One of the most popular tags distributors like to stick onto the horror films they release is that they are ‘Based on a true story’. Obviously this is a marketing tactic to get asses into seats, and to enhance the viewing experience that the haunting events they are watching are actually real. However more often than not when the term is used, it’s looser than a madman’s grip on reality. So what is the true story behind The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case, and how much of the film sticks to the story?
When news broke that James Wan was returning to direct a sequel to The Conjuring after his stint on Fast 7 I was ecstatic, then further news broke that it was using the events of the Enfield haunting as its story and I was intrigued. Why was I intrigued? Well it’s been widely agreed by many an outlet that the Enfield haunting was a hoax, or a prank by some unruly children being raised by a single mother in London. The events were thoroughly investigated by many individuals when it occurred, reporters, magicians, professors and authors all looked into the case of the Enfield Poltergeist and the majority were doubtful of it’s existence. The story itself was the focus of a three part miniseries The Enfield Haunting which focused on the families relationship with Maurice Gross (who features in The Conjuring 2) and Guy Lyon Playfair who both investigated the haunting and led to believe it was all real despite the overwhelming evidence to show otherwise. So how much of the ‘true story’ did The Conjuring 2 retain in the film?
In the film Bill Wilkins is the seemingly primary antagonist, causing objects to move around the house, making noises and instigating the usual poltergeist activity. Bill also used Janet as a means of communicating to the rest of the family and those investigating the paranormal activity. These incidents were in fact reported to have occurred by those who were investigating the Enfield Poltergeist.
Throughout the haunting that occurred in 284 Green Street, Enfield, Janet Hodgson was supposedly possessed at times by the spirit of Bill Wilkins, the former resident of the house that the Hodgon family lived in and the place where he passed away. Bill would speak through Janet in a distorted voice that puzzled those who heard and observed it. The son of Bill Wilkins, Terry, has also reportedly confirmed that his father died the same way that the voice coming from Janet claimed to have. Pretty creepy coincidence don’t you think?
The real overarching antagonist of The Conjuring 2 turns out to be a malevolent demon known as Valak, who thinks it’s appropriately disturbing to wear a nuns outfit. Kudos to them, it works so well. It turns out in the film that Valak is a demon who was using the ghost of Bill Wilkins to haunt the Hodgson family.
It’s a testament to the creativity of James Wan and team that they can create a character that is scarier than the actual story of the Enfield haunting, because the demon character of Valak was completely fabricated for the film. That’s right, the best thing about The Conjuring 2 was added to the film late on, and was not part of any report, investigation or claim by the Hodgson family. That being said Valak is a name referenced in The Lesser Key of Solomon…you know that 17th Century anonymous grimoire about demonology…
The Crooked Man
Another wickedly sinister feature in the film was The Crooked Man, even if it felt slightly out of place amongst proceedings. In the film Billy Hodgson plays with a zoetrope toy that plays the tune to the English nursery rhyme ‘The Crooked Man’. Most likely due to Valak’s evil nature, the character to life terrorising the family at various points in the film and Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson)
When I first saw the zoetrope in the film I thought that the idea of the Crooked Man would make a great antagonist in a film, clearly Wan thought the same thing as he made it a character in the film. Though it’s just a tool used by Valak, it is pretty creepy. However much like the character of Valak, there is no mention of anything about a Crooked Man plaguing the family with haunting visions. It is yet another method by James Wan to scare us viewers, and commit something delightfully nasty to the silver screen.
The Hoax Footage / Maurice Grosse / Anita Gregory
Towards the end of the film, as the climax starts to heat up, footage is recorded of Janet Hodgson physically bending spoons and other objects which makes it look like it’s all fake. As a result the Warren’s leave. Janet is then shown saying to her siblings that she only did it because the voices told her the family would be in danger if she didn’t.
Now, in the actual events of the Enfield haunting, there was evidence found of Janet manipulating objects to make it look like there was a paranormal presence at play. Further to that she has even admitted in an interview that some of the things that occurred (2% apparently) were tricks played by the kids. So whereas the film makes it out that the ghost made her do it, in reality she must have been trying to beat Uri Geller at his own game.
As for Maurice Grosse (Simon McBurney) and Anita Gregory (Franke Potente), they were both real people who were investigating the Enfield haunting, as they were in the film. Just like the film played it out as well, Grosse fully believed in what was happening to Janet and Gregory was sceptical of the entire thing. Notably missing from the line-up of characters is Guy Lyon Playfair, an author and parapsychologist who wrote the book ‘This House is Haunted‘ which chronicled his experiences during the events of the Enfield haunting.
Ed and Lorraine Warren
So, as per The Conjuring, Ed and Lorraine Warren go to help out a family in distress with their paranormal problems. Though they go only to observe at first, they are drawn into a battle of good versus evil as well as a fight for their lives. It’s riveting stuff.
Unfortunately we’re sorry to say that the worlds most famous paranormal investigatory couple were only at Enfield for a day or two. They never exorcised any demons, they never stayed with the family as portrayed in the film, and they most certainly didn’t bust any ghosts on their visit to England.
The events surrounding the Enfield Poltergeist have been widely investigated, and more often than not debunked as pranks played by attention seeking children. However you can make your own mind up by doing some reading into the reports, and interviews with those involved in what transpired in a little house in Enfield, England during 1977. As for the film, there has been plenty flexing of creative license muscles by James Wan, and to be blunt we’re glad because the film would have been rather bland without Valak, The Crooked Man, or James Wan’s incredible knack in making an enthralling horror film.