The Scary Story Behind The Most Haunted Rocking Chair In History

"Haunted" items that carry a sinister aura or malevolent presence are extremely common in stories and accounts of ghosts and demonic encounters. The self-proclaimed ghost hunters (and media personalities) Ed and Lorraine Warren famously kept a museum full of such objects surrounded by dollar store Halloween decorations in the basement of their own home, including the notorious haunted doll, Annabelle, who figured in the plot of the 2019 horror film "Annabelle Comes Home." Paranormal investigator and host of the Travel Channel series "Ghost Adventures," Zak Bagans, put together a list of some of the most haunted items in history for the Dummies website that includes a number of items that have had movies made about them, including Annabelle, Robert the Doll, and the Dybbuk Box featured in the 2012 movie "The Possession." He also discusses "The Hands Resist Him," a painting that went viral in 2000 thanks to being listed on eBay, and the so-called "Devil's Rocking Chair."

The Devil's Rocking Chair played a role in one of the most famous possession cases of all time, that of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who claimed that he killed his landlord under demonic influence. But before we can get to Johnson, we have to look at his fiancee's younger brother, then-11-year-old David Glatzel. The Glatzel family received the rocking chair in the early 1950s, but in the summer of 1980, this previously unassuming piece of furniture would play a role in an exorcism so famous, they made a movie about it.

The 'Conjuring' connection

As Bagans explained for Dummies, it's claimed that David started seeing visions of what he described as a "man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features, jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns, and hooves." He said he had recurring nightmares of this figure and suffered unexplained injuries such as scratches and bruises. Soon he said he was seeing this Devil figure during waking hours as well, invariably sitting in the family's rocking chair. While only David saw the demon sitting in the chair, other family members claimed to have seen it moving on its own. When the Glatzels consulted a priest about David's behavior, the boy is said to have begun hissing, spitting, speaking foreign languages, and quoting "Paradise Lost" (or so claim Ed and Lorraine Warren). The Warrens themselves were then called in to assist with the exorcism, and they claimed to have seen the chair moving on its own with David sitting in it, disappearing and reappearing in other locations in the house, and levitating.

During a final exorcism, Arne Johnson tells the demon to leave David and come into him, then Johnson is possessed and murders his landlord, then he goes on trial and becomes the first person to claim innocence for reasons of demonic possession, with the Warrens backing his claim. If this sounds familiar, it's because this story was adapted for the plot of 2021's "The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It," which adds a fictional Satan-worshiping witch and removes most of the stuff about the rocking chair for some reason.

Fright at the museum

Following the alleged possessions of David Glatzel and Arne Johnson, the Glatzel family placed the spooky chair in storage. According to Bagans, however, that wasn't enough to contain the evil of Satan's own rocking chair. When the Glatzels moved into a new home, they took the rocking chair with them, and supposedly it caused no shortage of trouble. Anyone who sat in the chair, they say, began to suffer pains such as backaches or sciatic nerve pain, some which were allegedly permanent or required surgery. As such, the Glatzels decided to finally divest themselves of the demon chair. As Newsweek explains, the chair made its way to the Warrens' museum, where it stayed until Bagans purchased it from the Warrens for $67,000 hours before Lorraine's death.

Bagans put the chair in his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas, which contains other items such as the aforementioned Dybbuk Box, a haunted doll, and part of James Dean's car. Bagans claims that the chair still had its original cushion, on which are visible stains from the holy water and blessed oils that Ed Warren and the priest used during David's exorcism. Perhaps needless to say, Bagans says that visitors to the museum have felt a menacing aura surrounding the chair even now, causing nightmares, tension, and arguments among people who come near it. The chair was also allegedly able to cause lights to turn off and doors to lock under their own power soon after it was brought to the museum.

Zak Bagans' rocking chair adventures

In 2019, Bagans closed the Devil's Rocking Chair display at the Haunted Museum. According to Newsweek, Bagans claimed that the chair was causing too much supernatural trouble at the museum to be worth the risk. Bagans said that six different people suffered ill effects due to proximity to the item, all spontaneously bursting into uncontrollable weeping. Another guest collapsed on the stairs that are situated just above the rocking chair exhibit. Bagans claims that the chair caused a chain of strange emotions within himself and a friend of his. Bagans and his friend were sitting in Bagans' home and felt an evil presence lurking between them, after which Bagans' dog began to growl and Bagans lowered his head and began speaking strangely on the topic of God and the Devil, all of which caused his friend to begin sobbing and run out of the house.

Even though emotional and physical reactions to the allegedly haunted objects in Bagans' museum aren't uncommon, with many people being taken away in ambulances, the personal nature of this spooky chair apparently led Bagans to close that exhibit, as TMZ reports, which he claims is the first time he had ever done so. But that was 2019, and as of this writing, the Haunted Museum website prominently features the Devil's Rocking Chair as one of the exhibits available in the museum tour, so if you're in Las Vegas and willing to risk and emotional breakdown and/or possibly murdering your landlord, maybe risk taking a peek at history's most demonic chair.