The Conjuring 2: The Real-Life Enfield Poltergeist and Catholic Exorcisms

Like comedy, horror is difficult to do well. The Conjuring 2, based on the true story of the Enfield Poltergeist, uses the same formula as the first film in the series. That’s a good thing, since there’s not too much horror for my taste, meaning there’s a ton of suspense and loud noises, but no gore or mutilation scenes that I’d later wish I’d turned away from. It’s a typical monster-in-the-house film. Horror is a genre I’ve come to not expect much from, which is why I’m always excited to see a film like this that has an engaging story while also acting as a gold-standard classic horror film.

Almost all of the events in James Wan‘s The Conjuring 2 are based on actual events. From 1977 to 1979, a family that lived in a semi-detached house at 284 Green St. in Enfield, north London, was traumatized by supernatural activity. As in the film, the Hodgson family was comprised of a single mom and four children. Also like the film, the paranormal activity started after Janet and her sister played with a Ouija board. (Spoiler alert if you continue.)

Eleven-year-old Janet (Madison Wolfe), her siblings, and their mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) all started witnessing furniture slide across the floor. They heard strange noises and knocking sounds coming from various places at once. Witnesses saw sofas levitating, dressers spinning around and flung over, objects flying cross rooms, lights going on and off, and heard dogs barking in rooms with no dogs inside. One of the daughter’s legs was paralyzed in the air and two men couldn’t get it to move. A curtain wrapped itself around Janet’s neck and tried to strangle her. As portrayed in the film, a police woman saw a chair move on its own (and signed an affidavit saying she witnessed it levitate and move across the floor). A reporter with The Daily Mail said a Lego flew across the room and hit him in the face. Paranormal investigator Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) claimed to have witnessed more than 2,000 supernatural events at the house. More than 30 witnesses reported paranormal events at the house; others reported pools of water appearing on the floor, matches igniting spontaneously, cold breezes, and physical assaults. Similar to an event in the film, Janet said that one time Grosse filled her mouth her water and taped it shut as a test, and the strange voices still came through her.

Janet was most affected by the poltergeist activity (portrayed as demonic activity in the film). She would go into trances in which she’d talk in a raspy, sometimes growling, voice and claimed to be a man named Bill Wilkins who had died in the living room from a hemorrhage. The story was later corroborated months later when the man’s son contacted investigators. The original recordings portray sounds that don’t seem possible for an 11-year-old girl to make:

Another strange event in the film that’s based on fact is when Janet vanished and was found jammed into an electrical cabinet. According to a 2013 interview with Lorraine Warren and her son-in-law Tony Spera, Janet dematerialized for 17-and-a-half minutes. Spera said:

Vanished. They were looking for her, and she reappeared in a cabinet she could never have fit in on her own. It was like she was double jointed. It was like this electrical box where they keep the meters. She was stuffed in there, and after they got her out they tried to get her back in there, and there was no humanly way possible she could have fit in there.

In the same interview, Spera confirms that the spirit in Janet knew Ed’s name, Lorraine affirming that it “freaked him out.”

Separating Fact from Fiction in ‘The Conjuring 2’

Unlike in the film, there were no accounts of crosses turning themselves upside down. And many events in the film are exaggerated, such as Janet levitating all the way to the ceiling.

Not mentioned in the film, though, is a time when researchers from the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) removed all objects from Janet’s bedroom, thinking perhaps she was making noises by throwing things herself. That night, a loud wrenching sound was heard. They found that an iron fireplace had been completely pulled from the wall.

Puberty and Poltergeists?

Also not discussed in The Conjuring 2 is the relation between poltergeist activity and young women on the verge of puberty. The Enfield events started in August 1977, a few months before Janet’s first period. The activity peaked on December 15, the day before her menses.

This correlation seems to stem from 2008, when two researchers wanted to explain the origin of poltergeist phenomena. They found that in all cultures from around the world, the one common thread was that ““Poltergeist disturbances often occur in the neighbourhood of a pubescent child or a young woman,” they wrote in a paper in the journal Neuroquantology.

