Advertisements

Tag Archives: 1970s

The Crimes of Dennis Nilsen

Please note this article contains details which some readers may find disturbing. 

*

In May 2018 one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers- Dennis Nilsen– died in prison after spending 35 years behind bars for a string of gruesome murders committed during the late 1970s and early 80s.

Dennis Nilsen shortly after his arrest in 1983

These crimes were intrinsically linked to two north London addresses, the second of which would grant the bespectacled killer his sinister nickname; ‘The Muswell Hill Murderer.’

*

Nilsen was born on 23rd November 1945 in Fraserburgh, a remote Scottish fishing town located 40 miles north of Aberdeen.

Fraserburg Harbour 1958 (image Eileen Warren Creative Commons Geograph)

Nilsen’s father- Olav Magnus Moksheim- was a Norwegian soldier who’d travelled to Scotland during World War Two. Unfortunately he was also an alcoholic and soon abandoned the family, meaning the four year old Dennis looked towards his grandfather as a paternal figure.

Although Nilsen was still young when his beloved grandfather died, his mother insisted her son view the body before the funeral; an event which Nilsen would later claim made him develop a disturbing obsession with corpses.

*

When he was 16 Nilsen signed up with the army where he trained to be a chef, mastering butchery skills which, as we’ll soon see, were later put to ghastly efficient use.

Dennis Nilsen during his army days

After serving in West Germany, Aden and Northern Ireland Nilsen left the military in the early 70s and headed to London where he enrolled with the Metropolitan Police Force, spending a brief period as an officer stationed at Willesden Green.

Dennis Nilsen as a young police recruit

He soon realised however that law enforcement wasn’t for him and so adopted a new role as a civil servant, working at a JobCentre on Denmark Street– a small road in the heart of London’s West End nicknamed ‘Tin Pan Alley‘ which has long been associated with the music industry. 

Footage of a JobCentre, 1980

The JobCentre in which Nilsen worked has since been transformed into a branch of the Fernadez and Wells cafe chain. 

Fernandez and Wells Cafe- site of the former Denmark Street JobCentre in which Dennis Nilsen was employed as a civil servant (image: Google Streetview)

*

In the autumn of 1975 Nilsen intervened to rescue a young man named David Gallichan who was being threatened outside a pub.

He invited David back to his bedsit on Cricklewood’s Teignmouth Road and the pair quickly embarked upon a relationship. 

Teignmouth Road, Cricklewood today (image: Google Streetview)

However, after the couple moved a short distance to a larger flat at 195 Melrose Avenue, David- who Nilsen nicknamed ‘Twinkle‘- quickly came to realise that Nilsen was short-tempered and verbally abusive.

Dennis Nilsen’s abrasive attitude can be witnessed in a number of Cine Films which he and David shot during this period…click below to view.

After one particularly explosive argument in 1977, David decided to pack his bags and leave- a lucky escape in hindsight.

*

Now alone, Nilsen began drinking heavily and it was whilst boozing in the Cricklewood Arms on the 30th December 1978 that he encountered his first victim; a 14 year old Irish youth named Stephen Holmes.

Stephen Holmes

Stephen had been to a concert in Willesden and was returning home to Kilburn when he decided to try his luck in the pub. When the youngster was refused service at the bar, Nilsen- who claimed he thought Stephen was 17- invited the lad back to Melrose Avenue for a drink.

Melrose Avenue today (image: Google Streetview)

Following a heavy session, he awoke at dawn to find Stephen still fast asleep.

I was afraid to awake him in case he left me” Nilsen would later state, adding “He was going to stay with me over the New Year whether he wanted to or not.

With this grim decision made, Nilsen strangled the sleeping youngster with a necktie before plunging his head into a bucket of water.

When interviewed about Stephen’s murder, Nilsen chillingly said, “I had started down the avenue of death and possession of a new kind of flat-mate.

Stephen’s body was stashed beneath the floorboards where it would remain for eight months until Nilsen decided to burn the remains in the back garden; a plot of land to which he conveniently had exclusive access.

