The Background Of The Enfield Poltergeist Case

I Am Fred

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the Enfield Poltergeist case, which centred on the Hodgson family of Enfield. It all started in August 1977 when they reported strange goings on in their North London home. For the next 14 months single mum Peggy and her four children were tormented by a poltergeist.

Over this period, paranormal investigators, mediums, journalists and members of the public witnessed and logged more incidents of paranormal activity than at any other haunting, making the Enfield case one of the most well documented incidents of its kind ever.

The investigation was led by Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair, who logged over 2,000 inexplicable paranormal occurrences, including pools of water spontaneously forming, toys being thrown around, furniture moving and flipping over, doors, drawers and cupboards opening on their own, and several sighting of apparition. Not to mention possession, levitation, and voices from beyond the grave, the three things which made this case so memorable and the reason the case is still talked about today.

The Hodgsons lived in a normal semi-detached house, built by the council in the 1920s. The house, number 284 had three bedrooms upstairs, and a kitchen, living room and bathroom on the ground floor. Luckily for the Hodgsons, at this time Green Street was a friendly place which meant there was plenty of support nearby when it was needed. Peggy's brother John Burcombe lived a few doors up the road with his wife Sylvia, and the Hodgsons also received a lot of help from their next door neighbour Vic Nottingham and his wife, who was also called Peggy.

Janet, who was at the time 11-years-old was believed to be the focal point of the haunting and witnessed most of the incidents, along with her 13-year-old sister Margaret and to a lesser extent her youngest brother Billy who was 7 at the time. 10-year-old Johnny avoided most of the incidents as he was away at a special boarding school.
"This Enfield case makes Amityville look like a playhouse."
Ed Warren, Paranormal Investigator

A Timeline Of Paranormal Occurances

Below is a list of every milestone, major event and significant visit to the house. The timeline covers the house's most active period from August 1977 to October 1978, as well as a few isolated events in 1979.

Tuesday 30th August, 1977

Where It Began

The family had already reported hearing several odd knocks and bangs, but one Tuesday, as the children were settling down to bed things escalated. Janet told her mum that her brother, Billy's bed was "going all funny" and moving of its own accord, the Hodgsons soon came to the conclusion that their house was haunted.

The Enfield Haunting

Wednesday 31st August, 1977

The Call For Help

The following night at 9:30pm, Peggy heard a noise coming from the back bedroom, she went into the room to tell the children to stop messing around but Janet told her that the noise was coming from the chest of drawers near the doorway. Then, Peggy witnessed it herself, the drawers shuffled forward across the lino flooring out into the room. Peggy pushed it back against the wall, only to find that it moved again, the third time she tried to push it back, she couldn't, it was as if an invisible force was stopping it.

At this point the family had seen enough and rushed next door to the Nottingham's. Vic was a roofer so suspected that there might be something wrong with the structure of the house which was causing the furniture to move. He went in alone to look around and claims that he heard a distinct knocking sound that seemed to follow him around the house.

Thursday 1st September, 1977

Police Arrive

Later that night Peggy Nottingham called the police. At 1am two officers arrived and checked the house over but said there was nothing they could do to help as no crime has been committed. However, before they left the house, constable Caroline Heeps saw an ordinary kitchen chair which was near the sofa in the living room began to wobble before sliding about a meter across the floor towards the kitchen as if it was being pulled.

Sunday 4th September, 1977

Another Disturbed Night

After another evening of strange goings on, Peggy Nottingham phoned the Daily Mirror in the hope they would put her in touch with someone who could help. They sent along reporter Douglas Bence and photographer Graham Morris, who became a regular at the house. The Hodgsons were next door when the journalists arrived so took a look around the empty house on their own, they spent all night in the house and found nothing unusual.

So, before they left at 2:30 they told the Hodgsons the coast was clear and the family headed back home so the children could be put to bed, accompanied by Doug and Graham. The second they walked back into the house, Lego and marbles started to be thrown around, both men witnessed the flying objects and Graham was even hit in the head by a Lego brick which shot across the room at him.

