You’ve come to visit Enfield Haunting because you want to know all there is to know about this case, made famous by both news media and pop culture. It’s natural that you’re curious about the poltergeist itself, and as to whether or not the story was a hoax.
It’s never been determined if Janet and the Hodgson family was entirely veracious about the events which occurred in the late 1970s. There are numerous reports by investigators, and just as many opinions.
What follows is a sampling of the reports given by these investigators, and of accounts detailing similar cases to the Enfield poltergeist.
Was the Enfield Poltergeist Fake?
There were many groups which investigated the Hodgson home at the time the haunting is said to have occurred. Of those, Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse had the most contact with the Hodgson family.
Maurice Grosse, over the course of his involvement with the family, became quite close with Janet Hodgson. The year before the Enfield poltergeist manifested itself, Grosse had lost his own daughter, also named Janet. It was her death which prompted Maurice Grosse to pursue investigation of the paranormal.
Because he was so new to the field of psychical research, one might say he was overshadowed by his Guy Lyon Playfair. Playfair and Grosse were both members of the Society for Psychical Research. Lyon, however, authored many books on the subject, and his opinion on psychical matters was more widely accepted.
These two men claim to have witnessed events which could not be explained. Toys were thrown about the room by unseen forces, banging on walls and floors could be heard, and most importantly, both claim that Janet would assume the voice of an adult male.
But both also explain that Janet and her sister Margaret were pranksters. They caught both girls in the act of attempting to fool investigators and the press, and the girls themselves admitted that they faked aspects of the Enfield haunting.
Nevertheless, these two men had close and constant contact with the Hodgson family, and claim that the Enfield poltergeist did exist. The opinion of these men was that the haunting was real, but it’s possible those opinions were subjective ones.
Was the Enfield Poltergeist a Hoax?
There were others who visited the Hodgsons during the claims of an Enfield poltergeist. The press reported frequently, and, as the press is wont to do, sensationalized the story. The public picked up on the story, however, and it became global news. Investigators from around the world came to check out the Hodgsons’ claims, and many thought the Enfield poltergeist was a hoax.
Milbourne Christopher was the most outspoken of these skeptics. President of the Society of American Magicians, Christopher visited the Hodgson family. Milbourne Christopher wrote the occurrences off, reporting back to his Society that “the poltergeist was nothing more than the antics of a little girl who wanted to cause trouble and who was very, very, clever.”
There are similar opinions which are still voiced today. As recently as 2015, Joe Nickell, an American member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, examined findings related to the Enfield poltergeist. He claims that photographs, for example, of Janet “levitating” were no more than images of a child performing gymnastics on her bed. He also stated that Janet’s voice manipulation was no more than an act of ventriloquism.
Many critics of the Enfield poltergeist cite the unreliability of witnesses. Psychologists have explained that it wasn’t until after others suggested that poltergeists start fires that the Hodgsons claimed fires would start.
Critics are further fueled by the admission of Janet Hodgson that some of the incidents were pranks. Additionally, since the time of the Enfield haunting, the Hodgsons’ stories detailing the events have changed considerably.
Enfield Poltergeist: Real Footage
As mentioned, the Hodgson family received a lot of press during the reported presence of the Enfield poltergeist. However, there is not much real footage of the events which reportedly occurred. The most reliable witness to the events was a constable; she reported witnessing a chair sliding across the floor. After investigation, she could not determine a cause for the furniture’s movement.
Janet and her sister Margaret were interviewed for a BBC Scotland special in the 1970s. In the interview footage, Janet can be “heard” speaking in a voice which is slightly deeper than her normal tone. However, her hand is usually covering her mouth, and it’s unclear whether the voice is real.
There are audio recordings, however, in which an entirely different voice can be heard. In another BBC interview with Maurice Grosse, he plays back a reel to reel recorder. On this recording, a much gruffer, deeper male voice can be heard than the one in which Janet spoke during her television special.
Of course, there are images as well. Photographs in which Janet can be seen “levitating” in the air have been evaluated by skeptics and believers alike. As noted, some have described the photos as images of a girl jumping across beds in a shared bedroom. Still others believe that Janet looks terrified in the photos; they believe that she’s clearly been overcome by a paranormal force.
Similar cases to the Enfield poltergeist have occurred around the world. The case of Anneliese Michel is one; this young woman, in the year prior to her death, withstood over 67 exorcisms. She was epileptic, but her parents and priests believed that she was suffering from demonic possession. Her parents were ultimately charged with negligent homicide.
South African Clara Germana Cele was 16 when she was thought to have been possessed by a demon. She confessed to having made a pact with the devil, which was determined to be the cause of her possession. Clara, prior to being sprinkled with Holy water and rid of the demon, understood languages of which she’d had no previous knowledge.
West Yorkshire’s Michael Taylor began to exhibit erratic behavior in 1974. His wife reported this to the church, and he was eventually exorcised for his “carnal” tendencies. That same day, Taylor brutally attacked and killed his wife, Christine. He then ran the streets naked, shouting “It’s the blood of Satan” repeatedly.
Thousands cases of demonic possession have been recorded throughout history. But few have been so widely argued as the Enfield poltergeist. Possession and poltergeists, one must admit, make for good publicity, and for entertaining horror films, and the Enfield haunting is no exception. Was the Enfield poltergeist a hoax? That’s still a debate between the believers and the skeptics.