnson, Cheyenne to his friends, called in sick that day to the Wright Tree Service where he worked. He said he had a sore throat. Debbie Glatzel, his girlfriend, headed for the Brookfield Boarding Kennels where she worked grooming dogs. She had a customer, an ugly black French poodle, as Wanda remembers him, and Wanda and her sister Janice, 13, and her cousin Mary, 9, came with her to watch. Cheyenne joined them.
Alan Bono, the manager of the kennels, was there. He hadn't lived in Brookfield long, about six months, and the vestiges of his tan were still there, mocking him as he cursed the New England winters, the brittle sunlight interrupting only briefly the cold dark nights. None of them knew too much about Bono. He'd lived in Australia where he'd managed a plantation for about 17 months, and he'd come to Connecticut from Florida where his sister lived. His sister owned the kennels, and she had asked Bono to come north to manage them. He was 40 years old, short and stocky, and he liked to talk about himself, about the things he'd done, the places he'd seen. To Debbie and Cheyenne, who had lived all their lives in the close confines of small towns and hard times, his life seemed exciting and adventurous.
Alan Bono bought them all lunch at the local bar, the Mug 'N' Munch, a narrow little place wedged into a small shopping center. Bono was drinking red wine and telling corny jokes. Cheyenne and Debbie had a little wine, says Wanda Johnson, but it was mostly Bono's party. He drank a lot, but then he always seemed to drink a lot. Next Saturday, he said. He was going to give up drinking next Saturday.
After lunch, they went back to the kennels. The afternoon wore on, aimless and unremarkable. Cheyenne repaired Bono's stereo for him, and when that was done, Bono turned the sound up. The music came crashing out, too loud, scraping the nerves. Debbie Glatzel took the girls out to get pizza. Hurry up, she told the girls, we've got to get back. Why, Wanda wanted to know. There's going to be trouble, Debbie said, apparently sensing tension in the air.
When they got back, Bono urged them all upstairs, to his apartment above the kennels. He turned the TV on, again it was too loud, and he began to punch his fist in the palm of his hand, over and over again. Everyone went downstairs to leave at Debbie's urging, but Bono grabbed Mary as she tried to leave and wouldn't let go. Debbie went to free her, and Bono released his grip on the little girl.
Cheyenne Johnson had headed for the car, but he came back when he saw what was going on. He walked back to the apartment and told Bono to let go. "All of a sudden, it just broke," says Wanda Johnson, short, dark-haired, matter-of-fact, sitting tensely in her tight blue jeans, her tight T-shirt, her eyes opaque, letting in nothing but the light. "I can't explain it," she continued. "It just broke, that's all." The children ran for the car. Debbie Glatzel was between the two men. Wanda was holding on to Cheyenne. "He was like a stone," she says. "I couldn't budge him."
Wanda Johnson heard Cheyenne growling like an animal. She saw something shiny flash in the air. And then, she says, "It just stopped." And when it was over, Cheyenne walked into the woods, staring straight ahead, and when it was over Alan Bono just stood there, punching his fist into his palm. Stood there, that is, for a long moment or two, before he fell on his face and lay there on the ground. Not far from him was the knife with the five-inch blade that Johnson always carried. There were "four or five tremendous wounds," according to Johnson's lawyer, including one that extended from the stomach to the base of the heart.
Without the devil, the aftermath of Alan Bono's death would have been different. Life would have continued much as it was for the Glatzels and the Johnsons, hard, disconnected and uncontrolled; ordinary in the way that boredom and bitterness and the slow death of ambition is ordinary -- in the way that they go on from day to day, unlamented and unfinessed.
But now there is the media blitz, the phone calls from the Hollywood producers, the book proposals, the constant state of tension and attention. These had been lives untouched by the more complicated temptations, and it would seem that the devil would have something better to do than to mess with these people. But then maybe it isn't the devil who has nothing better to do.
Daring the Devil
Somehow the murder gets lost in all of this. All that seems interesting is the idea that the devil made Cheyenne do it, and no one is speaking metaphorically, least of all Martin Minella, Johnson's attorney. "I'm very confident," Minella says. "I could put the pope on and he'd tell you that if a guy is demonically possessed, he is not responsible."
