When photographer Graham Morris was asked by The Daily Mirror to travel to Enfield to cover a breaking story about an apparent haunted house, he probably didn’t expect it to dominate the next 18 months of his life.
But once Graham witnessed, first-hand, the events that would go on to inspire horror sequel ‘The Conjuring 2′, he found himself sticking with the Hodgsons, the young family at the heart of the story.
He was dispatched to the London council house in 1977 to investigate poltergeist activity, possession, and even levitation happening to the two Hodgson sisters, aged 11 and 13.
Morris took thousands of photographs to document what was happening and was convinced that the terrifying events were genuine.
Some of those photos went on to become iconic in the ghost-hunting community, and were a key influence on Wan’s horror sequel. We spoke to Morris about his experiences, getting the inside scoop on the disturbing true story that inspired The Conjuring 2.
How did you feel when you first heard about what was happening in Enfield?
“We were told something was happening at the house (above), things were moving - we didn’t know what it was at all. It got worse when we got there, actually. Listening to the family talking about what was happening was quite spooky. It was clear they were having problems and were really quite scared of what was happening in the house. I just had to get on with it, I had to try and photograph whatever it was. You’re up there to photograph whatever it is, my personal feelings didn’t come into it - that was the face I was putting on, anyway.”
The pictures of Janet levitating (above) were some of the most iconic and famous to come from the case - some people say it looks like she was jumping from the bed, what would you say to those people?
“Yeah, they do, don’t they? All the pictures taken in their room were taken remotely, I’m not going to sit in the corner of the kids’ bedroom with a camera all night. I found that things were happening, and, whatever it was, was outsmarting me every time. I had to come up with technical ways of overcoming this - infrared flash so it wouldn’t disturb the kids as they slept, audio-switches that would activate the cameras if there was any noises or bangs, pressure switches, lasers that if the beams were broken would set off the camera, all sorts of things. I had to develop these things as I went along, almost invent them.
With the levitation pictures, the camera was set up in the room, I was downstairs, it had a motor drive on to shoot sequences of pictures, and I was downstairs listening to the tape recorder - I could hear what was happening, any squeaks or bangs in the room - I would take a picture. When I looked at the pictures later on, that shot came as a shock to me as much as anyone else.
But this force could throw things around - it could throw Janet out of the bed. It could move huge brass bedspreads around, that I couldn’t lift on my own - and I’m six foot tall. You’d hear a bang, go up into the room and find a solid brass bedspread suddenly up on its side, with no-one in the room. If it can do that, it can throw quite a small girl around.”
What was your scariest experience in that house?
“At the start, seeing things flying around the room for no reason, on the first night. Being hit by a LEGO brick that seemed to be going at 200 miles an hour - it certainly hurt, I got a lump over my eye for about four days afterwards. That was scary, because at the time I didn’t know if the next thing was going to be a kitchen knife.
“There’d be things moving around in rooms when there was no-one there. You’d sit there and a drawer would open and close, and you’d just sit there watching this thing open and close, and you’d look around it, under it, in it, and there was nothing doing it - nothing physical that we could see. That plays on your mind a bit.”
How did you feel when you went home that night?
“It played on my mind all the time, these things were so completely out of the ordinary you couldn’t not be affected by it. I was affected by the way it was messing this family (see below) around as well, it was such a very poor family, single mother, four kids, they had enough hardship at the time. I used to be scared of the dark when I was younger, but nothing bothers me now, after being in that house.”
What was the most disturbing element of the entire affair for you personally?
“Just watching the fear on other people’s faces when things were happening, looking around. No-one had any idea at all what it was about. It was worrying, watching these people in the room. Maybe if they could see my face, they would have seen the same expression as well - but that’s why I had my camera in front of it, so you couldn’t see how scared I was.”
Will you go and see The Conjuring 2?
I’d love to see how it was done technically. I was invited to go and view one particular scene, and I met the people involved, they were all a good bunch. I saw a scene on a railway carriage that they were shooting in Leavesden Studios. I got a call from a guy from LA, who asked me if I’d like to go and see it being filmed, I said ‘Yeah, I’d love to go to LA.’ and I ended up in Watford, a few miles from my house (laughs). Slightly disappointing.
It’s probably a brilliant film, very well shot and all the rest of it - but horror films and spooky things aren’t usually the sort of thing I’d see.
‘The Conjuring 2′ is in cinemas now.
Words: Sam Ashurst
Image credits: Yahoo File/Warner Bros.