Monday 5th September, 1977

Maurice Grosse's First Visit

George Fallows, a senior reporter from the Daily Mirror visited the house to follow up on the story, this time with photographer David Thorpe. The paper had contacted the Society for Psychical Research for advice and had brought along one of their newest members, an eager new investigator by the name of Maurice Grosse. Speaking about his first visit to the house he said, "I found chaos, the whole family was congregated in the house together with the neighbours next door and there were a lot of very very frightened people there." He advised Peggy to stay calm and recommended that she made a diary of every incidents that occurred.

Thursday 8th September, 1977

Maurice Convinced By The Case

Maurice was back in the house on Wednesday, again joined by reporters from the Daily Mirror. At 1:15am on the 8th September, they all witnessed a loud crash coming from the girls' bedroom, they rushed in to find the two sisters asleep but a chair which was beside the bed had flipped over and moved a meter across the room. This was enough to convince Maurice that the case warranted further investigation.

Saturday 10th September, 1977

The House Of Strange Happenings

The Hodgsons' story became front page news as the Daily Mirror broke the story and described how the family are "living in fear of strange goings-on that are driving them from their home". That evening, Peggy also appeared on a radio phone in show on London station, LBC. The show, 'Night Line' aired from 22:30pm until 1am and Peggy had Maurice along with her for support.

The Daily Mirror Enfield Poltergeist

Sunday 11th September, 1977

BBC Radio Arrive At The House

When Peggy arrived home after the LBC show at 2am, waiting outside for her was Rosalind Morris, a journalist from the BBC Radio 4 show 'The World This Weekend'. Roz stayed most of the night and witnessed a chair move and a bed shake. She also interviewed Peggy and Maurice, her findings were broadcast that afternoon.

Monday 12th September, 1977

Guy Lyon Playfair's First Visit To The House

Guy Lyon Playfair, another member of the Society of Psychical Research and an author had just finished his latest book on the paranormal and was looking forward to a well earned holiday, but after responding to the SPR's appeal for help, decided to cancel his break and assist Maurice in Enfield. On the 12th of September, Guy made his first of 180 visits to the house, which included 25 all night vigils.

Guy Lyon Playfair

Sunday 25th September, 1977

Refuge At John & Sylvia's

Once again the family were chased on of the house by the strange happenings and this time sought refuge in Peggy's brother, John Burcombe's house, while his wife Sylvia was making a cup of tea, a piece from a child's toy appeared in front of her face and dropped to the kitchen counter. This marked the first time any activity happened outside of 284 Green Street, it seemed the poltergeist was able to follow the family.

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Saturday 22nd October, 1977

Rosalind Morris' Second Visit

The BBC's Rosalind Morris visited the Hodgsons for a second time, this time she was armed with her tape recorder and managed to record several instances of unexplained knocking sounds, at one point capturing 30 rapping sounds in the space of just quarter of an hour.

Saturday 29th October, 1977

Clacton-On-Sea

The frequent paranormal occurrences were keeping Janet awake at night and affecting her school work, the council refused to rehouse the family but agreed to send them away for a week long break at Clacton-on-Sea during half term. The whole family went, including Johnny who was home from boarding school for the holidays.

Saturday 5th November, 1977

Knock Once For "No", Twice For "Yes"

It was bonfire night and while the sky was full of the pops and bangs of fireworks, the Hodgsons' house played host to bangs of a different kind. It was the day the family got back from their holiday and during their time away, Maurice had decided to try to communicate with the poltergeist using knocks. He started off by asking the spirit questions like, "can you tell me what five and five is?" and after hearing the correct number of knocks, moved on to ask specific questions like "did you die in this house?" The spirit was encouraged to knock once for "no" and twice for "yes", which it did until it answered one of Maurice's questions with three knocks. Maurice asked "are you having a game with me?" and all of a sudden, a cardboard box full of cushion flew two meters across the room and hit him in the face.

Monday 10th November, 1997

Janet's 12th Birthday

Guy invited an Argentinian psychic who was working in London to visit the house, Eduardo Balanovski arrived armed with a magnetometer which they used to look for anomalies in the electromagnetic field around the girls. During their vigil Janet's pillow was twice thrown across the room and each time Eduardo's equipment showed a change in EM field strength.

