Mys­tery of the month: The En­field Poltergeist

Was the En­field poltergeist case just an elab­o­rate hoax?

Chat It's Fate - - Contents -

On 30 Au­gust 1977, sin­gle mum Peggy Hodgson was just putting her four chil­dren to bed at their semide­tached coun­cil house in En­field, North London, when she heard a loud bang from the room be­long­ing to her daugh­ters Margaret, 12, and Janet, 11.

Rush­ing into the girls’ room to scold them, she found that their heavy chest-of-drawers had moved and was stand­ing in the mid­dle of the room.

‘It moved by it­self, Mum,’ the ter­ri­fied girls in­sisted.

And to Peggy’s hor­ror, the chest-of-drawers be­gan to move across the room, seem­ingly of its own ac­cord.

Weird ac­tiv­ity

Dis­turbed, Peggy called the po­lice, and the shocked po­lice­woman who turned up

also wit­nessed a chair mov­ing on its own. Later, she was to sign an af­fi­davit at­test­ing to this.

It was the begin­ning of one of the most fa­mous haunt­ings in his­tory. The para­nor­mal ac­tiv­ity swiftly es­ca­lated; the fam­ily was so dis­turbed by the knock­ing on the walls, mov­ing fur­ni­ture, and ob­jects be­ing thrown around that they all slept to­gether in one room. The story made the news­pa­pers, and soon the Hodg­sons had the world’s press and para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors knock­ing on their door. Most of the ac­tiv­ity was fo­cused on the two girls, par­tic­u­larly 11-year old Janet. A cam­era set up in her room to take pho­tos ev­ery 15 sec­onds ap­peared to show her lev­i­tat­ing. Janet also be­came the mouth­piece for the poltergeist him­self – a grumpy old man called Bill Wilkins who'd lived in the house.

‘Just be­fore I died, I went blind, and then I had an ’ae­m­or­rhage and I fell asleep and I died in the chair in the cor­ner down­stairs,’ Bill told para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors Mau­rice Grosse and Guy Lyon Play­fair – through Janet.

Man’s voice

Mem­bers of the So­ci­ety for Psy­chi­cal Re­search, Grosse and Play­fair were deeply per­turbed to hear the voice of a gruff old man com­ing from an in­no­cent young girl. They were con­vinced this was an au­then­tic – and deeply dis­turb­ing – haunt­ing.

Oth­ers, how­ever, weren’t so con­vinced, point­ing out that the photo of Janet ‘lev­i­tat­ing’ could just have been her jump­ing on the bed. Ven­tril­o­quist Ray Allen claimed Janet’s ‘Bill’ voice was an ex­pli­ca­ble vo­cal trick.

Could the whole thing have just been a school­girl prank that got out of hand?

Janet her­self, now 52, has since ad­mit­ted that she and her sis­ter did in­deed fake some of the poltergeist ac­tiv­ity. ‘I’d say 2%,’ she said in a 2015 in­ter­view with the Daily Mail.

But she in­sisted that most of what hap­pened was real, say­ing: ‘It lived off me, off my en­ergy. Call me mad if you like. Those events did hap­pen. The poltergeist was with me and I feel that in a sense he al­ways will be.’

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