HOUSE OF HORROR I never believed in the Enfield Poltergeist… until I heard strange scraping on the floorboards and recorded the ‘ghost’s’ demonic voice

Roz Morris was one of the first reporters to look into the case of the Enfield Poltergeist and - 40 years later - she's still baffled by it

12 April 2018 - 11:08

MUM-OF-FOUR Peggy Hodgson had just put her 11-year-old daughter Janet to bed when she heard loud scraping sounds coming from the room Janet shared with ten-year-old Johnny.

The single mum ran upstairs to see what the kids were up to, but was stunned when she opened the door to see a heavy wooden dresser sliding unaided across the room, the children watching aghast from their beds.

Peggy pushed the chest back into place, but it moved again as soon as she let go, and the sounds of someone (or something) knocking frantically against the walls reverberated around the council house.

Terrified and confused, she gathered Johnny, Janet and her other kids - 14-year-old Margaret and seven-year-old Billy - and fetched her neighbour for a second opinion.

Later that night, on August 31 1977, the police were called to 284 Green Street, in the London borough of Enfield, where the first officer on the scene reported that she too had seen furniture dancing around the room - as if carried by a ghost.

It was a proper paranormal mystery: the next day the story was in the papers and the legend of the Enfield Poltergeist was born.

 Mum Peggy called the police after furniture started moving around in Janet's room
Graham Morris
Mum Peggy called the police after furniture started moving around in Janet's room
 John, Janet and Margaret found themselves at the centre of intense media attention after claims that a demonic spirit was following Janet around
Mirrorpix
John, Janet and Margaret found themselves at the centre of intense media attention after claims that a demonic spirit was following Janet around

Sounds of terror

Between the years of 1977 and 1979, the house remained the scene of strange goings on, centred around sisters Janet and Margaret.

Eerie banging sounds could be heard throughout the house, chairs tipped over without warning, and a deep, demonic voice started coming from Janet without any sign of the girl opening her mouth.

"Just before I died, I went blind," the gravelly, threatening voice started out in one particularly distressing outburst from Janet's direction, although her lips never moved.

"And then I had a haemorrhage and I fell asleep and I died in the chair in the corner downstairs."

 Roz Morris, then a reporter for BBC radio, was one of the first investigators to look into the case and, 40 years later, what she found has stuck with her still
Roz Morris
Roz Morris, then a reporter for BBC radio, was one of the first investigators to look into the case and, 40 years later, what she found has stuck with her still
 A series of remotely-captured photos seem to show Janet levitating, or so some people believe
Graham Morris
A series of remotely-captured photos seem to show Janet levitating, or so some people believe

Reporters went on to capture the voice on tape - recording it telling interviewers to "shut up" and singing nursery rhymes, as well as alluding to a past life in the house.

Roz Morris, then a reporter for BBC radio, was among the many investigators dispatched to look into the reports of otherworldly horrors... and she would never forget what she uncovered.

The journalist entered the house a sceptic, like many people who suspected that the story had been exaggerated, or that the weirdness was the result of children playing an elaborate prank on their mother.

But Roz left insistent that the case of the Enfield Poltergeist was more than a con or childish tricks - and she even returned to record the husky voice which followed Janet around for a BBC documentary on the haunting.

 Janet still maintains that the hauntings were the real deal
Youtube
Janet still maintains that the hauntings were the real deal
 It was widely reported that 284 Green Street, in the London Borough of Enfield, was the home of a mischievous poltergeist
 
It was widely reported that 284 Green Street, in the London Borough of Enfield, was the home of a mischievous poltergeist

Evidence from Enfield

Now, reflecting on the story 40 years later, reporter Roz told Sun Online: "I recorded the voices and a thumping, knocking noise on the walls.

"There was this very strange voice coming from near Janet. She wasn't moving her lips but the voice would just appear, talking for hours.

"The voice would say a lot of childish stuff - swearing as well. It was very disturbing.

"Something strange was happening which just wasn't normal."

 Now working as a media trainer at TV News London, Roz Morris has never forgotten her haunting experiences in Enfield
TV NEWS LONDON
Now working as a media trainer at TV News London, Roz Morris has never forgotten her haunting experiences in Enfield
 Investigator Maurice Grosse conducted extensive research around Janet
Graham Morris
Investigator Maurice Grosse conducted extensive research around Janet

Things only got weirder when Janet started having violent trances and claims soon spread that the 11-year-old could levitate, supposedly hoisted into the air by a mischievous energy.

A famous photo of Janet "hovering" in the middle of her bedroom was soon published as evidence, taken remotely by a camera set up in Janet's room by snapper Graham Morris.