Minella is also very confident about the media marketability of Johnson's defense. "Everyone is interested in this case," he says. "Everyone. We got calls from Australia, from Switzerland, from England, everywhere. When I went to London, they recognized me on the street. All the top studios are interested in this, all the top producers. Of course, my position is that we won't talk until after the trial is over. My client is more important to me."
But Cheyenne Johnson may not have been the devil's initial target. As far as the Glatzels are concerned, Debbie's younger brother, David, has been possessed for the last year now. If Cheyenne hadn't been so worried, so completely sympathetic to the young boy's plight, if he hadn't tried to help in that impetuous way of his, none of this would have happened.
"Take me on," Cheyenne Johnson told the demons possessing David Glatzel. "Take me on instead of him."
Which, according to the defense, is exactly what the devil did.
"We tried to warn Arne," sighed Lorraine Warren, clairvoyant. "But he just wouldn't listen."
"It's just one of those things you never do," says Ed Warren, demonologist. "Not if you know anything about this sort of thing."
Soon, everyone will know about this sort of thing, what with the diligent work the Warrens are doing in spreading the word to the press. "Will we have a book written about this?" Lorraine Warren asks rhetorically. "Yes we will. Will we lecture about it? Yes, we will." Are they talking to writers and movie producers? "No, we're not," she says. "Our agents at the William Morris Agency are."
Ed and Lorraine Warren come across as the Ozzie and Harriet of the investigators into the supernatural. He is big and burly and gruffly good-natured; she is sweet and maternal, primly unflappable, her brown hair worn up in a bun. They talk about the visitations and the destruction wreaked by the entity to whom they often refer as the Evil One, The Father of Lies, as if it were the heartbreak of psoriasis that was under discussion, and together they bring a whole new dimension to the idea of the banality of evil.
The small town of Monroe, Conn., is only a few exits down the interstate from Brookfield, and it was only 12 days after the first attack on David Glatzel that Ed and Lorraine Warren were called into the case. It was Lorraine Warren who called the Brookfield police four months before the murder and warned them that there was a possibility of danger in the Glatzel household, and it was Lorraine Warren who called the Brookfield police the day after the murder to inform them that Arne Johnson was possessed. The Warrens' role in the Glatzel-Johnson demon-drama seems to lie somewhere between her affable den mother and his impresario to the occult.
Demons in Disguise
The Brookfield demons case, as the local papers like to call it, is not the only case the Warrens are working on, and they are constantly jumping up to take calls concerning other cases. ("When you say it involved something terrible, how do you define terrible, honey?" . . . "When these thoughts enter your mind, dear, realize that these are not your own thought patterns . . . ") But the Brookfield case is clearly the biggest thing to happen to the Warrens since they were called in on the Amityville Horror, and it has certainly garnered them a hailstorm of publicity. "Oh my God, hon, we've been just inundated, it's been chaos, total chaos."
This then is the story the Warrens are fencing to the press:
It began last summer. Cheyenne Johnson and Debbie Glatzel had found the house in the country they were looking for. "It was my little dream house," Glatzel says now. It was yellow with olive green shutters, set far back in the woods on Old Hawleysville Road, near the town of Brookfield, where her family lived.
There was a waterbed in the master bedroom, left there temporarily by the previous tenants, and everyone took turns lying on it, laughing at the strangeness of its undulating surface. David Glatzel wouldn't try it. An overweight 12-year-old with black hair that fell tousled into his dark eyes, he stayed away from anything that might make him queasy. But later in the day, when he was alone in the room, he felt as if something had pushed him onto the bed. He saw an old man in a torn plaid shirt, and blue jeans, a man with coarse ruddy skin, a man who said to him, "Beware."
David Glatzel saw the man again that night, only then he looked different. His skin was burned and black looking, and he was barefoot this time. David described him as having feet like a deer.
