BURRILLVILLE – Town Councilors approved a one year entertainment license for the newest owner of the house made famous by The Conjuring movie this week, following a debate regarding whether or not the town can control the issues that have led to ongoing complaints about activity at the property from neighbors.
The house was purchased in May for $1,525,000 by Boston-based developer Jacqueline Nuñez, and is now offering day and night tours, along with overnight investigations under registered business name Bale Fire, LLC.
On Monday, Councilor Jeremy Bailey questioned the wisdom of issuing a 24-hour license in a residential neighborhood, citing issues for others who live there.
“I do have some concerns,” Bailey said. “It’s in a rural area. I don’t know of any farms that we issue a 24-hour license to.”
Nearly a decade after release of the 2013 hit horror movie, it seems interest in the allegedly haunted property remains high, to the dismay of some residents in the once quiet Round Top Road area. The house became an international attraction following the Warner Bros. film, a fictionalized depiction of reportedly real events experienced by the Perron family, who lived there in the 1970s.
Those hoping for a peek at the historic farmhouse have since plagued the neighborhood, with complaints ranging from traffic issues and trespassing, to late night noise.
The property was opened to visitors in 2019 by a couple from Maine who purchased the property and launched a business, charging guests for access to the 300-year-old structure. Owners Cory and Jennifer Heinzen also brought in several famous paranormal investigators for televised media events, including one special on the Travel Channel.
Their efforts – and the prospect of an overnight stay in a haunted rural farmhouse – garnered attention from the likes of Forbes, People magazine, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, to name a few. And complaints from neighbors continued.
In 2020, one neighbor told councilors strangers burst through his front door one night mistaking his house for the property, and Bailey said recent reports include one of visitors urinating in a private driveway.
“It’s outside in the peaceful hours set by the town ordinances,” Bailey said. “As a realtor, one of the main tenets of property ownership is the right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment. I don’t think we should be issuing this license”
Councilor Raymond Trinque asked if any of the recent problems had been reported to local police.
“We have some complaints along the line of what Mr. Bailey has mentioned, but not extensive,” answered Town Manager Michael Wood.
“You don’t stop this by not issuing a license,” Trinque said. “The Conjuring House isn’t going away. The people aren’t going away. The thing that drives this is a thing we can’t control. You can only hope to contain it.”
“It’s a force that’s not going to be contained in a parking lot and a driveway,” said Trinque. “It’s ridiculous. It’s a national phenomenon.”
Trinque suggested that the council pass the entertainment license, but bring in the owner for a discussion with neighbors and police. Nuñez appeared before councilors to transfer the business’s license in June, but Monday’s discussion came amid the annual end-of-year flurry of all business renewals.
Councilor Stephen Rawson noted that it’s difficult to distinguish between unauthorized sightseers, and those taking advantage of legitimate, paid-for business offerings.
“You’re not going to be able to stop the interest in this house by denying the license,” Rawson said. “I believe it’s mostly sightseers that are causing this trouble.”
Officials looked for guidance from Town Solicitor William Dimitri regarding options for a conditional license, a temporary license with a scheduled review, or the process to establish an annual public hearing.
“If and when the license is issued you can place restrictions on it,” Dimitri said. “I can’t think of anything that would prevent that.”
But Council President Donald Fox said he was opposed to such measures, noting a hearing on the business was already held in June.
“All of it’s really hearsay,” Fox said, adding that police reports are, “the only objective measure.”
“We’ve got ways to measure the complaints, and that’s the police. If you’ve got a complaint the course of action is to go to police,” Fox said, adding of the owners, “they made an investment in a property in this town.”
Dimitri noted that Monday’s meeting was also considered a public license hearing.
Councilors agreed to approve the annual license and to seek information from law enforcement, with an informal, informational meeting to be held sometime early next year.
“We can’t hold the owner of the business responsible for drive-bys,” Rawson said.
“I don’t know any license that you grant that can’t be revoked,” adding Wood, pointing out that councilors could always take action later if merited.
The board approved the annual license by a vote of 6-1, with Bailey casting the dissenting vote, pointing to the reported late-night activity.
“This isn’t contained to the house. They’re making noise all hours of the night,” Bailey said. “We wouldn’t even allow Dunkin’ Donuts to have a 24-hour license.”