For more than a year back in 1977 and 1978, 11-year-old Janet Hodgson was supposedly plagued by a mysterious force in her home – a poltergeist that strangled her with a curtain and used her as his mouthpiece by forcing her to utter all sorts of obscenities in a rasping voice of an old man.
In the final moments of Sky Living’s dramatisation of the real-life events, The Enfield Haunting, we see a teenage Janet (Eleanor Worthington Cox), some time after the main events of the drama, doing what teenagers do, staring out of the window and having a crafty cigarette.
But then she turns to the camera – and gives an enigmatic smile… Is it the grin of someone who has finally rid herself of an evil supernatural presence? Or the cheeky knowing expression of a girl who had everyone fooled?
What really happened at 284 Green Street between August 1977 and late autumn 1978?
The events have been well documented – and just as extensively disputed.
According to Guy Lyon Playfair, the paranormal investigator who was there and who wrote the book This House is Haunted upon which the drama is based, Janet and her family were terrorised by a malevolent spirit for 14 months.
Playfair, played by Ripper Street’s Matthew Macfadyen in the three-part drama, remains convinced that it was true, that Janet, her sister Margaret, their brother and mother Peggy, were persecuted by a poltergeist.
Janet, the focus of the attention, was supposedly lifted from her bed, saw furniture move, and looked on in horror as objects caught fire spontaneously.
Most disturbingly, she also began to speak in the rasping voice of an old man, thought by Playfair and his colleague Maurice Grosse (Timothy Spall in the drama) to be the spirit of Bill Wilkins, a man who had died in the house.
So was the Enfield Haunting real?
Here are the main arguments for and against….
It was independently verified
When the police visited, a WPC reported seeing an armchair being moved forward and flipped over.
Neighbours also reported disturbing occurrences – and one claimed to have actually seen a figure of a man sitting at a table in the house when it was supposedly empty. Repeated checks for wires or proof of trickery yielded nothing.
Janet reportedly spoke in the voice of Bill Wilkins for hours on end – something which some voice experts believe would have been impossible to do without damaging her vocal chords.
The deep voice could have been produced by the so-called ‘false vocal chords’ (vestibular folds) that we all use from time to time to produce such tones – but many claim it is impossible to produce these sounds for long periods and Janet did so for hours on end. Grosse has hundreds of hours of recordings of the poltergeist – an extraordinary collection. He also witnessed her speaking with her mouth taped up and filled with water. Janet described the experience of voicing “Bill” in spooky terms – as if her were standing behind her.
You can see her in action here…
Janet and her sister still maintain it was true
One argument used against Janet and her sister is their supposed need for attention as girls. Their Dad had left home so the father-figure presence of Grosse and Playfair investigating the occurrences in the house was something they probably needed very much. But now they are both grown up, the two girls (now women) still insist that it was genuine. If they were simply after attention, why do they still maintain it really happened? Surely they would get more attention if they revealed it was a hoax?
See the adult Janet here speaking to Phillip Schofield on This Morning:
But there are some people who think it was all faked.