Saturday 12th November, 1977

"I Will Stay In This House"

At 5am Janet was tipped out of her bed while sleeping, along with her mattress which landed on top of her. Now wide awake, Peggy decided to try to make contact using a technique the investigators had suggested to her, she placed pens and paper around the house and called out to the spirit saying "leave me a message." Five minutes later she found a note on the fridge saying "I will stay in the house. Do not read this to anyone or I will retaliate."

Saturday 26th November, 1977

On The Radio

On the evening of November 26th, 1977, John Burcombe went into the girls' bedroom to check on his nieces, he was amazed to find her asleep on top of a radio which was on top of a chest of drawers. The Mirror's Graham Morris was on hand to capture the moment on his camera. What made this more incredible was that Janet was out cold having been given 10mg of valium by doctors earlier in the day after experiencing a violent seizer of some kind.

Wednesday 30th November, 1977

Bump In The Night

On the evening of November 28th, within the space of five minutes, Maurice found Janet asleep under her bed twice. According to Maurice she was "completely limp, as if unconscious." Later that night Janet and her mattress were throw onto the floor, and twenty minutes after that, she was found in the corner on the floor, having apparently been thrown a distance of over four meters.

Tuesday 29th November, 1977

The First Medium Visits Number 284

The Brazilian psychic Luiz Gasparetto became the first medium to visit the house, he arrived in late November, along with his interpreter, Elsie Dubugras, a member of the healing department of Sao Paulo State Spiritist Federation. They offered spiritual help to the family which resulted in some temporary relief. Luiz is a skilled spiritual artist, he is able to produce drawings and paintings while in a trance-like state with his eyes closed. Something that Janet was clearly impressed by...

Friday 30th December, 1977

Poltergeist Art

Janet produced a series of nine drawings, each one was described as being very disturbing and all featured elements of blood, death and knives. Janet drew these images while in a semi-conscious state and had no memory of having drawn them afterwards.

"I think this is the best case this century, as far as documentation is concerned, it may be the best case of all time."
Maurice Grosse - November, 1977

Saturday 3rd December, 1977

Pulled From Bed

Just after 1am Janet was again pulled from her bed while sleeping, later she described the event as feeling as though she was pulled by her arm. What makes this incident different to other times that Janet was thrown from her bed was that this time she landed outside the bedroom. Peggy said she saw the bedroom door open and Maurice found her sliding down the stairs head first, still asleep.

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Monday 5th December, 1977

David Roberts' First Visit

David Roberts a student physicist joined Maurice and Guy at the house. He was recommended by a Society of Psychical Research contact of Guy's, Professor John Hasted, a physicist at London's Birbeck College. David became a full time member of the team.

Saturday 10th December, 1977

The Voices Begin

Two more Society of Psychical Research members visited the house on December 10th, Dr. John Beloff the head of Edinburgh University's psychology department and Anita Gregory from North London Polytechnic. While they were there Maurice, as advised by Professor Hasted, challenged the poltergeist to speak. At first the researchers witnessed a series of whistles and dog-like barks, but before long a gruff, male voice came from Janet. The voice sounded like that of an elderly man and the researches were convinced it was not the voice of a 12-year-old girl. The voice identified itself as Joe Watson, the whole conversation was caught on tape by Maurice but the following evening Joe was replaced by the voice of another spirit.

Tuesday 13th December, 1977

Bill Makes Himself Known

After making contact with the spirit of William "Bill" Wilkins for the first time the previous night, Maurice brought his son to the house to speak to the now very chatty poltergeist. Richard Grosse was a newly qualified solicitor, making this the first time a poltergeist has ever been cross-examined by a solicitor, he asked "what happened when you died?" The gruff voice answered that it had died of "a haemorrhage".

"I went blind, and I had a haemorrhage, and I fell asleep and I died on a chair in the corner downstairs."
Spirit of Bill Wilkins

Wednesday 14th December, 1977

Hugh Pincott Visited The House

The founder of the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP) and Society of Psychical Research member Hugh Pincott visited the house in mid-December to see how his colleagues were getting on with the investigation.

