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The Enfield Poltergeist: Inside the Real Story that Inspired The Conjuring 2

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Graham Morris

It was once known as the “house of strange happenings” and now, it’s coming to the big screen.

The Conjuring 2 focuses on one of the most famous supernatural cases in history – The Enfield Poltergeist. The story, of a young girl thought to be possessed by a demon inside her London home, mystified a nation.

The case involved strange voices, levitation, flying objects, furniture being moved through the air, cold breezes and more – and while some called it a hoax, others considered it to be one of the most witnessed cases of supernatural activity to date.

So what really happened during the case of the Enfield Poltergeist? Here’s an inside look at the real-story inspiring The Conjuring 2.

Margaret Nadeen, Director James Wan and Janet Winter
Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Warner Bros./AP

It all started in a quaint little home in Enfield, London, in 1977 when Peggy Hodgson, a single mother of four children, heard loud noises coming from her daughter’s bedroom. When she went to tell her daughter’s Margaret, 12 and Janet, 11, to settle down and go to sleep, instead of rough-housing, she found them huddled in the corner with terrified expressions on their faces.

“We [told our mom] the chest of drawers was moving toward the bedroom door,” Janet recalled while speaking on iTV in 2012. “She said ‘Oh don’t be silly.'”

But Peggy then witnessed the drawers moving herself, in the direction of the door by a seemingly invisible force, almost as if some supernatural presence was trying to trap the girls in the room. And when she went to try and push back against the dresser, it wouldn’t budge.

Terrified, the Hodgson family ran across the street to ask for help from the neighbors, Vic and Peggy Nottingham. When Vic went into the house to investigate, he too said he heard strange noises coming from around the home. The Hodgsons called the police, and even though one officer claimed to have seen a chair move clear across the room, they deduced that it was not a police matter.

According to the family, that was just the beginning of what would become their nearly 18-month haunting.

“We didn’t understand what was happening,” Margaret told PEOPLE at The Conjuring 2 premiere in Los Angeles. “We went through periods where we just couldn’t believe what happened really. It’s frightening. We didn’t like to be on your own in the house or anything.”

When the strange incidents continued, Peggy decided to call a popular U.K. publication, the Daily Mirror, to come and investigate the supposed supernatural occurrences. But when the reporter arrived, the house sat silent for hours. It wasn’t until the reporter was about to leave that something happened.

“The photographer came back and a Lego brick hit him above the eye. He still had the mark a few days later. And then Maurice Grosse came in on the case,” Janet said, according to the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mirror called the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), who sent Grosse to investigate the case. During his stay at the house, Grosse has said he witnessed more than 2,000 different incidents of supernatural activity.

“Furniture turning over, cups filled with water, fires igniting, voices, levitation,” Janet recalled of the time while speaking to iTV. “The most frightening [encounter] was when a curtain wrapped itself around my neck next to my bed.”

It was during his time in the house that the supposed poltergeist started speaking through Janet.

The young girl would often go into a trance-like state where she would speak in deep, scratchy voice, claiming to be the ghost of a man named Bill Wilkens, who had died in the house years before. (It was later proven that a man by that name was once a resident of the home and did in fact die of a hemorrhage while sitting in the living room.) The ghost would reportedly “talk” through Janet for hours at a time.

Throughout the 18-month period, a number of additional paranormal researchers visited the house – including famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. Though the film takes liberties with time and the extent to which the Warren’s were involved with the case, they publicly stated that they were convinced that the supernatural were responsible for the strange happenings inside the house.

“Those who deal with the supernatural day in and day out know the phenomena are there – there’s no doubt about it,” Ed said, according to Fangoria.

Of course many cast their doubts on the events, claiming the children were behind the elaborate hoax and were faking their demonic symptoms. Two SPR experts adamantly questioned Janet’s gruff voice and later caught the children bending spoons themselves.

In fact, Janet admitted that she and her siblings fabricated a few events. “Oh yeah, once or twice [we faked it] just to see if Mr. Grosse and Mr. Playfair would catch us. They always did,” she said, according to the DM.

Later she said about “two percent” of the events in the house were faked.

James Wan, Madison Wolfe, Janet Winter, Lauren Esposito, Margaret Nadeen and Rob Cowan
Matt Kennedy

Nearly 40 years later, Janet and Margaret say that while they’ve managed to move on from the traumatic time in their life, the haunting “stays with you.”

“It stays with you. Every step of the way,” Margaret told PEOPLE. “It’s just like a death really, it gets a little bit easier as time goes on. But the fear and the memories of it and what happened never leaves you.”

Starring Madison Wolfe as Janet and Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as the Warren’s, The Conjuring 2 is now in theaters.