Creepy Corner: The Enfield Poltergeist is So Hot Right Now

Was it really all a hoax?
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Louise Hung
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Was it really all a hoax?

For the past few months I've been keeping an eye on a television mini series from the UK called, "The Enfield Haunting." 

Having watched the previews, read the reviews, and even read about how the award winning cast was "terrified" by spooky (not spooky) goings-on on set, I've been DYING to watch "The Enfield Haunting." Alas, try as I might to use all my Onternet TV-watching tricks, I have not been able to watch "The Enfield Haunting" in Asia. So far it's only been available via the Sky Living Network in the UK and Republic of Ireland. 

However, never fear non British or Irish Creepy Corneristas, come October 9, A&E will begin airing the three-part series in the US. I'm giddy! While I've probably built it up WAY too much in my head, I'm stoked to see how director Kristoffer Nyholm (director of the original Danish "The Killing" or "Forbrydelsen") will handle the atmospheric potential of this ghost story. 

Previews can be deceiving, but check out this trailer for the series. It admittedly showcases a lot of the old tricks and jumps made popular by The Conjuring/Insidious school of horror movies, but for a "based on a true story" TV mini series, it looks like a spooky-fun way to kick off the Halloween season. 

And speaking of The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist is slated to open June 10, 2016. To sort of quote Jacobim Mugatu, "Enfield's so hot right now, Enfield."

But what is the Enfield Poltergeist? It depends who you ask. 

Ask demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, and they'll say it was a case of demonic possession. 

Ask the investigators who originally looked into the events, one of which wrote a book titled "This House is Haunted: The True Story of the Enfield Poltergeist," and you'll be told that it was a case of a poltergeist-type haunting. 

Ask any number of skeptics (and there are many), including Jack Nickell of The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and Deborah Hyde editor-in-chief of The Skeptic Magazine, and you'll be told that it was a hoax carried out by a "very, very, clever" little girl. 

Ask ol' Louise of xoJane's Creepy Corner and she'll tell you that her theory is that it's a little bit of truth and a whole lot of hoax. 

In the summer of 1977 the Hodgson family, mother Peggy, son Billy age 7, and daughters Janet age 11 and Margaret age 13, reported that strange things were taking place in their north London suburban home in Enfield. The activity continued until 1979. 

First Billy and Janet claimed that their beds were mysteriously shaking one night, then the next night Margaret and Janet complained that they heard knockings on their bedroom wall and that their dresser was moving across their room all by itself. 

When Peggy came to see what the girls were fussing about, she claims that she witnessed the dresser move across the floor with her own eyes. When she pushed it back into place, it moved again. "And then the knocking started," said an adult Janet to The Telegraph

Afraid that there were burglars in the house, Peggy gathered her children downstairs and went next door to ask their neighbor, Vic Nottingham, for help. 

The Hodgsons and Nottingham returned to the Hodgson home where Nottingham went upstairs looking for intruders. As he walked from room to room, he claimed that a knocking followed him. When he returned to the living room where the Hodgsons waited, all claimed that the knocking continued from the ceiling. 

"It sounded like it was coming from the outside wall, but it was like it was inside as well. And sometimes, it sounded like it was coming from underneath the floorboards," said Janet. 

The police were called, and when WPC Carolyn Heeps arrived on the scene, she claims she saw a chair levitate then move across the room. The police could find no explanation for the strange happenings and left the premises. At a loss of how to proceed next, Peggy Hodgson decided to do the most reasonable thing she could think of: She called the newspaper. 

When The Daily Mirror first entered the Hodgson home, nothing much happened. But after they left, a plethora of "poltergeist" activity broke out bringing them back from their car. Legos and marbles seemed to "materialize" out of nowhere and be thrown around the room. One Lego hit a photographer in the head, leaving a mark. 

From here the activity seemed escalated. Before long Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair of the Society for Psychical Research decided to investigate what was happening in Enfield. 

