Enfield Poltergeist: A Haunting or Child’s Prank?

How much of the Enfield poltergeist haunting was real?

by Mr. James England, April 2016 – Updated June 2021

Was she levitating or was it a child's prank? Image: Graham Morris/Cricketpix Ltd

Possession. Levitation. The supernatural activity that occurred at 284 Green St. was the stuff of nightmares. Every creepy child’s story about something eerie lurking in the closet seemed to come true for the Hodgson family in 1977 in their tiny home in Enfield, England.

Infamously known as the most documented case in paranormal history, the events that occurred frightened the Hodgson family.

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What was the cause? The Enfield poltergeist appeared to be the restless spirit of Bill Wilkins, a man who had died in the home several years earlier.

Beginning of the Enfield Haunting

On the evening of August 31, 1977, Peggy Hodgson’s children weren’t settling into bed. When 11-year-old Janet Hodgson called for her mother yet again from the bedroom she shared with her 10-year-old brother Johnny Hodgson, Peggy yelled for Janet to stop “mucking about.” She stormed into the room to put a stop to the nonsense. However, upon entering the bedroom, Peggy became startled to see both children visibly frightened and complaining of wobbling beds and strange noises. Then, to Peggy’s disbelief, the bedroom dresser moved away from the wall and inched toward the door. She tried to push it back but could not move it. Alarmed, she ordered her children out of the room, and she and her neighbors searched the house. They found nothing but heard unexplained knocking noises coming from the walls, and their uneasiness grew.

The Enfield poltergeist haunting had begun.

The Paranormal Investigation into the Haunting

Over the next 18-months, a slew of strange events occurred during the investigation into Bill Wilkins and the Enfield poltergeist. A police officer called to the scene claimed she saw a chair slide across the floor by itself, but she didn’t know what to do about it and determined that it was not a matter for the police.

Mrs. Hodgson called in a team from the Daily Mirror. Initially, they assumed they were being pranked, but they too saw strange things levitating in the room. They put the Hodgson family in contact with the Society for Psychical Research (SPR).

Two high-profile paranormal investigators from the SPR, Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair spent six months investigating the case and claimed to see household items fly across the room and furniture float, spin, and tip over. Grosse also heard knocking, a strange recurring voice, and non-existent dogs barking. The pair estimated over 1500 paranormal events took place during the first three months of their investigation.

During this time, a voice overcame Janet. The gravely, angry, and foul-mouthed voice of an older man erupted out of her, claiming to be that of Bill Wilkins. In another eerie experience, a houseguest saw an alarming apparition. The guest claims they saw a ghostly doppelganger of Maurice Gross looking out at them from a window on the first floor; the family confirmed he was upstairs with them.

Neither Grosse nor Playfair ever rescinded their stories.

Playfair went on to author the book This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist. In 1978, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren also investigated the Enfield house and concluded that the events were paranormal in nature.

Skepticism About the Enfield Poltergeist

Most of the activity seemed to center on young Janet Hodgson, who claimed unseen forces regularly flung her out of bed, and that those same forces caused her to levitate in mid-air on several occasions. Much of the suspicion, therefore, that met this case became aimed at her as well. She refused to let other people enter the room when she claimed to be overcome by the voice.

According to Playfair, “The connection between Janet and the Voice is obviously very close. There have been several occasions when she says something it obviously meant to say and vice versa. Would she slip up like that if she was faking the whole thing?”

In an article of the Skeptical Inquirer, they delve into the voice speculating she mastered the art of ventriloquism. Exasperated by Playfair’s words, they write, “Evidence of ventriloquial fakery was even taken as proof of authenticity!”

Another point of skepticism is that Janet and her older sister Peggy were both caught by two SPR experts bending spoons through non-paranormal means. The common consensus among the skeptics is “the ‘poltergeist’ is nothing more than the antics of a little girl wanting to cause trouble and who is very, very, clever.”

The Enfield Interest Today

Although the strange activity in the house came to a halt in 1979, interest in the Enfield Poltergeist is still high. In 2007, Janet Hodges gave her first interview in almost 30 years. In the interview with Channel 4, she recanted many of her previous statements. She admits they had faked some phenomena but insists it’s only about “2 percent.” In an earlier interview, she told ITV News, “Oh yeah, once or twice (we faked phenomena), just to see if Mr. Grosse and Mr. Playfair would catch us. They always did.”

Hodges sums up the interview by saying, “I didn’t want to bring it up again while my mum was alive, but now I want to tell my story. I don’t care whether people believe me or not, I went through this, and it was true.”

In 2015, Sky Living produced a television series about the story in Great Britain, and in 2016 was this story was the basis of the film The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case.

The most recent occupants of the home claim have felt an unnatural presence in the home even to this day. While the skeptics have good reason to ridicule, nobody can say that the history of Enfield Poltergeist isn’t a fantastic story.

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The Great Amherst Mystery
Poltergeist Activity of Angelique Cottin

Mr. James England

I have always been interested in ghost stories, the mysterious and anything paranormal which can't be explained rationally.