*

Nilsen’s second recorded victim was a 23 year old Canadian tourist named Kenneth Ockendon who he met during a lunchtime drinking session at the Princess Louise pub on Holborn in December 1979.

The Princess Louise today (image: Google Streetview)

As twilight set in and London’s Christmas lights began to sparkle, Nilsen gave Kenneth a guided tour of the city.

Trafalgar Square, Christmas late 1970s

He then invited the Canadian back to his flat for a nightcap and as the pair knocked back alcohol Nilsen suggested Kenneth should listen to some of his records- which were largely defined by experimental music such as Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and The Who’s rock-opera, Tommy.

As Kenneth donned a pair of headphones and zoned out, Nilsen slunk behind his chair, grabbed the headphone cord and used it to garrotte his guest.

Kenneth Ockendon

Once again, Nilsen hid his victim’s remains beneath the floorboards- although he would sometimes haul Kenneth’s corpse out on certain evenings and eerily rest it beside him whilst watching television.

​​A new decade was now on the horizon and with it would come many more murders…

*

In his seemingly normal everyday life, Dennis Nilsen- or ‘Den’ as he was known to his colleagues at the Denmark Street Jobcentre where he worked- was a staunch trade unionist and in May 1980 he attended a union conference in Southport. 

After this sojourn he caught a train back to Euston station and it was at the bustling terminal he encountered his third victim: 16 year old Martyn Duffey.

Euston station 1980 (image: rmweb.co.uk)

Martyn was a troubled young man from Birkenhead who’d hitchhiked to London four days previously and was already sleeping rough.

Feigning a good Samaritan routine, Nilsen invited the youth back to Melrose Avenue with the offer of food and a clean bed.

Once his grateful guest was asleep, Nilsen crawled upon the sheets and pinned him down with his knees. He then twisted a custom made ligature around Martyn’s neck and throttled the youngster. Although Nilsen put all of his might into the attack he noticed Martyn was still breathing and so dragged his limp victim into the kitchen where he completed the evil deed by drowning the teen in the sink.

*

As 1980 progressed Nilsen began to kill so often- and was always blind drunk when he did so- that he could recall fewer of his victims’ personal details.

He was however clear about dates and would later become infuriated with the press when they made mistakes regarding them.

London’s West End in the early 1980s

He knew his fourth victim was named Billy Sutherlanda male prostitute who he killed in August 1980, but of the murder itself he could remember nothing, simply stating he woke up to find “another dead body.

Billy Sutherland

The next slew of victims were men who’d existed on the fringes of society and as such their identities remain unknown to this day. 

In September there was an Irish labourer, of whom Nilsen could only recall he had rough hands.

In October there was a man who he believed to be either Mexican or Filipino who he met in the Salisbury pub. 

The Salisbury, Covent Garden

In November, a homeless man he’d discovered dossing in a doorway on Charing Cross Road– when strangled, Nilsen recalled that this victim kicked his legs in the air as if pedalling a bicycle. 

In December 1980 he murdered a “long haired hippy”.

*

After killing each victim Nilsen would bathe the body before keeping it around the house for days on end as a bizarre form of company; chatting to the corpse when he returned home from work, sitting it beside him whilst watching television and, perhaps most disturbingly of all, even sharing his bed with it. 

Once decomposition set it Nilsen would use the butchery skills he’d mastered as an army chef to dissect the bodies and then hide the severed parts beneath the floorboards. As for the organs, he’d toss them into an alley for birds and foxes to pick at. 

On one occasion he stuffed entrails into a shopping bag which he absently dumped on the pavement whilst walking his beloved dog, Bleep. 

Dennis Nilsen’s dog, Bleep- who would always be shut out of the room before his master committed murder

This gruesome package was discovered by a member of the public who handed it into police- although the find led nowhere.

Unsurprisingly, the stench in Nilsen’s flat was appalling; so much so that the neighbours had cause to complain. They also noted how Nilsen kept his windows permanently open, even in the winter.

