The true story of the Enfield Poltergeist. A haunting in a British family during the 1970s, still today Britains most famous haunting. This story would become the inspiration for several TV shows and also the film The Conjuring 2.
In part one, we are introduced to the Hodgson family and after some disruption in the house, including knocking on walls and items being thrown about, investigators are called in.
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In 1977, a family living in a small semi detached house in Enfield, a quiet suburb of London, was subject to a series of violent paranormal disturbances which lasted for an entire year. Levitations, moving objects, overturned furniture and channeled voices were all witnessed by more than 30 people, including residents, journalists, neighbors and Police officers. Today we look at the story of the Enfield Poltergeist. This is Dark Histories, where the facts are worse than fiction.
47 year old Peggy Hodgson lived at 284 Green Street, Enfield, with her four children, Margaret aged 13, Janet aged 12, Billy aged 7 and John aged 11, who was rarely at home, as he boarded at school and returned only for holidays and some weekends. Peggy was a divorcee, a quiet but strong woman, she was working hard to keep her family afloat during difficult financial times.
On the 31st of August at around 9:30PM, Janet and John were in bed when they heard a shuffling sound. Mrs Hodgson came in to their room to tell them to quiet down, the night before the children had complained that their beds were shaking up and down and Peggy was a little tired of them playing around at night, rather than sleeping. Janet complained that the chair in their bedroom was making the noise, slightly irritated, she removed the chair from the room and took it downstairs. Upon returning to the childrens room, she turned out the light and the shuffling sound started again. She turned the light back on and it stopped immediately. The children were in their beds, apparently not moving. She turned the lights off once again, and once again, the shuffling sound could be heard. Mrs Hodgson explained the sound as if “some one was walking across the room wearing slippers”. Then came the knocking. As they listened, a chest of drawers by the bedroom door slid out into the room, around 18 inches from its usual position against the wall. They stood in the quiet room, all staring at the chest. Mrs Hodgson pushed it back against the wall and once again, it slid back out, into the room. She tried to push it back again, but this time, it would not budge. Panicked, she took the kids out of the house and over to their neighbours. Vic, ‘Peggy next door’ and their 20 year old son Gary Nottingham were close friends of the Hodgsons. They explained their predicament and the Nottinghams naturally dismissed the story, but agreed to come and have a listen to see if they could hear anything. The knocking continued, and this time, the Nottinghams heard it too. Vic stated that he thought it sounded as if the knocks were following him around the house. At a loss, they called the police. WPC Heeps and PC Hyams arrived around 1am. WPC Heeps testified to the investigation later, detailing their visit to the house as follows:
“On Thursday 1st September 1977 at approximately 1am, I was on duty in my capacity as a policewoman, when I received a radio message to 284, Green St, Enfield. I went to this address where I found a number of people standing in the living room. I was told by the occupier of this house that strange things had been happening during the last few nights and that they believed that the house was haunted. Myself and another PC entered the living room of the house and the occupier switched off the lights. Almost immediately I heard the sound of knocking on the wall that backs onto the next door neighbour’s house. There were four distinct taps on the wall and then silence. About two minutes later I heard more tapping, but this time it was coming from a different wall, again it was a distinctive peal of four taps. The PC and the neighbours checked the walls, attic and pipes, but could find nothing to explain the knockings. The PC and the neighbours all went into the kitchen to check the refrigerator pipes, etc., leaving the family and myself in the living room. The lights in the living room were switched off again and within a few minutes the eldest son pointed to a chair which was standing next to the sofa. I looked at the chair and noticed that it was wobbling slightly from side to side, I then saw the chair slide across the floor towards the kitchen wall. It moved approximately 3-4 feet and then came to rest.
At no time did it appear to leave the floor. I checked the chair but could find nothing to explain how it had moved. The lights were switched back on. Nothing else happened that night although we have later reports of disturbances at this address.”
With nothing more that they could do, the police left the house, leaving the Hodgson family to make camp in their lounge, where they would all sleep for the next several days.
Over the next few days, lego and glass marbles begun being thrown around the house. This was witnessed by both the Hodgson and Nottingham family. Vic Nottinghams father, upon picking up one of the thrown marbles from the floor noted that it was burning hot. On the 4th September, feeling unsure of who to contact next, Mrs Nottingham called the Daily Mirror, a national newspaper, hoping to gain some help through the press.
Journalist Douglas Bence and photographer Graham Morris visited the house the following day and witnessed the Lego blocks flying around the room, one hit Graham Morris in the forehead, which apparently caused bruising that lasted for several days. They returned to the newspaper convinced there was a story in the house and senior reporter George Fallows and photographer David Thorpe visited on September 7th. Fallows sympathised with Mrs Hodgson and upon hearing the knocking for himself, contacted the Society for Psychical Research on behalf of the family.
