The Enfield haunting began suddenly. Janet Hodgson doesn’t remember how it all started, and in interviews even today she recounts only the most memorable of instances.
The events which occurred in 1977 Enfield made headlines across the world; Janet Hodgson and her family were in the spotlight for almost two years as police and paranormal experts investigated the family and the home. Bizarre events including furniture tossed around the room of its own accord, eerie banging on the walls and ceilings of the family home and, later, foul language from Janet, gained much attention.
The Enfield haunting is one of the most famous and widely publicized poltergeist occurrences to date. Many believe that the haunting was a legitimate manifestation of a spirit of the deceased. Many more believe that the events which took place from 1977 to 1979 were a hoax.
What really happened in Enfield, England in the late 1970s? Only Janet Hodgson and her family know the truth. What follows is all the public knows about the Enfield haunting, the Hodgson family, and the other characters surrounding the mystery of the Enfield poltergeist.
The Hodgson Family
Peggy Hodgson was a single mother of four. She and her family lived in a council house in Enfield. Recently divorced, 43 years of age, she did her best to provide necessities to her two sons and two daughters. Johnny and Billy were the youngest. They were 10 and 7 years of age when the poltergeist first manifested. Margaret and Janet, her daughters, were 14 and 11, respectively.
Margaret Hodgson had a reputation for being bright, yet quiet. Janet, on the other hand, was extraverted. Her personality was quite animated, and she was physically active. Gymnastics was her forte.
The 10 year old Johnny wasn’t often home. He attended a boarding school, which kept him away from the house except for school holidays and on the weekends. As a result, Johnny was largely absent during the Enfield haunting. Billy, the youngest, was a normal little boy. He suffered a severe speech disability, but was otherwise a typical child of 7 years.
It’s because of the normalcy of the Hodgson family that the Enfield haunting seems bizarre. The family wasn’t vocally or outwardly religious, nor did members ever speak out against religion. While the family couldn’t be described as isolated, Peggy Hodgson was too busy caring for her children to be overly social.
The Hodgsons had neighbours to rely on. Vic and Peggy Nottingham lived in 282 Green Street, and the families would occasionally socialize. While not a close friendship, the Nottinghams remained supportive of the Hodgson family both during and after the Enfield haunting.
Overall, the Hodgsons were an ordinary family. The kids, for the most part, stayed out of trouble. Peggy worked tirelessly to provide for her children. And they lived in a neighbourhood just like any other. The Hodgson home was just one of many similar homes in Enfield.
The Enfield Haunting Begins
One night at the end of August, 1977, Peggy Hodgson had just put her children to their beds. Retiring downstairs, she looked forward to relaxing in a bit of solitude. That’s when the noises began.
Peggy Hodsgon heard a loud crash from the upstairs of the home. Irritated that her children had disobeyed and were not, in fact, in bed, she walked upstairs to the room which Janet and Johnny shared. She began to scold the children, but Janet insisted that the beds in the room were shaking.
At that point, Peggy and the children heard knocking sounds on the walls. A chest of drawers moved over a foot across the room as the family looked on. There was no reasonable explanation, according to Peggy and her children.
Concerned, and for good reason, Peggy Hodgson sought help from the neighbours. The police were also called, and two constables soon arrived at the home,
Vic was the first to search the home. He found that there were no intruders, and couldn’t explain the sounds and the movement of the furniture to Peggy. Soon thereafter, the police arrived and began to search the house.
Two police constables gave a report that night. One, a female constable by the name of WPC Heeps, stated on the record that she had witnessed the movement of a chair. However, it was determined that there was no criminal activity, and it wasn’t a police matter.
Over the course of the next several days, the Hodgson family continued to experience bizarre occurrences. Furniture would move. A knocking was heard through the walls, ceiling and floors. And objects would fly about the room with no human intervention.
The Hodgson family and their neighbours were stumped. They needed help.
Enfield Haunting Media Attention
At a loss, Peggy Hodgson called the Daily Mirror. Even to this day, it’s not apparent what Peggy thought the news publication would do for her. And the fact that she called the media has given way to some speculation about the haunting as a whole – that the whole event was created for media attention.
Critics of the Hodgson family claim that instead of calling the press, Peggy Hodsgon could have sought help elsewhere. The belief that her house was haunted could have served as a reason to call the church, or even to enlist paranormal investigators.
Regardless of motive, the Daily Mirror was called. Reporter Douglas Bence and photographer Graham Morris arrived at the Hodgson home on September 4, 1977. The press waited, but the house was silent.
It wasn’t until the team was about to leave that something happened. Upon entering a room, Morris was struck in the forehead with a Lego. He claimed that even days after the visit to the Enfield home, a bruise was present on his head.
Several days later, on September 7, 1977, senior reporter George Fallows and photographer David Thorpe arrived at the Hodgson home. There are no reports of what these journalists witnessed, but the result speaks volumes: the team decided to enlist the help of the Society for Psychical Research.
The staff of the Daily Mirror were put in touch with SPR secretary Eleanor O’Keefe. O’Keefe, in turn, passed the information along to members of the Society for Psychical Research. It was decided by the Society that Maurice Grosse would be sent to the Hodgson home, and the paranormal investigation began.
Investigator Maurice Grosse
Maurice Grosse was a successful inventor. He attended the Regent Street Polytechnic in London, where he studied art and design. He is credited with inventing, among other things, the rotating billboard.
Grosse also served in the military. During World War II, he served with the Royal Artillery and was responsible for guarding Italian prisoners of war. After the war, he married his wife Betty, and they had three children – two daughters and a son.
Grosse’s connection to the Hodgson family can best be described as affectionate. Maurice Grosse, in the year prior to the Enfield haunting, had lost one of his daughters in a motorcycle accident. Her name was Janet. It’s thought that it’s due to this deep loss that Maurice Gross felt such a warm bond with Janet Hodgson and the Hodgson family.
