Janet Hodgson is almost a household name for a very peculiar reason. At the age of 11, she was the centre of one of the most famous paranormal cases to date. It has been the subject of a number of documentaries, a recent television series and now a big-budget Hollywood movie - The Conjuring 2. A lot has been said about this case especially with the fact that there was an admission from the girls themselves of deception at times, so let’s break it down and revisit 284 Green Street in Enfield North London 1977 where iPhone apps, mel meters and Zak Bagans weren’t around and paranormal investigating wasn’t a popular weekend hobby. Here is a trailer of the widely popular Conjuring 2 movie which is centred more around Ed and Lorainne and their supposed involvement with this case.
Let's start with the giant fake demon in the room. While the movie the Conjuring 2 focuses on the Warrens having a heavy involvement with this case and apparently a demon impersonating a nun called Valek, I can assure you that Valek had nothing whatsoever to do with this case. As for the involvement of the Warrens, quite a lot of people were confused when this case was the inspiration for Conjuring 2 as the Warrens were not the main investigators on this case as the movie portrays. In fact over all of the research I had done on this case before there was talk of this movie, I had seen no mention of the Warrens whatsoever in connection with this case. Cue Guy Lyon Playfair who was one of the chief investigators on the case who said in a radio interview with Dave Schrader that the Warrens apparently showed up uninvited, stayed for around a day and felt that they were there to make money out of it. He declined their ‘help’ on the investigation and claimed they never came back. Of course, to promote the film, the studio organized an ‘emotional reunion’ between Janet, Margaret and of course Lorraine Warren. Look the Warren’s have done a lot for the paranormal field be it good or bad and opinion on their work is divided, but let’s not take away from the true investigators who did the hard yards and work on this case. It was these gentlemen who were involved in doing the real work as a paranormal investigator does and were there to get to the bottom of this case and for me, it is they who should be remembered for this case and not the Warrens.
So with that out of the way, what exactly happened that caused this to become one of the most famous paranormal cases? Peggy Hodgson was a single mum to 4 kids. Hold up right here and let's give her a massive pat on the back. I struggle on a normal day with 2 kids and my husband let alone being a single parent to 4 kids and having to deal with what has been dubbed as an aggressive poltergeist. Peggy started noticing some strange occurrences happening around the home which seemed to be centred around her two daughters Janet and Margaret. It all seemed to stem back to one night where the girls were playing with a dreaded Ouija board and ever since things just haven't been right. After witnessing a chest of drawers’ slide across the girl's bedroom, she was a bit freaked, to say the least, and called the police. Originally the police thought it was a teenage prank until one of them witnessed the living room chair slide across the room on its own. Maybe he had a hint of a paranormal investigator in him as he attempted to debunk this phenomenon by placing marbles on the floor to see if there was some kind of slant on the floor. When the marbles didn’t move they wiped their hands and said there was nothing they can do. You can’t exactly arrest a chair right? There was no Facebook back then to contact a local paranormal group and no TAPS to come to the rescue (and maybe fix that leaky tap while they are there) so the police suggested they contact the local media and the story might attract the attention of someone who would know what to do.
Who were the best people to bring in? A tabloid magazine with a terrible reputation and not the stuff of hard-hitting journalism. Enter Graham Morris and Douglas Bence. After spending an hour or so with the nervous family, the journalists found nothing to be happening and started to pack up their things, when suddenly Peggy who had suddenly become hysterical stopped them and they came back inside. Apparently small objects had suddenly started flying all over the room and one of the reporters was hit in the head with a small toy. Graham Morris ran to get his camera and started snapping away. When the photos were developed, they failed to capture any of these phenomena. Funny about that. Realizing that this is out of their league, the reporters contacted The Society For Paranormal Research where Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse took over as the lead investigators for this case in what would become a close to two-year investigation.
Obviously, the investigators did believe they were dealing with something paranormal because you would not invest an extended period of time if you thought some teenage girls were playing tricks on you. There were lots of bangs, knocks, scratching noises, furniture moving, items thrown etc which seemed to escalate as the investigation went on. They even claimed that the knocking became intelligent and would respond to questions. You know the drill we all do it, knock once for yes twice for no. The girls were not completely innocent in all of this and often raised suspicion by the investigators for faking certain things. The girls themselves admitted they would get bored and tried to test the men but said they always got caught. It is with this admission that a lot of people automatically dismiss this case. What the men believe is that yes the girls did fake some things, but they still believed that there was some sort of supernatural influence going on. Particularly when it came to Janet.
She became the star of this saga. At one point she was even admitted to the hospital for 2 months of extensive psychiatric testing. So how does an 11-year-old end up in a mental institution? Apart from apparently being able to bend a spoon with her mind (which the investigators later debunked as they saw the children bending spoons with their hands in the kitchen) she would apparently become possessed and start speaking in different voices that were using her body to talk. They were often deep male voices. It t is a popular opinion of skeptics that she had trained herself to speak in this deep voice and had the skills of a very talented ventriloquist. To attempt to prove the skeptics wrong, the investigators had her drink a glass of water, hold it in her mouth and taped it shut. The voice was still talking. Now that is either a really cool party trick or something else. She would go into trance like states, become quite aggressive and gain what was described as superhuman strength. During the investigations, a static camera was set up by the Daily Mail Photographer Graham Morris which when activated would shoot a photo every 4 seconds. This produced the most well-known photos in the paranormal world of Janet supposedly being thrown from her bed. This seemed to be a regular occurrence for poor Janet and was often 'thrown' around the room. Was she thrown or was she jumping? This is another area that has skeptics questioning this case. All photographs of levitation looked more like a child jumping off the bed rather than being thrown, however, the terror on Janet's face is certainly there.