*

By late 1980 the sheer number of body parts was becoming a real problem for Nilsen and so towards the end of the year he built a large bonfire in the garden which he used to cremate the remains, heaping old tyres on top of the pyre to disguise the smell.

But still the killing continued.

In January 1981 he met an “18 year old blue-eyed Scot” in the Golden Lion, Soho who he invited home for a drinking contest.

The Golden Lion today (image: TripAdvisor)

In February, there was a victim who Nilsen knew only as the “Belfast Boy” and in April a skinhead who he met in Leicester Square. 

This individual had a tattoo around his neck; a dashed line bearing the words ‘cut here’- an instruction which Nilsen took quite literally when carving up the body for disposal.

Again, the identities of these men murdered in Cricklewood remains a mystery…

*

It is estimated Dennis Nilsen murdered 11 men at 195 Melrose Avenue, the last being 24 year old Malcolm Barlow who, on the 17th September 1981, had the misfortune to fall ill outside the notorious address.

Curiously, Nilsen didn’t take immediate advantage of Malcolm’s condition, choosing instead to help by phoning an ambulance.

Malcolm Barlow

The following day Nilsen discovered Malcolm- who’d come to thank the stranger for his kindness- perched on his doorstep. Nilsen asked the young man in for a drink but soon considered him a “nuisance” and proceeded to choke his guest to death.

Days later, the landlord requested Nilsen vacate the property as it was due a renovation. This prompted Nilsen to build another bonfire on which to cremate the remains of his most recent victims. 

Then, on the 5th October 1981, he moved to an attic flat at 23 Cranley Gardens, Muswell Hill. 

23 Cranley Gardens today (image: Google Streetview)

*

With no garden and zero chance of hiding bodies beneath the floorboards, this was possibly a conscious choice by the serial killer who claimed he was desperate for his spree to cease.

But still he continued.

The first victim murdered at Cranley Gardens was 23 year old John Howlett who he met whilst drinking near Leicester Square. As usual, Nilsen invited him home where the pair drank until John passed out. Rudely awakened to find himself being strangled, John put up a ferocious fight and almost succeeded in killing Nilsen himself.

Then, in June 1982, Nilsen spotted 27 year old Graham Allen attempting to flag a taxi on Shaftesbury Avenue. 

Nilsen stepped in and the pair ended up sharing the cab back to Cranley Gardens. Of this murder, Nilsen recalled few details; simply that he’d cooked an omelette for Graham before murdering him and then kept his body in the bathtub for several days.

Nilsen’s final victim was Stephen Sinclair, a troubled young man who he encountered on January 26th 1983. 

Stephen Sinclair, Dennis Nilsen’s final victim (image: Daily Record)

As he’d done with previous victims, Nilsen invited Stephen to listen to records- his favourite at the time being ‘O Superman’; an eerie electronic song by Laurie Anderson.

As Stephen listened through headphones, Nilsen attacked from behind, strangling him with a ligature.

To dispose of these bodies Nilsen had to improvise, dissecting each corpse and boiling the parts in a large pot on the stove.

Once the flesh softened he’d cut it into small pieces which were unceremoniously flushed down the toilet.

Unsurprisingly a blockage soon ensued- which Nilsen himself complained about- and so, on February 8th 1983, Dyno-Rod employee Michael Cattran came to assess the problem.

It didn’t take long to discover the drains were clogged with a gunky mass of flesh and bone. As Michael worked, Nilsen popped down to see what was going on, gruesomely remarking, “It looks to me like someone has been flushing down their Kentucky Fried Chicken.”

*

The next evening, Nilsen returned home from work to find Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay and two other police officers stationed outside his door. 

Cranley Gardens, 1983

When informed that they’d come to discuss the matter of human remains, Nilsen feigned ignorance, exclaiming, “Good grief, how awful!” Dismissing this act- and having already noted the horrendous stench in the flat- Inspector Jay bluntly said, “Don’t mess about, where’s the rest of the body?

