One of the great scary modern horror movie antagonists is the creepy entity called Valak, from the hit horror films The Conjuring 2, in 2016, Annabelle: Creation in 2017, and the 2018 spinoff The Nun. With her menacing and supremely creepy scowling face and her nun’s garb, Valak immediately resonated with audiences as a sinister demonic presence to be reckoned with, an instantly iconic horror villain, and will probably appear in many more films to come. Yet, is there any basis in truth to the mythology of this demon presented in the movies? Was Valak ever real in any sense at all or is this just a purely Hollywood construct? The answer to this might surprise you.
It might interest some to know that the evil force from the movies known as “Valak” is indeed based somewhat on real mythology, although of course the film makers took quite a few liberties with the source material. The demon Valak, called variously Valac, Ualac, Valu, Volac, Volach, and Coolor or Doolas, has been described in various grimoires through the ages, first mentioned in a manuscript called The Clavicule of Solomon or The Lesser Key of Solomon, which is mostly dedicated to magical means of summoning and controlling spirits both malicious and benign. Within this grimoire’s pages are listed the names of 72 demons that were defeated by the King Solomon of the Old Testament, as well as rituals and spells for how to conjure and banish them, and the 62nd demon listed is none other than Valak.
This particular demon is described as the Great President of Hell, controlling legions of demons and possessing extreme strength, intelligence, and the power to find any treasure. In some later texts Valak was given the ability to control serpents, and indeed those who summoned the demon were also said to be imbued with this power. In appearance Valak is in no way nun-like, appearing as a cherub-faced winged boy riding atop a formidable and frightening two-headed dragon, and indeed the decision to make the demon look like a nun was a completely creative decision made by the film makers. In fact, Valak has never been depicted as looking like a nun in any of the real historical lore surrounding him and has nothing at all to do with nuns. The Lesser Key of Solomon says of Valak:
The Sixty-second Spirit is Volac, or Valak, or Valu. He is a President Mighty and Great, and appeareth like a Child with Angel’s Wings, riding on a Two-headed Dragon. His Office is to give True Answers of Hidden Treasures and to tell where Serpents may be seen. The which he will bring unto the Exorciser without any Force or Strength being by him employed. He governeth 38 Legions of Spirits, and his Seal is thus.
The sinister and diabolical Valak would go on to be mentioned in many other grimoires, such as Johann Weyer's Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, the Liber Officium Spirituum, the Munich Manual of Demonic Magic, and the Fasciculus Rerum Geomanticarum, and the original text in which he is mentioned, the Lesser Key of Solomon, was considered so offensive and heretical to the Church that it was placed on the Vatican’s Indexes of Prohibited Books in 1599. Interestingly, it was conversely perversely popular with priests of the era, and many kept secret copies sequestered away within the darkest corners of their libraries, and it was actually a very popular book in Europe overall.
So in the end, although the Nun from the films is loosely based on the mythology of Valak the demon, it has been quite twisted and warped in is depiction in the movies. Indeed real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are also characters in the movies, have never made mention of Valak in any of their real case files, and the demon was merely a way to tie together the Amityville and Enfield Poltergeist cases that they actually really did cover. Interestingly, another piece of dark lore from the films connected to Valak is presented in the film The Nun, and takes the form of a sinister and spooky looking old abbey in Romania, the dark halls of which the titular entity is terrorizing in the 1950s. This is also a creative liberty with the demon of lore, as Valak is in no way connected to any such monastery and this was simply a way for the filmmakers to make a sort of supernatural version of the movie The Name of the Rose, based on Italian author Umberto Eco's novel of the same name, but the location is actually still based on a very real place, which has a spooky enough history as it is even without demonic nuns running around.
The monastery is called Cârța Monastery or the Abbey of Cârța, it does lie within Romania in southern Transylvania, and it is every bit as gothic and ominous looking as it is depicted in the film, although the movie was not actually shot there. The former Benedictine monastery, now a Lutheran Evangelical church, was built in the early 1200s by Cistercian monks, also called the Benedictines and the “White Monks,” and it quickly accrued quite a lot of lore in the region. It was said that the secretive monks who called this remote place their home would fast all year-round, and that they all slept upon hay in a single room like animals. Their days were spent in labor and prayer, their only food supposedly cheese and beech leaves, and they were well-known for their agriculture, metallurgy, and the brewing of ales. Theirs was a life of extreme humble austerity, meant to reflect the strict observance of the Rule of St Benedict, and a simple existence and hard manual labor was a way of life for them, which they continued until they were eventually banished in 1474 by the king of Hungary, Matthias Corvinus. The complex would go on to be abandoned in the 17th century, after which it was renovated and turned into a church by locals in the 18th century.
The monks buried their dead out in the courtyard of the monastery, which would be joined by the remains of soldiers from World War I and oddly two skeletons found of men that measured an estimated 7 feet tall, and considering the gothic architecture and mysterious history it is easy to see why this place has developed a reputation as a haunted place. The most commonly reported paranormal occurrence is walls that shake and vibrate and furniture moving on its own, especially in the cellar, although sometimes apparitions of monks in white robes are also seen roaming about the grounds. Although much of the original monastery is no longer standing and has become feral, weed-ckoked ruins, a bell tower erected in 1495 still remains, and the site is a popular destination for tourists from all over Europe and indeed the world. Looking at the place, although the demon Valak has no relation to it whatsoever, one can see how this spooky locale might be chosen by filmmakers for a supernatural thriller.
So there you have it. Although the movies take creative license and change the core mythology, they are nevertheless based on real historical lore and places that are just about every bit as scary as anything depicted in the films. It is interesting just how much actual scary history is often incorporated into our fiction and movies, and Valak and the haunted monastery of Romania are no exception. It all certainly gives one something to think about the next time you watch any of these films.