To the average passer-by, the property in the north London borough of Enfield looked like just any other house.
But to the Hodgson family, it literally became the stuff of nightmares – even if sceptics believe their ordeal was faked.
Between 1977 and 1979, single mother Peggy and three of her four children – in particular 11-year-old Janet – appeared to have been beset by what they and many others believed to be a poltergeist.
Much of the activity, which included objects flying around the room and furniture moving on its own, was witnessed by an array of independent visitors to the home, including police and investigators.
On one occasion, a terrified Janet – who was frequently heard channeling the disembodied voice of a dead old man – was photographed apparently levitating above her bed one night.
This week, the photographer who took that image with a remote camera told he believes she may have had telekinesis powers like Stephen King’s Carrie.
Graham Morris, 69, who had been sent by a national newspaper to cover the story, said he believes Janet had ‘some sort of force’.
Others have said the events were simply made up, or entirely misinterpreted.
The ordeal of the Hodgson family is soon to be the subject of both an Apple TV series and a new West End play starring Catherine Tate as Peggy Hodgson.
Janet Hodgson is seen apparently levitating in her bedroom at her family’s home in Enfield, North London. The incident was one of many recorded by investigators looking into the presence of an alleged poltergeist between 1977 and 1979
To the average passer-by, the property in the north London borough of Enfield looked like just any other house. Above: The home in 2011
The Hodgson family were relatively unusual at the time because of the fact that Peggy was a single mother looking after four children.
As well as Janet and Margaret, she had Johnny and Billy – who were aged 10 and seven respectively when the poltergeist activity started in August 1977.
Johnny did not live with the family but instead went to a boarding school for children with behavioural problems.
On the evening of August 30, Mrs Hodgson heard Janet complain from upstairs that her and her brothers’ beds were wobbling.
Irritated, she told her to stop messing around. But, the following evening, Mrs Hodgson heard a crash from upstairs.
She went into her children’s bedroom and saw the chest of drawers moving on its own. When she pushed it back, she found it was being propelled towards the door by an invisible force.
It appeared as though some kind of unseen presence was trying to trap the family in the room.
Between 1977 and 1979, single mother Peggy and her four children – in particular 11-year-old Janet – were beset by what they and many others believed to be a poltergeist. Above: Janet and her mother in the children’s bedroom during one of the incidents
In 1979, BBC Scotland made a documentary about the Hodgson family’s experience. At one point in the film, Janet was filmed as she channelled the voice of the old man while it sang the nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Above: The BBC documentary
Years later, Janet told a Channel 4 documentary: ‘It started in a back bedroom, the chest of drawers moved, and you could hear shuffling. Mum said: ‘I want you to pack it in.’
‘We told her what was going on, and she came to see it for herself.
‘She saw the chest of drawers moving. When she tried to push it back, she couldn’t.’
Janet’s sister Margaret explained how the activity increased.
‘There were strange little noises in the house, you couldn’t make out what was going on. None of us got slept.
‘We put on our dressing gowns and slippers and went next door.’
Mrs Hodgson appealed to her neighbours for help, builder Vic Nottingham and his wife Peggy.
Mr Nottingham said years later: ‘I went in there and I couldn’t make out these noises — there was a knocking on the wall, in the bedroom, on the ceiling. I was beginning to get a bit frightened.’
His wife added: ‘He said: ‘I don’t know what to do.’ I’d never seen a big man like that looking scared.’
The police were similarly mystified after being called by Mrs Hodgson.
WPC Carolyn Heeps saw a chair move.
She said at the time: ‘A large armchair moved, unassisted, 4 ft across the floor.’
The policewoman was not able to find any hidden wires that might have given a natural explanation for what she had seen.
After the police had left, the Hodgsons invited journalists from a national newspaper to investigate.
Speaking of one frantic occasion of apparent poltergeist activity, photographer Graham Morris told yesterday: ‘Bang, things started flying all over the place.
‘I’m in the corner looking through my lens. I can see everything. No one is throwing this stuff.
‘No one is doing anything. They’re not trying to do anything for fun or for laughs or whatever. They were all, particularly the kids, absolutely horrified.’
Terrified Janet and Margaret began screaming, crying, and biting their fingernails while a Lego brick flew and hit Mr Morris in the head leaving a nasty lump above his right eyebrow for four days.
