Enfield is not a place often associated with excitement. Unless the fact that it was the location of Britain’s first ever ATM back in 1967 whips you into a frenzy, it is a town largely devoid of rapture.
But in 1977, the north London borough—and, in particular, the house of 284 Green Street—was the subject of one of the freakiest and most fascinating paranormal investigations in British history. Flying objects, random combustion, levitation, and child possession were just some of the entires in a huge catalogue of poltergeist activity that allegedly took place.
Focused on the semi-detached house belonging to the Hodgson family, the phantom onslaught sparked media headlines, intense national debate, and a grueling 14-month investigation led by psychic investigator Maurice Grosse and journalist Guy Lyon Playfair.
Despite the presence of startling photographic imagery, demonic-sounding tape recordings, and a generous smattering of witness statements claiming paranormal activity, the case polarized popular opinion. Some thought it was the most obvious example of poltergeist spookery to have ever hit our shores, others thought it was a load of deluded nonsense and the mischievous trickery of attention-seeking girls.
Thirty-seven years later, the debate has been resurrected with the arrival of Sky Living’s new mini-series, The Enfield Haunting. Directed by Kristoffer Nyholm (The Killing), and starring Timothy Spall and Matthew MacFadyen, the three-parter is loosely based on Playfair’s Enfield memoirs, This House Is Haunted, before flipping into a relentless Exorcist-style horror.
But what really happened in that house in 1977? And do the witnesses still think the poltergeist was real?
“Oh yes, it was all absolutely, 100 percent genuine,” Playfair tells me. “Something extremely odd was going on. The first night I went to the house I was really struck by the atmosphere of fear. The family were scared out of their wits because of what had happened the night before when the chest of drawers slid across the room. They didn’t know what the hell was going on, and that’s something you can’t fake. And why the hell would you? What would be the point?”
The night in question was the August 31, 1977. The previous day had brought some eerie and unexplained knocking sounds, but the next night 11-year-old Janet and her younger brother Jonny were in their bedroom when a strange rattling began to sound. Irked at the kids’ late-night mischief, mother-of-four Peggy burst in to tell them to “pack it in” when a chest of drawers inexplicably shot across the room. Instinctively, Peggy tried to shove it back into place but was unable to, an apparent supernatural force pushing back.
The police were called, and despite WPC Heaps swearing on record that she saw a chair move unaided, no further action was taken. Maurice Grosse, a member of the Society for Psychical Research, and Playfair, who had spent three years investigating poltergeists in Sao Paulo, came to the house to monitor the activity. In the next few months, according to Playfair, the paranormal floodgates opened.
“It’s difficult to separate any single incident because there were so many,” he says. “The whole case was full of incidents which were completely inexplicable, like the builder who saw a cushion suddenly appear on the roof, or the lollipop lady who was crossing the road opposite the bedroom window and saw Janet floating around in mid-air.”
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