Maurice Grosse was the first SPR investigator to visit 284 Green Street. He had been interested in the paranormal since his daughter died; he claimed until his death in 2006 that he had experienced strange occurrences in the months following her accident.
Grosse was new to the Society for Psychical Research, having joined only after his daughter died. Perhaps the SPR didn’t think that the occurrences at Green Street warranted sending a more experienced investigator. Or perhaps Grosse voluntarily joined the investigation because of his recent loss.
Regardless of the reason, Grosse visited the Hodgson household for three days. He and Peggy Hodgson took notes of all incidents, and the Daily Mirror were present at times throughout the course of these first days.
There were a few instances of activity during Grosse’s initial investigation. The Enfield haunting proved to be too complicated for Grosse to handle on his own, so he called the SPR to request assistance. The SPR sent Guy Lyon Playfair.
Investigator Guy Lyon Playfair
Guy Lyon Playfair was more familiar with the paranormal than was Maurice Grosse. He had joined the SPR in 1973, but prior to that he had spent extensive time studying the paranormal in locations across the globe.
Born in India, Playfair became interested in the paranormal at an early age. His mother was a member of the Society for Psychical research, and as a boy, Playfair would read the SPR journals, just for entertainment.
As an adult, Playfair travelled to South America, where he was a member of the Brazilian Institute for Psychobiophysical Research. After an extensive time on the continent, he returned to England where he published The Flying Cow in 1975.
By trade, Playfair was a freelance journalist and photographer. He wrote for American publications Time and The Economist, as well as served as a member of the press section of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
His career did not, in the beginning, involve the paranormal at all. Instead, psychical research was a hobby for him; he studied the metaphysical world in his free time.
It’s because of his passion for things otherworldly that he took a deep interest in the Enfield haunting and the Hodgson family. Together, he and Maurice Grosse began to investigate the incidents at the Green Street home.
Society for Psychical Research (SPR) Investigation
When Maurice Grosse first arrived, he and Peggy worked to document the bizarre instances which occurred. Several were noted. Door chimes swung, unaided. Marbles flew through the air. Upon landing, they did not roll. Furniture moved, doors and drawers opened, and silverware “jumped.”
As noted, reporters from The Daily Mirror were still present at times in the Hodgsons home. Some corroborate the stories, and others are silent on the matter. It’s estimated that around ten people witnessed events prior to the arrival of Guy Lyon Playfair.
Maurice didn’t have the expertise to properly investigate the Enfield haunting, so Playfair was sent to help. On September 12, 1977, Playfair and Rosalind Morris of BBC Radio 4 arrived at the home, and the partnership between Grosse and Playfair was begun.
The two men spent a considerable amount of time with the Hodgson family. In total, the pair spent 25 full nights at the home, in addition to 180 visits to the house on Green Street. Over the course of their investigation, they became closely acquainted with the family. Grosse and Janet became particularly affectionate toward one another.
Through the use of tape recordings, photography and other devices, Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair documented the Hodgson family and the Green Street home. It was their desire to capture the haunting for both research and proof.
While those sceptical of the Enfield haunting have doubts of the veracity of the documentation, there were several witnesses to some of the events. Those witnesses were in no way familiar with the Hodgson family, and even years later they can’t explain what they saw.
The Grosse and Playfair Investigation
There were 180 visits. There were 25 overnight vigils. Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse took the investigation of the Enfield haunting very seriously. Events were recorded both on paper and on electronic devices.
Events which were recorded by the Society for Psychical Research include, but were not limited to, the following.
• Toys would be hurled across the room by an unseen force. Most were hot to the touch upon landing.
• Knocks and bangs were heard throughout the Green Street home, Plumbing and other sources could not be used to explain the sounds.
• The frame of a built-in fireplace was moved from the wall of its own accord. The frame was iron.
• A toilet door opened and closed unaided.
• Metal spoons were inexplicably bent.
• Footsteps were heard in addition to the banging on the walls.
• Tape recorders and other electronic equipment failed to work.
• Excrement appeared throughout the home.
• Small fires would start without explanation. This was usually manifested by matches lighting themselves.
• Water appeared in places where there was no water source.
This is an incomplete list of events which are said to have occurred in the Hodgson home. As noted, however, witnesses unaffiliated with the family also gave accounts of bizarre incidents. Following are several examples.
One council employee, Hazel Short, claims to have seen Janet Hodgson levitating repeatedly in a window. Short claimed that she had been standing outside the home when several books hit the window of 284 Green.
Apparently Short continued to stare at the window, and claims to have seen Janet a while later. It appeared as if she was repeatedly levitating from the bed, in a horizontal position. Short says it was if she was being tossed up and down.
As mentioned, a police constable who visited the Enfield home also claims to have witnessed the paranormal. WPC Caroline Heeps claims to have heard four distinct taps on an internal wall of the home. Very soon thereafter, four more taps were heard from a different wall.
WPC Heeps then describes the chair. Johnny Hodgson pointed to a chair in the living room, and upon inspection the chair was wobbling from side to side. The chair then slid toward the kitchen, and Heeps reports that none of those present in the home had moved it.
During the Enfield haunting, George Fallows served as a senior reporter for the Daily Mirror. He has a slightly different take on the occurrences.
Fallows stated in interviews that he, too, witnessed bizarre events in the Hodgson home. However, he also stated that each of the events could be replicated, and that all could be explained as trickery by a professional.
Fallows also stated that there was a general feeling of confusion and hysteria, both in the home and in the neighbourhood. In short, emotions were running high on Green Street. Fallows claims that this emotionally charged atmosphere could have lent itself to a sort of mass hallucination.