Thursday 15th December, 1977

Levitation

One of the most important days at the house and one that provided some of the most compelling evidence which was corroborated by two independent witnesses. David Robertson was sat outside the girl's bedroom while automatic cameras were set up inside the room. David was trying to encourage Janet to levitate. To start with objects including pillows and books started moving around, one red cushion even ended up on the roof of the house.

The investigators said it couldn't have been thrown out of the window as the window was hard to open and it would have made a noise which David would have been able to hear from outside the room.

Although the poltergeist, speaking through Janet, said that David wasn't allowed in the room to witness its tricks, it hadn't taken into account those passing by on the street below. Hazel Short was a local lollypop lady, she worked on the pedestrian crossing outside the Hodgsons' house which served the school opposite. At 11:45am she was returning to work for her lunchtime shift when she noticed a red cushion on the roof of number 284. While she was looking up at the house she heard a bang and saw a book hit the front bedroom window.

Next she saw a pillow fly across the room, in a statement later Hazel said, "when I looked up, a candy-striped pillow hit the window as well. That came after the books, and I was... I don't know if I was frightened or not, just fascinated. The windows were still closed. Then after a little while, I saw Janet."

The lollypop lady watched Janet appeared to levitate inside the bedroom window, she described the occurrence as though Janet was "going up and down as though someone was just tossing her up and down bodily, in a horizontal position, like as if someone had got hold of her legs and back and throwing here up and down."

Hazel wasn't the only witness to this event, a local tradesman by the name of John Rainbow was also passing the house that morning, he too saw Janet floating around her bedroom and said he even saw her banging against the window.

Could Janet have just been bouncing on her bed? Hazel said, "I don't know if there's a bed underneath that window," but she seems to think bouncing was out of the question, "I definitely saw her come up about window height, but I thought if she was bouncing, she'd bounce from her feet, she wouldn't be able to get enough power to bounce off her back to come up that high but she was definitely lying horizontally coming up and down."

Saturday 17th December, 1977

Matthew Manning Visited Enfield

British author and healer, Matthew Manning paid a visit to the house before Christmas. He is known for his psychic abilities and spoke to Bill at great length. While in the house he also witnessed the microphone of Guy's tape record fall of its own accord and break. That same day, the tape recorder went missing, and despite searching the whole house, no trace of it was found. Later in the day Matthew and Guy heard a crash and ran upstairs to find that a chest of drawers had been pushed over, his tape recorder which had been hidden underneath was now in plain sight.

Monday 19th December, 1977

Milbourne Christopher Not Convinced

An American magician and paranormal researcher, Milbourne Christopher visited the house while in London. First he used his skills to impress the children by performing several illusions. Later he caught Janet sneaking out of bed and peering down the stairs as if planning a stunt, Milbourne believed this to be an obvious sign of trickery and wrote the case off as a possible hoax.

Friday 23rd December, 1977

"I Done That"

Two days before Christmas the family woke up to find their two pet goldfish had both mysteriously died during the night. When talking to the spirit of Bill through Janet later in the day, the voice said "I done that," adding that he electrocuted the fish with "spirit energy." On the same day Maurice filled Janet's mouth with water and taped it shut, he then asked Bill to repeat phrases that are notoriously difficult for ventriloquists to say, like "bottle of beer." According to the researchers, the water and tape didn't seem to affect the voice's clarity.

Sunday 25th December, 1977

Christmas Day

Again the Hodgson family woke up to a loss, this time it was the family's pet budgie that had passed during the night, but Bill didn't take responsibility this time. Later in the day, Janet was sitting by the living room window and one of the curtains wrapped itself around her neck. This wasn't an isolated incident, it happened a total of eight times during the case.

Sunday 15th January, 1978

Peggy's Birthday

On the evening of her mum's birthday, Margaret walked into bathroom to find the word "shit" smeared the on wall, in shit. While Peggy's birthday fright was an apparition which she spotted while going upstairs. She said she saw a "sort of apparition of the bottom half of a man's trousers, and as I went to look up, I got a very quick glimpse, and it faded completely. The trousers were the type my Dad would have worn, the turnover style he used to wear about 1945."

