British Ghosts: The Haunting Case of the Enfield Poltergeist

Famous British Ghosts: The Questionable Case of the Enfield Poltergeist

enfield-poltergeist

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.

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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.

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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.

Psychic Phenomenon The Enfield Poltergeist Goings on at the Hodgson household in Green Street Enfield as funiture and toys were September 1977

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.

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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.

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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.


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Dana Matthews

Dana Matthews

Co-founder, Editor, Writer at Week in Weird / Planet Weird
Managing editor, occult museum curator, and paranormal TV junkie, Dana has been actively investigating the strange and the unexplained for two decades. When she’s not telling ghost stories or penning articles about real haunted places, she's chasing mysteries with Planet Weird. Learn more about Dana.
Dana Matthews

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Nice job giving us the story in a nutshell. After so many years I still am on the fence when it comes to believing it.

I agree 100% with the poster above me. I have experienced inexplicable paranormal activity myself, although in a very mild, seemingly innocuous form (objects moved around in a way that could not be explained by natural forces, but nothing damaged).
The hardcore skeptics will never believe unless they witness such events themselves. I have, and am in no doubt that these things happen.

I agree Susan, such things most certainly do exist. My family and I had from through it from 1969 to 1978, so much longer than a year, like the Enfield case. We experienced things that defied rational explanation. Regular footsteps in the main bed room, the occasional sighting, though this was so very rare indeed, so rare in fact that it was only really my mother and my grandfather that saw anything, in all the years I was there I never saw the ghost, but I did see the minor poltergeist activity we had, electrical cables being pulled. Lights going… Read more »

I just finished the book This House Is Haunted..The Investigation into the Enfield Poltergeist and lets just say, it made for an entertaining book!

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

Wow, nice work Dana. You boiled a huge case down into the best info. It was a great read. I enjoyed reading about a case other than something the Warrens got their hands on or appeared on Paranormal State.

“Do you believe that a family of five was tormented by an unseen force force for over a year?” No “Or are the circumstances too vague and the experienced too incredible?” Yes when you look at the background of the men involved in the “research” of the original case — and you look at the other cases they “researched”, and you examine the media’s penchant for turning “paranormal” into $$$ (just like today) – well, it makes the cynic in me go “hmmmmmm” i say that it’s a situation where actual familial trauma was exploited (whether intentionally or not is… Read more »
Bellaboo, what makes this case stand out are the number of witnesses, outside of the family. Before this case had called in the researchers the police were called and a WPC witnessed a chair move across the floor on its own. If the initial journalists, one of whom has appeared on fairly recent(perhaps 10-15 years ago) tv documentary claimed he was hit by a flying bit of lego, had taken any photographs of the flying objects, that would still be hard for skeptics to accept, as they would claim anyone could have thrown those objects in the air whilst the… Read more »
Everything in this case is bunkum, but the only thing that threw me – for a while – was the voice of ‘Bill’. But when I rewatched the sequence in the docco where he asks the voice a question and Janet smiles back at him and the voice says something, you can SEE her torso expand and contract in time with the words. Its ventriloquism alright Jim, just not as we know it. As a psychological case – why the girls were inwardly driven to perpetrate these pranks – this is certainly interesting, much more so in that respect than… Read more »
“Skeptics always demand proof, but If the skeptics control the goalposts then they will never get the proof they claim they want.” Alright, here are the goalposts for a skeptic; Provide testable and repeatable evidence that proves what properties ghosts have, how they can move objects and do all the supposedly paranormal phanomanon that was listed here. Don’t just say “Oh I can’t explain it so it must be ghosts”. Why ghosts? Why not faries? Invisible dragons? Gravity controlling space hoppers with waterpistols from the planet zog? You can throw all this undefined arbitrary concepts out there as well as… Read more »
During the 1970’s my family and i lived in a property called ‘Gladstone villa’ in a former welsh mining town called ‘Bargoed’ in the south wales valleys. We experienced paranormal phenomena on a reguler basis that made my family conclude that the place was indeed haunted. We heard noises in the main bedroom that simply defied rational explanation like footsteps walking around while we would all be downstairs watching tv, and we would turn down the tv to hear it more clear and we would try to find exactly where in the bedroom the noise was. There are a number… Read more »

I’ve just started reading “Guy Lyon Playfair’s” Book about the investigation, and I have to say, some of the experiences of the author are pretty hard for me to explain away.

There is a very short relatively new radio interview with Graham Morris on 5 Live – one of the photographers present who was struck on the head by a lego brick – I think he sum’s things up nicely…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00lj90g

Enfield would be more incredible if it were a fraud/conspiracy perpetrated by this council house dwelling mid forties divorcee, her children and the scores of independent witnesses claiming the known laws of physics were broken ! many of the phenomena reported at Enfield occurred on 9/11…spontaneous cold fires, incongruous metal bending,levitation of objects and people and the change in the nature of solid matter.

Do these “paranormal occurrences” have to all be big and sexy like Enfield or can they be mid or low level? anyone know?

Bill… is that you?

i found a man terry wilkins (billy son)

what do you think??

sorry for my bad english

https://www.facebook.com/terry.wilkins.71

those pictures is real????

all of them???

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