The Enfield Haunting Recordings
Over the course of time in which Playfair and Grosse were present in the Hodgson home, several recordings were made. Grosse owned a tape recorder, and during the investigation over 180 hours were recorded.
In December of 1977, the Enfield poltergeist is said to have manifested himself through Janet’s voice. The investigators had placed a contact microphone on the back of Janet’s head, and it’s through this device that “the voice” was recorded.
These recordings are where scepticism begins. Those who believe that the Enfield haunting was nothing more than a hoax speak of the recordings with a scoff. After all, the voice recordings were just that – voice recordings. There is no video which exists in which Janet’s voice is altered.
False Vocal Chord Tone
To begin, the voice which is heard on the recordings is gruff, indeed. But experts, including speech therapists, have concluded that the voice bore resemblance to a “false vocal chord tone.”
Human voice emanates from the larynx. Vocal chords consist of two folds of tissue which run across the larynx. Pushing air through these tissues generates sound – the sounds which are used in speech and in song.
However, above these vocal folds are more folds of tissue. These folds do not normally vibrate, but instead serve to protect the body from choking and suffocation. It’s possible to “tighten” these folds of tissue; some people even do it naturally and without thought. When these tissues are squeezed, the result is a gravelly, rough sound.
John Hasted of Birbeck College, London, is a physicist. Together with Adrian Fourcin, a phonetics expert at University College, he carried out an experiment. In the experiment, the sounds which emanated from Janet were replicated. There was a slight difference, however. The test subjects developed sore throats by using false vocal chords. Janet did not appear to exhibit this symptom.
Ray Alan was a ventriloquist from Greenwich. He claimed that Janet’s altered voice was produced in the diaphragm, causing the sound to be of a deeper tone. Maurice Grosse disputed this, and offered a monetary award to any child who could reproduce the sound. No one took him up on the offer.
In a further effort to dispel the myth, it’s recorded that Maurice Grosse filled Janet’s mouth with water, then covered her mouth with tape. Grosse’s records state that Janet was, despite the covering, able to speak in the same gruff voice.
No video evidence of this event exists.
Janet Hodgson’s BBC Scotland Interview
Because of the voice in which she sometimes spoke, and because it’s claimed that she was seen levitating from her bed, many think that Janet Hodgson was possessed by an evil spirit.
During the events of the Enfield haunting, BBC Scotland interviewed Janet Hodgson and others, including her sister Margaret. In the interview, Janet was asked how she felt to be living in a haunted home.
“It’s not haunted,” answered Janet.
“Shut up!” Margaret commanded her sister.
In this interview, Janet can be heard attempting to replicate the sound of a gruff, male voice. Her attempts, quite simply, fail. The sound which she emits is more like that of an 11 year old girl, trying to imitate a man.
This is one of the only publicly released video recordings of Janet’s apparent voice alteration. All others were tape recorded only, and some of the footage has been destroyed in the years since the haunting.
The Enfield Poltergeist’s Identity
As stated previously, there were many who investigated the events surrounding the Enfield haunting. Newspapers and other media outlets came, paranormal investigators visited, and friends and neighbours displayed a natural curiosity.
Not only did inexplicable events allegedly occur at the Green Street council house, but Janet claimed to be possessed by a poltergeist.
There were two primary manifestations of this possession. The first of these is the altered voice in which Janet spoke. The second is physical activity which affected only Janet; none of her family members experienced these phenomena. The exception was Margaret, who occasionally was heard to also speak in a gruff voice.
However, the patterns in which Janet spoke when she was supposedly possessed were typical of the girl. For instance, she would frequently change the subject, as the child was prone to do.
Despite scepticism, there are several things which can’t easily be explained by vocal tricks or ventriloquism. The first of these is the language which Janet used when she was speaking in her modified voice. The girl would use quite foul language, and this was uncharacteristic.
Furthermore, when Janet spoke, she spoke of things she may not have knowledge of. On several occasions, Janet claimed to be Bill Wilkins.
Bill Wilkins: The Enfield Poltergeist
Janet’s voice was recorded when she spoke as Bill Wilkins. In that recording, the girl stated:
My name is Bill. Just before I died, I went blind and then I had a haemorrhage and I fell asleep and died in the chair in the corner downstairs.
Grosse, Playfair and the Hodgsons decided to release this recording to a radio station. It’s unclear as to why, once again, the Hodgson family was seeking media attention. Regardless, the recording was played over the air for the public to hear.
Soon after, a man came forward. His name was Terry Wilkins, and he said that he had recognized his dead father’s voice on the radio. He also confirmed that his father’s name was Bill Wilkins, and that Bill had, indeed, died in that very manner at 284 Green Street.
Those who believe that the Enfield haunting was a legitimate instance of the manifestation of a spirit claim that there’s no way Janet could have known this information. However, sceptics point out that Janet was a young girl. Young girls tell stories. And it’s possible that Janet had heard the story of Bill Wilkins from a classmate or a neighbour.
The language which Janet used when speaking as Bill Wilkins was not characteristic of a prepubescent child. Foul language and words like “dematerialise” are just examples of this. However, sceptics know that every preteen girl is exposed to foul language. Some claim that the “possession” was merely an excuse to voice those words.
Janet Hodgson: Photographic Evidence
In addition to claims that Janet spoke as Bill Wilkins, there are assertions that the girl was physically affected as well. Janet Hodgson herself says that this is true.
The first of these assertions is that Janet was “thrown about the room” by an unseen force. There is a famous photograph which shows a young Janet, mid-air between two beds.
Earlier, Hazel Short was mentioned to have seen Janet doing just that. Short says she saw Janet levitating in the bedroom of the council house, repeatedly bouncing up and down in a horizontal position.
