The Enfield poltergeist – the name given to the story of the paranormal phenomena that occurred at an average council house in Enfield, North London, is one of Britain’s most beloved and well-known ghost stories. It’s also been the centre of a major Hollywood feature film, The Conjuring 2, as well as The Enfield Haunting series, on SKY TV – both with star-studded casts.

The story of the Enfield poltergeist house has divided many, with some respected members of paranormal societies believing the account of the Hodgson family to be entirely accurate. However, many skeptics think that many elements of the story earmark it as being a hoax.

Although we may never exactly know what happened, the poltergeist in Enfield is still the most fascinating ghost story in modern British history.

The Origins of the Enfield Poltergeist

Enfield Poltergeist Attack on Janice
Enfield Poltergeist Attack on Janice

The Enfield poltergeist story began in 1977 and centred on the Hodgson family, mainly on the youngest daughter, Janet. Mother Peggy, daughters Margaret, 13 and Janet, 11 and sons Johnny, 10, and Billy, 7, lived in an average semi-detached council house in Enfield.

We usually hear tales of ghostly encounters in grander settings: hotels, castles and ancient buildings, so the haunted house in Enfield resonated with families across Britain because it was real; it was close to home, it felt like it could happen to us.

The first event in the haunting is disputed, but it’s thought to be either the beds moving around Janet and Margaret’s room or the chest of drawers moving forwards and then moving backwards.

In both cases, Peggy told the children to stop messing around and didn’t believe that anything was happening until she moved the chest of drawers back into place, only to see it move once again.

With that, she became frightened and ran to the neighbour’s house: the neighbours then accompanied them back to the house, only to hear other unexplained noises, such as knocks and banging noises from various places in the house, with no particular source.

The police were called, and they too heard the noises but could not trace their source.

The Enfield Hauntings: Captured on Film

janet-being-thrownOne of the many reasons that the haunted house in Enfield became such a worldwide sensation was because many of the paranormal events that took place inside the home were captured on film.

Once the police were called, many more events began to occur: items were regularly thrown around, Janet, the youngest daughter, spoke in strange voices and snarls, and she was thrown around her bedroom.

One image shows her midair in a seemingly impossible leap. Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair, two of the investigators in the Society for Physical Research case, maintain that they believe the haunting was genuine and caught many of the now-infamous images on film.

Much of the equipment used in their investigation was often found to be malfunctioning upon entering the Hodgson household, despite working perfectly well beforehand. However, Janet was found to have hidden a tape recorder and was video-taped bending spoons on another occasion.

They believe that much of the activity surrounding the Enfield ghost was genuine. However, they suspect that some of the occurrences were exaggerated by Janet for increased attention by reporters. For example, Playfair said that Bill, one of the voices Janet became most well-known for, had some similar vocal tics and habits to Janet, such as changing the topic of conversation often.

Whilst this doesn’t necessarily mean that Bill wasn’t “real”, it does raise questions: why would Bill speak in such a similar manner to Janet?

The Truth About Janet

Janet in the Conjuring 2
Janet portrayed by Madison Wolfe in the Conjuring 2

Although there are many theories about the truth of the Enfield haunting house, there are many who believe the Enfield poltergeist is a hoax and nothing more than a figment of a creative yet troubled young girl.

Most investigators believe that the story begins and ends with Janet. The newspapers wrote about the Enfield ghost and the Enfield poltergeist; many also wrote scathing stories about Janet: Janet, the young girl at the very heart of the story.

Whether or not she was lying about some or all of the activity, we’ll never know, but there is little doubt in most people’s minds that at least some of the phenomena – at least in the beginning – was real.

Perhaps Janet started to appreciate the increased attention that she, a middle child in a working-class family, was finally starting to get, for maybe the very first time. So she began to exaggerate some of the activities around her to gain more notoriety, exposure and attention.

Or, perhaps Janet’s story echoes other poltergeist stories: typically, poltergeist encounters occur around young women before entering puberty.

Janet was at precisely the right age for such an encounter, and for all we know, some of her behaviours, such as bending spoons and hiding a tape-recorder, may have been encouraged by the said poltergeist.

The Warrens at Enfield

the warrens enfield haunting
Ed and Lorraine Warren

The Warrens were well-known paranormal investigators in the 1960s and 1970s. They may well be better-known today following the blockbuster films based on their story: The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2 (Enfield Poltergeist Film) and Annabelle films.

The Conjuring 2 true story differs from the film quite a bit. The Conjuring 2 showed the Warrens as being incredibly involved in the case of the Enfield poltergeist house, but this may be more than a little bit misleading.

Guy Playfair, one of the investigators on the case, said that the Warrens turned up to the Enfield house uninvited and stayed for just one day.

Ed Warren also reportedly told Playfair that a lot of money could be made from the case, which could indicate why the Warrens themselves turned up to do their own investigation.

What About Bill?

Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole case centres on Bill, the voice that Janet was heard to use and speak with on many occasions, in a stern, low tone.

Some research suggests that the idea of using a different voice or several different voices might have been “planted” in Janet’s head by Grosse.

Janet told reporters that Grosse had told her that the voices were needed to talk, and immediately following, the voices came.

Something unexplained about Bill, however, is how Janet could have known that Bill died of a haemorrhaged in the armchair in the living room of the house, which was later confirmed by his son – that a man named Bill had died in the house, of a haemorrhage, sitting in his chair in the living room.

The Bill story gives the Enfield Poltergeist case that feeling; that tips skeptics over from not being sure into being believers.

So What Happened?

After a year and a half of activity, the phenomena at the Enfield house abruptly came to an end. No one knew why, but these sorts of hauntings are common with poltergeists: they stop, they start, and the family gets back to normal.

During that year and a half, many phenomena occurred: furniture moving, electrical equipment malfunctioning, Janet spoke in different voices and snarls, knocks and banging sounds could be heard from around the house – and from what we can tell, the family could not find a source for any of these activities, at least in the beginning.

Whether or not the Hodgson family was telling the whole truth remains to be seen, but we still can’t come up with a reasonable explanation for the Bill story. Can you?

You’ve read up on the Conjuring 2 film, you see our article on the Conjuring True Story here.

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