The 13th Floor

The Demon Murder Case of Arne Cheyenne Johnson

We, as humans, tend to like happy endings. We like when the bad guy loses. We like when the hero falls in love. We like when the kids are safe. From time to time, we’ll mix in a sad story to break up the pace, but let’s be honest – would STAR WARS be a thing if at the end of A NEW HOPE the Death Star killed everyone? I don’t think so.

This goes for horror too. We’re happy that Freddy or Jason or Pazuzu gets beat. We’re happy for the Freeling family when they check into the hotel at the end of POLTERGEIST. We cheer the Warrens when they fight off the various evils that pop up in the CONJURING movies.

But what if the happy ever after only lasts a few months?

In the early days of 1981, Brookfield, Connecticut was celebrating its 193rd year without a homicide when their streak was broken. Early in the evening of February 16, Arne Cheyenne Johnson, all of 19, walked up to his landlord, Alan Bono, and stabbed him multiple times with a pocket knife. Bono would die a few hours later in the hospital. Johnson was picked up by police some two miles from the murder scene.

Eight months later, Arne Cheyenne Johnson stood before a jury of his peers and planned to submit a plea of not guilty by virtue of possession.

It all started on July 3rd of 1980, when David Glatzel, at the time just 11 years old, woke up screaming about “a man with big black eyes, a thin face with animal features and jagged teeth, pointed ears, horns and hoofs.” The Beast Man warned David to “beware.”

David wasn’t the kind of kid who watched scary movies, and he sure wasn’t one to make up stories or have such vivid nightmares, and this one really shook the kid. His whole demeanor changed – the once happy go lucky lad became quiet and nervous. David’s sister Debbie asked her fiance to stay with the family for a while to see if he could help David out of his funk. That fiance, as I’m sure you guessed, was Arne.

Things didn’t get better. David had more nightmares of the Beast Man, who promised to take the boy’s soul. Odd scratches and bruises began to appear on David, the injuries seeming to happen while David slept. Odd noises came from the attic, but Arne couldn’t find any reasonable answer for them. Worst of all, David began to see the Beast Man while he was awake, claiming that the monster would appear as “an old man with a white beard, dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans.”

With nowhere else to go, the Glatzel family turned to their church. A priest came to the home and blessed it, which seemed to do little more than piss off the Beast Man. The sounds in the attic became louder, David’s dreams and daytime visions increased. David began to hiss at his family and speak in multiple voices. He started to quote PARADISE LOST, a book that I don’t think many 11 year olds read. During the night, someone would have to stay up and watch David, who would wake up every 30 minutes, sometimes having seizures. To put it bluntly, things really sucked for the Glatzels.

Unsure of what to do, the priest reached out to a kindly couple who had helped out in the past – Ed and Lorraine Warren.

The Warrens took the short trip from Monroe to Brookfield so that Ed could speak with David. As the ex-cop turned demonologist interviewed the boy, Lorraine watched. She would later explain what she saw to People Magazine…

“While Ed interviewed the boy, I saw a black, misty form next to him, which told me we were dealing with something of a negative nature. Soon the child was complaining that invisible hands were choking him—and there were red marks on him. He said that he had the feeling of being hit.”

It became clear to the Warrens that David was possessed. There is some question as to what happened next – while the diocese of Bridgeport admits that they did investigate the Glatzel case, they have never spoken to more than that. According to Lorraine, the Warrens, along with four priests, held three exorcism to free David from the hold of 43 demons.

During one of the exorcisms, Arne Cheyenne Johnson made what would be a tragic choice – he taunted the demons within David, going so far as to claim that the monsters were too frightened to try and enter him. When the exorcism was over, the Warrens called the Brookfield police and suggested that they keep an eye on Arne.

As November 1980 started, things seemed OK. David’s parents took him to a psychiatrist and their family physician. David was, according to the doctors, a normal kid with a slight learning disability, though he still had trouble sleeping. Debbie and Arne moved into their own apartment, rented out by Alan Bono.