Dennis Nilsen’s kitchen, Cranley Gardens

Nilsen calmly replied it was in two plastic bags in the wardrobe, adding “It’s a long story… I’ll tell you everything. I want to get it off my chest.”

Arrested on suspicion of murder he was driven to Hornsey police station and, during the short ride, matter-of-factly hinted at the sheer number of people he’d killed. After being charged he was remanded in Brixton prison.

Dennis Nilsen being transported from prison

Dennis Nilsen was tried at the Old Bailey during autumn 1983 and, after considerable debate as to wether or not he was insane, was found guilty on six counts of murder. After describing the “unforgettable tales of horror” associated with the case, the judge sentenced Nilsen to a minimum of 25 years.

The clip below is a news report broadcast shortly after Nilsen’s imprisonment.

In 1994 Nilsen’s sentence was upped to a whole life tariff meaning he was condemned to remain behind bars for the rest of his life- which he did, dying at HMP Full Sutton, East Yorkshire on 12th May 2018 aged 72.

***

Advertisements

“I danced myself into the tomb”… A tribute to Marc Bolan

The 16th of September 2017 commemorates the 40th anniversary of the death of one of London’s most famous sons: Mark Feld– aka Marc Bolan– the flamboyant frontman for 1970s band, ‘T-Rex’.

Marc Bolan

Marc was born at Hackney General Hospital (now Homerton University Hospital) on the 30th September 1947.

His early childhood was spent at 25a Stoke Newington Common and he attended Northwold Primary School and William Wordsworth Secondary Modern, Dalston.

The Feld’s family home, Stoke Newington Common (image: Google)

The Feld’s were a humble family.

Marc’s father, Simeon was from hardworking Jewish stock, driving a lorry from Monday to Friday and running a stall on Petticoat Lane (an institution which Marc would later reference in his 1976 song, ‘London Boys’) on weekends.

Marc’s mother, Phyllis was also a market trader; her pitch was at Berwick Street. As a youngster, her son often helped out on the Soho stall; a job which no doubt helped Marc develop the confidence and flair he’d later become famous for.

Berwick Street, Soho in the 1950s

In the early 1960s the Feld’s moved south of the river to a prefab at 27 Summerstown, a stone’s throw from Wimbledon stadium. The former home is now covered by an industrial estate.

The site of the Feld’s former home, Summerstown (image: Google)

Marc enrolled at Hillcroft School, Beechcroft Road (now Ernest Bevin College) but after gaining a reputation as a daydreamer who lacked concentration he was expelled at the age of 14- although he’d later recall that “They were very nice about it.”

Marc Bolan in his teens

Marc’s true passion was music.

He received his first guitar and record player aged just 9 and his father would often bring home vinyl discs which he’d picked up on Petticoat Lane. Marc’s idols were Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley and the then fledgling Bob Dylan.

As he entered his teens, Marc took to busking outside the former ‘Prince of Wales’ pub on the junction of Summerstown and Garrett Lane (which is now sadly a Tesco Express).

The former Prince of Wales pub, Summerstown all boarded up (image: pub history.com)

Southwest London in the early 60s however wasn’t exactly happening, so Marc would often head to Soho’s coffee bars; the ‘2is’ on Old Compton Street (now a branch of ‘Poppies’ fish and chip restaurant) was a particular favourite.

It was during this period he befriended an equally young David Bowie.

Marc was also passionate about clothes and began to cultivate his unique look with regular visits to the former ‘Bilgorri’ emporium on Bishopsgate.

By the age of 16 he’d adopted his first stage name- Toby Tyler– and was soon gigging at the ‘Middle Earth’ club on Covent Garden’s King Street.

It was in 1967 that Marc formed ‘Tyrannosaurus Rex’- later simplified to ’T-Rex’- and, after a turbulent start, the group achieved their first hit- ‘Ride a White Swan’- in the autumn of 1970 (please click below to listen):

After that, commercial success quickly followed as the group spearheaded the Glam Rock movement.

