The Enfield Poltergeist | Haute Macabre

The Enfield Poltergeist

Perhaps due to the famed medium Lorraine Warren passing this week, I’ve been back inside a deep rabbit hole of The Enfield Poltergeist, one of the most (if not the most) heavily documented hauntings of all time. Lorraine has little, if anything, to do with this case in particular, she and her husband were only briefly involved, but the recent news of her death dominoed me back in to this story.

I am fairly certain that the majority of you are already familiar with the case, as it was the inspiration behind The Conjuring II and Poltergeist, but a brief introduction just in case:

The Enfield Poltergeist plagued a family in the London suburb of Enfield in the late 1970s, with the center of activity focused on Janet, the youngest daughter. It has been hypothesized that poltergeist activity is triggered by puberty, especially around girls. An energetic manifestation of the hormone time-bomb of that age, Janet was the locus, and also possibly the actual source of activity. Most of the happenings, including the guttural voice that would speak through Janet, would almost never happen if any of the investigators were looking directly at the children or in the room, leading many to believe that it was all an elaborate hoax put on by the children.

The two men that were the main paranormal investigators on this case, Guy Playfair and Maurice Gross, both members of the Society for Psychical Research, believed in the actual presence of this entity, although they did catch Janet on more than one occasion contributing to some of the tricks. The poltergeist moved furniture, tossed objects about the rooms and through walls and floors, threw the children (especially Janet) from their beds, levitated her, pooled water, flicked lights on and off. The investigators were in the home morning through night almost daily, and documented each day thoroughly.

My take on this case is that it’s a mixed bag: I do believe that there was something not of this realm happening there, but I also think that the children were enjoying the attention that the activity was giving them, and they may have amped up the stakes a bit. What has always struck me is the total lack of reaction by the children in the videos of Janet channeling the Voice. Were they so desensitized by the constant activity that it didn’t even phase them any longer? I’ve been watching these videos for days now, and still find that the most unsettling part. The most compelling evidence is that an actual police officer that was called in early on in the activity witnessed a chair moving on its own, and filed a formal report on the incident.

For further and much more detailed accounts and overviews of the Enfield Poltergeist, I recommend the two part episode from Last Podcast on the Left, and the book This House is Haunted by Guy Playfair, one of the main paranormal investigators involved in the case. I will admit that I abandoned this book with about 50 pages remaining: it is not a face paced or even truly engaging read, but more of a specific play-by-play of the nineteen months of events.

Below are a number of the videos I’ve been watching the last few days that I wanted to share. I am always curious what other’s take on this story is, so please share your with me in the comments!

2 Comment

  1. Wow, I remember reading “This House is Haunted” years ago. Local library had a copy that I checked out multiple times. It’s a fascinating case whether it’s what it appears to be, a hoax, or some combination of the two. I consider myself skeptical but there’s just something still compelling about it, especially the incident in which a Janet apparently teleports(?) into their neighbor’s house and leaves a book there.

    You’ve included some photos and footage I’ve never seen before – thank you! Looks like I’ve got some homework cut out for me.

  2. I agree that there was some faking, joking, and such involved in the Enfield case. There was a large amount of genuine phenomena as well, and much of it is well documented. Even Enfield’s most formidable critic, Anita Gregory, acknowledged in her doctoral thesis that the Enfield case can’t be dismissed just because some of the phenomena are inauthentic. Similarly, we don’t dismiss the test results of an entire school just because a few of the students cheated on some tests, we don’t dismiss the athletic skills of an entire sports team (or even the skills of the ones who cheated) just because some of them were caught cheating, etc.

    Regarding the Hodgson girls’ lack of reaction to the phenomena in the video you mentioned above, we need to keep in mind that the video was taped in February of 1978, about half a year after the family first realized that something paranormal was going on. They’d had a long time to get accustomed to the events, the researchers had made a lot of effort to calm them down and reassure them, etc. On one of Maurice Grosse’s audio tapes recorded about a month before the video in question, Janet asks “Why should I be frightened after five months?” (at 9:52 on tape 65B). That’s a good question. The girls (and others involved) were often frightened, including after Janet made her comment I just quoted, but it’s understandable that they often weren’t frightened. Humans have a lot of ability to adapt. For example, people who are grieving the death of a relative still think about other subjects, laugh at times, etc. But even in the video in question, notice that the girls seem to take the knocking that occurs during the video more seriously than they take the poltergeist voice. And the knocking occurs elsewhere in the house while they’re being filmed sitting on the couch, so it wouldn’t make much sense to accuse them of faking it.

    I’m in the process of listening through digitized versions of Grosse and Playfair’s audio cassettes. I’ve finished Grosse’s, and I’m most of the way through Playfair’s. I’ve also had some conversations with people who were involved firsthand in the Enfield case in the 1970s. I’ve had some lengthy discussions with David Robertson, one of the most significant of the original researchers of the case, after Grosse and Playfair. If you or any of your readers are interested, I’ve been writing a series of posts about the Enfield case, including what’s on the tapes: