The Enfield Poltergeist: A True London Ghost Story?
The Enfield Poltergeist is an interesting case. Haunted London articles generally relate to areas you can readily visit, this one is slightly different. It relates to credible reports of a quite disturbing haunting that happened in Enfield, a suburb of North London, that used to be a market town in Middlesex where lambs were reared in Anglo-Saxon times and which, in the Middle Ages, was a heavily forested hunting park for the local lords.
You may have seen The Conjuring 2 which came out in 2016. It is based on this case.
The Enfield poltergeist haunted happened in a regular street to regular people at 284 Green Street in Brimsdown, Enfield. Brimsdown was earlier Grimsdown – Grima’s Hill. And Grima was a name used for the Germanic God Odin or Woden to the Anglo-Saxons. Odin used to call himself Grima or Grim -meaning ‘mask’ or ‘helmet’. (See Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names for Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids by By K. M. Sheard) when he wandered among the unsuspecting person. And Odin was fond of playing tricks on this humans. In fact he was a very tricksy fellow. Bear that in mind for when we talk about the poltergeist.
But back to the poltergeist. The hauntings occurred between 1977 and 1979 and were centred around two sisters aged then 11 and 14. It was investigated by the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR), and the two investigators involved felt the haunting was genuine. It is only fair to say that when the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry reviewed the case, they felt that on the contrary the haunting was a hoax. But in turn it should be noted that the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have been criticised over the years for trying too hard to disprove psychic phenomena, to the extent that they themselves allegedly may have strained or forced their numbers and investigations to show a negative result.
How it Began
Peggy Hodgson, who was a single parent, rang the police in August 1977 and started the whole furore over the Enfield Poltergeist. She phoned the police to say that furniture was moving on its own in her rented house and that there were knocking sounds and sounds heard on the walls. Peggy had four children, Margaret aged 14, Janet aged 11, Johnny 10 and Billy 7, and they’d lived in the same house for years with no problems.
The reason Peggy rang the police was that in the middle of the night of 30 August 1977, daughter Janet woke her up to say her bed was shaking. Police who visited the house claimed that an officer saw a chair slide across the floor without anyone touching it. As the story progressed there were reports of demonic voices, rocks and toys being thrown, chairs flipping over and the children even levitating. Reports came to an end in 1979.
As noted, the Enfield Poltergeist case was investigated by the SPR and the Society sent two members, Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair. Gosse was an engineer by profession and had personal experiences of psychic phenomena when his daughter (also called Janet) was killed in a motorbike accident in 1979. He joined the SPR following these. Gosse spent many hours in the Enfield house with a tape recorder and video camera.
Playfair later wrote a book called This House is Haunted: The True Story of a Poltergeist and he maintained it was a true haunting though he though the two girls might not have been totally honest, might have exaggerated what happened and might even have played tricks on the investigators. Maurice Grosse even saw the daughter Janet banging a brush shank on the ceiling to make a noise and she hid his tape recorder.
However some of the accusations of the girls seem overrated including that Janet used ventriloquism to create some of the sound effects. Successful ventriloquism is a pretty specialist skill that many stage performers still don’t get right, so to suggest an 11 year old girl was an accomplished ventriloquist seems to be stretching it a little. She did produce the low growling voice of a man who said he was called Bill and who’d died in the house of a stroke before the Hodgsons moved in.
Janet was again accused of faking levitation by being photographed when she was merely bouncing on the bed.
It was actually a neighbour who rang the newspapers and when they arrived at the house, he came out and told them that things were going on again. The newspaper reporter didn’t see any activity himself but he was quite convinced the family were terrified. ‘You can’t fake fear like that.’
The newspaper photographer Graham Morris was hit in the face by a piece of Lego. Sceptics say the investigators turned their backs and the girls threw Lego at them but if this is so, how come the photographer was hit in the face? There are also reports that electrical equipment switched itself on and off. The same photographer managed to photograph one of the girls levitating with a terrified look on her face. This is contrary to the sceptics saying that this photograph was caught on time-lapse and just so happened to catch them bouncing on the bed. When I’ve seen the picture, she is definitely not just going vertically up from the bed, but seems to be hanging mid-way between the beds.
Ed and Lorraine Warren, the American paranormal investigators who investigated the Amityville Horror also visited the home. It has been claimed arrived uninvited and were turned away, but from Janet’s 2016 reunion with Lorraine Warren, that appears to be a smear. The Warrens were convinced that the girls were possessed by demonic entities and it was these who were causing the strange phenomena in the house.
Later Testimonies about the Enfield Poltergeist
Forty years after the haunting, Janet and Margaret Hodgson returned to the house in Enfield for the first time and gave an interview where Janet claimed that they didn’t fake the incidents and that she was actually used by an entity which levitated her and spoke in demonic voices and that she even felt it might kill her when it wrapped a curtain around her neck. Lego bricks were thrown across the room and Janet recalled a chest of draws moving by itself over the floor. As an adult she denied faking the phenomena and pointed out she was heavily bullied at school because of her role in the case; they called her ‘Ghost Girl’, so why would she fake it? She also hated all the investigators coming in and out of her house and didn’t enjoy the attention at all.
Investigator Guy Playfair also recalled a marble appearing from nowhere and dropping at her feet. A book travelled through a wall to appear in the room next door. He remained convinced that the events were real.
Enfield Poltergeist: Conclusion
Something happened. On balance, I don’t believe the family faked things. I know that people who believe in psychic phenomena can often be credulous because, paraphrasing Fox Mulder, they want to believe. On the other hand the sceptical community can go too far the other way because they are desperate to prove such things can’t be.
Go visit Enfield. It’s a long way from Central London and the journey is complicated by public transport, but if you have plenty of time, you might want to visit this ordinary house and stand outside and gaze in. Probably don’t knock.