However, there are no photographs depicting Janet in a horizontal position. Only photographs which show a vertical Janet can be found. As many sceptics will be quick to point out, Janet was skilled in gymnastics. These photographs appear to be of nothing more than a girl jumping on the bed. It doesn’t even require gymnastics ability to do this.
Janet has also claimed that she became twisted with window curtains around her neck by an invisible force. There is no evidence of this; we have only Janet’s word.
It’s true that we have little evidence of any of the claims made by Janet Hodgson and her family regarding the Enfield haunting. Maurice Grosse did attempt to photograph several of the events, but the pictures failed to provide proof. For example, the family and the SPR team claim that a pillow was moved from the bed to the floor. What remains as proof of this is a photo of a pillow on a floor.
Other photographs exist, as well. Janet climbs atop furniture in some, and hides beneath beds in others. None have proven to be solid evidence of poltergeist activity, and all of the images can be explained. Namely, a young girl causing mischief.
A Similar Haunting to the Enfield Poltergeist
Around the time of the alleged Enfield haunting, several other events had taken place around the world. Most notable of these was the Amityville haunting.
On November 13, 1974, a man named Ronald DeFeo, Jr. killed his family in New York. Just a year later, another family moved into the DeFeo home, but they left within the month. They cited unusual and paranormal activity as the reason for their departure.
The Amityville haunting, like the Enfield haunting, received global media attention. As it happened just prior to the Enfield occurrences, it’s possible Janet had heard of the story and used parts of it to create her own. So say critics of the Hodgson family, and there are many.
The Lutzes of Amityville claimed that they would feel unseen forces touching them. Kathy Lutz, the woman of the home, said she had been levitated from her bed. Husband George described doors slamming, excrement was found throughout the home, and objects would move unassisted.
Every one of these events was coincidentally duplicated in the Hodgson home just a few years later. This gives pause to some who have heard the story of Janet Hodgson and the Enfield haunting. Were the events just similar? Or were they replicated by a clever girl?
In addition to these similarities, sceptics also cite another point which is too close to be coincidental: the arrival of Ed and Lorraine Warren.
Ed and Lorraine Warren
Ed and Lorraine Warren were paranormal investigators from the United States. A Roman Catholic couple, they founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952. It’s through this organization that the couple investigated hundreds of cases of perceived paranormal activity throughout the United States and the world.
Ed and Lorraine Warren had been deeply involved in the investigation of the Amityville home in New York. It’s important to note that the New England Society for Psychic Research was a source of income for the Warrens. That is to say, they earned money and publicity through each of their investigations.
The Warrens appeared at the Hodgson doorstep in the midst of the chaos. They didn’t stay long; in fact, they were turned away quite abruptly. Ed and Lorraine Warren attested to the fact that the Enfield haunting was a legitimate case of paranormal phenomenon. However, there was money to be made.
When the Warrens arrived, they only briefly investigated. After a preliminary assessment, they stated to those who were more deeply involved with the haunting that they would assist in monetizing the events. Playfair and Grosse asked the couple to leave, and they obliged.
Though the Warrens only visited the house on Green Street for a short amount of time, it’s impossible to know how much information was imparted to Janet and her family. Did the Warrens discuss the Amityville case with the family? Did the Hodgson family research the Warrens?
The couple did appear on several television interviews and in print media. Furthermore, the book The Amityville Horror was sent to press in 1977. It’s possible, even likely, that Peggy and Janet Hodgson had knowledge of the Warren family’s prior investigations. They would therefore be able to use that information to “create” their own haunting.
The Enfield Poltergeist: Haunting or Hoax?
As has been made clear, there are thousands of critics who believe that the Enfield haunting was no more than a hoax. These sceptics believe that two naughty and attention-starved girls, Margaret and Janet, fabricated the events. Their mother, Peggy, was exhausted by her four children. Lonely, she perpetuated the story.
There is some merit to these arguments. While this exploration of the Enfield haunting is meant to be purely objective, it’s with that objectivity that both sides of the story must be discussed. Was Janet Hodgson really possessed? Did the ghost of Bill Wilkins manifest himself through the girl? Or was the haunting all for show?
Forty years have passed since the house on Green Street was allegedly haunted. Peggy Hodgson is now deceased; she died in that same home, reportedly in the same chair as had Bill Wilkins. Margaret and Janet have left the spotlight, returning only occasionally for an interview.
Billy and Johnny had very little to do with the Enfield haunting. Johnny was not present for a majority of the events, and Billy was very young at the time. Maurice Grosse has passed away, as has Ed Warren. Guy Lyon Playfair still lives, and he is, perhaps, the most reliable witness to the events in Enfield.
In 1980, Guy Lyon Playfair published a book titled This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist. The book, almost 300 pages in length, recounts the full story of the Enfield Haunting.
This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist
Those who have read This House is Haunted offer mixed reviews of the book. While some say the book is the most accurate representation of the Enfield events, others say it’s too dry and boring to read in its entirety.
Whatever your opinion, it’s the only account of the events which was written by a participant. In the preface to the book, Guy Lyon Playfair states that he means to provide the unbiased and wholly authentic story.
The book was meant as a narrative, but instead provides more of a technical report of the Enfield haunting. Janet is the only character in the book who does not earn a pseudonym. They are called the Harpers – Peggy, Janet, Rose, Pete and Jimmy.
Other than the fictionalized names, Guy Lyon Playfair has maintained that the integrity of the book is intact. He claims that the events and paranormal occurrences described within are described exactly as they happened in 1970s Enfield.
As with the Warrens, it could be said that Guy Lyon Playfair stood to gain from the publication of this book. While not a bestseller, the book did sell a great many copies upon its release. To date, over 100,000 copies have been purchased.
