'The Conjuring 2': Based on a (Kinda, Sorta) True Story

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Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren in ‘The Conjuring 2’ (Photo: Warner Bros. via AP)

Director James Wan scared up $318 million in global receipts with 2013’s The Conjuring, a tale based on case files of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), a married pair of real-life paranormal investigators who came to the aid of a Rhode Island family undergoing an unholy crisis in 1971. This Friday’s The Conjuring 2 aims to deliver the same sort of bump-in-the-night thrills as its predecessor — all via a story that, as before, has a real-life basis.

The Conjuring 2 story is based on “The Enfield Poltergeist,” which allegedly bedeviled the home of Peggy Hodgson in Enfield, England, from 1977-’79. A single mother of four, Peggy reported that on the night of August 30, 1977, she heard strange noises emanating from her children’s rooms. Her 11-year-old daughter Janet claimed the beds were moving on their own. The next evening, another disturbance from the children’s bedroom panicked the clan, especially when, they claimed, a dresser began repeatedly moving toward the door, as if to trap everyone inside.

Watch a documentary from the U.K.’s Channel 4 on ‘The Enfield Poltergeist,’ the case that inspired the story of ‘The Conjuring 2’:

This led Peggy to enlist the assistance of her neighbors, who were soon privy to the sight of Lego blocks mysteriously flying about the house, as well as strange knocking sounds coming from various walls. A call summoned police officer Carolyn Heeps to the house, where she witnessed a chair “levitating” across the living room floor — an incident which she described in detail in the Channel 4 special (watch it above), and which she famously included in her official police report, lending credence to the Hodgsons’ claims of otherworldly forces wreaking havoc in their home.

What followed was, per The Daily Mail, all sorts of ostensible insanity involving alleged levitation, overturned furniture, and Janet speaking in a low, growly voice while claiming to be possessed by the residence’s former owner, Bill Wilkins. Amidst this chaos, the Hodgsons were assisted by the amazingly mustached Maurice Grosse (a paranormal investigator and member of The Society for Psychical Research) and Guy Lyon Playfair (a fellow Society member and author who’d previously tracked such occurrences in South America). Their ordeal, highly documented through audio and video recordings as well as eyewitness accounts from neighbors, experts, and The Daily Mail and The Mirror, quickly became the subject of intense tabloid coverage. The BBC produced a special (watch below) featuring a prolonged interview with 12-year-old Margaret and 11-year-old Janet during which one of the latter’s many spirit tormentors supposedly speaks through her.

Whether something truly supernatural took place in Enfield remains open to debate. However, the absurdity of some of the clips in the above BBC film — look for the moment when objects are thrown at Grosse’s face by a ghost, which is later heard on tape identifying itself as a “G-H-O-S-T” — certainly calls into question the events’ authenticity. Similarly, listening to Playfair in this TV documentary confidently state that poltergeists like to repeat their escalating-scariness patterns, and that they only have “18 to 20” tricks in their arsenal, doesn’t inspire great confidence in the reliability of those who examined the Hodgsons’ tale.

“The Enfield Poltergeist” ultimately became the subject of numerous books, TV specials, and films, such as 2014’s sturdy made-for-U.K.-TV movie The Enfield Haunting, starring Timothy Spall as Grosse. Unsurprisingly, many skeptics concluded that the entire Enfield affair was a hoax, not least because the kids (Janet in particular) admitted to making some of it up — when asked by the U.K.’s Telegraph in 2015 how much of the phenomena at Enfield was faked, she replied, “I’d say 2 per cent.” But that didn’t come up during this 2012 TV appearance to discuss her experiences :

As for Ed and Lorraine Warren, their real-life participation in Enfield appears to have been rather minimal; they were merely two of many paranormal investigators who traveled to England to see what all the spectral fuss was about. In a recent radio interview, Playfair contends that the famed couple only visited the Hodgson’s home for a day, and mostly expressed an interest in crassly exploiting the situation for profit.

No matter their actual Enfield role, however, Ed and Lorraine will be front and center when audiences watch this infamous across-the-pond ghost story on the big screen — in embellished-for-maximum-Hollywood-spookiness form — in The Conjuring 2, which premieres in theaters June 10.

‘The Conjuring 2′: Watch the trailer:

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