Or so he told his family as they sat around the kitchen table late that night after the second visitation. "I believed him instantly," his mother, Judy Glatzel says. "I've read about the supernatural, I've heard the Warrens lecture. When he first explained it, I thought it was a ghost."
Ed and Lorraine Warren didn't think it was a ghost. Ghosts after all are small potatoes in the supernatural scheme of things, sad little spirits that somehow haven't "crossed over" properly, lingering on in the material world close to old associations, sometimes mischievous, rarely malevolent. No, the Warrens knew right away that this was different, that the spirit infesting David Glatzel was inhuman and evil.
"Right away, I knew there was something to this, I felt like a good fisherman when he knows there's something on the line," remembers Ed Warren.
"The pieces of the puzzle just fit very, very early," Lorraine Warren says.
The Warrens heard the story from David Glatzel when his parents called them for help 12 days after the boy first saw his strange vision. By then, says Judy Glatzel, "we were living in hell." The boy writhed on his bed at night, shouting obscenities and screaming. He pulled at invisible hands that appeared to be choking him, flinching in pain from invisible knife wounds.
He attacked me quite a lot," says Judy Glatzel. "He spit at me, kicked me, squeezed me in the bust." He attacked his grandmother with a knife. The family took to sleeping during the day, steeling themselves for the nights ahead, when it would take all of their strength to keep him on the bed.
They are a tight family, the Glatzels, keeping close to themselves, not much given to friendships outside the immediate circle. Soon, it was as if they were all drawn into the net of David's terror, keeping dark vigils in the dead of night, listening to his tales, his dark visions of the entity to which they all refer quite familiarly as "The Beast."
Judy Glatzel and the Warrens say there are warning signs when The Beast is about to take possession of David. His head lowers to his chest, they say, and then he slowly lifts it. When he does, his features have contorted into a snarl and there is nothing to be seen but the whites of his eyes. And then he laughs, a hideous laugh.
They say they have seen a toy dinosaur belonging to one of the Glatzel boys walking around of its own accord. They say that plates have levitated, that rocking chairs have flown through the air, and books moved mysteriously away, that a cake pan floated straight to the ceiling and left its sticky testimony on the kitchen ceiling. They say The Beast has called up David's brother on the telephone and warned him to beware. And Debby says she has been clawed by a mysterious green hand rising from the floor and attacking her in her bed at night and that she too has seen the face of The Beast: "I saw a face with jagged teeth, and coal black eyes, it had horns and pointed ears," she says. "Flashing lights appeared on the wall and then I heard my mother and Cheyenne call my name."
There are times, though, when the forces of evil seem very mundane, given the way they choose to harass the Glatzels. Judy Glatzel describes how her clothes are dumped out of drawers, her cosmetics thrown on the floor. "They're punks, that's what they are," she says. "I tell them to go back where they came from."
Judy Glatzel refers to whatever is afflicting her son as they, because the current number of spirits dwelling in David is 43 demons and two devils, up from 42 demons and one devil when the possession first began. The family learned the actual number of demons bent on driving David around the bend, say the Warrens, when the priests from St. Joseph's parish performed several deliverances or what the Warrens refer to as "lesser exorcisms" on the boy, in an effort to deliver David from the forces afflicting him. Last summer, a mass was said in the Glatzel home to help bring peace to the beleaguered family.
No priest has performed a formal exorcism on the Glatzel boy because the bishop of Bridgeport has so far declined to authorize such a rite. He has also declined to let the priests involved in the Glatzel case talk to the press, so that when the Warrens or Martin Minella tell you that the priests are being followed home by demons who cause blood to appear in their beds and levitate things in the rectory, the road to confirmation of such intriguing details becomes increasingly harrowing.
"The policy is not to speak to the press at this time," says Fr. Nicholas Grieco, director of communications for the diocese of Bridgeport. "It would be true of any situation of a pastoral nature. We want to uphold the dignity of the individual person." Grieco sighs patiently. He has been through this drill before. "When you're talking about exorcism, you're talking about the church confronting the evil spirit, the evil one. You're talking about doing battle in the name of the church."