While 100,000 is no means a huge sales performance, the number does point to the importance of the events in Enfield. It also serves as proof that Playfair, as well as others, did gain monetarily by insisting the events were not a hoax.
Janet Hodgson: Possessed or Trickster?
There’s a problem with Guy Lyon Playfair’s book. While Playfair claims that each of the events recorded in the book were accurately describes, Janet Hodgson herself does not.
Both in interviews at the time of the alleged haunting and in those more recent, Janet Hodgson confesses to having a hand in a few of the occurrences at the family home. In fact, there were many times when the girl was caught on video, banging on walls or attempting to bend silverware.
Those who believe the story of the Enfield haunting all hold a common belief. These people believe that the girl was simply bored. The media expected her to perform, and when she couldn’t do that she began to pull pranks.
In the beginning, it’s obvious that Playfair and Grosse fully believed they were dealing with the paranormal. Otherwise, there’s no good reason as to why they would have remained with the Hodgsons. Maurice Grosse, in particular, must have felt overwhelmed upon his arrival. After all, he enlisted the help of a fellow investigator.
However, as time wore on, the men would catch the girls in the act. Janet, for example, would hide Grosse’s tape recorder. The girls have confessed to staging “about 2%” of the haunting. It’s with that admission that most critics dismiss the case entirely.
The Enfield Poltergeist: Not a Poltergeist?
As stated, there are thousands upon thousands of naysayers who do not believe the Enfield haunting was real. To begin exploring these arguments, one must first understand the definition of the word poltergeist.
Poltergeist derives from the German words poltern, meaning “create a disturbance” and Geist, meaning “ghost.” A more literal translation, however, would have the word poltergeist to mean “rumble-ghost” or “noisy spirit.”
There have been many accounts of poltergeists throughout history, some written accounts dating as far back as the 1600s. In none of these cases are poltergeists said to inhabit the body of a person. Instead, bodily possessions are more commonly thought to be demonic.
Criticism of Janet Hodgson’s story points out that Janet was both disturbed externally and “internally,” as it were. It would seem to these sceptics that Janet was simply piecing together ghost stories she’d heard throughout her short life in order to create her own.
However, experts on the paranormal claim that, in rare cases, a person may be possessed by a poltergeist. In these cases, though, it’s unlikely for the victim to realize it. They may lose time, and upon awakening they will not realize that they had not been mentally present.
This is not true in the case of Janet Hodgson. Instead, quite the opposite was true. The voice of Bill Wilkins would manifest on demand, and Janet was fully aware of the events as they happened.
Furthermore, in cases of poltergeist activity, it’s been concluded even by those who have studied the paranormal extensively, that in some cases poltergeists do not exist. A majority of poltergeist activity throughout history has been disproven – the activity was no more than the activity of those wishing to seek trouble.
Paranormal Investigators: Planting Ideas
In the same way that the voice of Bill Wilkins would come from Janet on command, other events are thought to be suspicious as well.
Maurice Grosse, in a television interview, states that Janet had little knowledge of the supernatural prior to his arrival. He laughs as he recalls correcting Janet – she would call the ghost a “poker dice” instead of a poltergeist, and he and Playfair would gently correct her.
Those who are sceptical of the Enfield haunting and the Hodgson story have brought up an interesting observation. These critics have pointed out that paranormal activities did not begin until Janet was told that they should.
Deborah Hyde, editor in chief of The Skeptic Magazine, explains it as “expectation fuelling perception.” In fact, Guy Lyon Playfair said that eventually “… the whole family … was seeing visions or apparitions of faces at windows, shadowy figures on the stairs …”
This phenomenon isn’t uncommon. It’s called top down processing, which basically means that people see what they want or expect to see. The Enfield haunting could have been further fuelled by suggestions by the investigators themselves. When investigators told Janet that sometimes poltergeists would speak, she began the voices. When told that they’d start fires, the matches began to light.
Again, this examination of the Enfield haunting is not meant to call the Hodgson family out, or to call them con artists. Instead, the goal is to simply illuminate the case, shedding light on arguments of both the believer and the sceptic. While some believe that Janet Hodgson was possessed by Bill Wilkins, other think she was merely acting on the power of suggestion.
The Enfield Poltergeist: The Idea of Possession
In the approximately 18 months that Janet Hodgson was allegedly possessed by the spirit of Bill Wilkins, no exorcism was performed. This, of course, is not to say that Janet wasn’t truly possessed by a spirit. It does, however, imply that the family may not have thought of demonic possession as a real possibility, and that the Enfield haunting was a story, stolen from headlines from around the world.
Historically, when a person is thought to be possessed by a spirit, exorcism is performed. Some notable cases of this have been recorded throughout history, and many of these took place in the 1970s. Anneliese Michel of West Germany is one such. She had a history of mental illness and underwent over 70 exorcism rituals between the years of 1975 and 1976. Incidentally, this was immediately prior to the Enfield haunting.
Anneliese Michel ultimately died of malnutrition and dehydration. The case and the subsequent trial were highly publicized and it’s possible that the Hodgson family had heard the story.
The Smurl family experienced what is thought to be a possession as well. In 1974, American couple Jack and Janet Smurl complained of paranormal activity in their home. This event, too, was highly publicized. Ed and Lorraine Warren were among the investigators.
Finally and most notably, David “Son of Sam” Berkowitz was caught in 1977. While no exorcism was involved in this case, the notoriety of the trial introduced many to demonic possession.
Neither demonic possession nor poltergeists are unheard of in accounts throughout history. But criticism of the Hodgson family holds that the girls pieced stories together, creating their own monster.
A Conclusion to the Enfield Haunting
Janet Hodgson never underwent exorcism. It’s said that religious leaders were brought into the home after the haunting ceased, but the girl herself never experienced such a rite.