The researchers explained that changes in the brain at puberty can involve fluctuations in electron activity that could create disturbances even up to several meters outside of the adolescent’s brain. According to a summary in New Scientist:

[The researchers] believe that the extra fluctuations triggered by the pubescent brain would substantially enhance the presence of the virtual particles surrounding the person. This could slowly increase the pressure of air around them, moving objects and even sending them hurtling across the room.

The Warrens: Conjuring Fiction

Much of The Conjuring 2 centers around the involvement of religious demonologist and clairvoyant team Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), and this is where some of the exaggerated events veer off from real-life. Though the Warrens did investigate the case in the summer of 1978, they had little involvement and weren’t responsible for ending the haunting. According to Spera, Ed did say “they were demons, coming in the guise of dead humans from a local graveyard” who were pretending to be human spirits. In the same interview, Spera and Lorraine say the Enfield case would make a good movie.

In reality, Janet said she thinks it was a 1978 visit by a priest that mostly ended the haunting. Noises were still heard in the house, however, and the younger brother Billy said even years later it always felt like you were being watched in the house. Peggy Hodgson stayed in the house until her death, and then another single mother with four children moved into 284 Green St. They heard strange voices, felt people were watching them, and one of her sons saw a man enter his room. They moved out after two months. As of 2015, another family lives in the house, but the mother doesn’t want to be identified, saying her children don’t know about the house’s history and she doesn’t want to frighten them.

The Exorcism in ‘The Conjuring 2’

Like the first film in the franchise, The Conjuring 2 ends with an exorcism. The Warrens have to find out the name of the demon in order to have power over it and exorcise it. This is exactly the formula for exorcism used by Catholic priests (and what Aleister Crowley instructed in his own Rite). According to Church exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth:

Demons are wary of talking and must be forced to speak. When demons are voluntarily chatty it’s a trick to distract the exorcist. We must never ask useless questions out of curiosity. We but must interrogate with care. We always begin by asking for the demon’s name.

*   *   *

I give Conjuring 2 an A rating, even though it’s very similar to the first one, which turned out to be one of the highest-grossing horror films of all time at $318 million. I hope, however, that any future films in the series go more in-depth into exorcism and other aspects of demonology.

The film is an excellent advertisement for the Catholic Church. Too bad it’s now led by an SJW Pope more interested in interfering on the political and media main stage than directing his followers toward a more serious, transcendent spirituality. Yet, events like those in The Conjuring 2 present a good case for the supernatural, of Catholicism in particular, and for scientific investigations into the occult.

Sources:

Birth. Movies. Death. “The Badass Interview: Lorraine Warren, True Life Investigator Behind The Conjuring.” http://birthmoviesdeath.com/2013/07/16/the-badass-interview-lorraine-warren-true-life-investigator-behind-the-conj

Boston Catholic Journal. “An Interview With Father Gabriele Amorth: the Church’s Leading Exorcist.” http://www.boston-catholic-journal.com/an-interview-with-father-gabriele-amorth-the-church’s-leading-exorcist.htm

History vs. Hollywood. “The Conjuring 2 (2016).” http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/conjuring-2-enfield-poltergeist/

New Scientist. “‘They’re here’: The mechanism of poltergeist activity.” https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13563-theyre-here-the-mechanism-of-poltergeist-activity/

People magazine. “The Enfield Poltergeist: Inside the Real Story that Inspired The Conjuring 2.” http://www.people.com/article/inside-conjuring-2-real-story

The Daily Mail. “What IS the truth about the Enfield Poltergeist? Amazing story of 11-year-old London girl who ‘levitated’ above her bed.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2054842/Enfield-Poltergeist-The-amazing-story-11-year-old-North-London-girl-levitated-bed.html

The International Business Times. “‘The Conjuring 2’ True Story: 9 Freaky Facts About The Real Enfield Haunting Before Movie Release.” http://www.ibtimes.com/conjuring-2-true-story-9-freaky-facts-about-real-enfield-haunting-movie-release-2380263

The Telegraph. “The real story of the Enfield Haunting.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/11571607/The-real-story-of-the-Enfield-Haunting.html

Week in Weird. “Famous British Ghosts: The Questionable Case of the Enfield Poltergeist.” http://weekinweird.com/2009/09/07/the-questionable-case-of-the-enfield-poltergeist/

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