Those who have seen the 2016 hit film The Conjuring 2 know that it opens with the Amityville case—possibly the most famous paranormal case in history, thanks to the various books and movies that it spawned. That said, the majority of the film is actually occupied with the case of the so-called “Enfield Poltergeist.”
While the Enfield Poltergeist may not be as familiar as the Amityville case, or even the Perron case, which was the focus of the first Conjuring film, news of the haunting caused a media frenzy, with stories appearing in newspapers and on television.
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So what really happened in that small rented house at 284 Green Street in Enfield, England between 1977 and 1979?
In August of 1977, Peggy Hodgson called the police to come to her house after her four children had reported furniture moving on its own, and knocking coming from inside the walls. Carolyn Heeps was one of the officers who arrived at the home, and later signed an affidavit that she had seen a chair levitate and move almost four feet without being touched.
Of course, poltergeist activity is somewhat outside the purview of the police, so there was little they could do. However, the story drew the attention of paranormal investigators, such as members of the Society for Psychical Research, professors of psychology, and, of course, Ed and Lorraine Warren. In real life, the Warrens were much less involved than their cinematic counterparts, arriving “uninvited,” according to one source, and staying for less than a day.
A few of the investigators most heavily involved in the Enfield case included Guy Lyon Playfair, John Beloff, Maurice Grosse, and Anita Gregory. Both Grosse and Gregory even found their way into the film version.
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While Grosse and Playfair maintained the veracity of the haunting, they also found reason to doubt some of the claims. Along with the skeptical Gregory and Beloff, other authorities chimed in to “debunk” many of the events. This led many people to dismiss the entire case as a hoax. Gregory later described the Enfield case as “overrated,” stating that several incidents had been staged.
Whether real or faked, the events were apparently chilling to witness. Aside from banging on the walls, bending silverware, and furniture moving on its own, 11-year-old Janet Hodgson was said to have levitated above her bed, and to have spoken in a voice purportedly belonging to a man named Bill Wilkins, who had died in the house before the Hodgsons moved in.
“Just before I died, I went blind,” the male-sounding voice emanating from Janet’s mouth said, “and then I had an ’emorrhage and I fell asleep and I died in the chair in the corner downstairs.” The voice was recorded by Maurice Grosse, and can still be heard today. The son of Bill Wilkins later confirmed that the events described were accurate.
While some claimed that Janet was simply practicing ventriloquism, and magician Bob Couttie later reviewed the tapes and found “nothing in what I had heard that was beyond the capabilities of an imaginative teenager,” it’s difficult to listen to that recording and not feel a chill up your spine.
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Even after the poltergeist activity tapered off, following a priest’s visit in 1978, Peggy Hodgson still claimed to hear noises in the house. Her youngest son Billy said that he always felt like there was someone in the room with him.
After Peggy Hodgson’s death in 2003, Clare Bennett moved into the house at 284 Green Street with her three sons. Like Billy, she reported that she always felt like someone was watching her, and her sons reported hearing voices from downstairs in the middle of the night. When her 15-year-old son Shaka woke up and saw a man coming into his room, the family moved out after staying for only two months.
While we’ll probably never know what really happened, the story remains one of the most documented and studied paranormal cases in history, and with the success of The Conjuring 2, interest in the Enfield Poltergeist has only increased.