The story behind The Conjuring 2

The story of an 11-year-old girl who was possessed by the spirit of her Enfield home’s deceased previous owner. Or was she?

Meryl D'Souza July 20, 2016

2013’s The Conjuring was a horror flick based on the paranormal troubles faced by the Perron Family. The movie grossed in about $318 million worldwide against a budget of $20 million. While the movie itself was quite a creepfest it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the “true story” tag played a big part in the film’s success.

Three years on from that tale taken from the case files of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, director James Wan seems to be cashing in on the Enfield Poltergeist, one of the most documented accounts of a poltergeist in British history, with The Conjuring 2. It’s already hitting all the right notes with reviews and the fact that it has already amassed $301 million worldwide (and counting) against its $40 million budget.

With The Conjuring 2 finally hitting screens in the UAE tomorrow, we take a look at the real story and events that inspired this sequel. 

A case that involved levitation, furniture inexplicably being moved, objects curiously whirling towards witnesses and most horrifying of all, the voice of the Enfield house’s deceased previous owner coming from the body of an 11-year-old girl, started one evening in August, 1977.

That night, after Peggy Hodgson, a single mother of four, put her kids to bed, her daughter, Janet, complained of her brother’s bed wobbling. The mother paid no attention to her second oldest child, passing off those complaints as petulant pranks. 

The next night, Mrs Hodgson heard a crash from her children’s room. All set to give them a scolding, she entered and saw a chest of drawers move. Dumbfounded, Mrs Hodgson tried to push the chest back in its place but couldn’t get it to move. She ordered her kids to move downstairs where they’d all sleep together in one room, with the light on, for 18 months. 

A little after that incident in August, the family began to hear knocking through the walls. Afraid, the family asked their neighbours, Vic and Peggy Nottingham to help. Even Vic, a builder by profession, couldn’t explain the knocking sounds through the walls.

Suspecting burglars, Mrs Hodgson decided to call the cops. Woman Police Constable Carolyn Heeps arrived at the scene and saw an armchair move “unassisted, four feet across the room”. She inspected the chair but could not explain what she had seen. Carolyn Heeps left the house citing that the incident was not a police matter. She later signed an affidavit stating she had seen the chair move. Probably in desperation, the Hodgson family went to the press.

Doug Bence had beaten his news editor at a game of dominoes when the phone rang. The Daily Mirror reporter, along with photographer Graham Morris, jumped into a car and headed to the Enfield house. When nothing happened the duo left the house and were heading back but were stopped by a frantic neighbour.

In the house, Lego bricks and marbles were flying about. One Lego brick caught Graham Morris just above his eye. The pair rushed out and called in the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) - a body founded in 1882 to investigate extraordinary unexplained human experiences. Their story ended up on the front page of the Mirror the next morning. 

The SPR sent in investigators Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair. For six months the pair investigated the house and witnessed apparent psychic activity that included demonic voices, levitating and inanimate objects appearing to have a life of their own.

At the centre of this maelstrom was Janet. The poltergeist seemed to have clung to her. The spirit of Bill Wilkins, a man who had died in the property many years before, possessed the 11-year-old and some family members even claim to have seen Janet levitate across a room.

Despite all the eyewitnesses and occurrences, the Enfield legend has its fair share of sceptics. Not without reason, mind you. Over the course of the events, two SPR investigators caught the Hodgson children bending spoons to add to the alleged happenings and questioned why no one was allowed in the same room as Janet when Bill possessed her.

In an interview with ITV news in 1980, Janet confirmed that she and her siblings would feign some occurrences. When asked how much of those were faked, Janet said, “One or two per cent.”

There were other detractors too:

  • American magician Milbourne Christopher investigated and concluded that "the poltergeist was nothing more than the antics of a little girl who wanted to cause trouble and who was very, very, clever."
  • Some critics have noted that the alleged poltergeist voice that originated from Janet was produced by false vocal cords above the larynx and had the phraseology and vocabulary of a child.
  • Others believe that the picture of Janet levitating actually shows her bouncing on the bed.Despite the cynicism, Janet still maintains that those events did indeed happen. We may never know the whole truth until we’re in that kind of position. Luckily for us, we aren’t and we get to watch a horror flick and return home, far away from the paranormal.