Mr Morris had been reported by The Times this week as having said that Janet ‘just jumped’ when he took his famous image of her.
But he said to : ‘There is no way she was doing this for fun,’ he said. ‘You have got to be mad to actually want to do something like that. It was a completely darkened room.
‘If it were the case she were jumping she’d be launching herself at a brick wall or a door in pitch black.’
He had set up a camera on a tripod in the corner of the children’s bedroom. It was triggered by a button on a long cable which ran down to the living room.
Audio was also being taken.
‘As soon as I hear there’s anything, like a bed spring goes twang or somebody moans or screams, a bang or crash… anything. I hit the button,’ Mr Morris said.
After the famous image was taken, he and the investigators ran upstairs to find Janet in a ‘mess’, crumpled on the floor on the other side of the bedroom.
When the BBC went to the house, the crew found the metal components in their tape equipment had been twisted and their recordings erased.
However, a 1979 documentary was released by BBC Scotland.
At one point in the film, Janet was seen as channelling the voice of the old man while it sang the nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
Janet flies through the air as her sister Margaret screams in one of the incidents at their home in Enfield
Mrs Hodgson then turned to the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) for help. It sent investigators Maurice Grosse and Guy Lyon Playfair.
Playfair was a poltergeist expert who went on to write a book about the affair called This House Is Haunted.
Grosse, who died in 2006, was spoken to by author Will Storr for his book Will Storr Vs. The Supernatural: One Man’s search for the truth about ghosts.
The investigator told him: ‘As soon as I got there, I realised that the case was real because the family was in a bad state. Everybody was in chaos.
‘When I first got there, nothing happened for a while. Then I experienced Lego pieces flying across the room, and marbles, and the extraordinary thing was, when you picked them up they were hot.
‘I was standing in the kitchen and a T-shirt leapt off the table and flew into the other side of the room while I was standing by it.’
Several of their recordings captured the eerie voice of the old man coming out of Janet’s mouth.
At one point, he said: ‘Just before I died, I went blind and then I had a haemorrhage and I fell asleep and died in the chair in the corner downstairs.’
Asked why Janet could not feel him, the voice said. ‘I’m invisible… because I’m a G.H.O.S.T.’
Next month, a new play depicting the terrifying unexplained case – starring Catherine Tate as Peggy Hodgson – will debut in the West End
The new Apple TV+ docudrama stars Olivia Booth-Ford as Janet, and also features real interviews with both her and her sister
The family’s basic kitchen is seen in this image from February 1978, when it was visited by journalists
When the tape of his voice was played on the radio, a man got in touch to say it was that of his father.
The individual said his father’s name was Bill Wilkins and that he had lived at the Hodgsons’ house many years earlier.
He had died exactly as described – a fact which investigators said Janet could not possibly have known about.
The investigators also witnessed sofas levitating and furniture spinning around and being flung across the room.
On another even more disturbing occasion, Grosse and a neighbour found one of the children shouting: ‘I can’t move! It’s holding my leg!’
The pair had to wrestle the child from what they insisted was the grip of invisible hands.
The family were also beset by frequent knocking sounds which would run down the walls and fade in an out.
Janet – who was the main ‘victim’ of the alleged poltergeist – would often go in to violent trances that would see her swear and hurl insults.
Mr Morris, who does not believe in ghosts, does not believe the strange activity was the work of a poltergeist.
On that front, he is aligned with critics who believe the incidents were faked or can be explained by something else.
Mr Morris instead believes that everything was somehow emanating from Janet herself.
He likened it to the horror character Carrie, who can move things with her mind.
[I think] Janet has got this sort of kinetic energy, she’s really bright,’ he said. ‘As I said, she can’t talk to her dad – he’s not here – mum’s too busy, her sister cries, one brother has a speech impediment so bad I doubt she can even understand what he says, and the other brother is at a special school.
‘And she is desperate to get this… whatever it is. This energy, this power, whatever she has, across and out to communicate with people.
‘And it’s coming out in different ways in a sort of force. Like a kinetic energy where things are shifting around.’
He insisted that the family were not ‘faking’ the events.
