Luke Owen looks into the story behind The Conjuring 2…
James Wan’s horror sequel The Conjuring 2 is currently scaring up the box office with nearly $200 million worldwide (and a new spin-off movie announced), but there are some out there who have criticised the filmmakers for publicising and choosing a ‘haunting’ that has been deemed a ‘fake’ by so many. Though there are claims to the contrary, several experts in the field have said The Enfield Poltergeist is little more than an elaborate hoax by two teenage girls.
So what’s the true story behind The Conjuring 2?
The story begins in 1977 when single mother Peggy Hodgson moved into a semi-detached council house in Enfield, North London with her four children, Margret (12), Janet (11), Johnny (10) and Billy (7). In August, Peggy was awoken by her daughters screaming from their room and when she went to investigate, found their chest of drawers moving away from the wall by an invisible force as if to trap them in the room. “It started in a back bedroom, the chest of drawers moved, and you could hear shuffling,” Janet Hodgson told Channel 4 several years later. “Mum said: ‘I want you to pack it in’. We told her what was going on, and she came to see it for herself.” Peggy adds in the interview, “I pushed the chest back against the wall, but it slid towards me again. I tried, but I couldn’t stop it. I wondered if my two younger boys were playing pranks, because they also slept upstairs, but they weren’t anywhere near the room.” The children had complained about their beds shaking and voices coming from other rooms, prompting Mrs. Hodgson to call the police. During their visit, the police officers reported that a chair moved across the dining room and informed the Hodgsons this was not a police matter. WPC Carolyn Heeps noted in her report, “[The chair] came to rest after about 4ft. I checked it for hidden wires or any other means by which it could have moved, but there was nothing to explain.”
“She was astounded,” Janet says. “We were all astounded.”
With the police unable to help, Peggy Hodgson called in the media. Graham Morris, a photographer for the Daily Mirror commented, “It was chaos, things started flying around, people were screaming.” Morris was also quoted that a LEGO brick was thrown at him from across the room which nearly hit him in the face. Morris captured several of the disturbances on camera, whereas the BBC camera crew found their tapes tampered with and twisted.
All this media attention caused the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to come in and investigate, sending Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair to report back. “When I first got there, nothing happened for a while,” Playfair recalls. “But then I experienced LEGO pieces flying across the room, and marbles. And the extraordinary thing was, when you picked them up they were hot, which is relevant to poltergeist type activity. I was standing by the table in the kitchen and a t-shirt leapt off the table and flew into the other side of the room whilst I was standing by it. I thought, ‘Well that’s good. Now I’ve really seen something’.”
Over the following months, Grosse and Playfair noted other paranormal activity, including sofas and beds tipping over, coins dropping from the ceiling, dogs barking in empty rooms and Janet Hodgson levitating above her bed. “The levitation was scary, because you didn’t know where you were going to land,” Janet recalled later. Playfair adds: “On subsequent visits I experienced cold draughts, graffiti, water puddles appearing from nowhere, bad smells, and chairs and tables moving of their own accord.” He also recalls an experiment where they removed all of the furniture in the bedroom to see what the poltergeist would do, only to discover it had ripped the fireplace out of the wall. “It was one of those old Victorian cast iron fires that must have weighed 60lb,” he said. “The children couldn’t have ripped it out of the wall, but in any case they weren’t there.”
“I remember a curtain being wound around my neck, I was screaming, I thought I was going to die,” Janet adds. “My mum had to use all her strength to rip it away. The man who spoke through me, Bill, seemed angry, because we were in his house.”
The ‘Bill’ Janet is referring to is Bill Wilkins, the former owner of the house in Enfield who passed away in the living room blind and alone. One of the more peculiar occurrences from the 18-month haunting was Bill communicating through Janet Hodgson, distorting her young voice to that of an old, bitter and angry man. “My name is Bill,” the raspy voice says in one of the recordings. “Just before I died, I went blind and then I had a haemorrhage and I fell asleep and died in the chair in the corner downstairs.” Bill’s son, who heard the recordings played on the radio, confirmed that his father did indeed die in the chair. “I felt used by a force that nobody understands,” Janet recalled. “I really don’t like to think about it too much. I’m not sure the poltergeist was truly ‘evil’. It was almost as if it wanted to be part of our family. It didn’t want to hurt us. It had died there and wanted to be at rest. The only way it could communicate was through me and my sister.”
The Hodgson’s story was corroborated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, portrayed by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in Wan’s The Conjuring 2. “Lorraine and I began investigating this past summer [in 1978] in Enfield, England, where inhuman spirit phenomena were in progress,” Warren notes in Gerard Brittle’s The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren. “Now, you couldn’t record the dangerous, threatening atmosphere inside that little house. But you could film the levitations, teleportations, and dematerialisations of people and objects that were happening there – not to mention the many hundreds of hours of tape recordings made of these spirit voices speaking out loud in the rooms.”