The spooked photographer said he knew something was up when he first opened the door to 284 Green Street to a barrage of marbles and Lego bricks, hurled by the same spirit which tormented Janet.

And now he had what many believed was photo evidence - to be stacked in a file bulging with over 2,000 separate reports of paranormal activity at the Enfield home, supplied by over 30 eyewitnesses to the unusual goings on.

 Janet was the focal point for much of the horror, with objects reportedly lifting off and the strange voice emerging wherever she went
BBC
Janet was the focal point for much of the horror, with objects reportedly lifting off and the strange voice emerging wherever she went
 Janet's sister Margaret, right, also attracted some paranormal attention, although Janet appeared to be the real conduit
BBC
Janet's sister Margaret, right, also attracted some paranormal attention, although Janet appeared to be the real conduit

Interviewing a poltergeist

The story of the Enfield Poltergeist has stuck with Roz ever since, and she appeared this week on a BBC Radio 4 show, The Reunion, to look back on the case.

Photographer Graham appears on the show as well, having also experienced the strangeness of the whole saga firsthand.

He says: "I stood in the gloom in the kitchen and one by one they brought the children into the adults' arms and the last one to come in was Janet. Suddenly things just took off and started flying around the room.

"Everyone wanted to see it. They came in as sceptics and left believing they had seen something."

 Over 30-people, including paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse, claimed to have seen the strange goings on with their own eyes
BBC
Over 30-people, including paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse, claimed to have seen the strange goings on with their own eyes

In the following months, things got even more sinister, as Janet started claiming that she was being "used" by the poltergeist and the strange bangs and knocking sounds persisted.

And then came the interview.

Maurice Grosse, a former inventor and leading paranormal investigator, had based himself at the house, joined in the investigation by poltergeist expert Guy Playfair, who sadly passed away at the weekend. 

While they were at the home, the researchers reported a series of "curious whistling and barking noises coming from Janet’s general direction", which were attributed to the mysterious spirit.

And so it was decided that the TV cameras should be fired up for a world first: a recorded interview with the poltergeist, where Grosse tried to pin down who could be behind the hauntings which were gripping the nation.

Prank or paranormal?

The investigator did his research, and tried to narrow down details about the ghost based on its responses to his questioning.

He eventually deduced that the spirit must belong to 72-year-old Bill Wilkins, a man who had lived and died at the house decades earlier.

Meanwhile, for Janet, being used as a conduit for a long-dead man seemed to be taking its toll.

Her trances became more violent, and her mother allegedly once had to intervene when, during one disturbing episode, Janet wrapped herself in a curtain - the fabric tangled around her throat.

 The Conjuring 2 presents a heavily exaggerated version of the reported Enfield hauntings, adding in extra details and fictional elements
 
The Conjuring 2 presents a heavily exaggerated version of the reported Enfield hauntings, adding in extra details and fictional elements

The independent reports of strange goings on blew the story into a national sensation, and the Enfield Poltergeist has since been dramatised in TV series such as The Enfield Haunting and films like The Conjuring 2.

But many sceptics have insisted right from the beginning that, like the exaggerated Hollywood retellings of the story, the case of the Enfield Poltergeist is nothing more than fiction.

At the time, a theory emerged that mum Peggy was behind the whole thing, as part of a ploy to get a better council house or in return for fame and money.

But she never made a penny from recounting the story to reporters, and she never moved out of the house - right up to her death in 2003.

The idea was also floated by sceptics that Janet might be a ventriloquist, and could have been behind the "demonic" voices heard by reporters.

Others suggested that the most famous photo of Janet hovering above the ground in her bedroom showed nothing more sinister than a girl bouncing on her bed, triggering the motion camera which had been set up in her room.

The sceptics' case was reinforced when the girls admitted to pranking some investigators by hiding their tape players and making odd noises as they poked around the family home.

But Janet, now in her 50s, maintains that every other detail of the haunting - from the demonic voice to her sporadic levitation - was totally genuine.

And today the house where the hauntings took place is owned by another family, although it remains the site of intense speculation about what really happened 40 years ago.

 Janet, left, and her sister Margaret maintain that the haunting was genuine
Not known, clear with picture desk
Janet, left, and her sister Margaret maintain that the haunting was genuine

Roz, now the managing director of TV News London, a media training company, says: "I was also sceptical at first and looking out for trickery.

"But there were lots of independent witnesses and it was the report of the policewoman which really stood the story up.

"I was a reporter for many years and it was the weirdest story I've ever reported on.

"There was definitely something unusual going on, but I honestly don't know what caused it."

 

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