The Enfield Haunting is one of the most widely debated hauntings of the 20th century. From 1977 to 1979, two sisters from Enfield, England, began to experience what could only be described as paranormal events. The story attracted considerable press at the time of their occurrence and has continued to be the subject of books and movies.
Was the Enfield Poltergeist real? Were two little girls truly the victims of a real life haunting? What do the sisters say about the incidents today?
This site is a portal for information about the Enfield haunting. Within the site, we’ll look at information about the Enfield poltergeist, the Hodgson family, the criticism surrounding the event, and modern publicity the event still receives.
The Enfield Poltergeist
Single mother Peggy Hodgson lived in public housing with her four children in Enfield, England. Their family consisted of Margaret, 14, Janet, 11, Johnny, 10 and Billy, 7. They were good kids by most accounts. Every now and then they’d engage in a prank or two but had never caused any real problems for their mother.
It was in August of 1977 that their troubles began. Janet and Margaret were in the upstairs of their home, playing in a bedroom. Peggy, downstairs, heard the girls calling for her. They sounded frightened, and when Peggy arrived at the bedroom she could hear loud banging.
The girls told their mother about a wardrobe which had slid across the room, and reported that they’d heard banging on the walls that they couldn’t explain. Peggy, unsure of the situation, called the police. Two constables arrived, and were witness to a chair sliding across the floor, though no one had touched it. In subsequent interviews, the constables claim to have also seen toys thrown about the room, “demonic” voices, and even Janet’s levitation.
In the years that followed, the Hodgsons became the subject of both media coverage and public criticism. The Society for Psychical Research was soon involved in the case, and the family received much attention from the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror. But despite the public scrutiny, the Hodgson family remained steadfast in their claims that they had fallen victim to a poltergeist.
The Enfield Haunting: Criticism
As one might suspect, the Hodgson family was accused many times of fabricating the Enfield Haunting. After all, it was the girls who were primarily involved, and at the ages of 14 and 11, they were suspected of merely seeking attention.
Peggy Hodgson and her children were visited by a number of “experts” on the paranormal. Among these visitors were Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair, members of the Society for Psychical Research. Both of these men spent extended periods of time with the family, and while they claimed that most of the occurrences had, in fact, happened, they also didn’t hesitate to mention that some of the events may have been made up.
Janet herself was caught on camera bending spoons and trying to bend an iron bar. She was also caught banging a broom handle against the ceiling. She would hide Grosse’s tape recorder. And later, she admitted that some of these pranks were, in fact, staged.
Janet and Margaret Hodgson were frequently interviewed by reporters, and some of those interviews were video recorded. In one interview with BBC Scotland, the girls were asked how it felt to be haunted. “It’s not haunted,” replied Janet, with a smile on her face. “Shut up,” answered Margaret.
It’s accounts like these which have led to the criticism of the Enfield Poltergeist story, and of the Hodgson family. Two girls, perhaps troubled by something paranormal, caused their own story to be seen as incredulous because they chose to continue with pranks. So did the Enfield Haunting really happen?
The Enfield Haunting: Cultural References
As mentioned, there have been many references to the Enfield Poltergeist in books, television and movies. The Conjuring 2 was loosely based on the Enfield haunting. In 2015 a miniseries was produced for television. Even as far back as 1992, the BBC aired a mockumentary called Ghostwatch, which was based on the story.
Each of these productions are vastly different. Some are sensationalized, some are dramatized and still others make light of the story. Perhaps the most predominant reason that these vary so much is that the personal accounts of Margaret and Janet have changed so much over the years.
Of course, it can’t be expected that an adult woman remember every detail of her childhood. On the whole, Margaret and Janet’s accounts of the story remain the same as they did as they happened. But after this many years, many of the details have been lost. It’ll perhaps be impossible to know what really happened in 1977, as these personal accounts are all we have.
In 1980, Guy Lyon Playfair published a book about the Enfield Poltergeist, titled “This House Is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist.” As you’re aware, Playfair was a member of the Society for Psychical Research, and it’s possible that he had something to gain by claiming the story to be true. But this is the most reliable account we have of the events of 1977.
The best we can do is to piece together the story from the records which are available to us. Janet and Margaret tell their stories in interviews, and Playfair’s book serves as a reference as well. What can we determine about the Enfield Poltergeist, and of the veracity of the family involved?
The Enfield Haunting: What Really Happened
Janet and Margaret Hodgson were in the spotlight. They’d received police visits, visits from reporters, and from the Society for Psychical Research. From 1977 until 1979, they continued to lead the world to believe that their rental home was haunted, and that Janet was perhaps possessed by a poltergeist.
There were many events which have been verified that can’t be explained. Furniture was seen to move across the floors, Legos and marbles would drop, hot, from the ceiling, and knocking could be heard against the walls and ceilings.