One of the reasons a formal exorcism had not been authorized for the Glatzel boy, Grieco says, is that the family has not consented to the psychological tests the church considers necessary. "It's a delicate situation," Grieco says. "In cases of this nature, you don't presume anything. Through prayers and through observation, you make a decision. Lots of things we can explain through psychology, and yet we can't explain everything rationally. What we're looking for is a balance. These things do exist. These things do happen. But not that often."
Judy Glatzel bridles at Grieco's explanation of why there has been no exorcism. She took her son to a Bridgeport psychiatrist, she says, who charged her $75 an hour and then announced that the next time he wanted to see the whole family. It is up to the church officials to arrange the psychological testing that will satisfy their requirements. "They just want to stick needles into my kid," she says. "There's no way in hell they're going to do that."
And Judy Glatzel does not understand why it is so hard for others to accept what is happening to her son. "If people honestly believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, they have to believe in the devil," she says. "Besides, this world is being controlled by the devil -- look at the drugs, the prostitution, the gambling and the violence. The devil is in charge of it all."
Cheyenne Johnson believed David Glatzel from the beginning. He was living with the Glatzels then, and from the beginning he tried to help, staying up all night with the family, helping to pin David to his bed, when the unseen forces tried to toss him around the room, touching his crucifix to the boy's forehead when the demons seemed to be possessing him. And from the beginning, he challenged the demonic spirits to take him on instead of David.
"He wanted to do what he could to help David," Debbie Glatzel says. "He said, 'I'm not afraid of you. I'll fight you.' I said, 'Oh my God, Cheyenne,' why did you say that?' He said, 'I don't like to see your brother like that.' "
"They're laughing at you," David Glatzel reported from Demon Central.
In the fall, Debby and Cheyenne went back to the house into which they had never moved and stood for a moment looking out the window. "There he is," said Arne. "The Beast, there he is." Cheyenne Johnson stood there, growling, Debbiesays. He bared his teeth and stared straight ahead.
"I knew right away what it was," says Debbie Glatzel. She slapped Johnson once. There was no reaction. She slapped him again. This time, he came around. "I told him that it had gone into him now," says Glatzel. "He goes, 'Oh my God, oh no.' "
That was not the only time Glatzel noticed her boyfriend acting strangely, she says. Altogether, she says, Johnson has shown signs of possession on five separate occasions. Glatzel can't talk about them all, she says, because they're saving them for court. But there was the time that Arne got up in the middle of the night, woke her up and stared at her and said, 'Go to bed.' "I thought, 'Oh, no, another one, right, he's doing it again.' At that point, reports Glatzel, Johnson got up and hit an old trunk that was there in her room and said something about hell. And there was the time that Johnson accompanied the Glatzel family to mass and suddenly yelled "Son of a bitch, I want to get out of here!" And then there was the day that Debbie Glatzel heard two voices coming out of Arne Johnson's mouth at the same time. The day that Alan Bono died.
"We're so much in love, I don't think anyone is as much in love as I am with him," sighs Debbie Glatzel. Debbie and Arne just two crazy kids. Except that Debbie is 27 years old and Arne is 20 and the two of them met in a Bridgeport supermarket when Arne was 12. He helped her pick up a display she knocked over and for him it was love at first sight. "I tried to discourage him at first," she says.
Instead Debbie began by becoming good friends with Arne's mother, Mary, and the two women would go on picnics together and take the children to the beach. But when Arne was 16, he asked Debbie out, and soon, she says, they fell in love. By then, Arne had dropped out of high school, the better to find odd jobs to help his mother make ends meet, according to Mary Johnson. By then, Glatzel was working as a pantry maid at the Holiday Inn at Bridgeport and living in the Johnson home so that she could be closer to her job. When Mary Johnson became ill and had to quit her job, Debbie and Cheyenne took care of her children, slipping into makeshift marriage, the gritty responsibility becoming a ready-made bond.
"We were always in each others lives, doing for each other," says Debbie Glatzel. "Someday, we were going to own our home and our own business. We wanted to work while we were still young. When that day came for enjoyment and living for pleasure, we would take it, we were going to travel, but until then we didn't spend much time with other people, we were too busy."