The Enfield haunting did, however, end. At the end of the decade, and after months of arduous investigation, Janet Hodgson was brought in to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation. She spent two months in the hospital, and the Enfield haunting stopped.
It was mentioned that a poltergeist is not commonly found to inhibit the body of a living person. It was also noted that exorcism works primarily in the case of demon possession as opposed to poltergeist activity.
In the case of Janet Hodgson, exorcism was not necessary. All that was necessary was psychiatric evaluation.
Those who believe the Hodgson haunting was real believe that when the girl left the home, the poltergeist did as well. Sceptics, however, believe that when Janet was treated for psychiatric disorders, the poltergeist ceased to exist in her mind.
The reason for the end of the haunting is unclear. What is clear, however, is that as Janet was evaluated and even threatened with electroshock therapy, the haunting suddenly ceased.
Did psychiatrists “exorcise” the ghost of Bill Wilkins from Janet’s body? Or was Janet simply threatened enough that she chose to give up the act?
There are many theories as to why Janet Hodgson displayed the behaviours she did. Doctors frequently prescribed her calming pills. Even Guy Lyon Playfair, a close ally, suggested the girl may have suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome.
The honesty of the Hodgson family will likely always be doubted, and the truth will likely never be known. Neither believers nor sceptics, however, can explain the sudden departure of the Enfield poltergeist.
Janet Hodgson: Where is She Now?
Since the Enfield haunting ended, Janet has remained out of the public eye. She now lives in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex with her husband and her three children.
Janet Hodgson, now Janet Winter, does not speak often about the events of the 1970s. Conversations about the past are limited within her family, and her youngest child does not know about the haunting at all.
There are exceptions to Janet’s silence, however. She and her sister Margaret have been the subject of television documentaries and have served as the inspiration for several films. One of these films, The Conjuring 2, was released in June of 2016. Prior to its release, Janet and Margaret were frequently interviewed.
Neither woman has backed down from the claim that the Enfield house, and Janet, were disturbed by the ghost of Bill Wilkins. However, their stories have changed. Details have been understandably lost over the years, and it’s difficult to know which version is the truth.
Janet claims to remember very little of the haunting. She recounts the most memorable details – furniture moving, matches spontaneously lit – but does not go into detail about much. She speaks of the events as if she were an outsider observing them.
No member of the Hodgson family has been able to explain how the Enfield haunting stopped. As mentioned, Janet Hodgson went into therapy in a psychiatric hospital. Upon her return to the home, the poltergeist was mysteriously no longer present. Janet Hodgson and her family have no answers today.
Criticism of the Enfield Haunting
Much research has gone into the creation of this site. Sources ranging from books and news articles to even movies and documentaries were pored over in an effort to compile facts.
During that research, many sources which were critical of the Hodgsons presented themselves. While this examination is meant to outline the facts of the case, it remains true that the 1970s events in Enfield remain heavily deliberated upon.
Perusing forums and even the comments following news articles, it’s clear that everyone who’s familiar with the story has an opinion. But there are several well-known voices which have also sounded over the years.
Perhaps one of the most outspoken voices against Janet Hodgson and the Enfield haunting is Joe Nickell. Nickell is an American paranormal investigator. He served as the Resident Magician at the Harry Houdini Hall of Fame and has been nicknamed the “modern Sherlock Holmes” by his peers.
Joe Nickell is no stranger to illusion and trickery. He is only paranormal investigator in the world who holds the job full time. He prides himself on his desire to fully investigate all sides of a paranormal phenomenon.
Joe Nickell says of the Enfield haunting:
Playfair has made a career of first being fooled by tricksters, and then fooling others.
He has also said:
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.
It could be said that Joe Nickell has a personal distaste for the Enfield story, and for Guy Lyon Playfair. But he remains one of the most adamant experts as he insists that the Enfield haunting was a hoax.
Deborah Hyde was mentioned previously as a sceptic in the Enfield poltergeist case. In a 2015 article, she wrote the following of the Enfield haunting:
There is evidence that a range of reasonable factors that can lead perfectly sane people to believe they are in the presence of a supernatural force.
In short, Hyde believes that humans lack the capacity to pay attention to everything at all times. The materialisation of objects, for example, could have been just a witness noticing the object for the first time.
Deborah Hyde, like Joe Nickell, believes that Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse were tricked by the girls at 284 Green Street. There are a number of factors which Hyde claims could be cause of the haunting and the perpetuation thereof.
• Sleep paralysis
• Undue stress following the divorce of Janet’s parents
• Mass hallucination (skewed perception)
• Inattentional blindness
• The ongoing attention of Grosse and Playfair
• The need for a male role model (a desire to preserve the illusion of a haunting in an attempt to keep Playfair and Grosse present)
Chris French is a psychology professor at University of London. In 2016, he published an article detailing “Five reasons why London’s most famous poltergeist case is a hoax.” Those reasons are as follows:
• Janet and Margaret have confessed to hoaxing some of the poltergeist. French states that, “just because you didn’t figure out how something was done doesn’t mean it was impossible to do. Conjurers have been doing it for centuries.”
• The infamous photo of Janet levitating from the bed was likely just Janet jumping on the bed.
• The ghost of Bill Wilkins was obsessed with menstruation. This is an interest more likely held by prepubescent girls than a dead man.
• Witnesses are unreliable, and most are open to suggestion. Similar to statements made by Deborah Hyde, French believes that the power of suggestion can cause people to see things which are not there.
• Many similar pranks have grown out of control. In fact, a majority of poltergeist cases throughout history have been investigated and attributed to just that – pranks.
