Exemplary case history to sham
The posters on the wall say it all: teenage girls and their heroes of the time, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, the stars of Starsky & Hutch plant the so-called Enfield Poltergeist firmly in the late 1970s.
Since the Daily Mirror broke the story in 1977, the remarkable events in Enfield’s Green Street became first the best recorded case of paranormal activity in Europe and then later a bogus, acrimonious sham.
There’s been a mini TV series, a blockbuster feature film, several documentaries and if it hadn’t been delayed by the social restrictions of 2020’s pandemic, another was on the way.
Whatever the view you take of the evidence, interest in the story not only prevails it shows no sign of disappearing into oblivion. Over forty years have past since Graham Morris and I made our way to Green Street after the family next door telephoned the Daily Mirror and explained what was going on. Both Maurice Grosse, who led the subsequent Society of Psychical Research investigation, and Guy Playfair, who wrote the book, have since died.
Graham was hit on the cheek by a Lego brick and his word has never never been doubted. I didn’t see the brick whizzing towards its target, but I saw Graham’s reaction. Maurice Grosse and others have described me as the great sceptic, but that’s inaccurate.
While I have never attributed what happened to poltergeists, I’ve never doubted that strange things did go on in the house and have always said that there are forces on the planet that we can neither measure nor understand.
Only four months after Sky’s mini series ‘The Enfield Haunting’ was aired in the UK in 2015, filming started in California on ‘The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist’, allegedly based on the experiences of the American ghost hunters Ed & Lorraine Warren. Filming switched to London two months later.
Described as a ‘supernatural horror film’, it was directed by James Wan, the man responsible for an earlier film logically called ‘The Conjuring’ and also inspired by the Warrens.
While the locations in Watford, Maida Vale and Marylebone Station have nothing to do with the reality, they worked well in that the 1970s retro material was convincing. For authenticity, Janet and Margaret Hodgson, the two women who as teenagers were the focus of what has generally been assumed to be poltergeist activity, were flown to California in order that the actresses Madison Wolfe and Lauren Esposito could learn something about the individual characters they were playing.
But the film, released by Warner Brothers on 10 June 2016, didn’t adhere to what happened as I remember them. After the first visit, when Graham was hit by a Lego brick and still has the scar to prove it, we returned on the following and subsequent nights taking another reporter with us, George Fallows, who sensibly suggested alerting the Physical Research Society.
Graham kept in contact with the Hodgsons and took some great pictures, including the one above which shows Janet, the younger of the two girls and the one most affected.
Although all three of us were keen to help the family, we also hoped to be able to report the story. This we did and a piece appeared on pages one and two of the Mirror on 10 September 1977. Follow this link to see the original, but scroll down until you see the headline ‘The house of strange happenings’.
This was quite a breakthrough. Our story was believed to be the first paranormal tale to appear since 1929 when the Mirror was famously duped by the charlatan psychic Harry Price at what he dubbed to be the most haunted house in England, Borley Rectory near Sudbury in Essex.
Janet and her sister later admitted to some fakery, but there is no doubt that unexplained things happened, although not to the extent that TV mini series or feature films might have you believe.
The last attempt to introduce some unbiased logic was a book published in 2019: The Enfield Poltergeisit Tapes (pictured right) written by Dr Melvyn Willin who was the custodian of the recordings relating to the case. Have read and make up your own mind.
The late psychical researcher
Maurice Grosse reading
Guy Playfair’s book which recorded
the goings-on at Green Street
photographs test cricket
these days, but he’s still
asked about that Lego brick.
It did hit his cheek,
I was there