Last year, the Johnsons and Debbie Glatzel decided to move to the country "It was for the kids," says Mary Johnson. "Where we were living, there was a lot of street fights all the time. I wanted to get them someplace else, someplace where they could be happy." She now works in the housekeeping department of the Bridgeport Holiday Inn. She is 42 years old, dark-haired, gap-toothed, and long ago the color in her cheeks went the way of the illusions in her life. It was she who gave her son his middle name. Mary Johnson had been watching television when she went into labor and when they asked her what she wanted to call the boy, she named him first after his father, who would leave her nine months after he was born, and then after the role Clint Walker played, Cheyenne, tall and dark and deep-voiced, righteous and alone.
Her son is blond, muscular and wiry, a lover of games and a good son, to hear his mother tell it, the kind who never gave her a moment's trouble, the kind who sang in the Sunday choir and loved Little League more than life itself. "Cheyenne's problem was that he was too good, that's his problem, he's too good," says Debbie Glatzel.
But there were those who didn't think that that was Johnson's problem. There are those who describe him as a young man quick to anger, extremely possessive of the woman he calls his wife, a man who once ripped a small stuffed animal to shreds with his knife after an argument at a tree service where he once worked.
Cheyenne Johnson and Debby Glatzel met Alan Bono last autumn when he asked Glatzel to come work at the Brookfield Kennels. Bono knew nothing about running the kennels, Glatzel says; it was she who had to make sure the dogs were fed and exercised and watered, and she would bring over members of her family to help. Bono would sit and drink.
Still, she says, "We all just hit it off just right." There was talk of owning a pet store together, the kind of talk that comes of aimless afternoons and the lack of anything better. They were drifters, the three of them, moving restlessly through their lives, their hopes unfocused, their relationships disconnected, their positions tenuous in peaceable Connecticut. And then the fragile friendship ended and the blame had to be apportioned, the responsibility taken.
"It was not an unusual crime," says Police Chief John Anderson. "Somebody got angry, an argument resulted." But it was the first murder in the town's history, and naturally, Anderson sighs, "we couldn't have a simple uncomplicated murder, oh no. Instead, everyone in the whole world converges on Brookfield."
Still, says the chief, "I'm trying to be very objective, to keep an open mind. I can't say it didn't happen." But Anderson is working hard to avoid the possibility that the demonology defense will transform Brookfield into another Amityville, its attraction suddenly founded on its reputation as a fertile ground for supernatural sideshows. So far, he says, that hasn't happened, although a small avalanche of mail still descends on the 22-member department every week offering advice and counsel. A minister from California called Anderson to say he was coming to bless the chief personally "because I was in grave mortal danger," and the gilded crucifix that hangs in gaudy glory in the chief's drab office is the gift of another interested observer. Not that Anderson plans to take it down. "The day I levitate five feet off the floor is the day I'll believe," he says. "But I figure, why push your luck?"
Demonology for the Defense
Somewhere along the line, you have to get around to the question of why the devil decided to pick on Alan Bono as the instrument of Arne Johnson's destruction. Martin Minella's got an answer for that. He leans over in the dingy bar, trying to talk over the sports announcer's voice blaring out of the speaker overhead. "Think about it," he says. "What's the guy's name? Bono, right? And what kind of name is Bono? Italian, right. So what does Bono mean in Italian? It means good. And evil likes to destroy good."
"Everybody asks, 'How could you come up with a defense like this?' " Minella says. "I didn't come up with this. This is what was presented to me. I went to see Ed and Lorraine and I decided to take the case after talking to them. They told me that when you're possessed, you have no control over your actions. That stuck in my mind."
According to Minella, the possessed-by-demon defense has been used twice before in England, but in neither instance did the case go to the jury. Everyone agrees that the jury selection is going to be one of the more interesting aspects of the Johnson case, because, as one observer pointed out, the defense isn't going to want anybody who doesn't believe in the devil and the prosecution isn't going to want anybody who does.
