The Enfield Poltergeist event (also known as the Enfield Haunting) was a period of apparent poltergeist activity in England that took place at 284 Green Street Brimsdown, Enfield, England between August 1977 and September 1978, with an added outburst of poltergeist activity in August 1980. During the span of three years, a terrifying entity haunted the Hodgson family – a mother and her four children. Paranormal investigators, including infamous ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, assisted the family and witnessed many of the strange and inexplicable activity the family claimed to experience. For several years after, the haunting held the nation spellbound, puzzling policemen, psychics, experts in the occult, and hardened reporters alike. It became one of Britain’s most notorious haunting cases, spawning TV shows, books, and the Hollywood blockbuster film, The Conjuring 2.
Strange activity in an England home
The Enfield Poltergeist incident occurred at Enfield in North London, in a council house rented to Peggy Hodgson, a single parent with four children. The poltergeist activity began in 1977. It was the evening of August 30, and Mrs. Hodgson was anxious to get her children into bed. She heard Janet complaining from upstairs that her and her brothers’ beds were wobbling. Mrs. Hodgson told her daughter to stop mucking around. The following evening, however, there was an altogether more bizarre disturbance. Mrs. Hodgson heard a crash from upstairs. Cross with what she though was the children’s bad behavior, she went to tell her children to settle down. Entering their bedroom, Mrs. Hodgson saw the chest of drawers slide across the floor, away from the wall. She pushed it back, but found that each time she slid the chest of drawers back, it propelled itself back forward towards her. Suddenly, loud knocks began emanating from the walls of the home. 12-year-old Margaret explained:
“‘There were strange little noises in the house, you couldn’t make out what was going on. None of us got sleep that night.”
Frightened, the family went next door to get a neighbor, Vic, a burly construction worker, to help them. Vic later told reporters.
“I went in there and I could make out these noises — there was a knocking on the wall, in the bedroom, on the ceiling. I was a bit frightened.”
The police were called and proved to be similarly mystified. WPC Carolyn Heeps witnessed furniture moving across the room. In her police report she wrote:
“A large armchair moved, unassisted, four feet across the floor.”
The police carefully examined the furniture and could find no hidden wires nor any other explanation for how objects were propelling themselves across the room. Finally they left the home, telling the family there were no laws being broken and there was nothing they could do to assist.
After that night, bizarre events in the home increased. When the poltergeist was active, furniture moved about on its own, knockings on the walls were heard, and children’s toys were thrown about the rooms (which the family found afterward, were too hot to touch when picked up). Reports of the activity attracted various visitors including mediums and members of the press. More than 30 people witnessed the strange incidents occurring inside the Hodgson home. After visiting the house, George Fallows, a senior reporter for the Daily Mirror, suggested that the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) be called in to investigate. He reported:
“It was chaos, things started flying around, people were screaming.”
Investigation into the Enfield poltergeist activity
The incidents inside the Enfield home were investigated by Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair, both members of Society for Psychical Research, who were convinced by the evidence which they encountered during their thirteen month investigation. They reported witnessing various phenomena, including moving furniture, flying marbles, cold breezes, shallow pools of water appearing on the floor, and fires which spontaneously ignited and extinguished themselves. Grosse reported:
“As soon as I got there, I realized that the case was real because the family was in a bad state. Everybody was in chaos. When I first got there, nothing happened for a while. Then I experienced Lego pieces flying across the room, and marbles, and the extraordinary thing was, when you picked them up they were hot. I was standing in the kitchen and a T-shirt leapt off the table and flew into the other side of the room while I was standing by it.”
Interviewing a Poltergeist
During the investigation, Grosse ‘challenged’ the poltergeist to speak to him and it did not take long before the poltergeist was communicating openly with the investigators. As investigators documented, the poltergeist had a habit of making jokes, but also had a very nasty temper, choosing to swear at Maurice, once calling him; “A f*cking old sod.”
Eventually, the spirit revealed itself to Grosse as a man named Bill Watkins. In a chilling message from the grave, the man described in graphic detail the moment of his death.
“Just before I died, I went blind, and then I had an ’aemorrhage and I fell asleep and I died in the chair in the corner downstairs.”
A few weeks after “Bill” revealed himself, a man (Terry Watkins) contacted Grosse and claimed to be Bill’s son. Terry Watkins confirmed that indeed, his father had died in the house in the same manner that the spirit proclaimed.
The Enfield Poltergeist family
The family who were tormented by the Enfield Poltergeist consisted of a mother, two daughters, and two sons; Margaret aged 12, a younger sister Janet Hodgson aged 11, Johnny aged 10 and Billy aged 7. At least 26 of of the events, investigators considered could not be accounted for by fraud. These included movement of small and large objects, interference with bedclothes, pools of water on the floor, apparitions, physical assaults, graffiti, equipment malfunction and failure, spontaneous combustion, disappearance and reappearance of objects, and apparent levitations. The ongoing knocking was one of the most chilling aspects of the case. Many witnessed the loud knockings noting that it would run down the wall, fading in and out.
One day, Grosse witnessed one of the children pinned to the bed screaming, “I can’t move! It’s holding my leg!” Family and investigators wrestled the child from the invisible grip and all involved insisted it was the grip of very strong invisible hands.
One of the more shocking accounts, as retold by Grosse, details the destruction of the girls’ 300-pound fireplace in October of 1977. He explains having heard a loud banging, followed by the feeling of shaking. By the time he reached the girls’ bedroom, the fireplace had wrenched itself out of the wall, ripping a solid metal pipe in half.
