Mystery of the month: The Enfield Poltergeist
Was the Enfield poltergeist case just an elaborate hoax?
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.
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.
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.’