WATCH: The real-life story that inspired 'The Conjuring 2'
MANILA, Philippines – Can so-called paranormal occurrences be dismissed as hoaxes – and nothing more? For a family in London, the Hodgsons, as they recount it in vivid detail, it was very real – as retold in the upcoming sequel to The Conjuring.
The first film has American paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren looking into a disturbance in a Rhode Island farmhouse, and this time, the setting transfers to a council house in North London in the '70s.
In The Conjuring 2, the address in focus is 284 Green Street, then the home of the Hodgsons: Peggy, a single mother, with her children, Margaret, 12; Johnny, 10; Billy, 7; and of course, Janet, then 11.
To accompany the upcoming movie, a video featurette has been released and offers a brief glimpse into the bizarre occurrences in that house – certain to bring chills even today.
"We had no knowledge of the history of the house before the happenings," said Janet (now Hodgson-Winter), the center of the tale known as the "Strange Happenings in Enfield" – which alleges that 284 Green Street was haunted by a poltergeist, or a troublesome spirit.
Zoe Brennan wrote for the Daily Mail: "What was going on? This was the case of the Enfield Poltergeist, which held the nation spellbound 30 years ago, puzzling policemen, psychics, experts in the occult and hardened reporters alike."
"Naturally, many questioned whether it was all a hoax – but no explanation other than the paranormal has ever been convincingly put forward."
Actor Patrick Wilson, who plays the paranormal investigator Ed Warren, echoed this: "You're constantly going, 'It really did happen?' For this people, it really did happen."
Audio tapes from August 1977 play a chilling raspy voice. Some of it has been quoted by the Daily Mail, describing it as a message from "beyond the grave."
"Just before I died, I went blind, and then I had an 'emorrhage and I fell asleep and I died in the chair in the corner downstairs," an old man is heard muttering.
Strangely, it didn't come from a man, but the 11-year-old Janet herself.
"I was used and abused. There was levitation. There [were] the voices. Incidents had happened that were quite life-threatening for me," recounted Janet in the video featurette.
The Hodgsons themselves and several witnesses described physical disturbances – moving furniture and all – and then there were the photos that showed Janet supposedly floating, as if being thrashed around the room.
Journalist Guy Lyon Playfair, a member of the Society for Psychical Research who wrote a memoir that retold the strange phenomena in 284 Green Street, told Vice: "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?"
However, Janet admitted to the Daily Mail that they fabricated some of it, "just to see if [investigators] Mr [Maurice Grosse] and Mr Playfair would catch us. They always did."
In the Skeptical Inquirer, Joe Nickell, a practicing skeptic of the paranormal, called out many of the instances recounted in the Hodgson's case – including the audio recordings as "ventriloquial fakery." Based on the accounts written about it, he also dismissed the occurrences, concluding that it was all just "children's pranks."
"People frequently see what they expect to see, their senses being organized and shaped by their prior experiences and beliefs," commented skeptic Deborah Hyde in The Guardian.
Nonetheless, for Janet, who was tearfully shuddering in the featurette – still seemingly traumatized by her ghostly tormentor – said: "The thought of it – I think if I had to go for it again, it'd kill me."
Directed by James Wan, The Conjuring 2 opens in Philippine cinemas on June 9. – Rappler.com