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Monday 16th January, 1978

"I am Fred"

Another message was left in the bathroom, this time it was spelt out using strips of insulating tape that belonged to David Robertson. The tape was stuck to the back of the bathroom door and read "I am Fred". Guy and Maurice conclude that this couldn't have been faked by the girls as the writing was made up of twenty individual pieces of tape and would have taken too long.

I Am Fred

Thursday 26th January, 1978

Rosalind Visits The Hodgsons Again

BBC Radio 4's Rosalind returned to Green Street, this time she was able to make recordings of voices which were now coming from Margaret too. Janet's older sister started speaking in a similar gruff voice to Janet's after Christmas. Margaret's version of the voice lacked the intensity and duration of Janet's.

Sunday 12th March, 1978

BBC Scotland

Stewart Lamont, a news broadcaster from BBC Scotland visited the house twice, on his return visit he interviewed the Hodgson family for a 'Nationwide Special'. The crew captured footage during their time in the house which showed the poltergeist speaking through Janet.

Janet Hodgson

Monday 27th March, 1978

Guy Lyon Playfair Consults Hans Bender

Hans Bender, a German parapsychologist with a history in researching poltergeists case met with Guy at the end of March. Hans recommended that Maurice and Guy should examine the family's psychological state and consider asking the Church of England to conduct an exorcism.

Sunday 30th April, 1978

Fires & Shadowy Figures

Maurice and Guy gave the family some space throughout April but left Peggy with instructions to make a note of any paranormal occurrences. When the paranormal investigators saw Peggy's diary, they were amazed to find that she had logged 155 incidents and that apparitions of human forms were becoming more and more frequent. There had also been a worrying trend in the increase of incidents which involved small spontaneous outbreaks of fire.

Tuesday 16th May, 1978

Ed & Lorraine Warren Make Contact

Famed American paranormal researcher Lorraine Warren wrote to Maurice on behalf of her and her demonologist husband. In the letter she says that she has been following developments at the house and that she had hoped to visit but was not able to make it, however Ed was planning on visiting the house in London in June. The couple eventually made three visits to the Hodgson home.

Ed & Lorraine Warren

Tuesday 16th May, 1978

Enfield Investigation Committee Formed

The Society for Psychical Research formed a committee to look into the Enfield investigation, it consisted of Mary Rose Barrington, Hugh Pincott, Peter Hallson and John Stiles. The committee were tasked with interviewing many of the witnesses and reviewing the testimonies collected by Maurice and his team. The committee concluded that there was some good evidence for genuine poltergeist activity, however they reserved judgment on certain claims which weren't observed by a credible witnesses.

Tuesday 30th May, 1978

Sticks & Stones

Janet and Margaret were in the back garden arguing with the children next door when suddenly what appeared to be a handful of stones was thrown over the fence, before the girls could retaliate more stones were thrown from the other neighbouring garden. Within minutes another neighbour showed up, he was angry and accusing someone of throwing stones at him. The girls had no idea where these stones, and at one point even bricks and rocks came from.

Friday 16th June, 1978

Ed & Lorraine Warren Arrived

Ed and Lorraine finally arrived in London in mid-June, accompanied by a colleague. The couple interviewed the family, including John Burcombe. That evening the girls took part in a live transatlantic linkup with the WVAM, a radio station in Pennsylvania. The discussion was carried out over the phone, as the Hodgsons didn't have a phone in the house, it took place down the street in John's house. Shortly after the Warrens visit it was decided that Janet needed some time away from the house and was sent to live in a home run by nuns.

Tuesday 25th July, 1978

The Maudsley Hospital

Guy was able to arrange for Janet to be admitted to the the Maudsley's Institute Of Neuropsychology in South London, Guy states in his book that this was the first time Janet ever crossed the river into South London. While at the hospital, Janet underwent a series of physical and psychological test to see if there was a medial or psychological explanation for what she'd been experiencing.

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Saturday 29th July, 1978

Visiting Hours

Guy and Rosalind visited Janet in hospital, while she'd been there no unusual incidents had occurred and she seemed to be in good health. When asked why she thought the poltergeist had left her alone at Maudsley, Janet said "the power can't build up cuz there's no one else to help build it up."

