Here in the United States, we have a few really high profile hauntings from the 70’s that I’ve talked about at length here. The United Kingdom wasn’t exempt, though. They had their own and among theirs, the top of the heap was one that took place between 1977 and 1978: The Enfield Poltergeist. Like our Amityville case, Enfield is pretty controversial stuff and over the years has been deemed to be a hoax through and through but there’s a lot of really strange evidence recorded and witness accounts from people outside of the household to support a solid theory of haunting if you’re open to that sort of thing. It existed in the British pop cultural consciousness to such a degree that a BBC Halloween prank based on the events went on to become the UK equivalent to the War of the Worlds Broadcast by Orson Wells.
Over there in the UK they call them Council Housing. Over here we call them The Projects. This isn’t to say that council housing is entirely shitty, but they’re not very nice places and these days they’re home to evolving tribes of lowlifes that everyone in England calls Chavs, a sort of British equivalent to the rodent-like American redneck. This is where our story takes place, in one of these Council Houses in the London suburb of Enfield. Peggy Hodgson is the single mother of four children, two girls and two boys. It’s bed time and the kids are raising hell in the bedroom. Peggy goes to their room to tell them to shut the hell up and go to sleep but instead arrives in time to share in the horror of witnessing poltergeist phenomena.
A poltergeist is a specific classification of haunting, in case you don’t know. You have all sort of spooks out there but a poltergeist is the one that ineracts with the surroundings, throwing shit around and making a lot of noise. The word is actually a German word that means noisy spirit. In the Enfield case, the haunting began when the family watched a dresser slide across the room, compelled by an impossibly strong force that Peggy was helpless to stop. In the months that followed, the spirit (later to be identified as Bill when it took possession of one of the girls in the house) made its presence known by hurling objects and people around the house, assaulting visitors and generally terrorizing anyone who came into the place including academic paranormal researchers and the police, who signed affadavits confirming that they had actually seen some of the phenomena that Peggy Hodgson described.
Peggy, frightened out of her wits and having no idea what to do about the intense haunting happening before her very eyes called the police and officers arrived, patiently taking down notes but seeing nothing. It wasn’t until they were about to leave when suddenly one of the chairs in the room they occupied was lifted and levitated across the room. These officers inspected the chair, the floor surface and came to the conclusion that what they had seen had really just happened. Unfortunately, the cops can’t do jack about ghosts so they split. In their place came the Society For Paranormal Research, an academic group of scientific investigators trying to capture actual haunting evidence and in the case of the Enfield Potergeist, they were treated to a round of it. Unfortunately, their presence and their equipment set off a violent series of events that would put everyone in the house in serious danger. What began as objects moving around the room became actual physical harm of the children. The spirit, Bill, seemed to target them, in particular, and while they lay in bed, he would drag them from the beds and out of the room. Investigator Maurice Gross witness and recorded with audio gear the sounds of Janet Hodgson being dragged from her room and thrown down the stairs. In other cases, she was pulled from her bed and tossed into the air. Suspiciously, photos of these recorded abuses show a terrified Janet flying through the air in her room while her siblings look on in horror, but it also looks an awful lot like she jumped off her bed in every one of the photos.
Unfortunately, this is where the case begins to take on water. During the investigations, it is revealed that some of the reported phenomena are being carried out by the children. The kids admit that they did it more or less to mess with the investigators and see if they were really taking it seriously and paying attention and while a ton of the reports remain unexplained even to the skeptical eye, those looking to debunk this nonsense found tons of ammo in the form of the children’s confessions that they had carried out some of the “hauntings”. In the face of damning evidence in the case against the haunting, Janet Hodgson spent hours speaking with her false vocal cords with the mind of Bill the ghost compelling her. It’s a chilling sound that you have to remember is coming from the mouth of a young girl. Also, according to the medical community, Janet should not have been able to do this for as long as she did. As a matter of fact, no one should. It’s impossible. Yet there it is. She identified aspects of Bill’s life and death that the investigators would later confirm and skeptics would find difficult to debunk since this 12 year old would have had a hard time finding out the details of the life and death of the previous tenant.
Over the course of 14 months, witness after witness, ranging from the police to a volley of journalists and the Society For Paranormal Research see an array of wild haunting phenomena, frightening violence and spirit possession that causes the two girls of the family to act out violently as though under the control of someone else.
And then it just stopped.
Wild inconsistencies and admissions of tampering on the part of the children drove skeptics to poo-poo the entire notion of a haunting but if there was a final nail in the coffin for skeptics this was it. Hauntings don’t just stop. There are plenty of suggestions in the Fortean field that suggest that adolescents have a strong bearing on the poltergeist proceedings with their sudden biological changes firing up an unseen field of psycho kinetic energy that either empowers the spirits in a particular house or being wholly responsible for the haunting but in cases like this of extreme hauntings they never simply cease. This sort of thing in similar cases dogs the occupant family until they leave or it follows them around for the rest of their lives. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of spooky evidence captured in this case, a true anomaly in the field of paranormal research.