When the Hodgson family sat down to play with a ouija board in August 1977, they could have had no idea of what was in store. Far from a fun parlor game, the board stirred up a poltergeist who would threaten to take over the lives of the entire family.
In a world where most people question the presence and reality of spirits and ghosts, the story of the Enfield haunting stands out. If the supernatural realm does not exist, then what did the family experience?
The paranormal events were so extraordinary that they went on to become the storyline of the 2016 Hollywood movie The Conjuring 2. Joining the likes of The Exorcist, The Conjuring 2 captivated the attention of movie watchers worldwide and was the most successful horror picture of the year.
But what actually happened in that quiet family home in north London? How much of the story can we really be sure is true, and how much, like with so many Hollywood movies, is simply fiction?
How it all Began
In the year 1977 the Hodgson family, consisting of Peggy Hodgson and her two boys and two girls, moved into a council house in Enfield, north London. They were not there long before they started to experience strange events in the house.
Although there is some doubt as to the exact date on the hauntings, Peggy Hodgson maintains that the hauntings began on August 30, 1977. On that night Janet and Margaret, Peggy’s daughters, came into her room to tell her that their brothers’ beds were moving on their own.
Margaret Hodgson was 13 at that time, and Janet Hodgson was aged 10. They complained not only of furniture moving on its own, but also knocking noises coming from the bedroom walls.
The following night, Peggy heard loud noises coming from the upper floor of the house. The noises came from a large oak chest that was somehow moving on its own. When Peggy Hodgson tried to stop the chest from moving, she was unable to stop its progress towards the door. It seemed as if the chest wanted to trap them in.
The strange experiences became more frequent from that point, and were mostly experienced by the children of the house. Margaret and especially Janet seemed to be the particular target of the poltergeist, and it had been these two who had played with the ouija board. Janet later admitted she had tried to call a spirit, and it seemed one had answered.
But this was not just some childhood make-believe. Other adult witnesses, including a policewoman who made a written report, saw the inexplicable paranormal activity in the house.
The policewoman saw a chair levitate nearly an inch from the floor and float towards a corner, moving some four feet (1.2 m) in total. However, despite these credible eye-witness accounts the police never stepped in to help the Hodgsons.
It quickly became clear that the Enfield house was indeed haunted by a poltergeist. The paranormal occurrences started increasing day by day. Knocking sounds ran up and down the walls and ceilings of the house’s rooms.
The knocking sounds would typically fade in and out, sounding like someone knocking from the other side of the walls as they moved up and down, seemingly through the walls and floors. This quickly frightened the family to such an extent that they chose to sleep together in one room.
Peggy Hodgson went to seek help from her neighbors, the Nottingham family. The Nottinghams also confirmed that they could hear the knocking noise from the walls and the ceiling, which was enough to frighten then also. Some of the knocking sounds were even recorded on tape.
Word got out about the strange events, and the house was visited by magicians, police officers, psychics, paranormal researchers, and journalists who were trying to make sense of the happenings. Among other things this ensured there were many witnesses to the paranormal activity at the house.
But worst of all was when the ghost started targeting the children themselves. Janet Hodgson was several times picked up by the ghost, levitating in the air. This was even captured in photos by a Daily Mirror journalist named Graham Morris.
The photos are somewhat open to interpretation, and skeptics could argue that they only show Janet jumping from the bed. However witnesses at the time say that they had seen Janet levitating in the air on multiple occasions.
The first paranormal investigators of the Enfield case were Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair, sent by the Society for Psychical Research. The pair confirmed that the house was indeed haunted, and that they had personally seen toys and furniture in the house moving on their own.
After Maurice Grosse even witnessed the possessions of Janet by the ghost, famous US paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren also stepped in to investigate the case, spending a day in the house and providing the central narrative for The Conjuring 2. While their involvement was not as extensive as portrayed in the movie, the Warrens also confirmed that the Enfield house had an extreme level of paranormal, inhuman activity.
The Ghost of Bill Wilkins
One of the significant pieces of evidence that of the possessions and paranormal activity is a tape recording of Janet speaking in a gruff, male voice. The voice does not sound like anything a young girl could imitate.
In the tape recording, Janet is heard recounting the circumstances of an old man’s death, reportedly named Bill Wilkins. In Bill’s voice, Janet revealed details of his death that she could not have known, adding to the credibility of the experience.
She said that he became blind moments from his death, suffering from a brain hemorrhage. Bill indeed had fallen asleep and died in a chair, placed in one corner of a room in the same house the Hodgsons were living in.
These and other details of Bill Wilkins were presented to his son. He was able to confirm that the words spoken through Janet were right in almost every detail.
Haunting, or Acting?
The paranormal activity at the house continued for some time. According to Janet Hodgson, it was only after a priest was finally brought in to bless the house that the poltergeist became dormant.
The activity eventually subsided, but the family always continued to hear noises in the house from time to time. The family would even say that they felt like someone watched them silently, although there were no further physical manifestations.
Janet often said that the poltergeist had never harmed the family and that she thought it just wanted to feel acknowledged. However, in part due to the sensationalist media attention that the case got, many felt that most of the occurrences were a hoax.
Janet Hodgson later went on to admit that they faked a small number (she estimated some 2 percent) of events in the house, which she said was to test the investigators. However, she was adamant that the vast majority of occurrences, including all those experienced by the family, were supernatural in origin.
An admission of fakery will always lead to questions about all the events in the house. Whether true in entirety or to some extent, the Enfield haunting certainly proves the presence of paranormal entities remains a source of fascination for the general public.
For now, the ghost is quiet, and who knows what the family experienced in that council house in north London. Was there a ghost on the loose? Who can really say for sure.
Top Image: Janet Hodgson was apparently possessed by the ghost of Bill Wilkins. Source: Andrey Kiselev / Adobe Stock.
By Bipin Dimri