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"We weren’t evil; we weren’t bad. We were just a normal family": The Enfield Haunting

A look at the famous poltergeist case that inspired the Conjuring 2.

THE RELEASE OF the Conjuring 2 has led to a resurgence of interest in the so-called Enfield Haunting – one of Britain’s most well-known paranormal cases.

The movie is based on the true story of a single mother and her four children living in north London – who say they were plagued by malicious ghosts.

Peggy Hodgson, her children Margaret, Janet and Johnny were living in a house in Enfield and son Billy was away at school – when mysterious things started happening.

The incidents began in 1977 and continued for 18 months. Reports of levitation, demonic voices and moving furniture brought paranormal investigators, reporters and sceptics to the house, situated at 284 Green Street.

Almost 40 years later, sisters Janet and Margaret Hodgson who were 11 and 13 respectively when the paranormal activity started, reflect on their experiences in Enfield.

MK1_5074.dng Still from the Conjuring 2 Warner Bros / Matt Kennedy Warner Bros / Matt Kennedy / Matt Kennedy

Looking back

We weren’t evil; we weren’t bad. We were just a normal family. And we just didn’t know when it was going to end.

That’s how Margaret, now Margaret Nadeem, described what they went through.

Both Janet and Margaret changed profoundly because of what happened in their house.

Janet highlights how was difficult it was to find comfort because nobody understood what they went through. She admitted that she became very withdrawn and wanted to die sometimes.

Margaret said she went through a very deep depression in her twenties. Her doctor offered little help so she turned to prayer. “I’ve got to believe there is a God, after everything that happened in that house,” she said.

She doesn’t like to talk about what happened and sometimes hides her identity when people come to her business.

Both of their partners believe the story, but it was something the sisters had worried about. Janet said her husband only accepted the story because he knows her, but thinks it frightens him to know what she went through.

download (2) Janet and Margaret KOMO via Youtube KOMO via Youtube

Paranormal activity

Janet, now Janet Winters, says the first curious thing that happened was a chest of drawers started to move when they were settling down to go to sleep.

She described the moment:

Then this chest of drawers started shuffling and we called, ‘Mum! Mum! We can hear a noise!’ And when she came to the bedroom door, this chest of drawers moved towards it. My mum looked horrified and she pushed it back. Then it moved towards the door again and she couldn’t push it back. And, not knowing what else to do, she said, ‘All right, everybody downstairs.’

Margaret, who is the eldest, recalls the moment she heard someone breathing in the front bedroom. She didn’t want to accept what she was hearing, but she felt that there was definitely something in the room with her.

I tried not to show fear, but the fear I felt inside… it was very bad.

The happenings continued according to various reports from witnesses, including the family, neighbours and two local police officers. The beds levitated, furniture moved, Janet levitated and a fire grate came out of the wall and hit their brother on the head.

Then a voice began to come through Janet.

She described the experience as one that was hard to explain but it felt like “a deep black forest”.

It didn’t even feel like it was coming from me, even though it was; it just felt like it was behind me.  One of the investigators decided to tape my mouth shut, but it would still speak.  They’d pour water in my mouth and it would still speak.  And the voice was so clear. I just thought, ‘Why is this happening to me?  Why am I the chosen one?  Am I possessed?’  There was a lot of skepticism over it because it wouldn’t always talk in front of people.

Janet said the voice sometimes seemed evil because she felt used, but other times it felt like it was just trying to get through. According to Janet, the voice once told them “This is my home. I resent you being here”.

But there was nowhere else for the Hodgsons to go. Margaret described it as “a big worry” not knowing if the presence was going to harm them.

The strange events gradually quietened down but Margaret maintains that her and her mother still felt things happening.

Mum and I used to hear voices. We still got the odd incident in that house, but it had mostly died down.

Capture2 Green Street: the street where the house is situated. Google Maps Google Maps

The investigators

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, based in America, heard about the Enfield case through a local priest and decided to travel to England to help the Hodgsons.

Janet remembers them as “very warm, friendly people” who had come to help them, rather than to see what was going on.

Lorraine said she recognised straight away there was something demonic in the house. She reflected on the girls’ levitating saying “How did something that’s so evil come out of these young girls?”.

Speaking before the release of the film, Lorraine said “to this day I don’t know if it worked”.

The sceptics

The Enfield case has its fair share of sceptics. Could the girls have done this for attention? Was their mother’s divorce a reason for their distress? Was it levitation or jumping? These are all questions many journalists, scientists and academics have pondered over the years.

Margaret says if she didn’t experience it herself, she too would have been sceptical. She hopes people take something away from going to see The Conjuring 2.

If people give us the benefit of the doubt by just understanding that it’s something that wasn’t our fault, we’re so happy. We get a little bit of sanity, and we appreciate that.

In an interview with Will Storr in the Telegraph, Janet admitted that about 2% of the Enfield happenings were faked, partly because of the boredom and frustration at people coming and going and the pressure from sceptics.

There was times when things would happen and times when they wouldn’t. Sometimes, if things didn’t happen, you’d somehow feel you’d failed.

Maurice Grosse, a member of the Society for Psychical Research (which examines alleged paranormal events), also visited the house and admitted the children played tricks, but added “it was nothing to the real thing”.

MK1_0006.dng Scene from the Conjuring 2 Warner Bros / Matt Kennedy Warner Bros / Matt Kennedy / Matt Kennedy

What do Janet and Margaret think of the Conjuring 2? 

Margaret says that it’s important to her to show people that this really happened. “If they can put that into the film, maybe it doesn’t do any harm after all. Maybe it does some good,” she concluded.

Both sisters visited the film set and described how surreal it was to see their lives recreated.

They’ll never forget it, Margaret said:

We went through quite a lot of things in that house. We’ve come through it, but we don’t really know how, to be honest. People were very sceptical at the time; they made light of it. But it was a very bad experience and serious thing.

Read: Photos: Inside the abandoned schoolhouses of rural Ireland

Read: The strange case of the teenage sisters and the Enfield Haunting

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