Milbourne Christopher served as President to the Society of American Magicians until his death in 1984. He was also one of the founding members of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
Christopher didn’t speak out very frequently about the Enfield haunting. However, he did investigate the events, and concluded that it was a hoax. He released the following statement:
The poltergeist was nothing more than the antics of a little girl who wanted to cause trouble and who was very, very, clever
Bob Couttie is not a paranormal investigator, nor does he have the credentials of the critics listed above. Couttie is a magician, and he, too, investigated the Enfield poltergeist. He paid particular attention to the recordings of Janet as she presumably spoke in the voice of Bill Wilkins. Couttie’s conclusion reads as follows:
Having listened to [the recordings] very carefully, I came to the conclusion that there was nothing in what I had heard that was beyond the capabilities of an imaginative teenager.
Anita Gregory was a member of the Society for Psychical Research prior to her death in 1984. She was one of the handful of investigators who was sent to investigate the Enfield haunting in the very beginning stages.
Anita Gregory published a report on her findings at the Hodgson home. And, despite her nature as a firm believer in the paranormal, she was very, very sceptical of the case.
Gregory witnessed Janet bending spoons, and attempting to bend an iron bar. She called the case “overrated,” and said that the girls’ behaviour was suspicious. She also stated that the girls were staging incidents in order to gain media publicity. Investigating with her was John Beloff, a former SPR president. Both came to the conclusion that the Enfield haunting was a hoax.
The Enfield Haunting: The Haunting in Movies
A case as widely popularized by the media as the Enfield haunting obviously stirred much interest in the paranormal. The haunting was low hanging fruit for screenwriters, authors and others. A single mother to four children experiences a haunting in an otherwise normal neighbourhood.
As a result, there are many references to the Enfield poltergeist in popular culture. Some are explicit, while some are more obscure. Most are dramatized while a few aim to tell the story factually.
Compiled below are a list of media references to the Enfield haunting. It is by no means a conclusive list; the case gained such notoriety that it would be impossible to cite all references. These, however, are the stories which have become the most popular amongst those who have developed an interest in the Enfield haunting.
The Conjuring 2
The Conjuring 2 was released in the summer of 2016 and contains the most explicit references to the Enfield poltergeist. However, it’s one of the most inaccurate versions of the story, and should be viewed for entertainment only.
This feature film opens with Ed and Lorraine Warren in an investigation of the Amityville house in New York. This segment, itself, is highly dramatized and not true to the real Amityville story.
Upon conclusion of the investigation, Lorraine Warren vows to never participate in paranormal investigation again. However, they are “called” to a haunting which is currently happening in England, and the couple fly off to London.
The Conjuring 2 is supposedly about the Enfield haunting. However, within the film, Ed and Lorraine Warren are plagued by demons, ghastly nuns and other spectres, while the Hodgson family are portrayed as secondary characters.
In reality, Ed and Lorraine Warren had very little to do with the Enfield investigation. As you are aware, they were turned away almost immediately by the true “main characters” of the story: Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse.
The story is highly sensationalized and was written and directed as a horror film. However, it’s because of the release of The Conjuring 2 that Janet and Margaret Hodgson stepped from the shadows. They participated in a number of interviews prior to the release of the film.
The Conjuring 2: The Interviews
By 2016, many of the key players in the Enfield haunting had passed away. Most notable, Peggy Hodgson and Maurice Grosse had died over a decade earlier, and were obviously unable to be interviewed.
But the Hodgson sisters, as well as WPC Heeps were interviewed about what happened during the Enfield haunting. Lorraine Warren was present for many of these interviews as well.
Janet and Margaret Hodgson on The Conjuring 2
As was stated previously, Janet and Margaret Hodgson claim today that they have little recollection of the events which occurred from 1977 to 1979. The stories which they do recall have changed slightly since that time.
It’s not unusual for a person to forget events which occurred in early childhood. Janet, in particular, was only 11 years old at the time of the Enfield haunting, and it’s to be expected that many details may have become cloudy with time.
However, during their 2016 interviews, the women confessed to have fabricating some of the events which supposedly occurred. Janet explained this in the following manner:
There was times when things would happen and times when they wouldn’t. Sometimes, if things didn’t happen, you’d somehow feel you’d failed.
She recalls Maurice Grosse with fondness, and remembers that he would sometimes become annoyed with her pranks. But both sisters still claim that the tricks only accounted for about 2% of the haunting.
Again, it’s easy for the details of childhood to become obscured over time. But with such a traumatic event as an alleged possession and haunting, sceptics say that the particulars are clouded because the girls can’t remember their lies.
Many of the interviews with Janet and her sister were under the public eye – promotional material of sorts for the release of The Conjuring 2. Author and journalist Will Storr was one of the first to track down Janet Winter, as she’s known today. Storr conducted an interview with Janet which was out of the limelight, and Janet was no more specific about the Enfield events.
Lorraine Warren, for some reason, was present for an emotional reunion with the Hodgson girls. The actress who portrayed Warren, Vera Farmiga, participated in several on screen interviews prior to the release of The Conjuring 2. In those interviews, Farmiga states that Warren had cited the Enfield haunting as one of the most terrifying of her career.
WPC Heeps, the constable who was present that first night of the Enfield haunting, was briefly interviewed when The Conjuring 2 was released. In this interview, she recalls that the living room chair elevated a few inches before sliding across the floor.
While admittedly a very minor detail, Heeps was quoted in 1977 as saying that the chair did not, in fact, leave the ground. Instead, it was said to have wobbled and then slid, unaided. Again, this is a minor detail, but goes toward the argument that stories are changed and exaggerated.
The second “blockbuster” film which was inspired by the Enfield haunting was Poltergeist. Directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg, this film is loosely based on the Hodgson family.
The story follows a family, the Freelings, as their home and daughter are afflicted by an evil spirit. While it’s not certain that the movie was based on the Enfield haunting, screenwriter Dan Aykroyd shared that the film was based on “a documented haunting in England.”
