Enfield Poltergeist

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Not to be confused with Enfield Monster.

The Enfield Poltergeist was the name given to claims of poltergeist activity at a council house in Brimsdown, Enfield, England during the late 1970s.[1]


In August 1977, single parent Peggy Hodgson called police to her rented home in Enfield after two of her four children claimed that furniture was moving and knocking sounds were heard on walls. The children included Margaret, age 13, Janet, age 11, Johnny, age 10 and Billy, age 7. A female police constable saw a chair slide on the floor but couldn't determine if it moved by itself or was pushed by someone. Later claims included allegedly demonic voices, loud noises, thrown rocks and toys, overturned chairs and levitation of children. Reports of further incidents in the house attracted considerable press attention and the story was covered in British newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, until reports came to an end in 1979.[2][3][4] On Halloween 2011, BBC News featured comments from a radio interview with photographer Graham Morris, who claimed that a considerable portion of the events were genuine.[5]

Paranormal investigators[edit]

Society for Psychical Research members Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair reported “curious whistling and barking noises coming from Janet’s general direction." Although Playfair maintained the haunting was genuine and wrote in his later book This House is Haunted: The True Story of a Poltergeist (1980) that an "entity" was to blame for the disturbances, he often doubted the children's veracity and wondered if they were playing tricks and exaggerating. Still, Playfair believed that even though some of the alleged poltergeist activity was faked by the girls, other incidents were genuine. At one point, Janet was caught at trickery. When she and Margaret admitted their pranking to reporters, Playfair and Grosse compelled the girls to retract their confession.[3][4][6]

Similarly, SPR investigator Anita Gregory believed that some poltergeist events were genuine, but stated the Enfield poltergeist case had been "overrated", characterising several episodes of the girl's behaviour as "suspicious" and speculated that the girls had "staged" some incidents for the benefit of reporters seeking a sensational story. American paranormal investigator Ed Warren claimed that Janet was once “sound asleep, levitating in midair” and concluded that the children were the subject of demonic possession.[3][4]

Sceptical reception[edit]

American magician Milbourne Christopher investigated, failed to observe anything that could be called paranormal, and was dismayed by what he felt was suspicious activity on the part of Janet. Christopher would later conclude that "the poltergeist was nothing more than the antics of a little girl who wanted to cause trouble and who was very, very, clever."[4]

Sceptic Joe Nickell has criticized paranormal investigators for being overly credulous: when a supposedly disembodied demonic voice was heard, Playfair noted that, “as always Janet’s lips hardly seemed to be moving.” Nickell wrote that a tape recorder malfunction that Grosse attributed to supernatural activity and psychologist and president of the Society for Psychical Research David Fontana described as an occurrence "which appeared to defy the laws of mechanics" was merely a peculiar threading jam common to older model reel to reel tape recorders.[7] Nickell noted that the supposed poltergeist "tended to act only when it was not being watched" and concluded that the incidents were best explained as children’s pranks. According to Nickell:

"Time and again in other 'poltergeist' outbreaks, witnesses have reported an object leaping from its resting place supposedly on its own, when it is likely that the perpetrator had secretly obtained the object sometime earlier and waited for an opportunity to fling it, even from outside the room—thus supposedly proving he or she was innocent."

Nickell states that a remote-controlled still camera (the photographer was not present in the room with the girls) timed to take a picture every 15 seconds that supposedly “recorded poltergeist activity on moving film for the first time” was shown by investigator Melvin Harris to reveal the girls' pranks. A photo allegedly depicting Janet "levitating" in mid air actually shows her bouncing on the bed as if it were a trampoline. Harris called the photos examples of common “gymnastics,” and said “It’s worth remembering that Janet was a school sports champion!” Nickell also wrote that demonologist Ed Warren was "notorious for exaggerating and even making up incidents in such cases, often transforming a "haunting” case into one of “demonic possession.” In an interview with the Daily Mail, the adult Janet admitted that she and her sister had faked "2 percent" of the phenomena, prompting Nickell to comment, "the evidence suggests that this figure is closer to 100 percent."[3][4]

Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ Hellicar, Michael (April 24, 2015). "The day a poltergeist attacked me: Skeptical about the supernatural? So was the Mail's MICHAEL HELLICAR - until he saw events so chilling they still haunt him to this day". DailyMail.com/MailOnline.co.uk. Daily Mail. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Zoe Brennan. What IS the truth about the Enfield Poltergeist? Daily Mail 28 October 2011". Daily Mail. 28 October 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Joe Nickell (3 July 2012). The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead. Prometheus Books. pp. 281–. ISBN 978-1-61614-586-6. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Nickell, Joe. "Enfield Poltergeist, Investigative Files". August 2012. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Photographer Graham Morris recalls ghostly encounter" http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15524459
  6. ^ Playfair, Guy Lyon (1980). This House is Haunted: The True Story of a Poltergeist. Stein & Day. ISBN 978-0-7387-1867-5. 
  7. ^ Nickell, Joe. "The Haunted Tape Recorder". September 1995. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 3 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Jagodzinski, Jan (2004). Youth fantasies: the perverse landscape of the media. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-4039-6164-8. 
  9. ^ Penman, Danny (March 5, 2007). "Suburban poltergeist: A 30-year silence is broken". London: Daily Mail. 
  10. ^ Morgan, Maybelle (April 10, 2015). "Petrified estate agents get the fright of their lives in haunted house practical joke (and the men have the most hysterical reactions)". London: Daily Mail. 

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