Stories of poltergeist activity have been an interest of mine, perhaps more so than other kinds of alleged “hauntings”. This stems mostly from some of the evident peculiarities and similarities amongst the cases. This is just a short review, but the phenomenon almost always begins as a tapping or knocking sound that is heard. This is where we get the term from anyway, it roughly translates from German into English as ‘noisy-ghost or spirit’. The phenomenon is usually focused on a pubescent child in the home, almost exclusively a girl. This fact has lead some Parapsychologists to theorize that the Poltergeist Phenomenon may actually originate from the mind of the child in the form of recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis.
The idea is that perhaps as these girls are undergoing the normal process of development, the stress and/or hormones causes the girls to unconsciously act out in less than normal ways (i.e. psychic). Others believe that these stories represent actual entities which are external to the child that seems to be the focus of the phenomenon, perhaps because they are being targeted for nefarious reasons no doubt.
For today’s post I wanted to focus on a very specific reported case of Poltergeist activity which is a very interesting case study in possible genuine phenomenon which occurred alongside trickery or at least an exaggeration of the reported phenomenon by the witnesses. Most of the information that I’ve listed below comes from Colin Wilson’s Poltergeist which, as the name suggests, The reports of what happened here began over 30yrs ago on an August night in the year 1977 in Enfield, England.
40yr-old divorcee Margaret Hodgson lived in a rented home with her four children; Rose aged thirteen, Janet aged eleven, Pete aged ten, and Jimmy aged seven. Pete and Janet shared a room and it was this room that would be the site of much of the alleged phenomena. That night, after Pete and Janet had gone to bed their beds began to move in a strange fashion. They called their mother in, she thought that they were messing around and told them to go back to bed.
Picking up the story Wilson notes (as a note Wilson refers to the family as Harper and not Hodgson for reasons I’m not aware of):
The next evening, the children heard a shuffling noise, like a chair moving. Mrs. Harper came in and asked them to be quiet. The room all seemed to be perfectly normal. But when she switched off the light, she also heard the shuffling noise. It sounded like someone shuffling across the room in slippers.
Then there were four loud, clear knocks. And when Mrs. Harper put the light on again, she saw the heavy chest of drawers moving on its own. It slid a distance of about eighteen inches across the floor. She pushed it back. It slid back again.
At this point Hodgson decided to run to a neighbor named Vic Nottingham. Nottingham and his son ran inside the house and searched around, I assume for some kind of explanation for what the Hodgson’s were experiencing. As the Nottinghams were inside the house, the knocking began again. By this time, Hodgson must have had enough and decided to call the police.
They sent for the police. When the lights were switched of, the knocking started. Then, in the light from the kitchen, everyone saw a chair that was wobbling into motion. It slid toward the kitchen for three or four feet.
Evidently they should have called the Ghostbuster (man that was bad) because the police leave seemingly without being able to offer any kind of explanation or solution for the Hodgsons. The family slept that night in the living room.
The following day all was seemingly quiet until night fell. Wilson tells us:
Then the poltergeist began throwing things. Marbles and Lego bricks came zinging through the air as if shot from a catapult. When someone picked up one of the marbles, it was found to be burning hot.
Eventually the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was to get involved with the case. Specifically, Guy Playfair would come in on the case and spend the next two-years investigating this case. This case has a lot of media attached to it. Below is one of the more (in)famous photos from the case that purport to show one of the girls, Janet, being thrown around the room by the alleged entity.
I’m not the first person to suggest this, but to me at first glance this photo appear to show girls jumping around on their bed. That doesn’t mean it’s what’s actually happening, but it certainly looks that way. In the end Playfair was to write a book recounting his version of the events which took place at the Enfield house entitled This House is Haunted. Playfair concludes the following about the case:
When Mr. and Mrs. Harper were divorced, an atmosphere of tension built up among the children and their mother, just at the time when the two girls were approaching physical maturity. They were a very energetic pair to start with, both of them school sports champions, but even they could not use up the tremendous energy they were generating. So a number of entities came in and helped themselves to it.
So many years later, and being so removed from the events, it’s hard to say what may have actually occurred here. Playfair seemed to believe that some genuine paranormal events happened in this case, but at the same time it’s known that the girls were found to be faking some of the events. If there was real weirdness happening here, why did the girls fake some of the experiences? Who knows? Could it be that the girls liked the attention they were receiving, especially from the male investigators as a replacement for their father’s attention and didn’t want for it to end?
If you want to learn more about this case, there have been a plethora of documentaries made about it. Most of which seem to be available on youtube. And if that’s not enough for you, because Ed and Lorraine Warren somehow got involved in the case at some point, you can look forward to seeing a version of the events on the big screen in the form of The Conjuring 2 coming sometime in 2015.