“The Conjuring” movies are scary in their own right, but the idea that the horror films are based on true stories only adds to the effect. On Friday, Warner Bros. will release the sequel to 2013’s “The Conjuring” and moviegoers will get to watch in horror as Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) continue their battles with the paranormal.
While the first film saw the couple battle evil spirits inside the Perron family’s home in Rhode Island, the sophomore installment, “The Conjuring 2,” will take the pair over to Enfield, England, where the Hodgsons are battling some seriously powerful demons of their own. Before you watch director James Wan’s latest work, settle in with these freaky facts about the real Enfield haunting.
Janet’s First Encounter
The Hodgson family’s yearlong horror story began in August 1977 at their semidetached home at 284 Green St. in north London. Janet, then 11, and her brother Johnny, 10, heard shuffling noises in their bedroom before witnessing a chest of drawers slide across the room. Penny, a single mother of four, was “dumbfounded” by the events, Janet recalled to the Telegraph, but their experiences were far from over. After that night, Janet said, the unexplained “knocking” inside the walls and floors started.
Not only did a female police officer who visited the home witness a chair “slide across the floor” and signed an affidavit to confirm it, but Maurice Grosse, a paranormal researcher, also had more than his share of encounters there. He made several recordings of the paranormal events inside the home. Some aired as part of BBC documentary and showed the lights going off on their own and a slipper flying across a room and hitting him.
The family’s neighbors, Peggy and Vic Nottingham, also experienced the phenomena in the house. The couple told BBC they heard the knocking and Vic said a single Lego once flew up and hit him. Vick checked the walls during the first night of the haunting, but couldn’t figure out where the noise was coming from, so he called authorities to investigate. “They were as frightened as I was,” Vic said of the police. Peggy said she witnessed a pool of water appear from seemingly nowhere while standing in the kitchen, saw the bathroom door open on its own and once saw a cleaning brush set itself on the toilet.
John Burcombe, Penny’s brother, who lived nearby, also claimed to have witnessed the activity. He said on camera that one night when he went check on the girls in their room, he found one of them positioned oddly on top of a piece of furniture with her leg resting on the wall and fast asleep.
Others were not so convinced. Academic Anita Gregory was skeptical of the validity of the family’s stories, noting Janet would not allow anyone in the room during her alleged possessions. In a 1980 interview, Janet admitted she faked occurrences “one or twice” to fool Grosse to see if she would get caught, and said she always would.
But during an interview with ITV 30 years after the haunting, Janet defended her story. After a skeptic said humans tend to misinterpret incidents, Janet said, “It will always be with me, in here,” as she pointed to her head. Janet also shared one of the most memorable moments from her experiences, saying a curtain near her bed once wrapped itself around her neck. “There was times when it was fascinating to see,” she said. “But when it was happening to you…”
In the BBC documentary, Janet’s sister Margaret, then 14, said all of her siblings had experienced the paranormal, but Janet faced the brunt of the activity and her voices were always stronger. As noted by the Telegraph, poltergeist activity is said heighten around youths on the cusp of adulthood. The site reports that the day Janet started her menstrual cycle two months after the haunting began, the activity “peaked.”
As displayed in the film, Janet appears to be controlled by an older gentleman named Bill Wilkins. Reports claim Wilkins was a man in his 70s who had died in the home. The Daily Mail said a tape of Wilkins speaking through Janet includes him saying, “Just before I died, I went blind, and then I had a hemorrhage and I fell asleep and I died in the chair in the corner downstairs.” Bill’s son, Terry Wilkins, later confirmed this is how his father died.
Grosse was also able to get recordings of conversations with the spirit speaking on tape. In one video, he asks the poltergeist to knock twice to confirm if it's male and used to live in the family’s home, which it does. The spirit goes on to confirm he died “more than 50 years ago” inside the house. The spirit also says he's not unhappy, does not have a special message to share and simply enjoys torturing the family. When asked to leave, he refuses. In another video the poltergeist can be heard saying “Maurice” when asked to do by Grosse.
During a BBC interview, a spirit named Stuart can be hearing speaking through Janet, saying hello and trying to tell a knock-knock joke. When Janet comes back through, she says Stuart uses her to “annoy” her family. Similar to what is shared in “The Conjuring 2” trailer above, Janet said the voices feel like they come from the back of her neck, like someone is speaking behind her and not within her. Janet has also previously said that Grosse once filled her mouth her water and tapped it shut and the voices still came through.
Grosse spoke out in defense of the girls, who many speculated may be excellent ventriloquists. “To keep up this particular type of voice for any length of time without damage to the vocal cords is absolutely impossible,” he said. “There must be some hoarseness attached to it. But don’t forget these children don’t do this for a couple of minutes or so, they do it for lengths of periods up to three hours and without any hoarseness or sore throats whatsoever.”
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are the focus of the film, were able to get recordings of the voices as well. One of their tapes includes unintelligible babble and is included on a featurette for “The Conjuring 2,” which is posted below. Lorraine shares in the feature that she felt she “needed to help” the family.
“I was used and abused,” a now-grown Janet says in the promo of the haunting as she hugs Lorraine. “Incidents that happened were quite life-threatening for me … I think if I had to go through it again, it’d kill me.”
Famous photos from the haunting, captured by photographer Graham Morris, show Janet being seemingly flung across her bedroom by an invisible force. During her ITV sitdown, Janet recalled being touched by a pair of cold hands and then feeling a force pull her out of her bed that night. She said the images were captured as a camera was set up in her bedroom to record continuously. In a 2011 interview with Radio 5, Morris said it was clear the poltergeist was drawn to Janet. “You had to see it to believe it,” he said.
THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST, The Amazing Story Of 11 Year Old Janet Hodgson, Who Was Possessed in 1977, London England, pic.twitter.com/tJcsC7j5HF
— SMITHERS JONES (@johnnyslither) February 12, 2015
“It did really happen”
A more recent documentary, led by Grosse, shows him returning to the Hodgson’s home 20 years after the fact. Margaret and Penny both appear on camera, but Janet does not. Margaret recalls when journalists would visit the home, saying she could feel their fear and is upset by those who believe her siblings were making it all up. When Penny is asked to address the naysayers, she says: “If you haven’t experienced you’re going to say that. But it did really happen.”