But Arne had changed. In all his 19 years, Arne had never gotten into trouble. He was the proverbial “good guy” – when money was tight, he dropped out of high school to get a full time job and help his mom out. He even bought his mom a car, an $80 junker, so she wouldn’t have to walk to and from work. Arne was well liked and hard working all the way up to that day. That day he challenged whatever was inside David.

According to Debbie, Arne would go into trances where he would growl at nothing and claim to see the Beast Man. When he would come out of the trances, Arne wouldn’t remember any of it. Arne started to get into trouble with the police. Nothing that crazy, but certainly out of the usual for the guy.

Then came February 16, 1981.

Arne called out of work, choosing instead to spend it with Debbie and his sister Wanda at their job at a kennel. Debbie’s cousin Mary was also spending the day at the kennel – it was President’s Day and school was closed. As the gang goofed about at the kennel, playing with what I can only imagine was an endless parade of cute puppies, Alan Bono showed up and took them all out to lunch at a local bar – a perfect place to bring a 9 year old.

Depending on which reports you read, either both Arne and Alan were drinking a serious amount of booze for lunch, or just Alan was. Either way, when everyone returned to the kennel, there was an uneasiness. An argument between Arne and Alan broke out. Arne started to growl and hiss. Debbie feared the worst tried to get Wanda and Mary out of the room. Alan was faster – he grabbed Mary and refused to let go.

That was when Arne pulled out the knife and stabbed Alan Bono in the stomach, pulling the knife up and creating an incision reaching Alan’s heart. Arne then stabbed Alan Bono a few more times before leaving the scene.

Martin Minnella, Arne’s lawyer, was the one who came up with the idea of pleading not guilty by virtue of possession. Minnella found two cases in England where demonic possession was used as a plea, though neither of those cases ever went to trial. Still, Minnella figured if it was good enough for the Brits, why not give it a try here in the states?

It didn’t work. The judge refused to accept the plea, what with there being no way to show evidence of a possession and all. With that plan thrown out the window, Minnella and Arne Johnson went with what would have been my first choice for a plea – self defense. Afterall, Bono had taken the nine year old Mary and refused to let her go. All the same, Minnella hadn’t planned on using that defense, and I suppose it showed in the courtroom – the jury found Arne Johnson guilty of first-degree manslaughter, giving Johnson a 10-20 year sentence, though he only served five.

Arne and Debbie married after he was released, and are still together today. The trial was quite a sensation in 1981, leading to a made for TV movie called THE DEMON MURDER CASE starring Kevin Bacon and Andy Griffith (I NEED to find this), and a book, THE DEVIL IN CONNECTICUT.

In 2006, the book was reprinted, and it became something of a bother for those involved. The Glatzel family sued the publisher and the author, saying that it violated their right to privacy, was libelous, and that it intentionally caused emotional distress to the family. David and his brother Carl claim that the possession story was a hoax created by the Warrens so that they could exploit David’s mental illness. Both Lorraine Warren and Gerald Brittle, the writer of the book, deny David and Carl’s claims. The lawsuit was settled out of court in February 16, 2012, exactly 31 years to the day of the death of Alan Bono. Something tells me that we won’t be seeing this story used for a CONJURING movie.

Was David Glatzel possessed by 43 demons? Did one of them enter Arne Cheyenne Johnson? Personally, I don’t buy much into possession, but who am I to poop on someone else’s theories?

What I do know is that in all my research for this piece, and I did a fair amount – I even tracked down and watched the episode of A HAUNTING about this case, which really veers off from the articles written around the time of the events – not one piece ever brings up an exorcism for Arne. Does that mean that, if you believe in possession, there’s still a demon lurking inside him? Do demons ever just leave a host? Maybe it got bored while Arne was in prison? Can that happen?

Whatever did happen, demons or no, there was an evilness that exists in this story. A little boy who was tormented by something. A young man who found himself overcome with anger. A middle-aged man who couldn’t control his drinking. A death that should have been easily avoided.

Maybe there was a possession in this story. At least one man was taken by what old timers used to call “the demon drink.”