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Recently I saw an advert for a new TV programme due to be shown on Sky this spring entitled The Enfield Haunting and I immediately assumed, correctly as it turned out, that it was covering the case more commonly known as the Enfield Poltergeist. The series is based on the book by paranormal investigator Guy Lyon Playfair, which was called This House is Haunted. So I thought I would revisit the basics of the case ready to watch the programme and do a little comparison!
The case took its name from London borough of Enfield where the haunting took place, though it was actually in a council house in the village of Brimsdown. In August 1977, a woman named Peggy Hodgson called the police to the home that she and her four children lived in because furniture was moving around the knocking sounds were being heard on the walls. At the time, the children were Margaret who was 13, Janet aged 11, Johnny aged 10 and seven-year-old Billy.
Peggy reported that the two girls had been in bed when a chest of drawers moved towards them, causing their mother to come upstairs to see what was happening. She thought the girls were playing around the told them to get back into bed, at which point the drawers lurched forward. Peggy pushed it back but it immediately moved forward once again.
None of the family had any sleep that night with the strange knockings and other noises keeping them away. The next day they visited a neighbour, Vic Nottingham, who came with them to the house to see if he could find an explanation. He heard the noises and said that the knocking followed him from one room to another.
Over the next few days, the strange noises continued along with items being thrown around, such as Lego bricks and marbles. Furniture was moved and fires began to spontaneously light and then go out.Â Two passers-by even saw one of the incidents, when Janet was levitating horizontally in her bedroom window while toys swirled around her in the air.
Both a priest and a medium were asked to look at the case but neither were able to do anything. It was at this point that Peggy called the police. When they arrived one officer saw a chair move while another saw a chair lift 4 feet into the air and move across the floor, detailing this in his report.
The newspapers were involved by this time and the Daily Mirror were the first to interview the family. The photographer at the scene was hit on the head by a pan and journalist Graham Morris was photographed Janet once more levitating while her sister looked on, in the photos most commonly seen regarding the case.
The next step was to call in paranormal investigators and it was at this point that Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse arrived on the scene. They documented events in the house over a period of several months and recorded some 2,000 unexplained events. This included electrical equipment that stopped working while in the house but worked fine outside and unexplained pools of water appearing from nowhere.
The strangest development of all came when Maurice Grosse began asking questions of the entity causing the chaos and was amazed when a strange, guttural voice answered him, coming from Janet’s lips. Later checks found that to make the voice that she did, Janet would have needed to use false vocal chords, not something that a girl of her age would have access to. The voice was even recorded on a number of occasions.
What the spirit said was interesting â€“ it claimed to be the spirit of a man named Bill who had lived in the house previously and died of a brain haemorrhage in the front room of the house. The man was proven to have existed and the recording played to his surviving son who confirmed that the voice was his fathers.
For two years, the activity continued and then suddenly stopped as abruptly as it had begun. An investigation into what had happened was undertaken by a barrister named Mary Rose Barrington on behalf of the Society of Psychical Research and in her opinion, there were nothing that suggested a conspiracy between any of the people involved. There had been over 30 witnesses including journalists, people walking past the house and the police. Some of the activity would have been impossible for the family to fake, such as ripping out a massive fireplace in one of the bedrooms or levitating a chair.
Now in her 40s, Janet is still adamant that she was the focus of a paranormal entity and that it lived off her energy. She keeps out of the spotlight for fear of ridicule but is still consistent on what she said happened, thirty years later.