Spending six months with the Hodgsons, Grosse and Playfair claimed to document multiple occasions where Margaret or Janet were thrown about the room, strangled by unseen forces, had "gruff" male voices emanate from one of them, or were present when objects or furniture were tossed about the home. As time wore on, it seemed that Janet was the focus (or mastermind) of the activity.

The main indication of hoax that most investigators point to, is that the poltergeist only "performed" when the girls, more often than not Janet, was present. On more than one occasion, Janet was even caught actively faking or preparing to fake incidences. 

One such occasion occurred when she was caught on tape bending a spoon to use later in a "paranormal event." Another occasion was when Janet became irritated when investigator and professional magician (asked to the house to determine any trickery) Milbourne Christopher attempted to observe "the Voice" or the poltergeist that spoke through her, in action. 

Having gone up alone to her room so "the Voice" could manifest, Christopher followed and witnessed Janet sneaking out of her room to make sure she was alone. When she saw Christopher she became "flustered" and "the Voice" ceased. 

The poltergeist "speaking" through Janet and Margaret was also held up for much skepticism. Most believe that Janet especially was a moderately skilled ventriloquist. When a professional ventriloquist met "the Voice" he concluded that it was no ghost, and that the girls were in fact "producing the voice."

You'd think that this would be a big "Uh-oh, we've been bamboozled!" moment for Grosse and Playfair. Nope. 

Said Playfair, "The connection between Janet and the Voice is obviously very close. There have been several occasions when she says something it obviously meant to say, and vice versa. Would she slip up like that if she was faking the whole thing?"

Uh...YES. 

Here's a taste of Janet and Peggy and "the Voice." 

The list of evidence pointing to trickery goes on. 

The children seemed highly suggestible (like children are). An article about poltergeists was found in Janet's possession. The early activities in Enfield mirrored what was written in the article. Also, when a reporter from The Daily Mirror told the girls that poltergeists set fire to things, the Enfield poltergeist suddenly took a pyromaniacal turn. 

Janet and Margaret also insisted that the most remarkable manifestations could only take place when they were alone, without investigators. The famous pictures of Janet jumping on the bed — I mean LEVITATING – were taken at 15 second intervals by a timed camera without an investigator in the room with the girls. 

Look, I'm levitating too.  

levitating lou like enfield

Where's my mini series? 

Combined with the admission from Janet that the girls faked some of the activity, the Enfield Poltergeist seems less a case of a haunting, and more a case of two investigators who REALLY WANTED IT to be a haunting.

Yet, are there some instances that indicate that Enfield isn't entirely a hoax?

At one point, when all the furniture had been removed from Janet's bedroom to see what the "entity" would throw if it had nothing to throw, a metal fireplace was ripped from the wall. While I admit that most of what occurred at the Hodgson house might be explained as the tricks of an skilled young hoaxer, tearing a fireplace from a wall seems beyond the abilities of what appeared to be an average 11 year-old girl (or even a full grown man for that matter). 

And while flying Legos and marbles could certainly be perpetrated by young girls, could an entire couch? What about the knockings that seemed to emanate from all over the house, all at once? What about the strange barking dog sounds that would randomly occur in empty rooms or out of nowhere?

Those little bits of the unexplained in this case, make me wonder if it wasn't all made up. Oh, I do think Janet and Margaret were up to some grade-A shenanigans, but I can't help but wonder if it all grew out of a seed of something real, something that maybe really frightened them. 

Would it really be beyond belief to think that two adolescent girls, feeling unstable in their home (the divorce of their parents was rough on them) and afraid of SOMETHING in their house they didn't understand, would attempt to regain control of their life by controlling – even manipulating – their situation? 

I just don't know. But no matter how many times I read about the Enfield Poltergeist, no matter how many experts proclaim HOAX, my Creepy Corner-senses keep telling me that something just wasn't quite right in that house. 

Or maybe that's just the beginning of a good story. 

What do you think?

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