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Who The Actual Hell Is Valak, AKA The Nun?

The Conjuring's demon explained.

At this point there's a good chance you've stumbled on a movie in the "Conjuring Universe," which encompasses a laundry list of horror movies and spinoffs that all either loosely or directly relate to one another. This year, a brand new entry arrives in the form of The Nun, a spinoff of both The Conjuring movies proper and of the Annabelle movies. And it's looking to up the terrifying ante by deep diving into the lore of one of the Conjuring Universe's most pervasive villains. So, who exactly is "the nun?"

Brace yourself for some spooks--and some spoilers--from a handful of the Conjuring films.

The titular nun is actually--surprise!--a demon. She's not just any demon, mind you--this one is named Valak and it's been creeping through the margins of Ed and Lorraine Warren's life for a while now. It got its first real introduction back in The Conjuring 2, where it proved just how manipulative it could be by posing as not one, but two "poltergeist" style hauntings and terrorizing a family in England, and even obliquely tried to claim responsibility for the Amityville murders.

The Amityville connection actually takes place a year before the bulk of the movie, in flashback as Lorraine recalls a vision she saw of the nun while she and Ed were investigating. This led her to start researching the potential demon connection even before they got the call to start investigating in England, totally unaware that the same force was related to both hauntings. Whether or not Valak actually inspired the DeFeo killings in Amityville or if it was there specifically because it had taken an interest in Ed and Lorraine is left ambiguous.

Eventually Lorraine was able to put the pieces together, connecting the visions she'd had back in Amityville with the visions she was having now and figure out the link--and the demon's name, which had come to her in another waking nightmare back at the Warrens' home. The creature was Valak, an eldritch and inhuman entity also known as "the defiler" or "the marquis of snakes." While this is largely a series of totally made up titles, Valak itself is actually "real," in the sense that the name was borrowed by the Conjuring masterminds from real world demonology texts. Sometimes spelled "Valac" or "Ualac," the actual entity dates as far back as the 17th century and was described in grimoires like The Lesser Key of Solomon.

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Actual Valak is usually depicted as a cherubic boy with angel wings, usually perched upon or riding some sort of serpent--so, no, not anything like a demonic nun. It was formally recognized as a "president" of Hell, as far as the rankings and hierarchies of demons are concerned, and was most commonly associated with finding and uncovering treasure, especially if that treasure was somehow related to snakes.

Please don't ask us who in the 17th century was summoning demons to look for snake treasures because your guess is as good as ours. Obviously there were no shortage of creative liberties taken when translating Valak from historical figure to monster movie phenomenon, and most likely, the Conjuring team picked it because of its cool sounding name more than anything else.

And for demons, names are pretty important, even when they've been thoroughly fictionalized. In accordance with the "laws" of demonology, knowing the demon's true name gave Lorraine power over it and she was able to effectively banish it back to hell, saving both Ed and the Hodgeson family in the process. But the story doesn't exactly end there--there's still the matter of just what Valak actually wanted and why it seemed to have such a keen interest in the Warrens to begin with.

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While Valak doesn't actually get a big reveal or any time in the spotlight in either Annabelle movie, it's presence is felt there as well. In Annabelle: Creation, there are a few instances where it's heavily implied that it was actually helping the demon manipulating Annabelle work to possess the orphan kids. Why it would be interested in helping out a fellow demon, or what its end goal may have been, is really anyone's guess--best guess is that the big reason is because it's a demon, and demons love evil.

The Nun is set to hop back even further in the timeline--back to the monastery in Romania where the original photo was taken and, hopefully, take a closer look at some of those more persistent questions. What has Valak been working toward this whole time? What does it actually what? Where did it come from? Chances are, the answers to those questions are going to be anything but pleasant.

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