By nature of this Enfield Haunting site, we mention the word “poltergeist” quite a bit. If you’ve been studying the paranormal for some time, you can skip this post, as you likely are already quite familiar with the term.
For those of you who are new to the concept, we thought we’d take a moment to explain the meaning and definition of the word poltergeist. There are so many entities referred to when discussing the paranormal: ghost, specter, apparition, demon and poltergeist among others. It can be confusing to determine what is being discussed.
To help you out, here’s a guide to the term poltergeist.
A poltergeist is, put quite simply, an entity which is responsible for physical disturbances. Those disturbances can be anything from banging on walls to throwing furniture. Noises are included in poltergeist activity, and so is levitation of objects… or people.
To explain that even more clearly, let’s look at the word poltergeist, itself. The word poltergeist is comprised of two German words. Poltern means “to make sound” or “to rumble.” The noun Geist translates roughly to mean “rumble-ghost” or “noisy spirit.” When you combine the two words, what do you get? A really rambunctious, really noisy and probably pretty annoying ghost.
Despite popular opinion, poltergeists are not generally known to be spirits which inhabit bodies. Those are more commonly thought to be demons. Instead, poltergeists, despite having a firm track record throughout history, have been largely debunked as hoaxes.
There are several skeptics who have spoken out about the existence of poltergeists. One of those critics is Joe Nickell, the American paranormal specialist who criticized Guy Lyon Playfair’s coverage of the Enfield Haunting. Nickell states:
“In the typical poltergeist outbreak, small objects are hurled through the air by unseen forces, furniture is overturned, or other disturbances occur — usually just what could be accomplished by a juvenile trickster determined to plague credulous adults.”
He also claims that:
“Time and again in other “poltergeist” outbreaks, witnesses have reported an object leaping from its resting place supposedly on its own, when it is likely that the perpetrator had secretly obtained the object sometime earlier and waited for an opportunity to fling it, even from outside the room—thus supposedly proving he or she was innocent.”
Joe Nickell, however, may have been referring specifically to Janet Hodgson. Let’s take a look a little more at the details of poltergeists, and how they came to be.
Poltergeists Throughout History
Reports of poltergeist activity have been recorded on almost every continent. One of the earliest of these was the Glenluce Devil. From 1655 to 1656, the Glenluce Devil is said to have terrorized the home of a weaver from Galloway, in Scotland.
The drummer of Tedworth is another poltergeist who seems to have manifested in the 1660s. This story is particularly interesting because of the nature of the manifestation. In 1661, a lawsuit was brought by John Mompesson against a vagrant drummer called Drury. Mompesson won the suit, but after the case was settled, Mompesson reported that he heard drumming noises at night. It’s said that Drury was a member of a band of “gypsies,” and had cast a spell upon Mompesson.
However, this story is indicative of the nature of the poltergeist. While believers in the paranormal claim that the curse was, in fact, in effect, skeptics beg to differ. Drury, one of a band of many gypsies, could quite possibly have caused the noises himself. There was no physical harm done to the Mompesson family. Skeptics think that the drumming sound was caused by, well, a drum.
The popular perception is that poltergeists do not inhabit bodies, and usually do not cause physical harm. Instead, they are pranksters, tricksters and frauds whose actions can easily be explained. And many think that this is exactly the case in the story of Janet Hodgson. That she was a trickster, involved in a hoax which took the world by storm in the 1970s.
We are absolutely committed to bringing you up to date and accurate information about the Enfield haunting, about the investigators who were involved in the case, and about Bill Wilkins, whose spirit is said to have inhabited the Hodgson’s home.
However, we also seek to remain unbiased, and offer information to both the skeptics and the believers in the paranormal. With that said, we’d like to explore poltergeist deaths for just a moment. That is to say – how to remove a poltergeist from the home.
Attempts to exorcise poltergeists have historically unsuccessful. This doesn’t mean that poltergeists aren’t real, it simply means that they may be less affected by exorcism than, for example, demons.
There was no such attempt at exorcism at the Enfield home in the 1970s. Instead, Janet Hodgson was taken to the psychiatric hospital for evaluation, and the haunting stopped soon thereafter.
Experts on the supernatural believe that it’s possible for a demon to “haunt” a home. These beings will cause a disturbance, and can cause harm to the individuals living therein. They can also take residence inside the body of a person, which can sometimes be remedied by exorcism.
However, if no such demon exists, that simply won’t work. To put it in other terms, skeptics believe that the best way to rid a home of a poltergeist is to bring the naughty child in for psych evaluation.
The Enfield Poltergeist
It’s yet to be determined whether the ghost of Bill Wilkins truly did afflict the home and the body of Janet Hodgson. There are certainly many theories regarding the matter, and critics and zealots alike have voiced those theories.
However, historically speaking, poltergeists have been manifested by way of loud noises, moving furniture and other, tangible and audible occurrences. In that way, it’s probably fair to assume that we can classify the Enfield case as one involving a poltergeist. Whether the poltergeist was unmistakably the ghost of a former tenant is still up for debate.