The most interesting occurrence, however, was the apparent possession of Janet herself. She can be heard on several recorded interviews speaking in a voice which would seem humanly impossible for a preteen girl. She apparently knew things about the poltergeist which it would have been impossible to know.
The most conclusive evidence we have of Janet’s possession is when she finally stated, in a male voice, who she was. “My name is Bill,” said Janet. “Just before I died, I went blind and then I had a hemorrhage and I fell asleep and died in the chair in the corner downstairs.”
Incidentally, this message from “Bill” had been caught on tape recorder. It was played on the radio, and soon after it aired, a man stepped forward. His name was Terry, and he recognized the voice as his father’s. He was able to verify that his dad, Bill Wilkins, had died in that house exactly as described.
Critics of the Enfield haunting claim that Janet was simply able to modify her voice, much like a ventriloquist would. But believers in the supernatural are convinced that Janet truly did have contact with Bill Wilkins, who had died long before Janet was born.
Was Janet Hodgson Possessed?
The jury’s still out on whether Janet Hodgson was possessed by a demon, ghost or other entity. There are just too many variations in the story over the years, and no real reliable accounts. Janet, today, speaks of the haunting, but claims not to remember details.
She is now called Janet Winter, and she lives in Essex, England with her husband and her three children. She remembers generalities about the haunting – that first night, when she and her sister were so frightened, the furniture seemingly moving of its own accord, and the knocking on the walls and floorboards.
She also remembers Maurice Grosse quite fondly. Grosse was 85 at the time of his involvement with the Hodgsons, and Janet and Grosse became quite close over that 6 months. Grosse, himself, witnessed many of the occurrences that the girls describe. He claimed, before his death in 2006, that the events were real – matches would light themselves, dogs could be heard barking where there were no dogs. But he remembered most the change in Janet’s behavior.
Janet Hodgson repeatedly played pranks on Maurice Grosse. As mentioned, she’d steal his tape recorder and hide it, she’d bend spoons and would fake other events. Janet admits today that this sometimes annoyed Grosse. But she offers a different take on the Enfield haunting: she was under pressure to perform.
There were many eyes on the Hodgson family. And Janet claims that sometimes things happened, but sometimes they didn’t. Faking supernatural occurrences, according to Janet, was a sort of an obligation to the public.
Whether or not Janet Hodgson was possessed is up to your beliefs regarding the supernatural. But, in short, there are circumstances surrounding the Enfield haunting that still can not be explained.
Investigation of the Enfield Haunting
The movie The Conjuring 2 is based on the Enfield poltergeist, and the possession of Janet Hodgson. But it would seem that there are characters in the film which were quite inaccurately portrayed.
A majority of the paranormal investigation of the Hodgson home was conducted by Grosse and Playfair. However, in the film adaptation of the haunting, Lorraine and Ed Warren play a significant role. The film depicts the Warrens as a devoutly Christian couple, when in fact the two are the founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research.
Guy Lyon Playfair, who now lives in India, attempts to set the record straight. Upon release of The Conjuring 2, Playfair described the Warrens’ involvement quite differently. While the movie portrays them as quite involved with the Hodgson case, Playfair attests that the two showed up announced at the Enfield home. They stayed only a day, and Playfair’s claim is that they devised their own paranormal evidence in an attempt to make money.
Also investigating the case was Anita Gregory of the Society for Psychical Research. Gregory’s claim is that while the incidents may have begun with some paranormal activity, the girls exaggerated it so as to maintain media attention.
American magician Milbourne Christopher visited the house for a short time. Christopher described Janet as a clever girl who was clearly trying to cause trouble. Finally, paranormal investigator Melvin Harris wrote off the incident as a little girl’s tricks. Photos exist of Janet being “levitated” in air; Harris didn’t hesitate to remind the public that Janet was skilled in gymnastics.
Many investigators visited the Hodgson home, and most claim that the Enfield haunting was an elaborate prank by two clever little girls. The only adamant witnesses are Grosse, Playfair, one constable, and the Hodgsons themselves.
Did the Enfield Haunting Occur?
Throughout the decades since the apparent haunting of the Hodgson’s Enfield home, there has been much speculation. Believers in the paranormal conclude that Janet Hodgson was possessed by the spirit of Bill Wilkins, who’d died in the Hodgson home years before. Grosse and Playfair were heavily involved with the Hodgson family, and it’s easy to see how they could have been led to believe that the events were real.
However, there are many more analysts who would write off the Enfield haunting as a children’s game. Accounts given by neighbors, by members of the police force and by secondary investigators all point to trickery by Janet Hodgson and her sister.
Janet Hodgson Winter doesn’t speak freely about the Enfield haunting anymore. She claims that the memories are far too cloudy to recollect with accuracy. She also cites lack of desire to alert her children as a reason for her refusal to give details about the Enfield haunting. Whether the events did occur or not, one thing is clear: the Enfield haunting is one of the most infamous and controversial explorations of the paranormal in modern history.