Minella says that he never had any interest in the subject of demons until the Johnson case came up but now, mirabile dictu, there is no doubt in his mind that this is the work of the devil. The wounds in Alan Bono's body were too deep, Minella says, for them to have been the work of human hands, a fact that is now going to be hard to determine since the body was cremated. "It's too bad," says Minella. "There's nothing like seeing the body."
That loss of evidence aside, however, Minella says there has been more than enough strangeness around to convince him "that there's an evil force present." It wasn't all that long ago, after all, that Minella found himself standing on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral. "It was after we'd done the Snyder show," he remembered. "There we were, standing on the cathedral steps, when I looked up and saw the sign for that restaurant, The Top of the 6's -- 666, the sign of the devil. I tell you, I've been going to mass more often these days."
Minella saw yet another sign of evil influence at work when a judge recently fined $100 and held him in contempt of court for being an hour late for court. "It made headlines all over," Minella says. "The judge looked at me as if I was some kind of animal. But the Warrens tell me that the devil will often work through others this way to weaken your resistance." After all, says Minella, "We're not talking about devil worship here, we're talking about the Catholic church. We're talking about the beliefs of 42 million people."
Minella is also talking about a great deal of money and notoriety. "People are talking millions when they talk about this. Not hundreds of thousands of dollars, but millions." And for the first time, a slow fire builds in Martin Minella's eyes and he smiles the smallest of smiles.
Crossing the Line
The Warrens get a mite touchy about the constant questions thrown their way concerning what they stand to gain from the Brookfield Demons. "Why not inform the public?" asks Lorraine Warren. "In informing the public, you are warning the public about trespassing in the supernatural." Which is why, says Ed Warren, the church, "instead of hiding the facts, should be yelling them from the rooftops. This low-key nonsense, I just can't stand it anymore. You mention demonology to a young priest and he almost grins anymore. We're bringing home the positive, the reality of God, because that is the other end of the spectrum."
It is not the end of the spectrum that is getting much ink, however, the devil having always provided better copy. And in this instance, say the Warrens, he has conjured what Lorraine Warren calls "a pretty drastic case." A very rare case for that matter, it not being all that often that "we have a possession and a murder; total possession itself is very rare."
The killing makes the case almost unique, according to Ed Warren. "A lot of people are going to say that this defense opens a lot of floodgates here, that everybody's going to say 'the devil made me do it.' But this happened seven months after the family first started experiencing this problem. You have to look at what happened prior to the tragedy occurring, you have to look at what preceded it."
All in all, says Lorraine Warren, the case ranks a good 9 1/2 on a scale of 10, the one thing that could bring it up to 10 being "another catastrophe." It is a possibility that the Warrens rate as "very likely." 'The Beast' Beckons
Right now, things are pretty quiet. Johnson is in jail and the attempts at starting an "Arne Johnson Defense Fund" to raise the $125,000 bond having yielded considerably less than the requisite amount of currency. David Glatzel is reportedly still possessed, although the attacks come less frequently now. Still the family keeps the holy candles burning, prays to God and talks to the press. "Why me?" David's mother asks. "Why is this happening to me? I don't know, maybe this is our cross to bear," she says. "I guess it could happen to anyone."
Things will quicken soon enough, when the trial begins, and the families have fresh material to work with and the overworked quotes, the worn-out pieties can be plowed under to nurture new headlines. Perhaps, in the end, murder itself will seem extraordinary enough, without the devil having anything to do with it. Still, life isn't the same after the cake pan levitates, after the day-to-day is drafted into the service of the profane, and the face with the jagged teeth and the coal black eyes sends the thrill of terror down the quivering spines.
How do you keep them down on the farm after they've seen The Beast?
The Banality of Evil
"This is a battle between good and evil," says Ed Warren, but is it really? The devil seems a subaltern in this drama, docile enough in the way he is manipulated; even the William Morris Agency couldn't ask for a more cooperative client. In the fascination with the occult, there is little room for remorse; the horrors inherent in an ordinary life -- in the daily betrayals, the unmentioned surrenders -- lose whatever lessons they have to teach, and maybe that is where, in the end, evil finally lies.