The photographer added: ‘There is something going on in that house which we haven’t discovered yet. We haven’t worked out what it is or how it happened.
‘When it does, it’ll probably make us all look rather stupid and we will go “silly me, why didn’t I think of that?” And that’s the thing, we just don’t know.
‘In years to come we all will be doing it, teleporting or moving things with our fingers ten yards away. But we just don’t understand it.
‘I don’t know how it works or how it happens, but I knew at the time that the kids were not making these things happen intentionally.
‘There might be some power or some force or some brainwave that’s coming from one of them – Janet.’
Janet herself later told Channel 4: ‘I felt used by a force that nobody understands. I really don’t like to think about it too much.
‘I’m not sure the poltergeist was truly ‘evil’. It was almost as if it wanted to be part of our family.
‘It didn’t want to hurt us. It had died there and wanted to be at rest. The only way it could communicate was through me and my sister.’
However, some doubt was cast on the family’s story. At one point, the children were caught bending spoons themselves.
Critics also questioned why no one was allowed in the same room as Janet when the apparent voice of Bill Wilkins was talking through her.
In 1980, Janet even admitted that some of the occurrences had been fabricated.
Investigators Guy Playfair (left) and Maurice Grosse (right) came to the home to investigate the strange goings-on
Speaking to ITV News, she said: ‘Oh yeah, once or twice (we faked phenomena), just to see if Mr Grosse and Mr Playfair would catch us. They always did.’
Janet herself spoke to the Daily Mail in 2015, ahead of the release of horror film The Conjuring 2, which was loosely based on her family’s ordeal.
Then living in Essex with her husband, a retired milkman, she said: ‘It was an extraordinary case.
Guy Playfair on This Morning in 2012. He died in 2018
‘It’s one of the most recognised cases of paranormal activity in the world. But, for me, it was quite daunting.
‘I think it really left its mark, the activities, the newspaper attention, the different people in and out of the house. It wasn’t a normal childhood.’
Asked how much of the activity was faked, she said: ‘I’d say just 2 per cent’.
She added: ‘I recall being very distressed by the photos when I was a child, I was very upset.
‘I knew when the voices were happening, of course, it felt like something was behind me all of the time. They did all sorts of tests, filling my mouth with water and so on, but the voices still came out.’
She says: ‘It was hard, I had a short spell in the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital in London, where they stuck electrodes on my head, but the tests proved normal.
‘The levitation was scary, because you didn’t know where you were going to land. I remember a curtain being wound around my neck, I was screaming, I thought I was going to die.
‘My mum had to use all her strength to rip it away. The man who spoke through me, Bill, seemed angry, because we were in his house.’
Janet also told how she was bullied at school.
‘They called me Ghost Girl and put crane flies down my back,’ she said.
‘I’d dread going home. The front door would be open, there’d be people in and out, you didn’t know what to expect and I used to worry a lot about Mum.
‘She had a nervous breakdown, in the end.’
‘I’m not one for living in the past. I want to move on. But it does come to me now and again.
‘I dream about it, and then it affects me. I think why did it happen to us?’
Janet (left) and her sister Margaret are seen at the premiere of The Conjuring 2 in Los Angeles in June 2016
She also admitted playing with an Ouija board with her sister. The activity began a short time later.
Janet left home at 16 and married young. Her younger brother Johnny died of cancer aged just 14.
Her mother developed breast cancer and died in 2003, whilst Janet’s son died aged just 18, passing away in his sleep.
After the death of Mrs Hodgson, Clare Bennett and her four sons moved into the house.
They too told of strange activity.
Ms Bennett told the Mail: ‘I didn’t see anything, but I felt uncomfortable. There was definitely some kind of presence in the house, I always felt like someone was looking at me.’
Her sons would wake up in the night and hear people talking downstairs, even though there was no one there.
The family moved out after just two months.
The Enfield Haunting is written by Paul Unwin and stars David Threlfall as Maurice Grosse, while young actresses Ella Schrey-Yeats and Grace Molony portray Janet and her sister Margaret.
The new Apple TV+ docudrama stars Olivia Booth-Ford as Janet, and also features real interviews with both her and her sister.
The Enfield Haunting opens at the Ambassadors Theatre on November 30 and runs until March 2, 2024.