The society for Psychical research is one of the oldest paranormal investigative bodies in the world. Set up in London in 1882, by a group of scientists, philosophers and other academics, it was the first scientific organisation to ever to examine claims of psychic and paranormal phenomena. Its mission statement was to “to approach these varied problems without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned enquiry which has enabled science to solve so many problems, once not less obscure nor less hotly debated.” Although not without its critics, it has remained until today as one of the most legitimate research bodies into such activity and still funds various research papers around the world. In 1977, the society had a new member, Maurice Grosse. Grosse was keen to embark on his first investigation and soon got his chance at Enfield.
By October, the moving and throwing of objects had now been continuing for some weeks. Soft furnishings, cutlery and any household object that wasn’t nailed down had become the focus of the disturbances and were routinely disrupting various rooms in the house. On one night, the investigators cleared all objects that could be moved from Janets room as a sort of experiment. Guy Lyon Playfair reported that after some time, they heard ‘a tremendous vibrating noise’ coming from the now empty room. ‘It was as if someone was drilling a great big hole,’ he said. He went in to the room to find the fireplace torn out from the wall. ‘It was one of those old Victorian cast iron fires that must have weighed 60lb. The children couldn’t have ripped it out of the wall, but in any case they weren’t there.’ The pipes to supply the fireplace had been ripped clean in half.
Although Morris Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair were convinced by this point, many members of the Society for Psychical Research were not so quick to believe. Many thought it was simply the girls playing tricks to gain attention. In latter years Janet admitted to sometimes “messing about” but claims that they only played small tricks and none of the major events were hoaxes. Indeed Morris Grosse has said the same, explaining that at times the girls would play up to the events, but were always simple tricks and always caught out quickly.
By November, Maurice Grosse had noted that the knocking sounds around the house had seemed to become intelligent and decided to ask it questions. They started simply, requesting the perpetrator to knock once for no, twice for yes. Upon asking if if it was dead, it replied by knocking 53 times.
As November passed, Janets behavior was getting more and more erratic and at times she had become very unsettled. The words possession were not used, but Maurice Grosse went as far as to say that “She seemed to be taken over”. On the night of November 26th a doctor had to be called to the house due to Janets wild behavior and injected her with 10 mg of Valium. This was enough to put Janet to sleep, however half an hour later, the investigators heard a loud crash coming from upstairs and upon checking on the girls, found Janet on top of a dresser, still asleep, kneeling on a wide clock radio. Apparently having been thrown 14 feet across the room.
As part of the investigation, cameras were set up in the girls room which could be remotely operated and take bursts of photos at every 4 seconds. The images documented from these cameras showed several strange happenings in the room. The first was a pillow, appearing to twist around in mid air, thrown by no one. The second was a curtain, appearing to twist around by itself, though no windows were open. The most extreme photos however, were apparently images of Janet herself, levitating in the air, being thrown from her bed. Janet described the events as such:
“The levitation was scary, because you didn’t know where you were going to land. I remember a curtain being wound around my neck, I was screaming, I thought I was going to die.”
on December 10th of 1977, the intelligence of the disturbance progressed further, this time going as far as manifesting a voice. Janet began emitting a gravelly, growling and barking sound along with whistles. The investigators theorised that if it could bark and whistle, could it perhaps talk?Through questioning, it gradually formed a voice, a low guttural growl with which the investigators would hold many conversations over the coming months. Janet described it as “Like someone standing behind me putting their hand on my neck”.
The investigators recorded the interviews with this voice and one crucial recording, during an interview by both investigators, the voice refers to itself as a man by the name of Bill.
Months later, Grosse was contacted by a man by the name of Terry Wilkins. Terry’s father had lived in the Hodgson’s home prior to the family. He had, Terry confirmed, died of a hemorrhage in his favorite chair on the first floor. His fathers name was Bill.
The investigators claim to have later put water in Janets mouth and covered it with a strip of tape, though the voice still spoke. John Hasted, a physicist at London’s Birbeck College, carried out an experiment together with Adrian Fourcin, a phonetics expert at University College, London. Tests with a laryngograph indicated that the voice was using Janets false vocal folds, not by the larynx as in usual speech. If a person was to talk using their false vocal folds for any period of time, they would usually suffer from a sore throat at best, with the danger of long term injury very real. Janet however, would talk to investigators in this voice for hours on end, and later, upon returning to her normal voice would suffer no adverse effect at all.
The disturbances continued in much the same vein until in July 1978, Janet was admitted to Maudsly Hospital for extensive psychiatric testing. Two months later she was given a clean bill of heath, with no signs of tourettes or epilepsy or any other illness which could partially explain some of the events from the past months. Upon her return home, the disturbances seemed to calm down. Almost as quickly as they had begun, the strange happenings of the Hodgson home had finally ceased. Today, 40 years on, The Enfield case remains as Britains most famous haunting and though has had extensive criticism, has never been fully debunked.
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