A recent Channel 4 documentary grabbed my attention, prompting me to tune in to Interview With The Poltergeist. I'd heard snippets about the controversial 'Enfield Poltergeist' case and this documentary filled in the gaps nicely.
The story begins in August 1977, and took place at a property in a north London suburb. The tenants - the Hodgson family - began to experience unexplained knocking and banging sounds, and called their neighbour who happened to be in the building trade. After a thorough check, nothing untoward could be found but the knockings persisted. Margaret Hodgson decided to call the police who arrived at the scene and heard the noises for themselves. One of the pair - a WPC - saw a chair rise above the floor and move four foot across the room. At this point, Margaret was gravely concerned for the wellbeing of her children and phoned the Daily Mirror newspaper who despatched two reporters to take a look. After spending several uneventful hours, the reporters left to begin packing their equipment away. Suddenly, the neighbour came dashing out of the house to call them back. The two men were greeted by toys flying across the room; one of them being hit in the face by a leggo brick. Despite attempts to capture this event on film, none of their photos showed any of the disruption. Of course, the journalists were shell shocked and suggested calling in the experts. The Society For Psychlical Research called upon one Maurice Grosse (who had lost a child in a road accident one year earlier) to assist. After witnessing the heavy banging, Grosse contacted Guy Lyon Playfair who would stay in the house for the next 14 months. The publicity machine went into overdrive, with BBC Radio conducting their own investigation which culminated with reporter Roz Morris witnessing a chair moving across the room. By late October, activity in the house had escalated with the knocking and banging switching from wall to ceiling and back again. Grosse also witnessed a heavy gas fire being ripped out of the wall. The experts agreed that one of Margaret's teenage daughters - Janet - seemed to be the focus of the alleged paranormal activity, and cameras regularly caught her being seemingly pulled out of bed and flung across the room. In late November, Janet was injected with 10mg of valium underwent hypnosis during which she told about being pulled out of bed and flung across the room. On 14th December, two local tradesmen were delivering bread and looked up at the house to see Janet floating in front of her bedroom window, with her body subsequently moving up and down. A lollypop lady on duty at a nearby crossing also witnessed this incident.
Many detractors have accused the children of being responsible for the loud knocking and also of manufacturing the visual manifestations. While it's true they were caught red-handed in a number of pranks (which included hiding recording equipment), what happened next is not easily explained. The investigators decided to try to prompt the ghost to speak, and tried to start a conversation with recording equipment at the ready. The tape captured a deep male voice which proceeded to give his name and declared there were two spirits in the house. Regular conversations took place over the next few weeks, where the spirit would spout obscenities, talk gibberish and eventually declare he had previously lived in the house and went blind and died of a haemorrhage in a chair downstairs. Once again, Janet was accused of trickery by adopting a gruff voice to fool the investigators into believing they were talking to a ghost. This particular theory was discounted by a speech therapist who used a larynx graph to prove the voice was not coming from the usual vocal chords, but from the second set of vocal chords which actors are sometimes trained to use. These 'false' chords can produce a deep gravelly voice which can be very painful if used for more than half an hour at a time, and result in a severe sore throat. The voice on the recordings talked for up to 3 hours at a time and Janet's voice (or that of her sister) never displayed any signs of stress.
In early 1978, a man named Terry Wilkins came to the house in the wake of all the publicity. Although the details of the spirit tape had not been made public, Wilkins explained he was interested in the case as his father had rented the house until he died there. From a haemorrhage in a chair downstairs.
Was this property truly haunted? While Janet and her younger sister were responsible for some of the minor events, it's almost unreasonable to assume that they could somehow manufacture the voice and indulge in conversation, and some of the more violent phenomena was surely beyond two young girls? Having listened to passages of those recordings, I have to say a shiver ran down my spine and it really did seem like I was privy to a voice from another world.
Janet Hodgson was eventually admitted to a London hospital for extensive tests, and was deemed to be 100% normal and healthy. Her return to the house saw a marked decrease in activity until the day arrived when nothing else was seen or heard. To this very day, she remains adamant that the events really took place and that, for a short time, she was resident in a haunted abode.