There’s no denying that the Enfield Poltergeist is one of the best-documented cases of purported paranormal activity to date. Thirty-two years later, the series of staggering events which took place over a fourteen month long investigation, are still debated regarding the validity of the evidence in question. With thousands of video clips, audio recordings and photographs captured, skeptics and believers alike have been given plenty fuel to continue their heated discussions as to whether or not something genuinely unexplainable happened in a quaint North London home in the late 70’s.
The expansive story of the Hodgson family began on a late August night in 1977. Peggy Hodgson, a single mother of four, claimed to witness what would be the first of many strange and seemingly unexplainable occurrences. Occurrences that seemed to center around her two oldest daughters, and more specifically her middle child, Janet Hodgson. What Peggy later told investigators, is that she witnessed a chest of drawers in the girls’ small bedroom slide, on its own accord, across the room and come to a stop in front of the pair of girls.
After moving the dresser back to its original position, Mrs. Hodgson was shocked when yet again, the chest slid across the room. Only this time, due to the force of some invisible weight, she was unable to move it. This incident was then accompanied by a disembodied knocking sound that would continue nearly the length of the entire fourteen months.
Alarmed, Mrs. Hodgson contacted the local police who dispatched two officers to the home. Logically, the officers initially suspected the claims to be nothing more than a childish prank, if not by the mother, then by her three children. Their suspicions were cut short, however, when one of the two arriving officers witnessed a living room chair slide five feet across the floor, apparently on its own. Attempting to explain the movement, the officer places a marble on the floor. The marble does not move. Shocked, the officers explain that there is little they can do for Mrs. Hodgson, and suggest that she contact the local media.
The ‘The Daily Mirror’ newspaper is contacted and Peggy explains her story in the hopes that some media attention will draw the interest of those who might better understand what exactly was happening in her home. Two journalists by the names of Graham Morris and Douglas Bence were sent to cover the story.
When the two journalists tell of their arrival, they describe the Hodgson family as initially nervous and overwhelmed yet the activity in the house rather quiet. The group sat in the living room discussing the prior night’s events until an hour had passed and there was still no sign of strange activity. As the journalists began to pack their equipment and prepare to leave, they are stopped by a hysterical Mrs. Hodgson. When they reentered the home, they were flabbergasted by what they saw. Small, inanimate objects were flying around the room, crashing into walls and people. Morris rushed back to his vehicle to retrieve his camera and immediately began taking photographs. He describes the room as being “frantic” and tells of being hit just above the eyebrow with a toy that had to have been tossed with extraordinary speed. Unfortunately, and much to the dismay of true believers everywhere, when Morris’ photos were developed they failed to show what any of witnesses claimed to experience. This lack of tangible evidence would prove to be a common occurrence in the Enfield incident, and a major talking point for skeptical debate.
Shortly after the floating object incident, the Society for Paranormal Research, or SPR, are contacted and two members by the name of Morris Grosse and Guy Lion Playfair are first to jump at the opportunity to investigate. After a short time of investigating in the home, both men are convinced that something genuinely paranormal is taking place. Loud noises of knocking, banging, and scratching in addition to the erratic movement of furniture, the major activity presented in the case, continue to escalate. SPR come to the conclusion that they are dealing with a particular kind of entity, one that they believe either manifests or feeds off of psychokinetic energy: a poltergeist.
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. The only two witnesses present at the time were Margaret and Janet Hodgson, who claimed to have been sleeping.
London University is contacted and a student of experimental physics is sent to the house to test the girls’ ability to influence metal. Within a short period of time Janet managed to bend a spoon completely in half without ever coming into contact with the object itself. The investigators now believed most of the activity to be centered around Janet, who appears to be less and less frightened of the strange events as they continue to occur.
Many members from the SPR however, were not so quick to believe the claims of the Hodgson family. Both Grosse and Playfair openly admitted that on more then a few occasions the two girls had been caught attempting to fool the adults by creating elaborate hoaxes. Janet’s behavior had also become questionable, and together, these concerns raised suspicion that the girls had begun performing under the pressure to prolong the escalating activity. At this point, it seemed that opinions regarding the Enfield poltergeists’ authenticity were split down the middle; some believing absolutely, and others doubting the entire affair.
In late November, three months into the investigation, the now familiar disembodied knocking became persistent to the point of being categorized as intelligent. Grosse attempts to communicate with it, asking it to answer questions by rapping once or twice on the wall. The response that follows is a succession of 53 distinct knocks, all recorded on nearby tape recorder. It is around this time that Janet begins to fall into what Grosse describes as a trance-like state. She is said to have developed phenomenal strength while acting out violently towards herself and others. In order to prevent injuries, Janet is restrained.
On November 26th a doctor visits the house and injects Janet with 10 mg of Valium, sedating her. Half an hour later she’s found in her bedroom, on top of a dresser, kneeling on a wide clock radio with her head hanging towards the ground, legs in the air.
Graham Morris, photographer for The Daily Mirror, sets up a remote control camera in the girls’ bedroom that can be activated from anywhere in the house. Once activated, the camera would proceed to take a photograph every 4 seconds. He captures what appears to be a series of photographs of Janet being forcefully pulled out of her bed and thrown across the room to the foot of her sister’s bed.
In an even more controversial turn of events, Janet then begins to speak in a deep voice, like that of a man. Grosse begins asking Janet a series of questions, all of which are answered by “the voice”. Doubting that the voice is anything but a clever ventriloquism act, Janet’s mouth is filled with water and taped over. Grosse challenges the voice to continue. It does.
During an interview done by both investigators, the voice refers to itself as a man by the name of Bill, a previous resident of the home who had died of a hemorrhage in a chair on the first floor. Months later, Grosse is contacted by a man by the name of Terry Wilkins. Terry’s father had lived in the Hodgson’s home prior to the family, and had died of a hemorrhage in his favorite chair on the first floor. His name was Bill.
In July 1978, Janet is admitted to Maudsly Hospital for extensive psychiatric testing. Two months later she is given a clean bill of heath and returns home to a seemingly quiet house. Almost as quickly as they had begun, the strange happenings of the Hodgson home had finally ceased.
Understandably, the fantastic nature of the Enfield Poltergeist has made it one of the most wildly speculated cases of paranormal activity to date. Aspects of the story have appealed to believers who accept that the events of 1977 were genuinely unexplainable. On the other hand, the ambiguousness of the evidence itself has given skeptics ample reason to refute the claims of paranormal occurrences.
When it comes to researching the Enfield Poltergeist, what you’re left with are mostly subjective accounts of personal experiences, something that most, if not all, stories of paranormal activity boil down to when you look deep enough. Do you believe that a family of five was tormented by an unseen force force for over a year? Or are the circumstances too vague and the experienced too incredible? Either way, it’s easy to see how the Enfield Poltergeist captures the imagination and interest of nearly everyone who’s happened across the story over the past three decades. It’s a series of events that will no doubt be the cause of debate for many years to come.