The Enfield Haunting
Perhaps the most widely recommended of the screen works is the three part miniseries The Enfield Haunting. The Enfield Haunting was commissioned by Sky Living and was broadcast in May of 2015.
This series takes a deeper look at the emotional relationships between members of the Hodgson family, Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse. While the series does dramatize the actual haunting, it’s to be commended as the most true to life adaptation of the events in Enfield.
The Enfield Haunting does not exaggerate the presence of Ed and Lorraine Warren. Nor does it fabricate events and spirits as did The Conjuring 2. Instead, the series takes a more subtle approach to the haunting.
Janet is portrayed as a vivacious, even mischievous girl. Her sister’s character is written as a popular girl; she’s prone to tease her sister but also does deeply care for her.
The most interesting facet of this adaptation is the character of Maurice Grosse. The Enfield Haunting looks closely at Grosse, and examines the death of his daughter. It’s through this film that some may realize that Grosse had an ulterior motive to staying on at the Hodgson home: his relationship with Janet Hodgson may have caused him to sustain the perceived existence of a poltergeist.
For anyone who’s interested in a dramatization of the Enfield haunting which hasn’t been made ridiculous with side stories and special effects, The Enfield Haunting comes highly recommended.
Ghostwatch was a bizarre type of film. It first aired on BBC1 an Halloween night of 1992. Created as a mockumentary, the film was just realistic enough that viewers believed they were watching a true documentary. The film itself was no great work. However, it’s notable for the psychological effects it had on viewers.
Martin Denham, 18 years of age, committed suicide five days after the programme aired. His family’s home had faulty pipes; the knocking sound led him to believe that his house was possessed by a poltergeist.
In 1994, psychologists recorded the first instances of post traumatic stress disorder caused by television. Two ten year old boys had been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of viewing Ghostwatch.
The Enfield Haunting: The Haunting in Books
Guy Lyon Playfair’s book, previously discussed, is the most well known work on the Enfield Haunting. It’s a systematic and methodical examination of the events surrounding the poltergeist. Whether sceptic or believer, anyone who wishes to learn more about the investigation should start here.
There have been other books which mention the Enfield haunting, however. What follows are a few of these titles; while not explicitly about the Enfield haunting, they serve as research tools for those wishing to dig deeper.
Will Storr vs. the Supernatural
Will Storr was the journalist who tracked down Janet Hodgson in recent years. The reason he did so was to conduct research for his book, Will Storr vs the Supernatural.
Storr is a self-identified sceptic. Throughout his book, he recounts his experiences with exorcists, devil worshippers, haunted houses and the occasional séance. He also speaks of his experiences with Janet Hodgson.
As one who is sceptical of the supernatural, Storr expected to proclaim that Janet Hodgson was a liar and a fraud. He did not do so, however, and Will Storr vs the Supernatural tells of his experiences with the woman as well as other paranormal activity.
This book, like Storr’s, is not specifically about the Enfield haunting. However, it may serve as invaluable material for those wishing to understand Janet.
Haunted Enfield was written by Jason Hollis, a native of Enfield. Hollis spent years compiling research, largely due to a sense of frustration. His home is known for a few, notable cases of hauntings, but Hollis spent his childhood hearing stories of many more.
Haunted Enfield is a tour book, of sorts. Readers will be led across the landscape of Enfield and the surrounding area while Hollis tells stories of haunted places.
It’s likely that Janet Hodgson was familiar with many of these stories, and critics think she may have drawn upon them to create the Enfield poltergeist.
Other References to the Enfield Haunting
It would be impossible to include every article written on the Enfield haunting in this list. As you’re aware, the case has been debated for over 40 years, and it seems that for every person who’s familiar with it, there exists a different opinion.
Many articles have been written on the subject of the Enfield haunting. For a more comprehensive bibliography, please visit our directory page. There you will find a list of articles by both professionals and armchair critics.
A number of books may also provide useful to you in your research which are not listed above. Ed and Lorraine Warren authored many titles. Of course, the Warrens were not present during the haunting, but by reading these books one can understand better the nature of paranormal investigation.
Hundreds of books exist, also, about poltergeists and demonology. Poltergeist activity dates back to the 1600s in written history, but most likely events occurred before that of which we have no record. The phenomena are quite intriguing, and have captured the imaginations of authors throughout history.
Searching Amazon or browsing the titles at your local bookstore will result in more books on poltergeists and hauntings than one could read in a lifetime. If you’re interested in learning more, we recommend you do just that.
The Enfield Haunting: Summary and Conclusion
The goal of this site is to provide a comprehensive look at what happened to Janet Hodgson and her family from 1977 to 1979. It’s not our intent to come across as sceptical, nor do we wish to sound as if we believe the story.
Instead, we strive to provide opposing sides to the same story. There are those who believe the Hodgson sisters were fraudulent in their assertions that the house was haunted. And still others believe that poor Janet Hodgson, a child of only 11 years old, was controlled by forces bigger than herself and against her will.
What you determine to be the truth is up to you. We strongly encourage you to research the sources cited within this page, and to look at the websites and other resources listed in our directory. These accounts (and opinions) will help you to form your own assessment.
We are human, however, and we have formulated our own conclusions on the matters of the Enfield haunting and of the Hodgson family. We are a team of both sceptics and devotees to the paranormal. It’s because of the dichotomy of our viewpoints that we hope we were able to present you with something in the middle – a neutral stance.
The Enfield haunting certainly gained infamy in the 40 years which have passed since. It’s likely that we’ll see more references to the case in media and popular culture in the years to come. We hope to have helped you navigate through what was, and will continue to be, one of the most highly disputed cases of paranormal activity of our time.