Not only did The Conjuring turn out to be just as good as the true story that inspired it (read that here), it went on to become one of the highest grossing horror films of all time, so it’s no surprise that a sequel has been in development ever since. The Conjuring created this perfect storm of quality story telling and unnerving horror, which rose from the terrifying true story of a farmhouse in the quiet town of Harrisville, Rhode Island. But was it just lightning in a bottle, or does Wan have yet another terrifying story to tell?
Just like The Conjuring, the sequel will explore another true story, only this time it’s focusing on one of the most famous supernatural cases in history—The Enfield Poltergeist. The reason this particular haunting is so well known is because of the terrifying true story that spawned from a little home in Enfield, North London, leaving the people of the nation mystified. Marking what would become one of the most witnessed cases in supernatural history, the true story behind the Enfield Poltergeist is absolutely terrifying—a story in which a little girl, Janet Hodgson, became possessed. It’s the kind of story, even at the time, that’s just so insane that it was almost immediately pegged as a hoax. But regardless of whether or not you believe what went down in Enfield all those years ago, the below story is as fascinating as it is haunting.
It was a summer night in 1977 when Peggy Hodgson, a single-mother of four children, first saw signs of what would become one of the most famous hauntings in history. There were loud, shuffling noises coming from her girls’ bedroom, noises that she thought belonged to her daughters, Janet and Margaret. But what she saw when she entered the room were two scared little girls curled up in their beds staring at the back of the bedroom. It wasn’t long after that when the shuffling noise returned, a scratching sound that inched its way from behind her. Peggy turned just in time to see the girls’ dresser slide away from the wall. Thinking it was all joke, she went to push the chest of drawers back against the wall, only it wouldn’t budge—some unseen force was holding it in place. And that’s when the banging on the walls began. “It sounded like it was coming from the outside wall, but it was like it was inside as well,” said Janet. “And sometimes, it sounded like it was coming from underneath the floorboards.”
The loud noises continued to bounce off the walls, sending a terrified Peggy and her four children running next door to their neighbor’s house, which belonged to Vic and Peggy Nottingham. After Vic went to see what was going on inside of Peggy’s home, he too heard the the loud noises coming from all over the house. Vic would later say, “I went in there and I couldn’t make out these noises—there was a knocking on the wall, in the bedroom, on the ceiling. I was beginning to get a bit frightened.”
Peggy, unsure of what to do next, called the police. Officer Carolyn Heeps arrived shortly after, who reported that she witnessed a chair rise from the floor and move across the room right in front of everyone. Heeps was unable to explain how the chair moved on its own, but stated that the incident was out of the police’s hands, leaving Peggy on her own again. She would later call the Daily Mirror who sent a reporter and a photographer down to the house to investigate Peggy’s claims of the supernatural.
But as these things tend to do, as soon as they arrived in the home, all was quiet. Nothing. They waited several hours hoping for something, anything, to happen—it was only in the very moment that they decided to leave when the house came to life. Marbles and Lego bricks started flying around the room. “The photographer came back and a Lego brick hit him above the eye. He still had the mark a few days later. And then Maurice Grosse came in on the case,” Janet stated.
Maurice Grosse was sent down by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to investigate Hodgson’s home. While he was doubtful at first, it didn’t take long before he realized that the house was inhabited by something otherworldly, channeling its energy on Janet, Peggy’s 11-year-old daughter. “When I first got there, nothing happened for a while,” he says. “But then I experienced Lego pieces flying across the room, and marbles. And the extraordinary thing was, when you picked them up they were hot, which is relevant to poltergeist type activity. I was standing by the table in the kitchen and a t-shirt leapt off the table and flew into the other side of the room whilst I was standing by it. I thought, ‘Well that’s good. Now I’ve really seen something’.”
Grosse, alongside parapsychologist Guy Lyon Playfair, claimed to have witnessed almost 2,000 different supernatural incidents over the course of 18 months—objects flying across the room, the sounds of dogs barking in a room that had no animals, and scariest of all, a demonic voice coming from 11-year-old Janet. That demonic voice is said to have belonged to the home’s former tenant, Bill Wilkins, who was seemingly talking through the little girl. Janet became the center of the haunting, going into violent trances and being thrown out of her bed—family members even claim to have seen her levitating. “The levitation was scary, because you didn’t know where you were going to land,” she says. ” I remember a curtain being wound around my neck, I was screaming, I thought I was going to die. My mum had to use all her strength to rip it away. The man who spoke through me, Bill, seemed angry, because we were in his house.”
Of course many people were skeptical of the entire thing, largely blaming it on the children who they thought must have been faking it. A couple of SPR experts actually caught the kids bending spoons, and questioned why no one was allowed to be in the same room as Janet when the demonic voice was coming from her. And while it’s very likely that the kids were exaggerating (Janet even admitted that they made up some of it), it’s hard to believe that they’d be able to fool a house full of adults for 18 months—especially when it came to objects floating around in the house. In 1980, she told ITV News, “Oh yeah, once or twice (we faked it), just to see if Mr. Grosse and Mr. Playfair would catch us. They always did.”
So I bet you’re wondering where Ed and Lorraine Warren factor into all of this (so was I). It turns out that throughout the 18-month-long poltergeist, the house was visited by many paranormal researchers, including the Warrens. They visited the house in 1978 and were convinced that the supernatural were responsible, not the children. Ed Warren even said, “Those who deal with the supernatural day in and day out know the phenomena are there – there’s no doubt about it. Therefore, when people tell me they don’t believe in ghosts and spirit forces, what they’re really saying to me is they’re not familiar with the data on the subject. Yet the data is there – should one care to look. In fact, much of it has been collected under such rigid conditions as to make a lot of other scientific research pale in comparison.
For example, take a case Lorraine and I began investigating this past summer  in Enfield, England, where inhuman spirit phenomena were in progress. Now, you couldn’t record the dangerous, threatening atmosphere inside that little house. But you could film the levitations, teleportations, and dematerialisations of people and objects that were happening there – not to mention the many hundreds of hours of tape recordings made of these spirit voices speaking out loud in the rooms.” Whether or not the Warrens are a credible source is an entirely different subject, but it’s interesting to hear what one of the most famous paranormal researchers had to say about one of the most documented accounts of a poltergeist in British history. I will say, though, that throughout my research, I rarely ever saw the Warrens’ name mentioned. In fact, Sky Living’s recently released three-part series The Enfield Haunting—which is about this exact story—didn’t depict them in it at all.
To this day, Janet and the people involved still believe that what went down in that house all those years ago was the real deal. She says, “I know from my own experience that it was real. It lived off me, off my energy. Call me mad or a prankster if you like. Those events did happen. The poltergeist was with me—and I feel in a sense that he always will be.”
Below is a fantastic documentary on the subject, one that goes into much more detail than I did. Again, though, whether you believe in this stuff or not, it’s no doubt fascinating and really makes you wonder what else could be out there. What do you guys think?
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