Please click the images below to hear T-Rex’s other hits which include:

Jeepster (1971)

Get It On (1971)

Hot Love (1971)

Children of the Revolution (1972)

20th Century Boy (1972)

…and ‘Metal Guru’ (1972)

With this success came numerous television interviews.

In one particular appearance with Russell Harty, Marc was asked how he considered the future; the idea of being an older man in his 50s or 60s.

Ominously, Marc shook his head and replied “I don’t think I’ll live that long.

*

On Thursday September 15th 1977, Marc dined at Morton’s Restaurant, Berkley Square with his girlfriend and fellow performer, Gloria Jones; the American singer best known for her song, ‘Tainted Love’ which was famously covered by ‘Softcell’ in 1981.

Marc and Gloria

In the early hours of the following morning, the pair left the club and climbed into their purple 1275GT mini. Gloria was at the wheel- Marc had a morbid fear of driving- and they headed for their home on Upper Richmond Road West.

Just before 5am however, Gloria lost control of the car on Queen’s Ride, Barnes; a particularly dangerous stretch of road which, unusually for London, has a distinct country-lane feel.

Queen’s Ride, Barnes (image: Google)

The mini careered off the tarmac, smashed through a fence and came to rest at a tree.

Gloria was severely injured. Marc died instantly.

He was 29 years old.

Marc Bolan (image: Planet Rock)

*

Marc Bolan’s funeral took place at Golders Green Crematorium on the 20th September 1977 where the centrepiece of his floral tribute was a large white swan crafted from chrysanthemums.

The tree in Barnes where Marc’s life was cut so tragically short, remains in place and has since become a major shrine for fans.

Flowers at the crash site where Marc Bolan died (image: Google)

Marc’s parents, Simeon and Phyllis both died within 9 months of each other in 1991 and their names now appear alongside their son’s on a modest memorial plaque within the peaceful grounds at Golders Green Crematorium.

Plaque commemorating Simeon, Phyllis and Marc at Golders Green Crematorium

Please click below to watch Marc perform his classic, ‘Cosmic Dancer’ which was filmed live at Wembley in 1972:

*

Eerie Enfield… A Poltergeist Comes to North London

A Halloween Special

With Halloween upon us, I think now would be the ideal time to indulge in one of London’s most perplexing ghost stories…

Ghost Drawing

What you are about to read is far removed from traditional tales of headless spooks and Victorian séances… this account is very much a modern-day haunting; a deeply disturbing series of events which occurred at a modest, north London council house during the late 1970s…

The Enfield Poltergeist

Green Street is an unassuming residential road in an area called Brimsdown; part of the London Borough of Enfield.

Map

Map depicting location of Green Street, Enfield- please click to enlarge.

If you’ve ever ridden the Stanstead Express, you will have passed Brimsdown without even knowing it- at the eastern end of Green Street there is a level crossing, through which trains regularly whisk between Stanstead airport and Liverpool Street station.

Blink and you’d miss it…

Green Street's railway level crossing (image: Google).

Green Street’s level crossing (image: Google).

In the 1970s, Green Street was home to Peggy Hodgson; a single mum with four children: Margaret (aged 12), Janet (11), Johnny (10) and Billy (7).

The Hodgson Family.

The Hodgson Family.

It was on the evening of August 30th 1977 that weird things began to happen in the Hodgson’s Enfield residence…

Upstairs, in one of the bedrooms, the children were alarmed to feel their beds wobbling.

Janet called down to her mum- but Peggy, understandably, suspected that her kids were mucking about and shouted back up at them to settle down and get to sleep.

The section of Green Street which was home to Peggy Hodgson and her children.

The section of Green Street which was home to Peggy Hodgson and her children (image: Google).

The following night at around 9.30pm, Peggy heard a loud crash.

Assuming her children were once again up to mischief, she stomped upstairs to administer a scolding.

As she entered the bedroom with orders to “pack it in”, Peggy spotted a chest of drawers being hauled forward by its own accord.

Instinctively, she attempted to force the furniture back- but was thwarted by an unseen force, which appeared to be pushing its might against her- rather like two opposing magnets.

