BURRILLVILLE – It might be unusual for most government boards to discuss issues surrounding paranormal activity, but over the past decade, such conversations have become pretty common for members of the Burrillville Town Council.
This month, the roughly 300-year-old Burrillville farmhouse that has captured the imaginations of horror fans – and others with ghostly curiosities from across the globe – officially got a new owner.
Jacqueline Nuñez has finalized her $1.525 million purchase of the Round Top Road property that inspired the 2013 film The Conjuring, appearing before the council this month to seek an annual entertainment license doing business as Bale Fire, LLC.
She says she intends to dispel rumors about the house and set the historical record straight.
Nuñez, the owner of a development firm known as WonderGroup, LLC., has said her interest in the property is personal, and not part of a real estate development.
“I’m a deeply spiritual person,” she told councilors at a meeting Wednesday, June 8. “I believe that we are conscious beings having a human experience, and that our consciousness survives death, so I really think this property is a wonderful opportunity to kind of learn from and explore it.”
The new owner, who bought the property from Cory and Jennifer Heinzen, self-described paranormal investigators from Maine, said she intends to continue both the night investigations and day tours of the farmhouse launched by her predecessors.
“That is the business that will be continued here through 2022,” Nuñez said.
But the business hasn’t exactly been popular with neighbors in the area, who have voiced opposition to commercial operations during various stages of licensing. This month, a letter of opposition was submitted to the council by neighbor Tania Hall.
“I’m sure I am not alone in stating that Burrillville was chosen as a place to live because of the rural atmosphere, woodlands, and the (used to be) quiet seclusion that living on the edge of town offered,” wrote Hall. “The neighbors to this house are now constantly forced to deal with the negative impacts of this house’s activities.”
“There is a constant flow of people in and out of the house for weekday and weekend investigations,” Hall added. “Screams, laughs, and conversations throughout the night are not uncommon. It’s disruptive and disrespectful to those of us who do not necessarily work the standard 9-5.”
Alan McNally recalled for councilors one incident in which guests mistook his home for the now notorious, “Conjuring House,” and walked inside.
“We live in a quiet residential neighborhood. We want to know how this is going to affect that,” McNally said. “We have a lot of concerns about the uninvited. Some of them literally stop in the middle of the street and get out of the car. They do all kinds of crazy things.”
Several of the neighbors also expressed concern about safety, pointing to razor wire surrounding the property installed by the previous owners. Nuñez said she plans to remove it and has already begun taking it down.
Councilor Dennis Anderson asked Nuñez if she’s reached out to her new neighbors.
“Historically, the biggest issue has been the peace with the neighbors,” Anderson said.
Nuñez said she had spoken to some of those living nearby, and is aware that trespassers on the property have been an ongoing problem.
“I’m not sure what to do about that,” she said. “I’m not sure what to do about people pulling up trying to take selfies.”
She said all operations to the business, including parking, will be contained on site, and disputed the characterization of the overnight stays as similar to a, “bed and breakfast.”
“That is not the model at all,” she said. “They’re there overnight, but they are doing investigations. They’re not crashing in the bedrooms.”
Guests, she said, are not sleeping in the home, with groups of 10-12 people typically leaving at either 3 a.m or 6 a.m.
She said that while she expects to make some changes to the model, she is not yet sure of her future plans for the business.
“I’ll be spending 2022 kind of assessing things to see what other offerings we might be able to do,” Nuñez said, noting that any changes will follow the town’s ordinances and procedures. “I’m not just going to unilaterally do anything.”
The owner said said that while she lives in Boston, Mass., she plans to spend a, “significant,” amount of time at the Burrillville business, and that it will be staffed 24/7.
“One of the conditions of the sellers was that whoever bought the place would not live there full-time, year-round, because of the activity and the energy,” Nuñez said.
She noted that she plans to work on “dispelling untruths,” about the house’s history – particularly the mischaracterizations of Bathsheba Sherman, a woman who lived nearby in the early 1800s – and was depicted as an evil entity in the Warner Bros. hit horror movie. The topic has been an ongoing concern of historians, who note that Sherman’s grave has been repeatedly vandalized despite her having no actual association with the alleged hauntings of the property.
“I feel terrible about that,” said Nuñez. “She had nothing to do with that property. That’ll be important to me as I learn the history: to get the history and the facts correct.”
Nuñez said she’s mostly interested in the more recent activity at the house.
“It is a very, very active house,” Nunez said. “Paranormal investigators have captured an enormous amount of evidence.”
“I have people coming in from all over the world,” she said. “They love it.”
Town Manager Michael Wood said that on a recent vacation to Maryland, people learned he was from Burrillville and asked about the house.
“We stayed up half the night watching The Conjuring house on demand,” Wood said. “All of the people that were down there were curious about it.”
Wood noted that neighbors should call and report the incident if laws are broken.
“There’s not much more that we can do if someone is running a legitimate business,” agreed Town Council President Donald Fox. “She’s more than willing to keep the peace here and maintain a good relationship.”
Councilor Stephen Rawson said he sympathizes with the neighbors, suggesting that “no parking,” signs could be added to the area surrounding the property.
Councilor Raymond Trinque said the issues will be ongoing regardless of who owns the lot.
“I’m familiar with the activity,” Trinque said. “It’s not going to stop. This is an international movie, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop it, I don’t think. The question is” how do we deal with it.”
Trinque suggested creating a pull off area, noting that the house brings the town notariety.
“I think we’ve got a chance here with the new owner to do something,” he said.
Councilor Jeremy Bailey noted that the house is the only business in Burrillville with a license to operate 24-hours-a-day.
“This just seems out of character for an area that’s generally zoned farming,” Bailey said. “Me personally, I don’t think that’s fair to the neighbors. I think that’s destroying the right to quiet enjoyment.”
Anderson noted that the license will be due for renewal in November, creating something of a trial period for the new owner.
Councilors approved the license transfer by a vote of 6-1, with Bailey casting the only dissent.