Friday 1st September, 1978

There's No Place Like Home

After almost six weeks away, Janet returned home after being discharged from Maudsley hospital with a clean bill of health but within half an hour of her return she saw a figure in the kitchen, she described it as being like "a little boy".

Monday 2nd October, 1978

Dono Gmelig-Meyling Heals The House

A friend of Guy's recommend a Dutch medium based in Amsterdam, Guy brought him over so that he could put his healing skills to use in the house. Guy said he wasn't sure what Dono, who couldn't speak English, actually did, "there was no sort of ceremony performed". He went up to the bedroom on his own, came down later and implied that was it. Guy said, "after he left, things definitely calmed down."

Monday 20th November, 1978

Still Newsworthy

Despite the fact the house had calmed down, one national newspaper ran a follow up piece in November 1978 which started with the line, "for more than a year now, strange and seemingly inexplicable events have been talking place in a house at Enfield in Middlesex. The family who live there, and many other people besides, believe that what is happening is caused by a poltergeist."

Monday 6th August, 1979

The Warrens Return

Almost a year after the activity began to decrease, Ed and Lorraine Warren paid Enfield another visit. During their four days in the house between the 6th and 9th of August, the Warrens and two colleagues recorded over 13 hours of audio and captured phenomenon such as levitation of objects on camera. They also reported witnessing rocks appear from nowhere and even what they described as the "spontaneous removal of the wallpaper" in the kitchen.

Monday 1st October, 1979

This House Is Clean

Since Dono Gmelig-Meyling's visit poltergeist activity at 284 Green Street had died down, although there were still a few isolated incidents, but even these rare occurrence became even more infrequent after a priest came to bless the house in Autumn 1979. Janet said that after the blessing incidents quietened down but never stopped entirely while the family were living in the house.

What Happened Next?

The Conjuring 2

The family eventually moved from Green Street and Janet made a full recovery, although she doesn't remember all of the incidents which occurred, including those which happened when she was in a trance state.

Years after the haunting came to an end, Margaret and Janet confessed to having played with a ouija board in a friend's shed fours years before the incident began. They said they saw the face of a demon appear in the shed's window and believe this could have been the event which started the paranormal outbreak.

The sisters also confessed to some trickery, stating in interviews that at times they did fool Maurice and Guy with some faked paranormal incidents, but according to the girls this only happened around 2% of the time. To this day they maintain that their house on Green Street really was haunted.

Sadly, the eldest of their two brothers, Johnny died at the age of just 14 in 1981, their mum, Peggy passed away in 2004, and Maurice died two years later in 2006, aged 87.

Over the last four decades the case has been the subject of books, documentaries, television shows and movies. It's inspired movies like the classic 1982 Steven Spielberg movie 'Poltergeist'. The word "Gozer" was first spoken by a medium who attempted to make contact with spirits of Enfield, Dan Akroyd later incorporated this into the 'Ghostbusters' script as "Gozer the Gozerian."

Janet and Margaret returned to the house in 2016 where they had an emotional reunion with Lorraine Warren, now in her 90s, her husband Ed passed away in 2006. The trip down memory lane took place ahead of the release of 'The Conjuring 2' which was loosely based on the Hodgsons' story, although in the movie Ed and Lorraine's role in the investigation is greatly exaggerated under the pretence of creative license. A more accurate account of the story can be found in Guy's 1980 book, 'This House Is Haunted'. His version of the story was the inspiration for the 2015 Sky Living series 'The Enfield Haunting' starring Timothy Spall.

This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist

£10.73

Guy Lyon Playfair's book is a must for any paranormal researcher as he reveals what really went on at 284 Green Street in 1977 and 1978.

No other case of its kind has been so well witnessed from start to finish or so thoroughly documented and this book contains every detail of that investigation. Incidents are described as they happened, without embellishment, from some six hundred pages of transcripts of live tape recordings.

The story of the Enfield poltergeist is already regarded as a classic in the annals of psychical research.

Buy It Now
 
 

Sources


Channel 4's 'Interview With A Poltergeist' (6th March 2007)

BBC Radio 4's 'The World This Weekend' (September 11th 1977)

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