Exploring the terror of The Enfield Haunting
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As he says, Paul believes there will be moments in The Enfield Haunting which you, the audience, will find completely breathtaking.
The piece stars Catherine Tate and David Threlfall and it’s a dark, dark tale it tells. Catherine will play Peggy Hodgson, a single mother who tries to protect her three children from something that is incomprehensible and deeply disturbing. The Hodgsons had no idea what a poltergeist was when, in the summer of 1977, furniture and toys started moving of their own accord. They were an ordinary, working-class family, who lived in a North London council house at 284 Green Street, Enfield, but for the next 18 months became the centre of one of the most famous poltergeist events in the world. Janet, the possessed 16-year-old, was nearly pulled out of a window. The local lollipop lady saw her floating six feet in the air in an upstairs room, and Janet was found fast asleep in a neighbours’ bed. There are tapes of Janet growling for hours in a voice that doctors said would destroy a 16-year-old girl’s vocal cords after a few minutes.
There have been a number of plays in recent months looking at the supernatural: “But actually this is something that I have always been interested in,” Paul says. “I would like to think there is a resurgence of interest in the supernatural but actually I started on this nine years ago. It has not come out of this moment and we actually started on the production a couple of years ago. But what I think is really good is that we have written an ordinary working-class poltergeist story not some Victorian mansion and that's what I'm really interested in. Also it is a proper play, not just a ghost story. It is very much about a family with young kids who are in trouble, and under pressure I think that people can do strange things and behave in strange ways. What I really wanted to write about is the fact that in this world there are things that you simply cannot understand, and the play is an exploration of that. There is a moment in the play where Catherine Tate's character says maybe we all need things that we don't understand...
“It seemed to me that until quite recently there was a feeling that humanity was moving more and more towards ‘We have got it now, oh yes, we understand now’, that we were getting more and more science, more and more knowledge and more and more understanding. But then Covid and the internet came along and we realise that we don't understand things at all.” The idea for the play started “when my agent’s husband said to me about ten years ago had I heard about the Enfield haunting. He said he had just met one of the two ghost hunters Guy Lyon Playfair and he said ‘Would you like me to introduce you?’ Cut to about a month later and I found myself going into Guy Lyon Playfair’s basement flat in Earls Court one September afternoon and he told me the story of this haunting and played me the tapes of Janet Hodgson talking in tongues. He is now dead but he was a very well-known and experienced and serious ghost hunter.”