Most horrifying of all, however, was that the voice was coming from the body of an 11-year-old girl, Janet Hodgson (whom much of the activity centered on). She appeared to be possessed (by “Bill”), often going into violent trances, moaning, and in one case, levitating across the room. She told reporters:
“I felt used by a force that nobody understands. I really don’t like to think about it too much. I’m not sure the poltergeist was truly “evil”. It was almost as if it wanted to be part of our family. It didn’t want to hurt us. It had died there and wanted to be at rest. The only way it could communicate was through me and my sister.”
Among other alleged phenomena that the SPR investigators witnessed was one of the children speaking using her false vocal folds for hours on end (which is believed to be medically impossible), while she was apparently possessed by Bill Watkins. Recordings were made of these occurrences. After the BBC went to the house the recording crew found the metal inside of the recording machines bent, and recordings had been erased.
Was the Enfield Poltergeist a fake?
Not all believed the Enfield Poltergeist haunting was legit. Further investigations by Anita Gregory and John Beloff, also from the SPR were not so positive. They spent a few days with the family and came to the conclusion that the children had faked the poltergeist activity after they found them bending spoons themselves. One of the children (Janet) admitted to Gregory that they had fabricated some of the occurrences. This admission was repeated on the ITV News (12 June 1980) when she stated:
“Oh yeah, once or twice [we faked phenomena], just to see if Mr. Grosse and Mr. Playfair would catch us. And they always did.”
Margaret has also publicly stated that although she did fake a few phenomena to test the investigators, they were not responsible for all the phenomena. She has stated that:
“It is ridiculous to suggest that either my sister or I could have been responsible for the strange activity that went on in our house.”
The Enfield Case, a documentary that recorded the events, revealed that the two girls often played their own tricks on Grosse, but only to see if he could tell the difference between the poltergeist activity and the girls’ activity. The girls said that Grosse always caught them.
The Enfield Poltergeist family today
Now aged 45, Janet lives in Essex with her husband, a retired milkman. She recently explained how she felt about the haunting today:
“It was an extraordinary case. It’s one of the most recognized cases of paranormal activity in the world. But, for me, it was quite daunting. I think it really left its mark, the activities, the newspaper attention, the different people in and out of the house. It wasn’t a normal childhood.”
Her brother died of cancer shortly after the events, at the age of 14. Her mother died several years later, also of cancer. Janet suffered the loss of her own son who died in his sleep when he was 18 years old.
In 2015, Janet revisited the home, now owned by another family, during research for the film The Conjuring 2.
On Halloween night, 1992, BBC aired a fictional mockumentary entitled Ghostwatch, based on the Enfield Poltergeist investigation. Like the Enfield Poltergeist, Ghostwatch supposedly took place in a North London house, and featured a possessed adolescent girl speaking in a other worldly voice. The program, which was only aired once on television, created a brief period of War of the Worlds-style panic due to many viewers believing the events that they had just witnessed were real.
The Enfield Haunting movie – ghost causes havoc on set
A new drama, titled The Enfield Haunting, (adapted from Guy Lyon Playfair’s book, This House is Haunted) looks at the real-life events from the 1970s when the Hodgson family from North London were targeted by an evil force, which sent furniture flying around and even possessed their 11-year-old daughter Janet. Executive producer Jamie Campbell revealed: “Every time our photographer came on set his camera broke. It annoyed him, but terrified the rest of us.” Oscar-nominated actor Timothy Spall told reporters, “It frightened me to death.”
The Conjuring 2 movie (2016)
The 2016 The Conjuring 2 movie was based on events that occurred during Ed and Lorraine Warren’s investigation of the Enfield Haunting. As with the original The Conjuring movie, which was based on the Perron family and the Harrisville Haunting, participants knew nothing about the upcoming movie. Janet Hodgson, who turned 45-years-old in 2016, told Daily Mail Online:
“I wasn’t very happy to hear about the film. I didn’t know anything about it. My dad has just died, and it really upset me to think of all this being raked over again.”
The Conjuring 2 characters and their reallife counterparts
Characters in The Conjuring 2 were based on real-life persons involved in the Enfield Haunting investigation. Below are the movie characters and their real-life counterparts.
What the movie portrayed and what really happened
Was the house a two-story duplex unit: Yes
Strange knocking coming from the walls: Yes
Crosses turned upside down: No
Mother flee to neighbor’s house for help: Yes
TV remote moved about the home: Yes and No. Although a television remote was not specifically mentioned in the case’s documentation, other objects did indeed disappear and reappear in other parts of the home.
Janet Hodgson levitating above her bed: Yes
Janet Hodgson possessed by Bill Wilkins: Yes
Scary ghost dressed like a nun: No
Did Bill Wilkins die in the downstairs living room: Yes. Bill Wilkson’s son, Terry, confirmed that Bill died in a manner similar to what Janet Hodgson claimed.
Did Ed and Lorraine Warren cast out a demon: No
Haunting began after children played with an Ouija board: Yes. According to a later interview with Janet Hodgson, she admitted the events began shortly after she and her sister Margaret played with a Ouija board.
Were the Hodgson children bullied at school after their experience: Yes. Kids at school began calling Janet Hodgson “Ghost Girl”.
Did furniture move about the house: Yes
Did the police assist the Hodgson family: Yes and No. Police were called to the home but did not assist the family.
Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the haunting: Yes and no. Ed and Lorraine Warren were purposely tied to the movie in order to continue the saga built in the first movie (The Conjuring). The Warren’s did investigate the haunting but only briefly during the summer of 1978 when many investigators were researching the case. The majority of the investigation was conducted by Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair, both members of Society for Psychical Research. Later, Guy Playfair told reporters that the Warren’s showed up “uninvited” and only stayed for a single day.