How Much of the Enfield Poltergeist Haunting was Real?
Possession. Levitation. Things that go bump in the night. Every creepy children’s story about something eerie lurking in the closet or under the bed seemed to come true for the Hodgson family in 1977 in their little home in Enfield, England. The incidents were attributed to the disquiet spirit of one Bill Wilkins, a man who had died in the home several years earlier and who became known as the Enfield Poltergeist (Brennan).
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 called for her mother yet again from the bedroom she shared with her 10 year-old brother Johnny, Peggy yelled for Janet to stop “mucking about” and stormed in to put a stop to the nonsense. Upon entering the bedroom, however, she was 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 (Brennan). She tried to push it back but was unable to move it. Alarmed, she ordered her children out of the room and she and her neighbors searched the house. Nobody found anything, but they all heard unexplained knocking noises coming from the walls, and their uneasiness grew. The Enfield poltergeist haunting had begun.
The Paranormal Investigation into the Haunting
Thus began an 18-month episode marked by a slew strange events and constant investigation into the Enfield poltergeist. A police officer called to the scene claimed she saw a chair slide across the floor under its own power, but she didn’t know what to do about it and determined that it was not a matter for the police (Brennan). Two high-profile psychical investigators, 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 (Brennan). Grosse also heard knocking, a recurring strange voice, and non-existent dogs barking. Neither he nor Playfair ever rescinded their stories.
Skepticism About the Enfield Poltergeist
Most of the activity seemed to center around young Janet Hodgson, who claimed that she was regularly flung out of bed by unseen forces, and that those same forces caused her to levitate in mid-air on several occasions (Storr). Much of the suspicion, therefore, that met this case was aimed at her as well. She refused to let other people enter the room when she claimed to be overcome by The Voice (Nickell) and she and her older sister Peggy were caught bending spoons themselves (Brennan). Another point of skepticism was that the curious noises only ever occurred when Janet was present, leading many people to speculate that she had somehow mastered the art of ventriloquism (Nickell). Common consensus among the skeptics was that “the ‘poltergeist’ was nothing more than the antics of ‘a little girl who wanted to cause trouble and who was very, very, clever.’” (Nickell).
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. Recently, Sky Living produced a series about the story for television in Great Britain, and Janet Hodges gave her first interview in almost 30 years. Now 45, she admits that some of phenomena was faked, but insists it was only about “2 percent” (Storr). Says Hodges now, “I don’t care if people believe me or not. I went through this, and it was true” (Brennan).