Next came the noises; odd knocks and taps which started to rap around the house.

Scared witless, the family hastily donned their dressing gowns and slippers and fled, seeking refuge with their next door neighbours, the Nottinghams.

Head of the Nottingham household was Vic; a roofer by trade whose tough demeanour and practical nature made him the ideal candidate to inspect the strange goings on.

Hoping to calm his terrified neighbours, Vic ventured into the house- he later described his experience in a 1978 radio documentary: 

All I could here was this knocking… and I didn’t know what it was; no idea what it was; just a strange knock on the wall.

I went up the stairs and this knock followed me; three distinctive knocks on the wall. I carried on up the stairs into the front bedroom and there were three knocks on the wall again… strange I thought to myself. I’m beginning to shake.

I go into the back bedroom… same thing again; the knocks followed me.

Anyway, being in the building game I thought to myself, well I’ve got to have a look around the house; be brave like to try and find out what it is. So I go through all the pipes- no airlocks, nothing like that- and it wasn’t a knock like that anyway; it was a distinctive knock on the wall.

Vic popped back next door and fetched his son and grandfather.

The three men positioned themselves at different rooms within the house- and each reported the distinctive knocks at their separate locations.

Witnesses gather in the Green Street home.

With even Vic spooked, the Green Street residents decided to phone the law- whose first question was “have you been drinking?

Reluctantly, the police sent a squad car with two constables from nearby Ponders End.

The two police officers who visited 284 Green Street during the early hours of September 1st 1977.

The two police officers who visited 284 Green Street during the early hours of September 1st 1977.

The police too heard the distinctive knocking and, downstairs, WPC Carolyn Heaps witnessed a chair move unaided across the floor; something which she testified to in an official document- a brave move considering the possible ridicule from her friends and colleagues:

On Thursday, 1st September 1977 at approximately 1am I was on duty in my capacity as a police woman when I received a radio message to Green Street, Enfield.

I heard the sound of knocking on the wall… there were four distinct taps on the wall and then silence.

Within a few minutes the eldest son pointed to a chair which was standing next to the sofa. I looked at the chair and noticed it was wobbling slightly from side to side. I then saw the chair slide across the floor towards the kitchen wall. It moved approximately 3-4 feet and then came to rest.

Although sympathetic, the police had to inform the family that the ominous situation could not be classed as a police matter- after all, no crime had been committed…

*

The Poltergeist settles in…

Nervously, the Hodgsons returned to their home, but over the following months, the distressing activity would grow far worse… much of it witnessed by friends, neighbours, psychic investigators, council workers and news reporters.

The Hodgson children with a news reporter.

The Hodgson children with a news reporter.

One phenomenon involved Lego bricks and marbles being hurled around the house at high speeds and odd angles- which, even more bizarrely, would stop dead still rather than bouncing when they landed. They were also hot to touch when picked up.

One journalist from The Daily Mirror was hit just above the eye by one of these small missiles- and received a small lump; a testament to the velocity at which the items were being hurled.

Lego and marble

Soon, larger objects were being flung.

One reporter witnessed a t-shirt hop off of a table and fly across the room.

The living room sofa was seen to lift above the ground… and  then spin around. The bulky television shuffled position and, in the children’s bedroom, a brick was wrenched away from the fireplace.

Aftermath of one of the Enfield Poltergeist's many bouts of violent activity....

Aftermath of one of the Enfield Poltergeist’s many bouts of disruptive activity….

Puddles appeared and cups filled themselves with water.

Matches were scorched in their boxes and a pair of oven gloves self-combusted.

A mirror also caught fire… the charred remains of which were later collected by Turner-Prize nominee artist, Cornelia Parker, as part of her 1997 installation, ‘The Secret Life of Inanimate Objects’.

On one particular night, the BBC set up camp at 284 Green Street to capture audio evidence… only to later find that metal components in the machine had been bent and the recordings erased.

Terrified, Peggy and her children took to sleeping in the same room, where they would huddle together with the light kept on.