So what was this entity that put poor Janet's family through hell? According to one of Janet’s deep male voice that came through, it was a grumpy old guy by the name of Bill who was a previous tenant of the house and died of a haemorrhage in the living room chair. Being the paranormal investigator that he was, Maurice had a conversation with a guy called Terry who was able to confirm that his father Bill who used to live in the house died of a haemorrhage in the living room chair. This is slightly impressive in a world where google didn’t yet exist but there is, of course, the possibility that there were rumours around the town and kids love telling stories like that in the playground so it is not impossible that she would know this.
After spending 2 months in the hospital, Janet was given the all-clear as all activity suddenly stopped and she returned home where nothing further happened. An exorcism was performed on the house by a local priest. There seem to be conflicting reports about further activity in the home. In my initial research, it seemed that there was no really any evidence of further hauntings. After the movie came out, I suddenly read a lot of reports of people experiencing moving objects, knocks and bangs and apparently not know the house was the place of the infamous Enfield haunting. Kind of seems a little suspicious to me! The girls themselves went on to live seemingly normal lives but were always known as the girls behind the Enfield haunting. In later years, Margaret didn't want to revisit this time in her life as it was just after the time her father passed away and was thought to be a very distressful time in their lives. This is why it was somewhat confusing that she and Janet were involved in the promotion of the Conjuring 2 movie. What was even more confusing was the staged emotional reunion between Janet and Margaret with Lorraine Warren. She spent less than a day with the girls and they are having an emotional reunion on camera to promote the movie? Seems a bit off doesn't it?
So what is the verdict? Well, my verdict as a paranormal investigator is that there is no evidence here for me to deem that this was legit. Photos conveniently didn’t catch what was happening and yes this happens to me frequently during an investigation but I also know that I can’t have people believe just my word. That is the constant uphill battle with the paranormal. If you cannot offer any sort of proof, people think you are either crazy or faking it. The investigators did a pretty solid job trying to combat this from every angle. They looked at mental health, they had London University send in a student in experimental physics to look at telekinesis and Janet’s ability to bend a spoon and they tried to communicate, document and debunk the paranormal side. I believe based on their accounts there must have been at least some sort of paranormal activity happening because otherwise, they would have just left. I think there may have been something going on, but not at all to the extent that these girls were portraying. My belief is that initially there was some small scale paranormal stuff going on and the family capitalised on this by exaggerating the activity with the help of the tabloid magazine to make this one of the most famous paranormal cases to this day for all the wrong reasons. Considering that all activity suddenly stopped when Janet went to the hospital and never returned is kind of the nail in the coffin for me. I don’t believe the investigators were in on this as they seem to be quite honest about their findings and what they actually believed happened and what was faked. From another angle, the family may have been desperate to be believed and so while there may have been legitimate things happening, they again exaggerated it so that someone would believe them! I’m not saying this is what actually happened, this we will never really know so we just have to form our own opinion based on the information we have in front of us. That’s what we investigators do. It is also the common conclusion that if we were not there to witness it, then it didn't happen. While this is problematic in itself, this is how we are today and I agree that I am guilty of this one too!
For me, besides not being present, there are some key elements that lead me to believe that this case was a hoax. A lot of the answers present themselves in a 1977/1978 short documentary that aired in London interviewing the girls. The video is below. There are a few key things to look for:
a) When Janet is asked about the house being haunted, she laughs and says 'It's not haunted'. Margaret's response is a whispering 'Shut Up' in the childish tone when you don't want an adult to know what you are saying is not true.
b) The ease in which Janet is seemingly possessed by a voice of a spirit (on command). She has a smile on her face and is talking like a well-trained ventriloquist.
c) The girls didn't seem to be all that serious. They certainly didn't feel like they were under a serious threat and it kind of seemed like a bit of a game.
Take a look at an interview with the girls and spotlight on the case and judge for yourself!
In addition to the above points, it seems that the story changed a little bit when the movie The Conjuring 2 came out. News outlets were even reporting that the Warrens were specifically flown from America to attend to this case and came to the conclusion they were dealing with demonic possession. There was never any mention of demonic possession or the Warrens in any of the research I had conducted in the years prior to this movie coming out, and you have one of the lead investigators from the actual case on record saying they had nothing to do it with it. I guess for me once stories start changing and the fact that you start accepting money for press promoting things, it does make me question the legitimacy of the case.
What do you think really happened? Angry poltergeist or an elaborate hoax?
** Special note: All photographs are original photos taken by Graham Morris of the Daily Mail.
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