Billy, Janet and Margaret Hodgson.

Billy, Janet and Margaret Hodgson.

*

Who ya’ gonna’ call?

In an attempt to garner some clarity, the editor of the Daily Mirror, George Fallows appealed to the Kensington based Society for Psychical Research to come and see if they could work out what was going on.

Research logo

For the next 13 months, the Hodgsons and their haunted home were put under intense scrutiny.

The investigation was led by Maurice Grosse, a former military man and veteran of the Dunkirk evacuation.

Maurice Grosse (image: The Fortean Times).

Maurice Grosse (image: The Fortean Times).

After the war, Maurice had established himself as an inventor- his most successful patent being the rotating advertising board.

Tragically, in August 1976, his 22 year old daughter, Janet was killed in a motorbike accident. It was her death which led Maurice to join the Society for Psychical Research; no doubt as a way of helping to cope with his grief.

Although open to psychic phenomenon, Maurice’s background as an inventor meant that his mind worked in a scientific, methodical manner and as such he was considered the ideal analyst for the Enfield haunting.

He was soon joined by another experienced investigator; Guy Lyon Playfair who published an account of the haunting in 1980.

At first, Guy was reluctant to become involved; convinced that the whole thing was a hoax. However, when he arrived at the house, he soon changed his mind…

'This House is Haunted'; Guy Lyon Playfair's 1980 report on the Enfield Poltergeist.

‘This House is Haunted’; Guy Lyon Playfair’s 1980 report on the Enfield Poltergeist.

By now, the events at Green Street had become even more intense.

As well as household objects being lobbed around, 11 year old Janet- who appeared to be the poltergeist’s main focus- was herself subjected to apparent levitations.

An example of this, which took place one morning at approximately 3am, was caught by an automatic camera which had been installed by the investigators:

Janet, apparently being hurled from her bed during the early hours of the morning. On a lighter note, a poster featuring David Soul (star of the 1970s cop show, 'Starsky & Hutch) can be seen on the bedroom wall- he is one of the numerous celebrities I have met in the back of my cab!

Janet, apparently being hurled from her bed during the early hours of the morning. On a lighter note, a poster featuring David Soul (star of the 1970s cop show, ‘Starsky & Hutch) can be seen on the bedroom wall- he is one of the numerous celebrities I have met in the back of my cab!

On two occasions, two separate witnesses outside the house with a view towards the bedroom window, claimed they spotted Janet floating in the air.

The first sighting, which took place at around lunchtime on December 15th 1977, was attributed to Hazel Short; a lollipop lady who worked on the zebra crossing close to the Hodgson’s home:

All of a sudden I heard a bang… and saw a book hit the front bedroom window and that was followed by a pillow, then the book, then the pillow again. All of a sudden, I saw Janet going up and down in front of the window- I thought she was jumping up and down on the bed, but when I looked she was horizontal going up and down with her arms and legs going everywhere; I suppose about half a dozen times. It was frightening… I didn’t think it would be, because to be truthful… I was a bit sceptical… well after that I wasn’t.

Green Street's zebra crossing, from which lollipop woman, Hazel Short claims to have spotted Janet Hodgson levitating.

Green Street’s zebra crossing, from which lollipop woman, Hazel Short claims to have spotted Janet Hodgson levitating (image: Google).

The second witness was John Rainbow, a baker delivering bread to the school opposite.

Before that day I would never had believed anything about it although I had heard various rumours about what had been going on in the house.

The child appeared to float around the room- at the same time the curtains were blowing into the room as if there were a draught- although the windows were completely closed… articles and the child appeared to be revolving around the room in a clockwise direction.

The child’s arm banged against the window twice and I was frightened that the force she banged against it- that the window frame would’ve gone- I fully expected her to drop onto the road. I was frightened, there’s no doubt about it.

Janet slumped over a cabinet following another supposed levitation.

Janet slumped over a cabinet following another supposed levitation.

*

Even more disturbingly, the poltergeist was supposedly beginning to talk through Janet…

Janet

The young girl, who also suffered from alarming seizures, would often adopt a deep, gruff voice which identified itself as belonging to a mysterious figure called ‘Bill.

Maurice Grosse attempting to calm Janet as she suffers a seizure.

Maurice Grosse attempting to calm Janet as she suffers a seizure.

Janet would speak in the gravelly, menacing voice for hours at a time.

In one experiment, she was made to hold a quantity of water in her mouth… yet the voice still came through.

Further vocal tests were carried out by a Professor from Birckbeck College (now part of the University of London) who concluded that it was next to impossible to speak at length in such a way due to the damage such speech would cause to the vocal cords.

The academic also stated his belief that Janet was not producing the voice consciously.

Janet in the depths of a trance...

Janet in the depths of a trance…

Unsurprisingly, some sceptics accused the 11 year old of ventriloquism- which led Maurice Grosse to offer a £1,000 reward for anybody who could replicate a similar voice.

There were no takers.

*

With his often foul language and grumpy attitude ‘Bill’ made for a very sinister houseguest.

In one session- which, like many others, was caught on tape- Bill, speaking through Janet, stated that he had once lived and died at the Green Street home.

However you chose to look at it, the description of death which the supposed entity provides is most disturbing when you remember that it is being spoken by an 11 year old girl:

Before I died I went blind…then I had a hemorrhage and I fell asleep and I died in a chair in a corner downstairs…

This statement can be heard in the excerpt below… although please be warned, it is likely to send a chill down your spine…

Three years after the main events of the haunting, the Hodgson family were contacted by a man who claimed that his father- William (aka ‘Bill’) Wilkins had indeed lived in the house years before…and had died of a brain hemorrhage whilst resting in an armchair… 

*

By the autumn of 1978 the hauntings began to die down.

However, the knocks and taps continued and there was a further burst of activity during the summer of 1980.

Following the haunting, the lives of the Hodgsons were far from blessed.

Johnny died of cancer aged just 14 and Janet lost a baby son to cot death when she was 18.

Speaking in 2007 Janet (then in her early 40s) said in a rare interview;

I know from my own experience that it was real… it lived off me, off my energy. Call me mad or a prankster if you like. Those events did happen. The poltergeist was with me- and I feel in a sense that he always will be.

Janet Hodgson today.

Janet Hodgson today.

*

The presence remains…

In 2003, Peggy Hodgson died and the Green Street home was taken over by Clare Bennet who, like Peggy, was a single mum with four children- although in this case they were all boys.

Of her time at Green Street, Clare said that she frequently felt a presence; as if she were being watched- at first, she had no idea of the home’s dubious history.

284 Green Street...

284 Green Street…

Her boys would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, saying that they could hear voices downstairs.

One of the lads; 15 year old Shaka, claimed he was woken up in the middle of one night and confronted by a ghostly vision of a man standing in the room.

The Bennets stuck Green Street for just two months…

*

Inspired Fear

In 1992, the case of the Enfield Poltergeist inspired a controversial BBC drama entitled Ghostwatch which was broadcast on Halloween night that year.

Ghostwatch

Starring Craig Charles, Sara Greene and Michael Parkinson, Ghostwatch bore many similarities to the Enfield case- it was set in an ordinary council home in suburban London (Northolt in this case) and centred on a single mum and her two daughters who were being tormented by a malevolent poltergeist- the evil spirit of a man who had died in the house years before.

Although a scripted, pre-filmed drama, Ghostwatch was made to appear as if it were an actual investigation, being broadcast live… and many people, thanks to the documentary nature of the show and the presence of the usually reassuring Michael Parkinson, tuned in half way through and believed the events depicted to be very real!

Michael Parkinson, pictured in the 'live' Ghostwatch studio, 1992.

Michael Parkinson, pictured in the ‘live’ Ghostwatch studio, 1992.

The BBC switchboard was jammed with phone calls from petrified viewers… and people across Britain were reduced to nervous wrecks, unable to sleep soundly for many nights afterwards.

Ghostwatch has never been repeated on British television since.

***